Friday, October 30, 2015

Good News Friday!

On the behalf of all of the nursing mothers working at Imagine!, today I’d like to thank Boulder County Public Health for offering Imagine! a $1,000 grant to help us create a safe and comfortable lactation space at our Dixon St. office building, as well as assisting in equipping the room. Imagine! is the first recipient of this grant funding in Boulder County!

Pictured below in the new nursing room at Imagine! are Linda Kopecky, Breastfeeding Friendly Environments Project Coordinator, Boulder County Public Health (left), and Karen Kalis, Imagine!’s Director of Human Resources.

Thank you, Boulder County Public Health, for giving us this opportunity to support the new mothers in our workforce!

To learn more about the Boulder County Public Health grant, click here.

And the good news doesn’t end there!

About a week ago, the Daily Camera ran an article about the Boulder County Public Health grant and Imagine!’s participation. You can read that story here. One person read the article and was so impressed that they donated a variety of Bamboobies products for Imagine!’s lactation space. We are so fortunate to live in such a generous community!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Out & About With . . . OZO Coffee

Fall was showing its full colors for Imagine!’s Out & About department’s third “Thank Goodness it’s Saturday” (TGIS) event! This month, participating parents took to the trails near Boulder for a morning hike, and later warmed up at OZO Coffee with treats and drinks. Participating kids made their way to Cottonwood Farms in Boulder. At the farm, participants enjoyed exploring the pumpkin patch, corn maze, and looking at some of the animals on the farm. On behalf of Imagine! and Out & About, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Justin Hartman and Adam Westlake, at OZO Coffee Company’s Arapahoe Avenue location, for their kindness and support!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where Is Everyone?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending both the Coleman Institute’s Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology and the ANCOR & AAIDD Technology Summit and Showcase.

I use the word “privilege” very intentionally. For the past decade (and more), Colorado has been at the epicenter for the confluence of technology and services for people with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We are so fortunate to be able to experience firsthand what’s new, what’s next, and what we can expect in the future of service delivery. We can see the latest and greatest tools and techniques being used and learn and share our ideas with each other.

Yet, each year as I marvel at how fortunate Imagine! is to be able to attend and participate in these conferences, I also find myself astonished at who isn’t attending these events. Despite the huge number of service providers in our state, very few of them have a presence at either conference. Even less represented are our state policy makers.

This lack of local representation from providers and policy makers baffles and disturbs me. Like it or not, what is being presented at these conference represents the future of services. They let us know where we’re going and what we need to do to prepare. Those providing the services absolutely need to know what is coming down the pipeline so they can plan appropriately, and our policy makers need to be aware of new approaches and technologies so they are able to provide rules and regulations that match the reality of services now and into the future.

I’m sure some of those who may recognize themselves in my comments above would respond with some version of “I’m too busy” or “we don’t have the resources to attend.” Both reasons are valid, but only to a degree. At some point, every organization (provider or regulator) has to take some time to look beyond the immediate.

I am reminded of Stephen R Covey’s seventh habit in his landmark book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" - “Sharpening the Saw.” This powerful idea is best described by Covey's word-picture:

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

"What are you doing?" you ask. 

"Can't you see?" comes the impatient reply. "I'm sawing down this tree." 

"You look exhausted!" you exclaim. "How long have you been at it?" 

"Over five hours," he returns, "and I'm beat! This is hard work." 

"Well why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?" you inquire. "I'm sure it would go a lot faster." 

"I don't have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically. "I'm too busy sawing!" 

In Covey’s book, “Sharpening the Saw” is about renewing oneself. But I think it applies to organizations as well. Those organizations and policy makers in the I/DD field who aren’t taking the time and effort to learn about what is happening (tech-wise or otherwise) that is making our services more efficient and effective risk becoming the man sawing the tree – their work gets harder and harder, and the returns are diminished with each stroke.

