New Resources for Early Childhood Professionals Available!

Decades of research shows the importance of early experiences on brain development and how early intervention can reduce the effects of developmental delays. For professionals working in early childhood, it is important to have an understanding and knowledge about how to identify a child who may have developmental disabilities. From knowing what signs to look for, how to effectively talk with parents, understanding the steps to take for timely referrals for interventions, and more, early childhood professionals need information and access to high quality, affordable professional learning resources.

To meet this need and build confidence and competence in early childhood content and approaches, the Center for the Young Child (CYC) at OCALI is excited to launch two new resources, the Suite of Resources for Early Childhood and Early Care in Education Seminars. This cross-agency effort provides consistent professional development to all early care and education professionals, whether someone works in healthcare, childcare, or early education.

In order to meet the needs of the whole child, we must look at early biological, psychological, and social-emotional development, which are critical elements of lifelong health and wellbeing,” explains Laura Maddox, CYC program director. “Our Center grounds its work in the latest brain science, policy, and research, and our new resources reflect that research and include evidence-based strategies that are easy to understand and practical to implement.”

Whether you’re an early childhood professional who needs hours toward your credential or you just want to build your knowledge about early childhood, check out the following resources: 

A young boy and an infant

Suite of Resources for Early Childhood Professionals

Ideal for early care and education professionals, these modules will build your knowledge about a variety of early childhood topics. Each module provides information and resources you can immediately use and put into practice. Users have the opportunity to earn a certificate and Ohio-approved credit. 

This Child, Each Child Will Grow and Learn
This one-hour module emphasizes the importance of understanding and noticing the development of each children. Users will explore using developmental monitoring and screening tools to learn about each child’s strengths and areas of concern, effective ways to share information with families, and how to identify resources to support all children.

We Can Do This, Right Where We Are
This one-hour module is a first step in building the confidence and competence of early care and education professionals to welcome all children into various settings. Evidence-based strategies and approaches that create success in inclusive early care and education are presented, demonstrating that practice supports can be used with intention and purpose.

Coming Summer 2020: Responding to Trauma and Supporting Resiliency

“These modules were developed to align with Ohio’s Early Learning and Development Standards, which were created through a collaborative effort of state agencies,” explains Maggie Gons, CYC early childhood professional development manager. “Each module supports the continued growth and learning of early care and education professionals to promote learning and development as part of Ohio’s quality program standards, Step Up To Quality. In turn, this leads to improved outcomes for children.

Infants/Toddlers in a classroom

Early Care and Education Seminars

This seminar will provide comprehensive information about working with and empowering families, respecting cultural and family systems in professional practice, and using adult learning principles with a focus on existing strengths and capacities to strengthen parent competence and competence. Additionally, content will focus on strategies in natural learning opportunities so that families learn to support their child’s development.

Infant and Toddler Growth and Development
This seminar will build users’ knowledge about infant and toddler growth and development information from prenatal and fetal development, with information and resources related to human development, developmental milestones, growth and development domains, and integrating skills across domains within natural environments and activities.

This seminar meets the requirements for Early Intervention content area E01 (Infant and Toddler Growth and Development) and is approved seminar work for Ohio Developmental Specialist certification. The seminar includes six units of instruction and takes approximately 30 hours to complete.

Coming Spring 2020: Disabilities and Risk Factors from Birth
This seminar provides in depth information and resources related to physical, medical, developmental, sensory, and mental health conditions and risk factors in young children. The six units include specific content on genetic syndromes, diagnosed conditions, special procedures for children with extraordinary physical and medical needs, and prevention and management.

Coming Summer 2020: Family-Centered Services and Supports

 To learn more about the Center for the Young Child and other resources available, visit https://www.ocali.org/center/cyc.

We All Count, So Let’s Be Counted!

Census_2020-1050x525

Later this month, all households in Ohio and across the country will be receiving packets from the US Census to complete. The census data is used to allocate one and a half trillion dollars every year, by formula.

It is critical that all households report this data, and especially households with children with disabilities. When we fail to complete the Census accurately, we lose funding for Ohio’s programs – and lost dollars mean overcrowded classrooms, underfunded services, hungrier children, inadequate health care — big problems for most communities, and particularly for children with disabilities. Our kids lose when vital community resources dwindle – and these resources are critical to the success of all children.

