Community Connections Area of Emphasis
Within the Community Connections Area of Emphasis, the Waisman Center works to support individuals with disabilities and their families to establish meaningful connections within their communities. Beyond individuals, we work to support systems to design services that are connected with other systems and integrated with natural supports. With proper information, tools and training individuals are more likely to be successful in establishing the meaningful, purposeful, mutually beneficial connections that are the foundation of inclusive and healthy communities. "At core, a deeply connected community--a community in which every member is valued and challenged to contribute--is a strong and healthy community" (A Community Building Workbook-2005 ABCD Institute).
Within this area of emphasis, UCEDD activities are focused on providing information and assistance on community resources, promoting understanding and utilization of natural supports integrated within the more typical system supports and exploring and supporting how technology and other methodologies can be utilized to promote independent living.
Challenges to Community Connections
Societal Attitudes and Assumptions: Historically, persons with disabilities have not been fully recognized for their capacities and contributions within a community. Many people with disabilities have faced discrimination in the community and in the workplace. People with disabilities often have more limited school, work, community and range of life experiences compared to their non-disabled peers. Further, persons with disabilities have primarily been seen as the recipient of services. Society's attitudes towards people with disabilities are evolving in a way that promotes "the idea that in a community whose assets are being fully recognized and mobilized, people with disabilities too will be part of the action, as full contributors to the community-building process" (A Community Building Workbook - 2005 ABCD Institute).
Inappropriate and/or Insufficient Supports: Persons with disabilities often struggle in trying to independently establish and maintain connections within their communities, health care and schools. One cause of this struggle is the insufficient training of personnel within programs that support persons with disabilities. Limited training among professionals or paraprofessionals can directly affect the success of a person with a disability in their work, school or community environment. A further challenge involves the issue of funding availability, programs that don't directly match the needs of the individual and waiting lists. Many community programs are not equipped or prepared to support persons with disabilities.
Accessibility: Lack of accessibility can be a significant challenge in connecting within one's community. Accessibility entails a broad range of concepts including transportation, architecture and the physical environment, communications and equal opportunities in employment, education and housing. These challenges can be minimized or eliminated through the use of assistive technology, creativity and universal design concepts that are designed specifically to increase independence and accessibility. "Individuals with developmental disabilities need to have access to and use of recreation, leisure, and social opportunities in the most integrated settings, in order to enrich their participation in community life" (Americans with Disabilities Act, 2000).
In order to address the Community Connections area of emphasis, the Waisman Center is currently involved in the following activities:
Direct Services to Individuals and Families
- Waisman Resource Center provides free and confidential information, assistance, referral and training to individuals, families and community professionals about supports and resources for individuals with disabilities. The Waisman Resource Center is home to the Southern Regional Center for Children and Youth with Special Needs.
- Lov Dane is a county-wide family and community network building fulfilling and community-centered lives for all citizens.
- Sound Response offers a creative support model promoting self-determination for individuals with disabilities. Sound Response strives to supplement direct staff support through the innovative use of advanced technologies.
- Communication Aids and Systems Clinic (CASC) Speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists partner with families to provide highly specialized, cutting edge augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to maximize the independence, inclusion and productivity of people with significant communication difficulties.
Community Resource training is provided to a variety of pre-service groups including pediatric and family medicine residents, undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of allied-health and related disciplines.
Community Training and Technical Assistance
- Community Training and Consultation offers opportunities for anyone interested to learn more about related topics in the field of Developmental Disabilities.
- Connections Project creates and facilitates a statewide network of autism-related initiatives, training to providers and parents and aims to promote a greater understanding of diagnostic and community-related ASD information.
- UCEDD Training Calendar provides a listing of community training events conducted or co-sponsored by the Waisman Center UCEDD.
- Natural Supports Project offers mini-grant packages comprised of funding, ongoing technical assistance and practical resources to increase the capacity of schools and communities to support youth with disabilities in accessing school and community opportunities.
- Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners supports state and regional systems to promote high quality comprehensive early childhood services for children birth to six and their families. WECCP is also linked to the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, which is housed at the Waisman Center.
- National Professional Development Center is a multi-university project that promotes the use of evidence-based practice for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders through the development of training materials and provision of training and technical assistance to state partners.
- Early Detection and Hearing Intervention programs promote universal newborn hearing screening, develop effective tracking and follow-up, promote appropriate and timely diagnosis and Intervention.
- Employment and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Podcast Series. This podcast series discusses how AAC can be used to support employment goals.
- Advisory Group Membership: UCEDD staff and faculty serve on the following committees and boards relevant to this Area of Emphasis:
- Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners, Wisconsin Department of Instruction
- Serve Wisconsin Disability Inclusion Advisory Committee
Research and Evaluation
Pathways to Independence Natural Supports Project works to discover, support, and disseminate creative and promising approaches for supporting youth with disabilities to participate more fully and naturally in school, work, and community activities.
Community Connections Products
Kretzmann, J, McKnight, J., Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. Evanston, IL: Institute for Policy Research (1993).