I know I’m pointing a finger here, but I feel strongly about this. I fear too many in our field aren’t embracing progress. Maybe they feel that since what we’re doing has worked before, it should still work fine now. That simply isn’t true. The world, and technology, has changed monumentally in the past twenty years. The environment we operate in now bears very little resemblance to the one we were in just a few short years ago. What we can do and what we are expected to do when providing services for folks with I/DD is very different today than it was at the turn of this century. Pleading that you are too busy or can’t make the effort to figure out how to operate in this new environment isn’t acceptable anymore.

I hope to see a lot more providers and policy makers at next year’s events, armed with saws ready to be sharpened!

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Here’s a picture of Karen, who lives in Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, using a cool piece of technology – a standing lift. The lift has given her more control when she transfers in and out of her wheelchair, and has helped her build up her lower body strength. Looking good, Karen!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Good News Friday!

Ximena (r) and her Out & About Summer Camp Counselor Sierra
When Pablo Noriega learned that his work would take him, and his family, from their native Spain to Boulder for the summer, his first concern was finding services for their daughter, Ximena. A quick online search led him to Imagine!’s website, where he learned about Imagine!’s Out & About Summer Camp for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He signed her up right away.

Pablo shared some encouraging feedback with us:

I would like to let you know how pleased we were with our experience in Out & About. My wife and I found all the instructors and day-leaders that we met to be excellent professionals, and also affectionate and caring human beings. We are very grateful for the effort that you all made to have a Spanish-speaking instructor every day and we consider ourselves lucky to have met so many wonderful people. 

I would also like to commend Imagine! for the quality of the program. We were very impressed by the variety and relevance of the activities where Ximena participated. We also found truly remarkable the inventiveness and enthusiasm that you put into the design and implementation of that program. We believe Ximena matured, learned, and enjoyed her time tremendously in those six weeks. 

Congrats to the entire Out & About team. Great work!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Last Friday, Imagine!’s Director of Information Technology Kevin Harding was among the presenters at the 2015 ANCOR & AAIDD Technology Summit & Showcase.

Kevin was part of a panel discussion titled “Assessment Tools: Matching Needs with Solutions,” and spoke specifically about a functional assessment Imagine! developed for measuring a person’s abilities across a wide range of physical and cognitive categories, as well as a site based assessment in development at Imagine! for identifying necessary adaptations in a given setting.

Joining Kevin on the panel were Patrick Queenan, PhD, Director of Clinical and Behavioral Services at Ability Beyond, and Marc J. Tasse, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at The Ohio State University Nisonger Center.

Congratulations, Kevin, for presenting at this prestigious event and for continuing Imagine!’s legacy as a leader in the field of exploring how technology may be used to improve the lives of individuals with a variety of disabilities.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Good News Friday!

About a month ago, the Longmont Community Foundation’s Longmont Legacy Fund sent out a call to local non-profit organizations for grant submissions – but with a twist! Instead of a written submission, they asked organizations to create a short video explaining how a grant from the Longmont Legacy Fund would positively impact Longmont youth. The Imagine! Foundation and Imagine!’s PR team were excited to take on the challenge, and produced the video below.

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

The video worked! We recently received a $1,500 grant from the Longmont Legacy Fund to support families in their community. So we thought we’d embrace the spirit of the original grant submission and create a thank you video for the Longmont Legacy Fund. Enjoy!

Can’t see the video? Click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Get A Job?

I’m kind of a numbers guy when it comes to grabbing attention, and knowing that employment for people with disabilities is in the media this month, I find some stats can be misleading and overwhelming:
  • The annual unemployment rate for people with disabilities has been in double digits since 2009. 
  • The monthly jobless rate among this group was 10.4% as recently as July 2015, significantly higher than the 5.4% unemployment rate for those without disabilities. 
  • The labor force participation rate (the percentage of individuals who either work or are looking for work) among individuals with disabilities was 20% this past July, as compared to 69% for individuals without disabilities. And I can imagine that this statistic is much smaller than 20% for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). 
  • And perhaps the least telling of all: 85% of people with I/DD who are of working age are not currently employed. One must ask – are people even encouraged to consider employment? 
Those of you who know my background know that I spent a great deal of my career in supported employment for individuals with I/DD. I consider myself a strong advocate for employment among the population we serve. Some of the greatest experiences I have had in my career, and some of my fondest memories, arose from that moment when an individual with intellectual disabilities got his or her first paying job. It was always a happy occasion, and why not? Everybody won. The employer had a reliable and dedicated worker. The parents were able to see their child become an engaged and contributing member of the community. And the person getting the job? They were finally able to answer the question of “What do you do?’ with pride.

