When I attended my first AUCD conference about 4 or 5 years ago, I learned about LEND. For me the best part of the conference was going to the LEND Poster presentations, seeing the research, and talking to the LEND trainees about their projects. Their ideas were refreshing. Afterward, I looked into becoming a LEND trainee. I learned that although Georgetown University once had a LEND program, it no longer existed. I made inquiries into programs in other states but didn’t get much of a response. I thought it would never happen. Then last summer, I heard that the GUUCEDD was taking applications for a new LEND cohort. There was no question that I would apply.
I have been a special education advocate for almost 20 years. I work with parents of children with special needs. Special education advocacy requires a wide breadth of knowledge. I was very confident in my knowledge about education and law but wanted to improve my knowledge and understanding of the healthcare system. I thought the LEND program was exactly what I needed to meet that goal. Also, most of the special education advocacy work I have done, I have done alone. I knew that in the LEND program I would get to participate in a shared experience. I looked forward to being around a group of people working toward the same goal.
It has expanded my exposure and knowledge just as I had hoped. We have covered numerous topics in great detail that I knew very little about previously. Everyone in my cohort plays a different role in the disability support continuum and I get the benefit of their expertise. A major focus of our LEND program is learning to function as an interdisciplinary team. Thinking of the work in this way is much more effective and efficient and will change the way I approach things moving forward.
I love being on the Georgetown Advisory Council Meeting. Our major focus is to support the development of the GUUCEDD’s five-year plan. Although the 5-year plan is the priority, my favorite part of being on the Georgetown Advisory Council is the people. The UCEDD staff is great. They have been very helpful to me and my family over the years and are a wealth of information and great advice. Through participation in the Advisory Council, I not only get to support the work of the UCEDD, I also get to hear from disability government and community leaders and give input on their work.