Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mountain Surfing Safari

This past weekend, as part of my continual quest to explore somewhere I’ve never been before, I went for a hike on the Ceran St. Vrain Trail, which is located near Jamestown, CO.

The trail begins over a long bridge with good up and down-stream views. As I crossed the bridge, I noticed that a group of industrious young people had tied a ski tow rope to the bridge, and were down in the water, holding on to the other end of the rope while standing aboard a boogie board and “surfing” in the small rapids below the bridge.

I had two thoughts.

One thought was that it seemed a bit on the risky side. The people engaging in this mountain surfing safari weren’t wearing helmets, and while the water was shallow and not moving very fast, a fall the wrong way could have possibly resulted in an unprotected head engaging in an unpleasant and unscheduled meeting with a rock. They weren’t wearing life jackets, either, and again, though the water was shallow and relatively slow moving, creeks can be unpredictable.

My second thought? Man, that looks like fun.

I don’t think those two thoughts were contradictory. In fact, I think they fit together perfectly. Sometimes in life, taking reasonable risks can result in extremely positive experiences and outcomes. It can result in memories that last a lifetime, of longtime friends gathering together and saying “remember that time we did that?”

So much of what we do at Imagine! is about creating those moments. We are closest to meeting our mission of creating a world of opportunities for all abilities when we stretch ourselves and those we serve to find those moments that will last in memories forever.

We can’t forget that the best things in life happen to people when we push boundaries and look for new opportunities. All of us, regardless of our ability or disability, can experience a more robust life when we can make choices and take responsibility for those choices. Without occasionally stepping outside of our comfort zone, none of us will have opportunities to experience either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

As summer wears on, I want to remind my readers that services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) shouldn’t be reduced to merely ensuring safety and well-being. Of course those concerns must be paramount, but every effort must also be made to allow the individuals who accept services from us to truly engage in life, including creating opportunities for them to say, “remember when we did that?"

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Technology Tuesday

This week’s Tech Tuesday was written by Imagine! Charles Family SmartHome staff members Alex Prokop and Christopher DiRosa. Thanks for sharing! 

The Imagine! team at the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont are excited to share news about residential efficiencies that we’ve been implementing over the past several months.

Here are some of the highlights:

Our team has been utilizing an iPad to synchronize a shared house calendar of all individuals’ appointments, outings, and important reminders for team members during shifts. We have also synchronized this shared tool with staff smartphones, as well as with house computers to provide a singular information. This has been effective in coordinating a wide range of activities and tasks from group outings, to tracking healthcare observations to identify and report health concerns to nursing, as well as new doctor orders.

By utilizing the iPad in this manner, our team is ensuring that all individuals are getting the highest level of care from staff by keeping our team informed and on time for appointments. Additionally, information and medication changes are being communicated more easily across multiple departments in a timelier manner.

The iPad has also been integrated with MedSupport to create a mobile platform for medication administration anywhere in the house or in the community where we have Wi-Fi access. This mobile tool has also been set up with a singular email with direct communication with our house nurse and other key staff so that important changes to medication or care needs can be accessed and acknowledged with greater efficiency. Through these enhancements, we at the Charles Family SmartHome have seen a trending reduction in medication errors at the house over the past three months.

Video conferencing has also been established so that house leadership, parents, guardians, and other team members can easily contact the house from off-site location using video conferencing applications like Facetime.

Residents are also using technology to develop their independence as contributing members of the Longmont community.

Shelly is pictured above using a Powerlink attached to a simple switch on her wheelchair to help puree her own food. Other residents have used the Powerlink to help prepare meals for the house, grind coffee, and to bake cookies. Residents are also using the iPad to increase their own skills and independence around the house and personally. Additionally, residents have used online resources to register to vote, shop online, and make online purchases.

Anthony likes using an application called My Journal (available for Android and Apple). He uses this application to talk about his day and his emotions. He accomplishing this by speaking into the iPad that uses built in dictation on the device. Anthony also uses the iPad to contact his family and friends using Facetime, and to check-in with Facebook to keep up with the news of the day with friends and family.

Stacey enjoys using the iPad to check the daily weather forecast and to update the house to ensure we’re all informed and prepare for the day accordingly. She does this by first identifying the weather app and then using a new wireless Bluetooth switch that is connected to the iPad so that she can navigate applications with minimal staff support.