During the 1980s and 1990s, when my work focused on supported employment, Imagine! was an unparalleled leader in the field of finding and securing jobs for people with I/DD. Unfortunately, rules and regulations become more and more onerous, incentives to build natural supports were eliminated for providers, and as time went on the drive and incentive for an employment-first approach to services were crushed.

So I take no joy in seeing the statistics above (even if in some cases the numbers are misleading), and I join others in advocating for a systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life. However, I am in disagreement with some of my fellow advocates as to how we achieve results. In this case, results are meaningful work.

Some are asking for more resources for organizations that facilitate supported employment - more funding for training, more counselors/case managers, that sort of thing. Is it possible we’re pointing the finger the wrong way when trying to solve this problem? Maybe we need to ask a few questions first.

Questions such as:

Are the support teams of the individuals we serve really thinking employment first when determining the individual’s service path? I’m not sure they are – including families, case managers, and the individuals themselves. When fewer than 20% are either working or looking for work, one has to ask the question, “If you are not looking to work, how do you complete your plan as a contributing member of the community?” Let me give you some stats that demonstrate why this question is so pertinent. In 2004, Imagine! conducted a survey of family members and service providers about supported employment. One of the questions asked in that survey was if respondents agreed with the statement “all people with developmental disabilities are employable in some capacity.” Only 49% of providers and 46% of parents agreed. Right there I see a big challenge. If parents and providers don’t even agree that all individuals with intellectual disabilities are employable, then more resources to organizations seeking employment for those individuals won’t solve anything. We need to change that mindset (and yes, I know the survey is more than ten years old, but I’d be willing to bet those percentages could be even higher today).

Are more resources for organizations that facilitate supported employment the answer? I’m not convinced they are. Maybe we need to focus more on supporting employers (and I don’t mean through tax breaks). What would happen if we simply pay businesses directly if they hire people with I/DD? (By the way – this has been tried and tested positive). Would portions of our struggling support system go away? Would that be a bad thing? My experience with supported employment during the heydays of the 80s and 90s taught me that most employers can figure out how to make it work with employees with disabilities if they are just given some simple tools and support. It is true that supported employment has always been poorly funded, but even so, we used to be much more successful at it. I’m not sure more funding and support for administrating the programs is the answer. The funding would likely come attached to more costly rules and regulation.

I’m not saying I have all the answers. But I do have some questions that I believe are worth asking.

Then again, what do I know?

PS – while pondering the questions above, enjoy this video from our CORE/Labor Source team about the benefits to employers of participating in supported employment programs.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Mike, who receives services from Imagine!, is a wiz when it comes to addition, but subtraction skills are an area that Mike has been working on improving recently. Here you see a video of him using an iPad to generate subtraction problems, and then you see him going to his worksheet to work through the problem. In the span of one class period, Mike now has no trouble with the problem 25 minus 19.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Good News Friday!

On October 15, Imagine! is hosting a provider fair. This is an exciting opportunity for the individuals we serve and their families to connect with providers and community agencies, learn about available services, and network with others receiving services from Imagine!.

