Leadership Projects

In recent weeks four Va-LEND trainees have presented their leadership projects. These are innovative projects related to the field of disabilities that the trainees have developed with the guidance from their faculty advisers. Below are highlights of these projects.

  • DSAGR LogoKayla Claxton, genetic counseling trainee, conducted a research study to gather information from parents and other experts that work with children with Down Syndrome (DS).  The goals of the study were to gather information about: (1) life with a child with DS; (2) resources and supports that are currently being utilized by parents of children with DS; and (3) additional supports that are perceived as potentially beneficial to these families.  The data collected will be used to produce a current educational video on Down Syndrome.  Kayla presented the results to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond.  The abstract of Kayla’s study can be found under Resources.
  • Jill Harris, genetic counseling trainee, researched and developed a brief clinical guide to gender differences.  The purpose of this guide was to use primary literature to outline gender differenMF pictureces and also identify additional factors of the family, child, and diagnosis that may assist clinicians in providing the best support and resources for families.  Most of the broad gender differences addressed topics related to coping behaviors. This guide is available under Resources.
  • Rebecca Craft, physical therapy trainee, organized and evaluated a self-advocacy panel of four adults with disabilities who spoke to health science students, faculty, and professionals.  The objectives for this project were (1) to influence the way people perceive others with disabilities, and (2) to educate healthcare students and professionals on advocacy roles for people with disabilities.  The event was videotaped and a DVD was created and shared with healthcare professionals working with children with disabilities in a pediatric therapy setting.
  • Samantha Arritt, physical therapy trainee, ran a book drive and collected 328 children’s books that were then donated to Hayes E Willis Health Center and Richmond ARC. Monetary donations were used to purchase books in Spanish, as well asIMG_1255 to give a gift card to the VCU Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Samantha also set up an interactive story time session for the children and families who attended a Friday afternoon clinic at Hayes E Willis to inspire the children to read their new books.  In addition to the interactive reading session, Samantha put together a parent handout on ways to make reading more interactive to be shared with families in the clinic.
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Leadership Project

Meera's GraphicMeera Mehtaji completed her Leadership Project.  It is a presentation to orient new attendees to the CAS Autism Assessment Clinic.  The presentation explains autism, the team process, and the diagnostic tools.  A video is included to provide an example of a child with autism.

Autism Clinic with Video

Supplemental ADOS Document

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“Lawmakers, Remember the Children” — by Shannon Haworth

            Our very own Shannon Haworth, Va-LEND graduate and now our Clinic Coordinator, is the Richmond Times-Dispatch Guest Columnist today!              Read her article, “Lawmakers, Remember the Children,” on the Op/Ed page (A9) or online at http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/their-opinion/columnists-blogs/guest-columnists/haworth-remember-kids-mental-health-in-budget-negotiations/article_2d2f84c2-c2a1-5acb-a9a8-d7608b27fb81.html

           Thank you, Shannon, for being a loud and clear voice for children who have mental health needs in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We are proud of you!
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ACE-IT in College


Our own Beth Bader, Va LEND faculty member, is Academic Advisor for this program!

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New Travel Guide

Airplane for websiteMariah Abercrombie, Social Work trainee, researched and developed  a family-friendly travel guide, Tips for Traveling by Airplane for Children with Special Health Care Needs. It provides practical information to help families plan for their next trip. It is posted on this website under Resources.  You can also access it here.

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Leadership Projects

In recent weeks several Va-LEND have presented their leadership projects. These are innovative projects related to the field of disabilities that the trainees have developed with the guidance from their faculty advisers. Below are highlights of these projects.

