Friday, November 30, 2012

Good News Friday!

Dylan with Dayspring therapist Mara Kuczun
Today, I’d like to share a story given to Imagine! by Athena West, whose child Dylan received services from Imagine!’s Dayspring department.  

I am writing this to thank and recognize the Dayspring therapists who provided amazing work with my son Dylan. I am so grateful to Mara Kuczun, Joanne Gesualdi, and Janine Randol for their work with Dylan. What they did for us was more than helpful, it was life saving.

When the Dayspring therapists started working with Dylan, we were in a world of hurt. Dylan couldn’t communicate and it was very frustrating. One day Janine gave me a tip to try to repeat what Dylan was saying even though I didn't understand him. So afterwards in the car, when I repeated what I thought he said, I got what he was trying to say. It was so exciting! I realized that without meaning to, I had been shutting him out because I could not understand him, which was not good for our relationship. Without that tip we’d have been lost.

There were hundreds of these tips that the Dayspring therapists provided us with. I had been having a struggle helping Dylan getting dressed, and Mara gave me a tip to help dress him by having him get between heated blankets, and with the comfort that provided to him, he’d let me dress him. Mara had suspected there might have been some sensory issues that were making Dylan uncomfortable, and the heated blankets helped him to relax and to be more comfortable.

Joanne showed me how to help Dylan settle down when he was getting overstimulated, by tapping him in a cha cha pattern. This was critical in situations like his preschool, restaurants, and stores where there was lots of noise and stimulation.

One thing I appreciate the most is that the therapists never made me feel like a bad mother. When you have a challenging child it can feel like you are not doing things right, but they never made me feel that way. They were always supportive and encouraging.

We miss the Dayspring ladies since Dylan has turned three, but we are so grateful. Dylan is meeting milestones and doing fantastic, and I have Mara, Joanne, Janine, and the Dayspring team to thank for that.

Great work, Mara, Joanne, Janine, and the rest of the Dayspring crew!

Monday, November 26, 2012

What's Up, Doc?

“Some people call me cocky and brash, but actually I am just self-assured. I'm nonchalant, imperturbable, contemplative. I play it cool, but I can get hot under the collar. And above all I'm a very 'aware' character. I'm well aware that I am appearing in an animated cartoon....And sometimes I chomp on my carrot for the same reason that a stand-up comic chomps on his cigar. It saves me from rushing from the last joke to the next one too fast. And I sometimes don't act, I react. And I always treat the contest with my pursuers as 'fun and games.' When momentarily I appear to be cornered or in dire danger and I scream, don't be consoined [sic] – it's actually a big put-on. Let's face it Doc. I've read the script and I already know how it turns out.”

Bob Clampett on Bugs Bunny, written in first person.

Admit it … when you first started reading that quote, you thought this was about me. I have always thought highly of Mr. Bunny.

I often picture Bugs in the animated world of intellectual and developmental disabilities that we occupy every day.

What would that look like? His irreverence would mean questioning Doc (Doc being whichever authority figure or rule maker he is currently interacting with) and asking “why” when decisions are handed down that don’t make sense. Bugs is not irreverent because he doesn’t care; he is irreverent because he cares a lot. He doesn’t question decisions because it is fun, or because he enjoys being a thorn in Doc’s side, he questions decisions because he wants to be sure that they are being made with the best interests of the people we serve in mind. In the mix he would also find an opening for a punch line or two.

Late night television personalities do this every day with respect to our world; questioning with irreverence. They probably learned the benefit of irreverence from Bugs Bunny. Throw in a couple of punch lines and people tune in.

And to be clear, I encourage a “What’s Up, Doc?” attitude from all Imagine! employees, even when said Doc is me. Imagine! hasn’t been a leader in the field for almost 50 years by quietly accepting the status quo and never questioning authority. On the contrary, we have succeeded because we refuse to remain quiet and we don’t just accept decisions at face value.

If irreverence is an effective way to create change that is impactful and sustainable for those we serve, then who am I to say no? So, if in my blog, or in person, I ever come across as irreverent, picture Bugs Bunny.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Please understand that my irreverence comes from a place of great caring … honestly.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Good News Friday!

Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 4, and Imagine! will again be participating. Donations made online through our website on December 4 at any of the “Donate Here” buttons will be eligible for partial matching funds. (The “Donate Here” button takes you directly to the Community First Foundation site and saves all bank fees for credit card donations.) Imagine!’s total donations for the 2011 Colorado Gives Day were $12,407, from a total of 56 individuals making gifts, including Imagine! staff members and board members. This was a big step up from the previous year’s $4,675.

If you are thinking about making a gift to Imagine! before the end of the calendar year, please consider doing it online through our website on December 4. You may even schedule your gift now to have it recorded on December 4. So far, we already have $6,750 in pre-scheduled donations! You may also designate a particular Imagine! program in the “Any comments or special instructions” box if you would like. The only gifts that are ineligible are donations for which you receive something in return, such as tickets or sponsorships to our Imagine! Celebration.

Mark your calendar for December 4, or schedule your donation now!

P.S. – Imagine! has joined with many great local organizations in our area to help promote giving on Colorado Gives Day. Even if you don’t give to Imagine!, please consider supporting any one of the great organizations shown below on December 4  – each one is dedicated to making our community a healthier and more inclusive place for all of our citizens.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Good News Friday!

Today I am excited to announce that the Colorado State Housing Board has voted to provide $150,000 toward the development of a new home Imagine! is planning to build in Broomfield.

The new home will provide safe and affordable housing for six people who have developmental disabilities as well as the multifaceted issues that come with aging. Individuals with developmental disabilities are living longer than ever, and as they age, their needs may become increasingly complex. In addition, with the “sliver tsunami” of retiring and aging baby boomers approaching, the demand for services for seniors is increasing rapidly. Imagine! is poised to be a leader in services for both the population of elders with developmental disabilities and the larger elder population. This home represents another step forward for Imagine! in developing the skills and tools needed to serve these populations.

The home will incorporate green building standards and will be designed with universal design standards to better meet the physical and programmatic needs of its residents. The home will also be constructed to accommodate state-of-the-art technologies to improve the service and support of its residents.

The funding from the Colorado Housing Board is in addition to the $633,700 already pledged by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for construction costs. HUD has also agreed to provide Imagine! $68,100 to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the home for three years.

I want to thank several people who have been instrumental in helping Imagine! move forward with the creation of this home, including Mary Anderies of Anderies Consulting; Denise Selders, Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), Division of Housing, Housing Development Specialist; Jodi Walters, Imagine!’s Innovations Director; and Sterling Wind, Imagine!’s SmartHomes Project Manager.

And a special “thank you” to the Colorado State Housing Board for recognizing the need for this housing and for providing such generous support.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Do You Measure Up?

Sudden star Nate Silver 'made statistics sexy again' after successful election forecasts.

But Nate isn’t the only current pop cultural phenomenon in which statistics and numbers play a key role. How about the TV series "Numb3rs" or the biographic sports drama "Moneyball"?

Or how about how those of us who are sports junkies willingly endure, and even seek out, endless numbers and statistics about every play in Major League Baseball or the National Football League.

We even relish the unending numbers that describe our very being; height, weight, inseam, sleeve, waist, chest, glove size, shoe size, hat size, vision, hearing, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, or heart rate. I could go on and on.

When it comes to performance, however, our love affair with all things numbers starts to cool down. People are OK with verbal or written feedback on work performance, but not so much when it is in a numeric form.

There are a variety of assessments that attempt to quantify cognitive performance. We have the Intelligence Quotient, the Supports Intensity Scale, to name a couple. I get the sense many in our field are pretty uncomfortable with this.

Why is this the case? I already mentioned the movie “Moneyball.” For those of you who are unaware, the movie is the true story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Numbers in "Moneyball" trumped gut feelings regarding the performance of Major League Baseball players, and the results and benefits were shared by the entire baseball team, and eventually the league.

Now, I am not making a case for IQ scores or the SIS as the metrics measurements we should be using, however, I am making a case that we need to translate our performance into numbers. Our future will require us to quantify performance in a way that we are able to support people in the most effective way possible – not by gut feeling. We have yet to develop the tools necessary, but it is inevitable that we need to develop, and will develop the tools, to take us where we need to go.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Good News Friday!

If it is getting close to Thanksgiving, it must mean that I once again have the honor and pleasure of offering a heartfelt “thank you” to Dave Query and the staff at Zolo Grill, who will be treating individuals served by Imagine!, and their families, to a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

Query is donating the makings for a delicious Zolo-style repast with all the trimmings, and the wait staff at Zolo is volunteering its time. There is no charge for the meal, and no tips are necessary.

