Friday, November 25, 2011

Good News Friday!

Thanksgiving Day was yesterday, so I thought today would be an appropriate time to say thanks to some of the many people, organizations, and businesses that help support Imagine! in its mission to create and offer innovative supports to people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical, and health related needs so they may live fulfilling lives of independence and quality in their homes and communities.

First of all, thank you to Imagine! Foundation donors. Since the Imagine! Foundation was founded a little more than 10 years ago, it has raised more than $4.5 million dollars to support Imagine! families and consumers. In the last fiscal year (7/1/10 - 6/30/11) alone, nearly 850 generous individuals, organizations, and companies made cash and in-kind contributions to the Imagine! Foundation.

You can find a list of all donors to the Imagine! Foundation by clicking here.

Secondly, thank you to all the businesses in Boulder and Broomfield counties that have already discovered the benefits of using CORE/Labor Source supported employment work crews as part of their workforce. Supported employment offers people who have a developmental disability the opportunity to develop vital job skills and to become active and contributing members of their communities.

Learn more, and see a complete list of businesses employing Imagine! consumers, by clicking here.

Finally, I’d like to offer my thanks to all Imagine! employees. We are so fortunate here at Imagine! to have so many talented and passionate people who are dedicated to those we serve.

I can’t say it enough – thank you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Post For Sharing

With a short week and the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I thought today I’d keep it simple, and just share a couple of interesting items I came across recently.

First, a “Sherman’s Lagoon” comic from yesterday. As proud as I am of Imagine!’s SmartHomes, all of us associated with the homes experience frustration from time to time when the technologies in the home don’t work quite the way they are supposed to. I believe strongly that technology will have a prominent role in the future of services for some of our most vulnerable citizens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have a sense of humor about the difficulties we sometimes face in making that goal a reality! 

And second, I’d like to share some tips on Disability Etiquette I found on the Easter Seals website. These tips ably demonstrate that while some of us may struggle with what it means to be “politically correct,” there should be no struggle with demonstrating personal etiquette to any person we interact with, regardless of their ability/disability.

Disability Etiquette 

People with disabilities are entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to anyone, including personal privacy. If you find it inappropriate to ask people about their sex lives, or their complexions, or their incomes, extend the courtesy to people with disabilities.

• If you don't make a habit of leaning or hanging on people, don't lean or hang on someone's wheelchair. Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.
• When you offer to assist someone with a vision impairment, allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide, rather than propel or lead, the person.
• Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present. Don't patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.

In conversation...

• When talking with someone who has a disability, speak directly to him or her, rather than through a companion who may be along.
• Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions, such as "See you later" or "I've got to run", that seem to relate to the person's disability.
• To get the attention of a person who has a hearing disability, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Not everyone with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help understand. Show consideration by facing a light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking. Keep mustaches well-trimmed. Shouting won't help, but written notes will.
• When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user's eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck.
• When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say, for example, "On my right is Andy Clark". When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give vocal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another, and let it be known when the conversation is at an end.
• Give whole, unhurried attention when you're talking to a person who has difficulty speaking. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting, and be patient rather than speak for the person. When necessary, ask questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand. The person's reaction will guide you to understanding.

Common courtesies...

• If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act, and listen to any instructions the person may want to give.
• When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.
• When directing a person with a visual impairment, use specifics such as "left a hundred feet" or "right two yards".
• Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.
• When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If an insurmountable barrier exists, let them know about it prior to the event.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to welcome Alexander Ndubuisi Otakpor to the Imagine! community.

Alex has begun an internship under the supervision of Dr. Jeff Kupfer and other Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) team members of Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) department. Alex is a Nigerian citizen and permanent resident of the United States of America. He is a Child Psychiatrist holding a tenure appointment with the University of Benin School of Medicine, located in Benin City, Nigeria.

The internship program began on October 10 and is scheduled to last six months. This supervised training will qualify Alex to take the BCBA examination, as he has completed the prescribed course work with the Florida Institute of Technology.

The motivation behind Alex’s efforts to become BCBA Certified is quite inspiring.