If we get it wrong in 2020, today’s preschoolers will lose needed resources for a decade–the majority of their childhood. And the amount of dollars lost would be staggering. We now know that following the 2010 Census, so many young children were missed that states collectively lost over half a billion dollars a year in funding from just five programs: Medicaid, CHIP, foster care, adoption assistance and child care. On average, school districts lost $1695 per year for every child they missed.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg: more than 300 federal programs use census data to determine how federal funds are allocated to state and local governments. These programs cover necessities such as schools, child care, children’s health insurance, roads and highways, school meals programs, housing assistance, and a variety of other areas. There are other consequences too. New schools may not be built because of a lack of accurate data. Businesses may choose not to open grocery stores in underserved areas. Families and communities will not gain their fair share of political representation in elected bodies ranging all the way from school boards to Congress.

There is more information available on the State of Ohio’s website (https://development.ohio.gov/census2020/), but the bottom line is – encourage everyone you know, and especially those with children or children with disabilities to complete the Census  – we all count, so we should all be counted!

From an Idea to a Proposal Submission: How One Educator is Supporting Teams of Teachers to Submit Proposals to Present at OCALICON

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“I’m not doing anything magical.” 

That’s the typical response Barb Gentille-Green from State Support Team Region (SST) 7 hears when talking with teachers and other instructional leaders about what they do in the classroom to promote inclusivity and empowerment for all students.

As a consultant with SST 7, Barb has the opportunity to work with hundreds of educators to provide professional learning and support around special education, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), assistive technology (AT), and more.

Over the years, OCALICON has been a favorite personal and professional learning opportunity for Barb, where she has participated as both an attendee and presenter. Because of her many positive experiences, she wanted to inspire others to not only attend, but also present. So Barb hosts an annual proposal planning workshop.

“For teachers who are interested in presenting at OCALICON, I want to encourage them and help them to submit a strong proposal,” shares Barb. “During our time together, we talk about what makes a great proposal, what they’re doing in the classroom that they think others might benefit from, and the details of the proposal process. Often times, teachers don’t think they’re doing anything special, so it’s really powerful to talk with them about what they’re doing and how it’s both valuable and worth sharing.”

Support doesn’t stop with the proposal process. Once proposals and presenters are selected, Barb invites teachers back together for a day to develop their conference presentation.

“Teachers don’t get much planning time,” shares Barb. “When we are able to dedicate a day to work on their presentation content, the teachers are thankful for the time. We dive into how to make their presentation engaging, interactive, and more importantly, accessible.”

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Hear more from Barb in this brief audio interview.

Barb has seen the workshop grow over the years, hosting nearly 20 teachers last year.

“It’s been fun to watch this process and to see the growing interest from teachers,” says Barb. “When teachers have the opportunity to present and share with others, it really empowers them, not only as teachers, but as leaders. They’re often surprised that other teachers learn new ideas and strategies from what they’re sharing.”

Barb’s Top 3 Tips for Submitting an OCALICON Proposal

  • Capture student voice. As you develop your proposal, consider the student voice. Attendees love to hear what students think is helpful.
  • Make your proposal applicable to the classroom. Teachers or leaders need to be able to see specific ideas and strategies that can be replicated in their own classrooms, buildings, and districts.
  • Be confident. Have confidence in yourself and in what you have to share. When you do, that will come across in your proposal and when you present.

It’s Time to Get Creative

Since getting colleagues together face-to-face to do a workshop isn’t possible at this time, consider getting creative and gathering a team virtually through online platforms like Zoom, Go to Meeting, or Google Hangouts. Meeting and brainstorming virtually is a great way to stay connected.

Want to Submit Your Own OCALICON Proposal?

Deadline to Submit is March 31!

No matter what field you’re in – early childhood, mental health, adult services – gather your colleagues, and submit today!

Do something magical.

Share your ideas, strategies, and research with a passionate and energized audience of 3,000+ leaders, professionals, parents, self-advocates, and more from across the nation and around the world.

OCALICON 2020 seeks proposals from professionals, scholars, family members, self-advocates, researchers, service providers, educators, and leaders in the fields of autism, sensory disabilities, low-incidence, and other disabilities.

The best proposals typically highlight the implementation of session content through engaging discussions, real world examples, new perspectives or various points of view, new technologies/innovations, and/or interactive manipulatives. OCALICON attendees are eager to engage and want to learn principles and strategies they can take back to apply and implement in their own work, home, school, or community setting.

Get the details at ocalicon.org. Don’t wait too long. Proposals are due March 31!

Behind the Scenes of the New OCALI Podcast: A Q&A with Producer Simon Buehrer

A few months ago, OCALI launched a new podcast, Inspiring Change. The podcast is designed to take listeners on an audio journey with OCALI through a forum of stories and connections from our ongoing work of inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities.