  • Keri Ayres, family trainee, researched, update and published the 2nd edition of Virginia Medicaid Waivers for Persons with Disabilities, Their Families and Caregivers. The new edition has been expanded and provides current information. It is available here.
  • Deborah Johnson, Autism fellow, researched and produced a paper, Changes to Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition (DSM-5): What are the Possible Implication for Virginia Public Schools. She presented her paper to the Va-LEND faculty and have shared it with her colleagues in the Virginia Department of Education.
  • Apps for special kids picEllen McIlhenny, family trainee, researched and designed a website to catalogue apps for children with special needs for educational or recreational activities. Her website is interactive so that families can submit information on apps that are useful and enjoyable for their children. She plans to build a community of contributors who will help build the site into a comprehensive resource for families/parents. Explore the site here.
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Welcome to Va-LEND

Welcome! Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (Va-LEND) is an interdisciplinary leadership training program at Virginia Commonwealth University. We are a project of the Partnership for People with Disabilities. Our program  is funded through a grant (# T73MC00040)  from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant supports an interdisciplinary training program to prepare health professionals and related disciplines in the field of childhood disabilities for leadership and advocacy roles. In addition we provide continuing education and community training and consultation/technical assistance.  We encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our program.

For updates about our activities follow our postings below.

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Va-LEND Book Adventure

Wonder PicCurious Incident pic

During the month of October, faculty and trainees participated in the Va-LEND book adventure. This is an annual activity to foster engagement and develop a sense of community with selected books that address LEND topics and themes related to disabilities, life course, family centered care, inclusion, etc. This fall the selected books were The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) by Mark Haddon, and Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio.

Faculty and trainees selected a book(s) to read and signed up for discussion groups at the beginning of the semester. Discussion topics were developed and shared on Blackboard. Each discussion group had a faculty facilitator. The feedback has been positive. We are planning a Va-LEND Movie Adventure which will feature The Other Sister to be viewed and discussed in February 2014. Stay tuned!

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Welcome New Va-LEND Trainees!

We are delighted to welcome a new class of Va-LEND trainees. We have enrolled 12 new long-term trainees from seven different disciplines. These disciplines include audiology (1), family (2), genetic counseling (2), nursing (1), occupational therapy (1), physical therapy (4), and special education (1).  In addition we have three medium term trainees in occupational therapy.  Welcome to the program!

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Va-LEND Leadership Projects

Throughout their training the Va-LEND trainees develop and implement their leadership projects.  These are innovative projects related to the field of disabilities  that the trainees have developed with the guidance from their faculty advisers. In the past few months several projects have been presented.

  • Kylie Lammers, trainee in genetic counseling,  wrote and submitted for publication an article for the PRISMS (Parents and Researchers Interested in Smith Magenis Syndrome) newsletter on her research  project: Siblings: of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities: An investigation  of well-sibling intra-familial relationships.
  • Katie Taylor, a psychology trainee conducted an  evaluation of the I-CAN Project related to protective orders of individuals experiencing abuse/neglect. (This is a project at the Partnership for People with Disabilities: http://www.partnership.vcu.edu/I_CAN.html.)
  • Jen Saddington, a physical therapy trainee, designed a motorized vehicle for a young child with motor impairment, and provided training for the child and family.

    Jen with the motorized car  with adaptations

    Jen and the motorized car with adaptations

  • Carter Tyrrell, a physical therapy trainee, researched, developed and disseminated  a resource guide for adaptable sports and recreational programs  for children with disabilities in the greater Richmond Metro Area. This guide is available under the Publications link.
  • Sarah Link, a law trainee, presented her research on  Examining Autism Models Across the Nation to Better Assist Families in Virginia to faculty at the Virginia Department of Education, Training and Technical Assistance Center at VCU (http://www.vcu.edu/ttac/)
  • Shannon Haworth, a family trainee, presented a poster  on Barriers to Autism Diagnosis and Treatment for African American Children at the Health Disparities Research  at the Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, and Disability: A National Conference in Washington, D.C.
  • Elane Ellis, an Autism Fellow, completed and presented a literature review regarding the factors that influence how parents make decisions about supports and services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Lauren Andelin, an occupational therapy trainee, developed a family follow-up questionnaire to monitor use of assistive technology (AT), and wrote a grant to secure funds for the development of family training materials related to AT.
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