According to the World Bank, the population of Nigeria is 158 million, and yet, there are only around twenty trained Child Psychiatrists in the entire nation. And the lack of Child Psychiatrists is only one of many challenges facing individuals needing behavioral and psychiatric services in the country.

What sort of challenges? It is hard to decide where to start. For example, total expenditure on healthcare in Nigeria was an estimated 2.6% of GDP in 2008. At around $28 per person, spending on healthcare in Nigeria was lower than in most other Sub-Saharan countries. In fact, the UN Human Development Report of 2009 ranked Nigeria 189th out of 194 countries in relation to public expenditure on health as a share of total government expenditure.

In the face of this limited expenditure on healthcare, Nigeria faces extreme healthcare challenges. Of the 7.6 million children under the age of five who died in 2010, 11% percent of them were from Nigeria.  Because most of the major killers of children under age five (including pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, preterm birth complications, under-nutrition, and malaria) are “curative” diseases, the majority of the already paltry health care spending in Nigeria goes to address those conditions.

Even with better funding, Alex notes that among many Nigerian families, there is a certain stigma attached to having a developmental disability or mental health issue (in fact, the two separate health related issues are often seen as the same thing), making them reluctant to seek out treatment.

As a result of all of these challenges, the very few facilities in Nigeria designed to serve individuals with developmental disabilities or mental heath needs provide only the barest of services, mostly meeting basic needs such as food and shelter.

The list of challenges mentioned above would seem to be overwhelming. But Alex doesn’t see it that way. He’s determined to improve the lives of his fellow Nigerian citizens who have developmental disabilities or mental heath needs.

After he receives his BCBA Certification, Alex is planning to go back to Nigeria to demonstrate the effectiveness of Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment methods and to train others how to use those methods, to better prepare his country to meet the needs of this woefully underserved population.

Alex’s commitment to his fellow countrymen and women serves as a model to all of us in the field of serving those with developmental disabilities. We all face challenges in the day-to-day administration of our duties, but we should always remember that those challenges don’t need to prevent us from meeting our greater goal of providing opportunities for those we serve.

Thank you, Alex, for all you do, and I hope we can help you in meeting your goal as much as you have already helped us in clarifying why we at Imagine! do the work we do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ignore The Squirrel

Many of you who own a dog (and even those of you who don’t) will find the clip below easy to relate to.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

In the video above, Dug the Dog is in the process of demonstrating an amazing collar built by his master that allows him to speak to humans. Even in the midst of this profound disclosure, he is distracted by the sight of a squirrel right in the middle of his explanation.

We all know dogs that are easily distracted. I think that if we are being honest with ourselves, we should also admit that sometimes those of us in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities can also get easily distracted by many varieties of “squirrels.”

This came to mind last week as I took part in a meeting of Imagine!’s Strategic Planning team. This team, made up of Imagine! employees from across the organization, is charged with identifying where Imagine! wants to be at some point in the future, and determining how we are going to get there.

I feel strongly that our strategic planning process is one of the most important things we do at Imagine!. I think it has helped us keep a steady ship despite the very rough seas that the system for funding and delivering services in Colorado has been sailing in the past several years. I think it has positioned us to be ready and proactive in the face of impending change, rather than being forced into a reactive position when options for responding to change are much more limited, and often less than desirable.

In other words, our strategic planning team has allowed us to stay focused and to ignore the many squirrels that are constantly scampering about. We have been prepared and able to react when facing new barriers and new distractions. We have stayed true to our missions and the needs of those we serve.

This isn’t to say that goals should never change. But in the absence of goals, it is easy to get off track, because no track really exists. Making it up as you go along is not a recipe for success in any field, and certainly not one where the lives of some very vulnerable citizens are at stake. Too many of the decisions made in our field have been made lately not as part of a strategy to meet a defined goal, but instead have been made because there is a vacuum where the goals should be residing.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Good News Friday

Dave Query
For the 8th year, Dave Query and the Big Red F Restaurant Group will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner for Imagine! clients and their families at Zolo Southwestern Grill. Query is a former Imagine! Foundation board member and owner of Big Red F, which includes Boulder restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace, the Bitter Bar, Jax Fish House, West End Tavern, and Zolo, Denver restaurants Jax Fish House and LoLa Coastal Mexican, and the new Jax Fish House in Fort Collins. Query is donating the makings for a delicious Zolo-style Thanksgiving repast with all the trimmings, and the wait staff is volunteering its time. Three seatings are offered, allowing nearly 400 people to enjoy this lovely celebration of Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Dave, for all you do for your community!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Change For Change's Sake

A long while back, someone introduced me to the video below. I thought it would be worth our while to revisit it, and consider what we may learn from it.