Through candid interviews and conversations with leaders and partners in the field of disability, as well as parents, community members, self-advocates, and others, listeners are discovering and hearing how different ideas, perspectives, and experiences help fuel OCALI’s continued efforts to impact lives in Ohio and beyond.

We recently caught up with Simon Buehrer, the podcast producer, to hear about his journey launching the new podcast. Get the inside scoop on his vision for the podcast, some standout moments and bloopers, and future topics he hopes to dive into.

Why did OCALI decide to do a podcast?

The initial idea was to bring to life some of the things that OCALI does in a different way. A lot of what we do here can be abstract or specialized for a particular audience. We’re trying to bring those things to the forefront and craft them into engaging and interesting conversations. An audio podcast gives us new ways of exploring and explaining all of the amazing things we’re doing at OCALI, our many partnerships and alliances, why our collaborative work is important, and helps showcase new insights and ways of understanding and experiencing our work. There’s a lot that you can do with audio as a storytelling medium. It’s portable and multi-taskable. Is that even a word? In all seriousness, audio is freeing. Driving, washing dishes, doing laundry – you can do so many other things while listening and learning. Listening to information is also a great way to fill in gaps and create your own picture of a story, which provides richer opportunities to tap into your own ideas and imagination.

What do you hope listeners will get out of listening to this podcast?

The human story is a powerful thing. And a good story can do many things. It can touch you emotionally, it can challenge you to think about something in a new way, it can transport you, it can help you view things through a different lens. We all have our own way of seeing and interpreting the world. I hope this podcast offers listeners new information and the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding while hearing different perspectives around disabilities. I want the content to inform, engage, and inspire and I hope listeners take away new information, voices, ideas, and events. We’re working to keep the content evergreen so that topics and interviews are relevant for long periods of time.

What have been some standout moments since you’ve launched the podcast? Or, have there been any mishaps or bloopers along the way?

It’s hard for a producer to pick just one standout moment, especially since we’re still in the early stages of getting this podcast up and running, but there are a few things that come to mind. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all of the interviews I’ve done. The interview with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller. at the Ohio State Fairgrounds was great. So was chatting with job seekers at an event outside of Cleveland. I love talking with people and hearing their stories and perspectives – that’s a precious gift, especially when they are open to being vulnerable about their feelings and experiences. You have to hold and share those moments honestly with an abundance of care and respect. I’m learning how to approach people and engage them in a real and authentic way.

I recently interviewed a young couple that attended OCALICON. The wife is autistic and he’s neurotypical. The two of them talked about the dynamics of their relationship, the magical and wondrous moments, as well as some of the challenges for them as a married couple, and how they’ve learned to navigate their world together. For example, the wife has sensory sensitivities and mentioned feeling uncomfortable about wearing noise canceling headphones and sunglasses while visiting a bookstore. So her husband also wore headphones and sunglasses so she wouldn’t be alone. That kind of moment is very real and authentic and I think it’s that type of conversation that makes an incredible story that others can relate to. As far as mishaps, while I’m embarrassed to admit, I had a pretty major technical malfunction early on. It was during our first interview for the first episode and I was super excited. We were recording in a private meeting room and I was getting all the equipment set up and ready to go. I was trying to screw in a mic, and all of a sudden, it slipped out of my hand, fell on top of the recorder, and completely cracked the screen. Fortunately, the recorder still works, but, every time I see it, I am reminded of that first day. On another occasion, it was my very last interview of the day, I was going to hit the ‘record’ button at the beginning of the interview. Well, I was so into the conversation that I completely forgot to hit ‘record’ and didn’t capture the most powerful part of the interview. Fortunately, the interviewee was gracious enough to redo the interview, but, it was certainly a lesson learned.

Podcast Host Simon Buehrer interviews Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller

What topics can people expect in future episodes?

An essential part of the content is to surface stories related to our work, innovative ideas, and our mission of promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities. We also want to highlight some of the incredible partnerships we have with other organizations in Ohio and across the country who are doing some really impactful work. We don’t want this content to be vanilla. We want to explore some topics that may push the envelope a bit. We’re not trying to be controversial or sensational – there’s enough of that going on in our modern world – but we really want to get people talking and thinking about important issues in a new way. While we have a lot of our own ideas, we’re always open to new suggestions and recommendations for stories people should hear. If listeners have ideas for future episodes, we’d love to hear from them, too. Drop me a line at simon_buehrer@ocali.org.