We have 55 providers registered for the event. They include individuals who contract with Imagine!, Program Approved Service Agencies (PASAs), Home Health Agencies, and community organizations offering direct services and supports. Providers include those who offer services through the following funding sources:
  • Children’s Extensive Support Waiver (CES) 
  • Supported Living Services Waiver (SLS) 
  • State SLS program 
  • Broomfield SLS program 
  • Family Support Program (FSSP) 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Program (ASD) 
The list of providers/agencies scheduled to attend (as of my writing this post) is substantial and impressive:

Association of Community Living - - Ariel Clinical Services - - Ascent Mobility - - Autism Society of Boulder County - - Behavior Services of the Rockies - - Bending Birch Behavioral Services - - Boulder County Health and Human Services - - Careprox - - Carmel Community Living Corporation and Brain Centers - - City of Boulder Parks/Rec EXPAND - - City of Longmont Community Services - - Colorado Community Health Alliance - - Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center - - Community Link - - Consultants for Children - - Continuum Autism Spectrum Alliance - - CORE/Labor Source - - David Kalis - - Dreamcatcher/Legacy of Learning - - Dungarvin - - Firefly Autism - - Flatirons Naturopathic Clinic - - Freedom Mobility - - Friends of Broomfield - - Front Range Hippotherapy - - GoldStar Learning Options - - GoodHealthWill - - Hopelight Behavioral Health - - Imagine! Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) - - Ignite Adaptive Sports - - Imagine! Family Recruited Employee Service - - Innovations Advocacy Council - - Kristin Lavelle, MA, LPC - - Laradon - - Longmont Educational Advance Partnership (LEAP) - - Learning Unlimited - - Megan's Place LLC - - Nutri-Physique: Nutrition and Exercise - - Out & About - - Overture - - P.A.L.S. (Program to Assist In Life Skills) - - Parker Personal Care Homes - - People Centered Services - - ProgressivEducation - - Real Care, Inc - - Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association - - Sample Supports - - Spectra Autism Center - - Spectrum - - Support Inc. - - Team Select Home Care - - The CottageTrumpet Behavioral Health - - Waiver Market

The Provider Fair is scheduled for Thursday October 15, 2015, at Imagine!’s John M. Taylor Conference Center from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. No RSVP is necessary.

If you are interested in learning more about Imagine!’s Provider Fair, contact Jenna Corder at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Technology Tuesday

For today’s Technology Tuesday, we’d like to offer our congratulations to Meagan Little, who works for Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department, on being selected as the October 2015 recipient of the Imagine! Excellence in Customer Service Award.

Below is some information from Meagan’s nomination, which demonstrates how she is using technology to improve the lives of those served by Imagine!:

Meagan is someone who consistently goes above and beyond her job requirements, and does so in a humble fashion. She recognizes the importance of quality service to CLS participants and has come up with creative methods to support this knowledge. Meagan has demonstrated an interest in communication and technology as a means of supporting individuals and has come up with and implemented creative ideas in her classes. In her iPad class, she has methodically determined everyone’s interest and ability levels, and designed a unit around "money management" that incorporates these elements. She determined which apps truly teach folks how to manage money, and used her knowledge to determine which ones each individual may potentially be adept at using. This method allows for a more individualized curriculum design and promotes learning on a scale respectful to abilities. This is just one of the amazing reasons Meagan absolutely deserves this award! 

Great work, Meagan, and congratulations on this well-deserved honor!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Good News Friday!

This weekend's Handmade in Colorado Expo will not only feature original artwork by Imagine! artists, some of the proceeds from the event will benefit Imagine!.

Handmade in Colorado Expo is a juried event showcasing some of Colorado's best fine art and contemporary craft. The event features a vast array of independent designers producing original handcrafted goods from a wide array of media including metals, paper, glass, fibers, food, fabricated objects, clay, paint, wax, gems, and more. All work sold is created by both emerging and experienced artisans from Colorado. This event is designed for "Locavores" as customers will only find Colorado made items sold by exhibitors, who will interact directly with their customers. This event has free admission and includes some great local live music.

This year, as he did last year, Handmade in Colorado Expo organizer Steve Wallis will be donating 10% of exhibitor fees to Imagine!. In addition, he has provided a booth free of charge during this weekend's Boulder Expo to artists in Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source program, so they may sell their artwork.

I encourage you to head over to the Pearl Street Mall this weekend (11:00AM - 6:00PM Saturday and Sunday) to support Imagine! and our talented artists. And if you happen to see Steve, be sure to tell him "thanks!"