Can't see the video?  Click here.

The video was produced an organization called “Playing for Change,” which, according to the organization’s website, is “. . . a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.”

As I watched the video above, I was really struck by the amount of planning that must have taken place to create the seamless song while recording talented musicians in natural environments across the globe You have to believe that Mark Johnson knew what the end result of the production would be. No doubt much time and preparation went into deciding what equipment to use, how to transport the equipment, where to record, which musicians to record, etc. Clearly, planning was, and remains, a huge part of making Playing for Change successful.

It started me thinking about the nature of change, and how we must be careful to plan and prepare if we want change to be successful.

Now maybe you are saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, Mark! Aren’t you the one who is always out there pushing for change in our system? Why so cautious all of the sudden?”

Yes, I believe the system of funding and delivering services is in need of a dramatic overhaul. But I don’t believe in change simply for change’s sake. I believe in change that has a purpose and goal behind it, change that is implemented after a great deal of thought has been put not only into the how and the why of the change, but also what consequences (positive and negative) are likely to occur because of the changes. We should have a shared vision of the result of a change, before implementation.

I am saying this now because I believe we are at a crossroads in our State when it comes to funding and delivering services to some of our most vulnerable citizens. Community Centered Boards, providers, and funding agencies all seem to acknowledge that it is time for change. The opportunity is here to truly improve our system, and thus improve the lives of those we serve.

But I worry that some proposed changes may be the result of knee jerk reactions, without proper consideration as to what the changes will really bring about. We’re not having the important and necessary conversations about outcomes. We’re not setting goals, goals that will keep us focused even if the strategies to reach those goals change over time.

Before we start making changes and completely overhauling any system, we need to do our homework, plan first, and establish our goals. If we want to create a seamless song like the one in the video, the planning we do first will make the difference between a beautiful rendition of the song and a cacophonous mess. We’ve already done the latter, I think aiming for the former this time will benefit us all.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to share a success story that members of Imagine!’s Out & About department recently shared with me. Though the story itself is brief, I hope you will notice that it was truly a collaborative effort between two different departments at Imagine! and a contracted provider. It is a great example of how working together as a team can bring about positive results for those we serve.

Congratulations to all involved for coordinating a true team effort!

“Johnny” (not his real name) has been attending Out & About for many years. Two years ago he began receiving behavioral services through Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) for some challenging behaviors that emerged as he transitioned into a group home from his family home. Out & About has worked closely with Behavior Therapist, Mariah Loftin, to collaborate on Johnny’s Behavioral Support Plan.

Now, two years later, Johnny is being discharged from IBHS due to the success of the collaboration, interventions, and Johnny’s continued development towards independence.

Additionally, Out & About collaborates with a local Speech Therapist who works with Johnny. Out & About’s Therapeutic Team member, Stephanie Tilley, works with Johnny’s speech therapist to bring speech interventions and information about his communication device to Out & About. Johnny’s ability to independently communicate in the community has significantly increased due to the consistency of supports offered in his different daily environments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thank You, Governor Hickenlooper

Henry Sobanet, the Director of the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget, recently released some of the key components of Governor John Hickenlooper’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012-13. The Governor’s new budget proposal requests resources for 173 people with developmental disabilities in emergency and high risk situations.

Imagine! knows more than 2,800 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Boulder and Broomfield counties, hundreds of whom are waiting for State funded services and supports. The financial and emotional challenges that these individuals and their families face twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week are tremendous. The proposed new resources will help provide a safety net, especially when a caregiver can no longer care for their loved one.

On behalf of Imagine!, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Hickenlooper, Chief of Staff Roxanne White, Budget Director Sobanet, and their staff for their hard work on a difficult budget and for their demonstrated commitment to our state’s most vulnerable citizens.