OCALI NOW | Issue 29 • June 2021

Inspiring Change Podcast Series

The Ongoing Work of Building a Diverse and Inclusive Society 

“When I was 12, I didn’t know about disability. I didn’t know how to play with a boy, like my son,” shares Sheila Graschhinsky in the most recent Inspiring Change podcast episode. Sheila is the mother of four boys and founder and president of Fundación IAN, an organization in Buenos Aires focused on promoting a diverse and inclusive society.  

Sheila’s son, Ian, was born in 2007, and due to a lack of oxygen, he has a motor disability, which impairs him to move, talk, and coordinate some movements. Ian turns 14 this year, and it’s been a long path for the family.  

“Being the mother of a child with a disability, there are a lot of things to learn about,” she explains. “I had to learn about medicine, a lot about laws, and when talking about Ian and all his treatment, I also say that it’s as if I run a small business at home. He has more than seven therapies that I have to coordinate and all the treatments and so forth.” 

From the beginning, the family had to work on not only inclusion, but how to manage their anger when not being included or accepted. Ultimately, the family had to decide to turn their anger into action. 

What does inclusion mean, and how does it happen? 

For Sheila, the answer to both of these questions came through a literal story called, The Gift, inspired by Ian. 

“I remember taking Ian to the rehabilitation center, and in front of that center, there was a school, and I could hear some children laughing at Ian’s disability. After several similar experiences, I crossed the street and knocked on the door of the school. I was very angry and I wanted to speak with the principal. In my head, I remember I had many ideas and insults and not happy things. As I waited for the principal to come, I think that was a transforming moment for me.” 

“As I sat there, I asked myself, what was the difference between those boys at the school and my own knowledge about disability when I was 11 or 12 years? The truth is that there was no difference. When I was 12, I didn’t know about disability and I didn’t know how to play with a boy like my son. I realized that getting angry at the children who were laughing would be no answer to the situation. So I said to Ian, ‘what do you think if we write a book to show those children that you are also a child who has rights, who wants to play, and who can do many things if they help you.’ That’s how the book, The Gift, came about.”  

For an entire year, Sheila took the book with her everywhere, and if she encountered a situation with children who would laugh at Ian or would leave him out, instead of getting angry, she would give the child a book. That’s when they started to see a change.  

“After a child would read the book, the child would get closer to Ian and say hello or ask if he wanted to play. It was very inspiring for us and showed us a path, not only that we had to work with inclusion, not only that we had to manage the anger, but also to be active to get society involved. That’s how we turned our anger into action.” 

Sheila also collaborated with Mundoloco CGI to produce the short animated filmIan, which is based on a real life experience involving Sheila and Ian. The film addresses discrimination and bullying and helps all of us understand why inclusion and diversity are so critically important to our society. 

“We are all made of little pieces of our own experience, of our own lives’ experiences. And when inclusion occurs, when inclusion happens, these pieces mix up together, and you can get some other pieces of a classmate, and you grow as a person, and society grows when including.” 

How are YOU building inclusion in your own community? OCALI wants to know! We’re looking for interesting and innovative stories to highlight in future issues of OCALI NowShare my inclusion story

InspirED Logo with screenshot of three presenters from the episode Honoring Families Through the Lens of UDL
InspirED Episode: Honoring Families Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning

Honoring Families Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning 

Family involvement is something we all want. However, how do we make it happen? Furthermore, how do we move from engaging families to empowering them, especially during unprecedented times when the connection between homes and schools must be even stronger? 

To build effective programming, we must begin by ensuring that we honor our families and include them as partners for the education of all our learners. Our recent InspirED virtual learning session (from June 16) explores how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can boost connections and engagement to meet the varying needs of families. The session also highlights these connections with Ohio’s strategic plan, Each Child, Our Future

Hear from Andratesha Fritzgerald, Director of Human Resources, East Cleveland Schools and Founder, Building Blocks of Brilliance, LLC; Jen Bavry, Program Director, Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI; and Ron Rogers, Program Director, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Center at OCALI as they share more in this 30-minute session. 

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Tell Us What You Think 

OCALI is committed to inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them. 

To gauge our effectiveness and obtain your feedback related to our OCALI Now newsletter, we ask that you complete a brief survey. Your input is important and will help us continuously improve our communications with you.  Please complete this brief survey by July 9, 2021.

Computer screen with text: We Are Hiring and OCALI logo
We are Hiring

OCALI is Hiring 

At OCALI, inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities is at the heart of everything we do. We believe that all people with disabilities deserve to have the opportunity to live their best lives for their whole lives — at school, home, work, and in the community. If you share our passion, and want to work with a team of committed and compassionate colleagues, check our newest employment opportunities. We are hiring an Early Childhood Specialist and a Transition to Adulthood Consultant.