Our team is also revamping a number of CU Engineering projects that teach and reinforce cause and effect.

Finally, we are testing four new tools:
As a team, our eye is always on the future! It is our job to seek out new tools and resources that are being developed each and every day to learn, and to become exceptional direct care professionals.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Good News Friday!

Our great friend Gale Boonstra appeared on the television show "Colorado & Company" recently, talking about Aaron’s Fund and how it is making lives better for people with intellectual disabilities. Check it out below.
 Can’t see the video? Click here

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


As the seemingly endless election season drags on, one theme comes up again and again: “change.” We hear how voters want change, how enthusiastic they are to vote for someone or something different and new.

Can't see the video? Click here

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. There always seems to be a significant portion of voters claiming to want change. And maybe they really do want change from their elected officials. But I can tell you where most people struggle with change: in their day-to-day work life. The enthusiasm for change there is far less apparent.

An entire industry has grown around the resistance to change at work. Dozens and dozens of books have been written on change management, and careers have been made for professionals who are able to guide organizations that are undergoing shifts in what they do, or how they do what they do, or why they do what they do.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) field seems to be especially impervious to change. This is very noticeable when it comes to incorporating technology into services. At Imagine!, we’ve been advocating for a technology first approach to services for years. The response we’ve gotten is lukewarm at best.

This baffles me, because we know that technology can and does offer opportunities to allow people with a variety of disabilities to live lives of meaning and purpose. We know that technology can and does offer opportunities for people with disabilities to live safely and independently in their own homes, or find and keep employment, or make music and art.

So why are we so slow to the table when it comes to embracing technology? At what point does the movement to incorporate technology into I/DD services reach a tipping point where it can’t be stopped?

People are willing to throw money at and support for politicians who preach change. Maybe it is time for those in our field to spend a little money and provide a little support to bring about positive change in the lives of those we serve.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Want to learn how to draw? An Imagine! CORE/Labor Source art class has been trying out Osmo's Masterpiece app. Masterpiece allows users to pick an image from a camera or the web, which Masterpiece then transforms into easy-to-follow lines, helping to create beautiful drawings.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About department hosts a “Healthy Living” class, which helps teach students about proper nutrition and good eating habits, as well as helping them to cook their own meals independently. The class has learned so much that they decided to make a cookbook – and you can have a copy, too!

With delicious recipes such as “Syrup Pillows,” “Awakey Awakey Galore,” and “Crispy Frisbee,” this cookbook is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. Even better, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the cookbook go to support Out & About’s programs designed to make a positive difference in the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by providing positive instruction and community-based services within a therapeutic framework.

Cookbooks start at $10 and can be purchased online. Order yours today

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Technology Tuesday

This week's Tech Tuesday takes us to Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source Longmont hub, where a clever use of a free chrome app called Pixcam becomes a powerful cause and effect tool. The app is very simple. It overlays a series of wild and weird filters over your webcam, and the filters change with the press of a switch. And that's all there is to it! It's free, easy, fun, and ultimately a powerful way to allow individuals who are non-verbal and have other intellectual disabilities to learn to express choices and interact intentionally with the world around them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I Owe My Soul To The Company Store

One has to wonder: what if we didn’t rely on Medicaid, in its current form, to fund services and supports for people in Colorado with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD)?

The decision to go with Medicaid in a waiver format three decades ago was primarily driven by the need for money to serve a growing waitlist, and to fund people moving from institutions to community settings. Colorado didn’t have the bucks, the Feds did. What better place to go looking than the federal government?

That decision brought a good deal of money to the table, and quite frankly, a good deal of baggage. The baggage continues to grow, and not surprisingly, doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment any more. You have to place it around your feet or hold it in your lap, and soon in your neighbor’s lap. The medical model baggage that comes with the money insists we continue to look to the person and poke and prod at various manifestations until we “heal” or “correct” or “repair” whatever disability is represented. Providers are only paid if they continue to focus on whatever a disability manifests. If the disability that manifests ever goes away, the provider might go out of business. So they continue to work on a “fix” that probably doesn’t exist. The outcome, in this case, is that the individual owes his soul to the company store.