If you haven’t taken a listen, here’s a quick rundown on the current episodes:

Episode 1: Shifting Expectations: Reflections on Ohio’s Continued Transition Toward Community Employment and Individual Choice

Episode 2: A Day at the Fair: The First Sensory Friendly Morning at the Ohio State Fair

Episode 3: An Inspiring Conversation with Kevin Miller

Coming Together to Create Greater Access at Community Festivals, Fairs, and More

Although it is still winter and Groundhog’s Day revealed an early spring, we are already thinking about summer.

The picnics, vacations, swimming pools, camps, and, of course, the Fair!

Yes, it’s time to think about the summer fairs and the endless fun provided to individuals across the state as they experience the rides, games, shows, competitions, and the food – mouth-watering funnels cakes, elephant ears and deep fried, well, just about anything.

And for those involved in organizing these annual community gatherings, planning for the 2020 season began months ago. In fact, fair staff from across Ohio gathered in early January to network with old friends, connect with new members, learn about the latest attractions, and share experiences. And, this year, OCALI was able to join in on their early planning by providing information on creating a sensory friendly environment.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for OCALI to connect with communities across the state to advance our mission of inspiring change and promoting access,” shares Jen Bavry, Program Director Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI. “As the Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler stated last year ‘the Ohio State Fair isn’t just about the food and rides – it is about the community’ and I couldn’t agree more. When we all come together, we create greater access to meaningful experiences and social opportunities for all individuals in their communities.”

Jen, along with Alicia Shoults, Marketing & Public Relations Director, Ohio Expo Center and State Fair presented to managers and staff at the 95th Ohio Fair Managers Association Convention on January 3, 2020. The session provided an opportunity for participants to learn about the experiences from the first Sensory Friendly Morning at the Ohio State Fair, gain a better understanding of sensory processing and how to provide an environment that accommodates sensory differences, and discuss tools to support hosting a sensory friendly morning. 

“It was wonderful to be able to join this group,” explains Bavry. “There was such great energy and interest in the room as we shared our experience, as well as tips to support them in making their community event more accessible. For many, it was just a matter of taking a different approach to the great things they are already doing.”

Session participants were able to walk away with resources to help them in creating sensory friendly environments in their communities, including a checklist of things to consider when planning for their summer fair. 

“Ohio’s county and independent fairs are incredibly interested in becoming more inclusive, “ shares Alicia Shoults, “Speaking with representatives from these fairs at the Ohio Fair Manager’s Association convention facilitated an open dialogue on how our fairs can become more sensory-friendly statewide. We feel incredibly fortunate for our partnership with the experts at OCALI. Their insights and expertise allowed us to get a great start in 2019, and we are already building on that momentum with expanded plans for the 2020 Ohio State Fair. This is just the beginning of a wonderful partnership.”

That’s right, planning for the 2020 Ohio State Fair is underway. The Ohio State Fair will once again host a Sensory Friendly Morning. The morning will offer a similar experience as last year with the lights lowered and sounds turned down. Fairgoers needing a break can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room or take in the shade and peaceful surroundings offered by the Ohio State Fair’s own eight-acre Natural Resources Park. In addition to the Sensory Friendly morning, the Ohio State Fair will continue to build on its efforts to expand access and ensure inclusivity during the entire length of the Fair, running July 29 through August 9, 2020.

Save the Date!
Sensory Friendly Morning
Ohio State Fair 2020
August 5, 2020
9:00-1:00 p.m.

Stay tuned for more information about the Ohio State Fair Sensory Friendly morning, including a special parking permit, sensory friendly activities, and resources to support your visit.

Audio Description and OCALI’s #DescriberSquad

Rather through books, personal narratives, movies, or theater; stories impact our lives from childhood on. Stories are a way for us to learn, explore new or unfamiliar ideas, and possibly even develop emotions, such as empathy. Personally, one of my favorite ways to enjoy a story is through theater. It energizes me, compels me to think and be reflective. 

But, what if someone has a negative experience because they cannot access the full story? Barriers exist in many ways that stories are told, especially in videos. Important information is often presented in a visual way that is not also available in the auditory track or cannot be deduced from auditory cues. There might be text on the screen that someone with a reading disability may have difficulty reading. Someone with a visual impairment may hear the noise of an object dropping, but be unsure of what is happening in the video because they did not see the object fall and hit the ground.

A way to remove this barrier is to provide audio description for videos. Audio description (AD) is a recorded narrative or audio track that is added when a video contains visual information that is not naturally included in the audio or explicitly stated by the host or narrator.