Challenging Behavior: Expect Success webinar series

Addressing Challenging Behavior Webinar Series 

Every person is unique and has different strengths, talents, and skills. When addressing challenging behaviors for people with complex needs, it is essential to individualize the process in order to develop effective intervention plans. This 14-part webinar series is based in positive behavior intervention supports (PBIS), functional behavior assessment (FBA), and behavior intervention planning. The series explores the belief system and a systematic process essential to understanding and addressing challenging behavior. It also includes team-based strategies that focus on matching evidence-based interventions to a target behavior, after in-depth exploration of the individual’s strengths and challenges. This series is ideal for anyone supporting school-age children, adolescents, and adults. Inclusive of the components of PBIS, this training can support educational teams working with students in need of Tier 3 support. 

Unlocking the English Code webinar series

Unlocking the English Code: Literacy for Learners Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing or Blind/Visually Impaired 

Nationally, prioritizing language and literacy development for all learners has been a focus for many educators. This focus requires that educators build their capacity to support evidence-based language and literacy instruction, particularly for educators supporting deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI) learners, who access English and print in different ways. To help those who are assessing and teaching literacy for these learners, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is pleased to offer the recording of our professional learning event designed to explore and connect the areas of phonological awareness, phonics, writing, fluency, vocabulary, communication, language, and comprehension specifically for learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Certificates of completion are available and provided on completion of the recording and accompanying survey. 

Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology webinar series

Administering Telepsychological Assessments 

The transition to remote learning left instructional leaders and educators little to no time to prepare and transition how they deliver instruction. Meeting and assessing the needs of all learners in this online environment has been challenging, particularly for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. To help school psychologists and district and building leaders build comfort and confidence in virtually assessing all learners, particularly those who are deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) or blind/visually impaired (B/VI), OCALI launched a free webinar series, Building Capacity to Serve All Learners: Effectively Assessing Learners via Telepsychology. Parts I and II of the series explored preparing for and completing telepsychology assessments with learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Expanding off of Parts I and II, Part III is designed to focus on the practical demonstration of specific aspects of telepsychological assessments, including how to administer a standard test battery to learners who are D/HH or B/VI. Check out the recordings. 

InspirED Video Gallery logo with hands touching laptop computer
InspirED Video Gallery now available

InspirED Virtual Learning Series 

The InspirED Video Gallery has recently been reorganized by audience – for families and professionals – and by topic, including: accessibility, autism, early childhood, family and community, PBIS, remote learning, transition, universal design for learning, wellbeing and self-care, along with assessment and data for professionals. As always, all sessions include interactive transcripts, audio description, and supporting materials, and the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. A great way to get FREE professional development hours.  

Last fall, OCALI, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children, launched the InspirED Virtual Learning Series. The free learning series consists of 30-minute recorded, facilitated sessions focused on increasing successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking the users with appropriate resources and tools. The InspirED Video Gallery has recently been reorganized by audience – for families and professionals – and by topic, including: accessibility, autism, early childhood, family and community, PBIS, remote learning, transition, universal design for learning, wellbeing and self-care, along with assessment and data for professionals. As always, all sessions include interactive transcripts, audio description, and supporting materials, and the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. It’s a great way to get FREE professional development hours.

Group of four young people watching sunset over a cityscape
The Journey: A free webinar series

The Journey: Webinar Series Video Gallery 

The Transition from School to Adult Life is an ongoing journey. Youth with complex and unique needs often require teams to have access to a variety of tools, resources, and people to plan and prepare for the future. These webinars are designed for teams assisting youth with complex support needs and their families to better navigate the process of the own journey to adulthood. 

Celebrate With Us

White text on a rainbow colored background “Know More. Do More. Ohio Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month 2020”

Throughout the month of April, we will be sharing resources for people with autism, their families, and those who work with and support them through our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Along with our friends at the Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA), we will be using the hashtags #KnowMoreDoMore, #AutismAwareness, and #AutismAcceptance.

Our Policy Team and IWGA are working to promote April as the time for people to better understand, to accept, and to take action to inspire change and promote access for individuals with autism and those who love, work with, teach, and support them. The Know More. Do More. theme encourages Ohioans to actively seek out resources and information to become better informed about the challenges and opportunities related to autism. By moving beyond just being aware to acceptance and taking action, we can ensure we are all doing our part. 

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!


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!

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

A smiling family sitting on a pier - to young boys sit in their parents' in their laps - everyone is smiling.

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

Office of Policy color

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.