What is Inclusion, why it's important, and how to achieve it? An Interview with Danielle Christy

What is Inclusion?

I had the distinct pleasure of spending some quality time with Danielle Christy, a Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) with over 15 years in the public, non-public, charter, and contained school settings. Her specialty? Inclusion.

Across the many years of my practice as a Clinical Psychologist with a niche in neurodevelopmental disabilities, I hear the word "inclusion" tossed about. Even though I've spent a lot of my professional career in a classroom, I'm not an educator, so spending time with Danielle, who is an expert on inclusion, was enlightening and it was high time that I did a deeper dive. 

According to Danielle, Inclusion is made up of some key components. First and foremost, presume competence. No matter the disability, socio-economic status, or race, believe in the potential of every child, every student...and well, every person. Second, all students should have equal access to the curriculum and supports to access curriculums. Third, equip...

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What is Scenicview Academy? An Interview with Alex Johnson

Live. Work. Thrive.

Oh, let's also add empowered and confident. These words were heard, on repeat, during my interview with Alex Johnson, Admissions and Business Development Director of Scenicview Academy (SVA). 

SVA is a non-profit school for young adults (18-30yo) with Autism Spectrum and learning disorders. School at SVA doesn't look like your typical or traditional school. Classes are thoughtfully designed and crafted to meet the needs of each student and are conducted IRL in the community. SVA's learning philosophy is that experience is the best teacher, so students hit the ground running immediately with immersion and practice. 

Students don't have to be intimidated by the real-life pace or demands of the SVA program because of high staff ratios (fun fact: staff outnumbers students) and a dedicated Service Coordinator and Therapist, who are assigned to every student as part of their treatment team. Support staff are considered mentors and coaches to the...

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What is Brightstone Transitions? An Interview with Jill Allen

Independence through application

I got to connect with Jill Allen to talk about Brightstone Transitions, a residential transition program in Gainesville, GA. Brightstone focuses on supporting young adults ages 18-26 with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (level 1). With built-in scaffolding through a 3-phase system, Brightstone utilizes a coaching and mentorship model, where mentors live with residents in phase 1. This unique approach allows for organic and in-the-moment coaching, catching and addressing barriers to independence that might be otherwise lost. Additionally, Brightstone's model is community-integrated, utilizing the home and community as the "classrooms" for learning, shaping navigation, and advocacy in real-time. This process or IRL application is how Brigthstone helps residents achieve their fullest independence.

Can't do vs. won't do

It's amazing how powerful language can be. Jill made a point of differentiating between the words "can't" vs....

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What is Moving Forward Towards Independence? An Interview with Rhonda Daniels

Growth of the whole person

It was super cool when Rhonda Daniels, Executive Director of Moving Forward Towards Independence (Moving Forward), agreed to do an interview for disABLED+Empowered. I've known about Moving Forward for a while and given my specialty with teens and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities, they have been on my radar. 

Moving Forward is a unique program that has a strong identity with a proven track record. They know what they do and do it well. Serving non-college-bound adults with developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders, they focus on the growth of the whole person (read: not academic). They help adults meet their personal potential vocationally and socially while filling in the gaps (if needed) for daily living. Classes and groups are offered by interest and are crafted by staff who will stop at nothing to make learning fun and meaningful (enter Pokemon Go for social skills and executive functioning...

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What is a Neuropsychologist? An Interview with Dr. Oren Boxer

Forging the lenses

So thrilled to welcome Dr. Oren Boxer to disABLED+Empowered. Oren is a pediatric neuropsychologist based in Pasadena, CA. In our interview, Oren defines what neuropsychologists do, which is understanding how the brain develops, forging the lenses by which individuals see the world. With thorough and systematic assessment, neuropsychologists gain an intimate and comprehensive view of how an individual's brain works. 

Creating roadmaps 

Results from neuropsychological assessments serve as road maps to efficiently support an individual. Admittedly biased, Oren believes that this information is critical for every individual to know about themselves. This information unlocks several IRL benefits. First, results help guide parents to know when discipline vs. support or formal intervention is needed. Second, it empowers individuals with information to advocate across all areas of life. These things are not only good for kids, but also a super boost...