The Training

As an organization that works to remove barriers, OCALI is constantly investing in professional development for staff to address barriers and work to implement best practices. In July 2018, a team of three of us were given the opportunity to go to St. Louis to attend the Audio Describer Training provided by the American Council of the Blind. 

With much excitement and anticipation, we boarded the plane to St. Louis and spent three days fully immersed in audio description with a diverse group (from voice actors to stenographers), totaling 18 trainees. It was energizing to see a range of people with a passion to break down barriers and work to increase access for so many.

After valuable instruction, collaborative work, and a final practicum, the three of us returned home with a certificate in audio description and so became OCALI’s very own #DescriberSquad.

Early Process

When you study something new, a field or a topic, it opens you up to a whole new set of ideas, thoughts, and contemplations. After our training and taking a week or so to reflect, the #DescriberSquad quickly realized we had a lot of work to do; work that was not necessarily clear. We also realized we had a lot of questions; questions that were not easily answered with a Google search.

We started by developing a spreadsheet to organize our existing and upcoming video content. During this initial phase, it became apparent just how many people would need to be involved in the audio description process. We needed to work with our colleagues who are creating the content, video producers and editors, the web development team, and most importantly, we had to work collaboratively and consistently among ourselves.

The spreadsheet helped to organize our work and set priorities on which videos would be completed first. But we still needed more. We were constantly asking questions:  How would you describe this? Where do we send the videos when we are done? Is the quality of my audio recording meeting OCALI standards?

As a result of our questions, our next document was the Audio Description Workflow, which delineates the 11 steps from start to finish. It has been shared throughout the organization and serves to help structure our workflow and also answer common questions from colleagues.

All of our early audio description work culminated in what is now the OCALI Guidelines for Audio Description. The document serves as a ‘go-to’ resource; providing definitions, what to describe and how to describe it, and other general information. 

Where We are Now

We have learned so much over the past 18 months. We have made mistakes, realized some inconsistencies, and have also had many successes. Our web development team has recently added the ability to access audio-described videos on our website with ease of access. The #DescriberSquad has provided trainings, both internally and at conferences. Our IT and Media Specialist has an efficient system for audio recordings and video editing. After 38 videos and counting, we have realized both the uniqueness and complexities of our video work as an organization.

If I had to pick one thing that mattered the most in our start with AD, it would be the constant willingness and collaboration. We were never met with “we can’t do that with videos” or “that’s not possible for our websites.” Our colleagues always met us with a willingness to find a solution and an excitement to talk together. We are proud of our work and excited about moving forward and making even more progress.

Five Years of ABLE: Building STABLE Accounts for the Future

Robert Sprague Ohio Treasurer logoBy: Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague

 

The end of 2019 marked the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. As you may know, ABLE empowers people with disabilities by helping them to take better control of their finances and live more independently. After passage of the federal legislation, Ohio was the first state to jump in, launching the STABLE Account program in 2016. Since then, and notably in the last year, the Treasurer’s office has championed the ABLE Act’s purpose
and provided people living with disabilities with a powerful tool to help them plan their financial future.

STABLE accounts are the premier ABLE program in the country, and more than one in four ABLE accounts are STABLE accounts. Since taking office one year ago, our team has made it a priority to grow the program even further and create innovative partnerships that are establishing STABLE accounts as a mainstream financial tool.

(And signing up is easy – just visit www.stableaccount.com.)

The STABLE Account program saw unprecedented growth and success in 2019. Our national presence was cemented in February with the opening of the 10,000th active account. By year’s end, we surpassed 14,000 active accounts, effectively growing overall participation by more than 40 percent. This great news continued into November when STABLE reached $100 million in total participant contributions.

As part of our office’s mission, we’re committed to being bold innovators who improve people’s lives. Our work on STABLE accounts is playing a large part in how we follow through on that mission. New partnerships with the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati allow state and city employees to make recurring direct deposits into STABLE accounts. In the coming years, we’ll continue to build these types of partnerships both in the public and private sectors to make contributing to STABLE accounts easier than ever before.

With your help and the support of advocates across Ohio, we’re going to reach even more individuals and have a greater impact in 2020. While a great deal of progress has been made since the ABLE Act became law, I can assure you we’re just getting started.

We look forward to continuing to work with you in the new year. Through the STABLE Account program, we are improving and empowering lives, while also helping to alleviate the financial burdens felt by families across the Buckeye State and nationwide. As always, my door is open, so please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. Together, we’re helping to build peace of mind and financial security to those living with disabilities.