This year, 360 people (three seatings of 120 each) will get to enjoy this meal. We used an online sign-up this year for the first time, making it easier on Imagine! staff and saving time for everyone. The event filled up in four days!

Dave Query is the owner of Big Red F Restaurant Group, including Boulder restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen, the Bitter Bar, Jax Fish House, West End Tavern, and Zolo Grill, and Denver restaurants Jax Fish House and LoLa Coastal Mexican, and the newest Jax Fish House in Fort Collins. Dave has also served on the Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors

This is the ninth year that Dave Query and Zolo employees have made Thanksgiving extra special for individuals served by Imagine!. We cannot thank them enough.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Next Generation of Service and Support Organizations

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a roundtable discussion at the Twelfth Annual Coleman Institute National Conference, The State of the States in Cognitive Disability and Technology: 2012.

My topic for the roundtable was “The Next Generation of Service and Support Organizations.”

The discussion at the table was lively as we looked into the near future and the needed changes to services and supports in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Below are some ideas, in no particular order, which came from the discussion.

The next generation of providers will adopt the use of emerging technology through organizational cultural shifts. Technical skills will override care giving in the description of the new support staff. A generation ago, we spent hours training caregivers how to manipulate a wheelchair and an accessible vehicle. Moving forward, navigating the variety of devices that are specific to the client of services support will take precedence. Providers and Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) will be team oriented and geographically dispersed. They will be connected with other team members and those they serve in real time via social and enterprise network tools. Future DSPs must be able to find a story in the data set and provide a coherent narrative about key data insight. DSPs must also be able to communicate with numbers, visually and verbally.

The next generation of providers will not strive for personal independence among the population it serves; rather, it will create an environment within which people will thrive. Providers will continue to undergo cultural shifts. We have moved from institutional settings to smaller institutional settings, to group homes, to host homes, to maintenance and support in the parents’ home. What happens next? I’m not entirely sure, but I know this – organizations need to be preparing now. For example, at Imagine!, we already have a Tech Architect and an Assistive Tech Specialist. Right now, those titles may sound exotic, but they will be standard positions for service organizations in the future.

Provider companies will be using cloud-based data, and lots of it, to inform company decisions. Company decision-makers will all be data savvy and include a person responsible for managing big data. This will further find its way to direct service and supports. We will collect and have access to huge amounts of real time mobile information that will inform very specific details about support touch points.

End-users of services and supports are no longer isolated. They are far savvier than their predecessors. They have a presence in the social media world. They are exercising their rights to an extent that was unthinkable only a few short years ago. Providers are no longer the decision-makers. Control has shifted, and rightly so. The idea that our goal is for people to be independent is old and ridiculous. Sure, people need touch points of support and service. The goal now is to thrive. The hermit life of independence, lonely self-sufficiency is not it. So let's stop pretending.

The discussion lasted an hour, which was unfortunate, because I felt we could have gone on much longer. I was really impressed by the deep thought and creative ideas that came from the roundtable participants.

I’d love to hear what my blog readers think, as well. Please leave a comment below.

Then again, what do I know?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thank You, Governor Hickenlooper!

Today, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and his staff for their FY 2013-14 proposed budget, which makes targeted increases and restores funding in many critical areas, including services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities living in our state.

The proposed budget includes:

• $13.1 million Total Fund (TF) dollars -- $6.5 million from the General Fund (GF) -- to provide services to 809 additional people with developmental disabilities. This amount includes an increase of 576 funded waiver slots to eliminate the Children’s Extensive Services Waiver Program waiting list.

• $1.8 million TF ($1 million net GF) for early intervention services for children from birth to 2 years of age.

• A 1.5 percent provider rate increase for community providers including Colorado’s county departments of human services. This equates to $56.5 million total funds, $25.8 million GF.

This budget news is incredible and reflects the Governor’s commitment to community services for vulnerable people.

Thank you, Governor Hickenlooper!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Good News Friday!

This year marks the 15th Anniversary of Imagine!’s Out & About department making 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.

Out & About was created in 1997 in response to the requests of community members with disabilities and family members who care for those with disabilities. Since that time, Out & About has continued to grow and develop into a dynamic, exciting, and flexible organization thanks to the ideas, requests and suggestions of staff members, the community, and the people they serve.