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What is a Speech and Language Therapist? An Interview with Justine Navid Mufson

Bring people towards each other

This is Justine's superpower. In my interview with Justine, who is a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) or Therapist, she shares all the things that SLPs do and the pressure points that SLPs ease. Justine is passionate about eliciting connection through language and communication. She highlights communication subtleties like eye contact and smiling and how these little things elicit connection on a deeper level. Justine is obsessed with bringing people together and figuring out how to create a bespoke system for any kiddo and their family. 

Empower the system

Justine is all about building skills to close gaps. She and I have this in common as professionals and we jive with empowering all parts of a system -- moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, best friends...you get it. When everyone is involved, everyone is elevated. Skill-building communicates an unspoken message of hope. Despite delays or deficits,...

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What is a Therapeutic & Educational Consultant? An Interview with Dr. Jessica Romeyn

Boots on the Ground

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Dr. Jessica Romeyn to the disABLED+Empowered channel. Jessica and I go waaaay back. We met during our internship year of training, where we both cut our professional teeth. Even back then, Jessica was passionate, savvy, vibrant, and wickedly smart. 

In this interview, we get into what a Therapeutic and Educational Consultant is. I continue to meet plenty of people that don't know what this type of consultant is or that they even exist. Enter, Jessica. She helps me add some definition to this newer professional specialty. Spoiler? Educational Consultants are professionals who help individuals and families find the right school, college, or program when traditional approaches or settings aren't working. Jessica adds the "Therapeutic" title because she brings clinical training to the role and is an expert at supporting individuals with mental illness or dual diagnoses. 

If you watch or listen to the...

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What is an Educational Therapist? An Interview with Melody Valenzuela

Kids are underdogs

So thrilled to welcome Melody Valenzuela to the disABLED+Empowered family. Melody is a savvy educational therapist with the sharpness, wit, passion, and humor that is on fire . If you watch the interview, it won't take long to see why her clients and her professional colleagues adore her. 

We get into what an Educational Therapist (ET) is. Given the relative newness of this profession, spending some time here drove insight, highlighting the difference between an ET and a tutor (hint: ETs are like special ops on missions to uncover the "whys" vs. the "whats"). We also explore when seeking an ET is right and who's a good candidate for ET. 

Melody's view of kids as underdogs really helps to put the responsibility of teaching on the teacher vs. the learner. While this might sound like a massive, "duh," it's common for therapists, teachers, and tutors to become frustrated with kids who aren't learning "fast" enough. Melody's argument is that kids don't have...

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What is Fusion Academy? An Interview with Danielle Ryckman

interview schools youtube Jul 22, 2020

Keep 'em comin'

So thrilled to be bringing another video to disABLED+Empowered with the incomparable...Danielle (Dani) Ryckman from Fusion Academy. In our interview, Dani talks about Fusion's customized relationship-based 1:1 learning model and her passion for creating lifelong learners. We explore the importance of embracing the whole student, spotlighting the importance of psychological safety in the risky business of learning, and the symbiotic and dynamic relationship between their teachers/mentors and students. This collaborative culture serves as a petri dish for self-efficacy, growth, and empowerment. 

"There is a place for you in the world and where maybe there's not a clear door, through advocacy, you can create one" --Dani Ryckman

Dani's message is clear, she cares about her students...deeply. She believes that they are the change we need in this world. If they can all learn the power of advocacy, they will be able to do anything they put...

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What is the College to Career Program? An Interview with Kelly Privitt

interviews programs youtube Jul 15, 2020

Yeah, this is gonna work

Well, this YouTube experiment is turning out to be a total win. I'm so grateful that the colleagues in my life are equally as (or maybe even more) adventurous as me. Enter Kelly Privitt, Director of AbilityFirst's College to Career (C2C) program, who graciously agreed to do one of these interviews. She knocks it out of the park by talking about empowering students with choice and allowing her students the dignity of risk. She gets personal, sharing her own learning profile and how her daughter, who allowed her mother to disclose that she has a disability on YouTube, is a total bada$$ at her job and shattering distribution records in corporate America. 

My intention with these YouTube videos has always been to provide high-quality information for free to the disabled community. I wanted everyone to have access to the amazing professionals and programs that I get to work with on a regular basis. It turns out that I'm also benefitting personally and...

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