Perhaps I’m too much of a purist. I believe we may be focused on the wrong outcome. The outcome we want is a community where having an I/DD is not the most important thing about a person, and does not get all of our attention (as currently required by Medicaid).

I have a very fundamental belief about the individuals we serve at Imagine! – that every single person who accepts services from us has something valuable to offer to our community. Key to that belief is that the community plays a role in identifying, valuing, supporting, and accepting what those individuals have to offer. We could be focusing on the community first: removing barriers, misconceptions, and demonstrating successes.

Instead, we focus on . . . well, I’m not always sure what we focus on, or why. For example, recently it was decided it is important to punish community members who fail to report mistreatment of adults who may be at risk. I don’t have a problem with this legislation, and I appreciate both the reasoning behind it and the fact that it isn’t Medicaid money being spent to encourage community engagement in services for people with I/DD.

However, I can’t help but wonder: as we move toward community rule-making of this nature, should this be the first thing we address out of the gate? Is it possible that this will actually incentivize community members to stay clear of adults who may be at risk? Will the new legislation demonstrably reduce risk or improve services? And the most important question: is this kind of rule-making really where we should be focusing our time and energy, instead of identifying, valuing, supporting, and accepting what individuals with I/DD have to offer? I hope not.

Instead of focusing on risk and/or disability, perhaps we’d be better off if our focus was on doing everything we can to ensure that the people with I/DD are successful within their community. By recognizing and strengthening natural supports (an old sustainable solution not recognized or funded in the Medicaid model), the community comes to life. Neighbors are recognized, employees thrive, and what do you know? – the cost of the support system goes down. People are just that – people who live and work nearby. Risk is reduced organically.

There remains an important element to this approach. It requires that the needs of the community are taken into account when designing services. Medicaid doesn’t fund community needs – only people’s shortcomings. If service design is based only upon the needs of the people in services, the people in services will always be in need. They will be “special” but they won’t be equal.

My purist outlook leads me to feel that just like with the term “vulnerability,” a one-sided approach to services will inevitably highlight disabilities instead of abilities. One thing is for sure, the cost of the Medicaid model for I/DD support will only rise unless a very serious adjustment is made at the federal level.

A simple suggestion: let’s carve out funds from the giant Medicaid pool specifically to support community inclusion, not to specifically address a person’s manifestations from disabilities. Let’s close down the company store.

Then again, what do I know?
  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Good News Friday!

Yesterday, Imagine! hosted one of my favorite events of the year: Dayspring’s Messy Play Day.

Messy Play Day is one of Imagine!'s Dayspring department's Community Calendar Activities (CCAs). CCAs introduce young children with developmental delays and disabilities to places in our community that offer great activities and opportunities for children to meet their goals through fun and play. All activities encourage motor, sensory, social-emotional, cognitive, and speech-language development.

Messy Play Day is designed to introduce new sensory experiences to the children in a safe and comfortable environment. Learning occurs as children touch, manipulate, experiment, and talk about things, while interacting with people who facilitate without directing.

But the paragraphs above are just words. Take a look at the pictures below of some of the Messy Play Day sensory activities to see what the words look like in action.


Water/ball pit

Shaving cream pool


Oobleck (a mixture of cornstarch and water


Big thanks to UPS, who sent a team of volunteers early in the morning to help set up the activities.

And congratulations to the entire Dayspring staff, who hosted another successful, fun, and meaningful event for the families and children they serve.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Technology Tuesday

With the new addition of a power link device to the Charles Family SmartHome, Shelly and her housemates are able to control blenders, mixers, coffee grinders, and much more with a touch of their switch and participate independently in meal preparation and other daily tasks.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to the wonderful kids who attend Louisville Elementary School (LES).

Each year, students at LES select a non-profit organization to support, and this year they selected Imagine!. That support included a variety of small fundraisers for Imagine!, including a Car Wash they hosted two weeks ago.

Following the Car Wash, the school invited Imagine! Foundation Executive Director Patti Micklin to the school to receive the proceeds from the various fundraisers and to thank the kids in person. She is pictured below with Louisville Elementary School Principal Jennifer Rocke and parent volunteer Trisha Thompson.

You can see that the children, their families, LES staff members, and the Louisville community were extremely generous with their support, and I couldn’t be more grateful. We are so fortunate to work in a community that continues to astound us with its generosity!