The impact Out & About has had on families is Boulder County during these past 15 years has been nothing short of astounding. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what some of the families themselves have had to say:

"Our son loves, loves, LOVES the activities offered at Out & About! Sending him to camp provides much needed respite for our family. All the while, we know he’s having fun in a supportive and friendly environment. We know he’s well cared for and having a great time! This allows us to relax and have some 'normal' family time. I don’t know what we’d do without Out & About!"

"The Out & About after school program and School Closure Days provide a fun, safe and structured time for our son. He is always happy to be there. The consistent staff and variety of activities help it to be successful. The availability of this program is essential to our family being able to raise a child with our son’s level of disability. It is an integral part of our life and our son’s life."

“Out & About is a great program! I would definitely recommend it to other families. Top notch staff!”

“The recreation instructors did a great job connecting with my son, easing his anxiety and treating him with respect and compassion. They seemed to have good boundaries-setting reasonable expectations without ‘babying’ him.”

“Our son had a great year at summer camp. The staff was so friendly and encouraged his emerging reading/writing skills and seemed genuinely invested in his progress and happiness at camp. We are all, in our family, very grateful for this program and its excellent staff.”

To honor its 15th anniversary, Out & About will be hosting a celebration event tonight, Friday, November 2, in conjunction with its usual Friday Night Out event. The celebration is free and open to the public, and will take place from 6:30 – 9:30 in the John Taylor Conference Center’s Pounds Conference Room, located in Imagine!’s office at 1665 Coal Creek Drive in Lafayette.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Haley Jones Short, Out & About, Therapeutic Specialist/Evenings and Weekend Coordinator, at

Congratulations, Out & About!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In The Middle Of It All

We are fortunate this week to be living in the corridor where interested parties from around the United States and Canada will be learning about what will happen next in the field of cognitive disabilities, cloud computing and the use of emerging technologies.

Today’s events include the Annual Six Sate Summit hosted by Alliance, and The Coleman Institute’s Pre-Conference Planning discussions. Tomorrow is the Twelfth Annual Coleman Institute National Conference, The State of the States in Cognitive Disability and Technology: 2012, and then Saturday’s event is the ANCOR Technology Summit.

We are privileged here at Imagine! to not only have access to the latest incredible body of information, but to also actively participate in each event. I encourage stakeholders and other interested parties to join in and find out just what the future holds for the people we serve.


One of the most challenging issues in my line of work, and therefore one of my favorite aspects of my line of work, is the fact that every day we face difficult questions that most people don’t usually have to consider.

Let me give you an example. Recently, the parents of somebody we serve at Imagine! contacted me voicing a concern that one of our providers had helped their daughter vote. They felt as if their daughter might not be capable of voting on her own and that perhaps she was manipulated into voting for a candidate she might not know anything about or an issue she didn’t understand. Just as often, parents will let us know that they want us to make sure that we do afford their son or daughter the opportunity to vote.

This opens up a whole host of questions. The woman was an adult and it was absolutely within her legal rights to vote. But is there a line that separates her voting for herself and somebody assisting her to vote? If so, where is that line? And who is to say if her vote is “legitimate” or not? There are an infinite number of reasons a person may vote one way or another, many of which aren’t exactly logical or well-informed. So is her vote any less “appropriate” because she happens to have a cognitive deficit? And who is responsible for making those kinds of determinations, anyway? This issue, as you can imagine, has plenty of legal opinion and history.

It may seem to some readers that the answers to the questions above are clear. But I promise that matter what response you give, I could present you with a scenario indicating that the opposite response would be just as viable a response.

Obviously, the questions above are pertinent for the election season. But we face similar questions at Imagine! all the time regarding where to draw the line on tricky life questions. Questions about faith, questions about sexuality, tattoos, ear piercings, or questions about alcohol or drug use, for example (all of which would be challenging questions in any situation), take on an extra level of complexity when an individual with developmental disabilities is involved. Some questions just aren’t that easy to answer.

Can't see the video? Click here.

OK – sorry – but sometimes we have to step aside from the tougher questions for contemplation.

Imagine!’s mission does not go beyond our efforts to provide access to services for the individuals we serve. But those efforts are designed to facilitate community engagement, and community engagement cannot occur without the occasional complex moral and ethical decision making process. Solutions aren’t necessary cut and dried or black or white. But the process of coming up with solutions is the process that makes life so interesting. I’d love to hear thoughts from others on this.

Then again, what do I know?