We All Count, So Let’s Be Counted!

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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!

Celebrating Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month: Promoting Acceptance and the Platinum Rule

A young child holds their hands in front of their face, peering through fingers. Their hands are covered in bright paints.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

As children, many of us were taught the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do to you. More or less, treat others the way you would like to be treated. In theory, this ‘rule’ seems like a good lesson to live by, but what it doesn’t account for is that we are all different and we may want different things—including the way we are treated.

As we celebrate Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, consider embracing the Platinum Rule, which implies that we treat others the way they would like to be treated. Acceptance exemplifies the Platinum Rule, which accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. While the concept may seem simple, it’s not always easy to put into practice. To truly treat others the way they want to be treated requires learning about a person and engaging with them to understand their likes, dislikes, perspectives, and more.

Acceptance requires taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn, and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. Just being aware of autism facts and information will not necessarily lead to acceptance or creating inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. By intentionally moving toward acceptance, we can inspire confidence and a vision for possibilities that motivate us to continue to ensure that people with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives.

At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote and embrace a culture of awareness and acceptance—with our staff and with those we serve around Ohio. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling.

As leaders and practitioners, parents, and family members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see. Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek out opportunities that promote acceptance and the Platinum Rule—for yourself and within your own communities.

For additional autism resources, visit OCALI’s Autism Center and Lending Library.

 

Elevating Families’ Voice and Vision: The Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI

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The voice of the family is powerful. And when used to share stories about inspiring change and the possibilities of people with disabilities, families play a critical role. Equipping and empowering families with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family, including the person with a disability, is at the heart of the work of the Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI.

“We believe that families are an important asset in the equation of ensuring people with disabilities have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives,” shares Jen Bavry, program director at the Family and Community Outreach Center. “We strive to build families’ confidence and encourage a vision for the possibilities and opportunities for the whole family.”

While new to this position, Jen has been with OCALI for five years, originally joining the team to support the development and implementation of ASD Strategies in Action. In addition to her professional background, Jen also brings personal experience and a passion for working with families.

“As the mother of a son with autism, I have a deep understanding of the services, resources, and community opportunities that are valuable to families and the person with autism. Because of this, I bring a unique perspective to my role—one I hope will inspire and encourage others.”

Connecting Families and Communities

“We support families by connecting them to information regarding services, training, and resources to ensure they understand what supports and opportunities are available to them,” explains Jen. “When families are equipped with reliable information, they are better able to navigate the journey with their family member.”

Over the years, the Center has been instrumental in keeping families informed, as well as making sure families are included and their voices are represented. This is a “must” for Jen as she takes on her new role. Although not a new focus for the Center, more attention will be directed to community outreach—raising awareness and acceptance to enhance the experience of people with disabilities and their families in their communities. Efforts will focus on building awareness, knowledge, and inclusion to create meaningful experiences and social opportunities. By doing this, the Center will continue to play an important role in informing policies that benefit families and the person with a disability.

Inspiring Change

Inspiring change is part of OCALI’s mission and each Center contributes to that mission in its own way. Jen shares how the Family and Community Outreach Center is inspiring change.

“I wear two hats—one as the director of the Center seeking to equip and empower families and professionals with knowledge, information, and resources to support the whole family. The other as a mother to a young man with autism. I have been in the shoes of the family just receiving the diagnosis, the one seeking services, the one working with a school for educational support, and the one advocating for access and acceptance. Having the opportunity to share experiences with and hear from others has always given me the strength to make the change I want to see. I can only hope that through my role at OCALI and my experience as a parent, I can provide the same for others—either by sharing my personal story or by sharing the stories of others—inspiring them to make the change they want to see.”

Resources You Can Use

To learn more about the Family and Community Outreach Center, visit https://www.ocali.org/center/family.

OCALI’s Office of Policy: State budget, Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, Multi-System Youth Legislation and More

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April is a busy month at OCALI, as it is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month. In fact, the team put together a communications toolkit for various agencies within the Interagency Work Group on Autism to use to raise awareness and acceptance within their key audiences. Additionally, there will be a joint meeting of the Interagency Work Group on Autism and the Employment First Taskforce that will be attended by agency Directors in April.

In addition to work around Autism Awareness and Acceptance month, there are several key pieces of legislation at the Ohio Statehouse that OCALI’s policy team is engaged in, including the state biennial budget.

Governor DeWine introduced his proposed state budget on March 15, and informal testimony by members of his cabinet and others began on March 20. On March 25, the official “budget bill,” House Bill 166 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, and was referred immediately to the House Finance Committee, where formal testimony began.

If you’re interested in seeing the budget, related documents, or understanding the budget process, check out these resources:

The Office of Policy has been keeping up with the budget process by attending informal and formal testimony; conducting a thorough review of the budget provisions; attending meetings with key members of Governor DeWine’s administration and state legislators; and participating in key stakeholder/coalition meetings. In every meeting, the team’s goal is to ensure research, evidence-based best practices and the real-life needs of individuals with disabilities and their families are at the forefront of conversations about services, programs and policy decisions.

The team is also keeping an eye on three key pieces of proposed state and federal legislation, including including House Bill 166, which focuses on funding for services for multi-system youth, autism and early intervention; the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan; and the Autism Cares Act.