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OneRouge Friday Community Check-In (Week 97)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a

cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.


‘Education & Workforce Development | Humans with Disabilities - Part II'

Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)

Heather Bourgeois (Principal, Louisiana Key Academy)

  • Our school is to service children with dyslexia. It’s 1 in 5 individuals, about 25%. Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading. It’s due to a deficit of phonological processing. When you say the word cat can you break it into three individual sounds. The work of reading is hard for kids with dyslexia. We call it a paradox. You have an above average IQ. You’re creative, you have a great vocabulary, you’re a problem solver, but yet these basic foundational pieces you struggle with. Children start having problems with school when the first start with school. Immediately they are starting school with failure. It’s really damaging to the self-esteem of children and the family. What we call for is to identify dyslexia early. We should be identifying it at the end of kindergarten. We know what dyslexia is, we know how to screen for it, we know how to test for it. That’s what our school is for. Using their strengths and not holding them back at low level foundational pieces.

  • They just published a paper and they went into the prisons and they tested for dyslexia and found that 97% of people were in special education situations. And 87% dropped out of school. When did they first experience failure? It was 1st grade. We know how to teach a dyslexic child to read. It’s hard work, but by identifying it and teaching it, we can fulfill that self-esteem.

Mandy Noerper (Director of Support Services, My Possibilities - Dallas, TX)

  • Anything that isn’t programing comes through me. I have the widest lens of what we do here. My possibilities is a continuing education center focusing on adults with intellectual disabilities. We’re the opposite of the Key Academy. We catch them as they are transitioning out of the school system and we can lead them into adulthood. When they graduate, it’s just a light switch goes off for support. We were founded by three moms who said that’s not good enough. At the time the adult daycare was the model. We came in with true educational skills and we wanted to teach them something while they were here.

  • There was no curriculum at the time, so we created them. We are totally HIPSTER. We still have a very robust educational program but we also recognize that in Texas, our system, you come to one centralized person and they send you to 8 different places with 8 different services. That’s difficult for our families to manage and there’s a disconnection of services. There are gaps. We started to fill that gap. We put everything in one house. If there’s therapy out there, we offer it in house. We offer independent living coaching that is specific to their skills. One of our biggest areas is career services.

Jim Hanophy (President and CEO, Ability Connection - Dallas, TX)

  • We are a 68 year old organization. We used to be United Cerebral Palsy of Dallas. We changed the name in 2011. We serve about 800 people in the community. Our two largest programs are waiver programs. In Texas, in the developmental disability arena, you have a split between case management and the service provision side. So in one of our waiver programs where we serve about 300 people, we are the service providers.

  • In another one of our waiver programs where we serve about 500 people, we are the case managers.

  • We tend to serve folks with the more significant disabilities. We operate training centers here. We serve the entire gambit.

  • We operate 7 group homes. They are in the community in the neighborhood. Typically our homes are the nicest homes in the community. We also have youth programs for teens with disabilities. The whole point is to prevent skill regression.

  • There’s all these issues with spending resources.

Looking for a simple way to increase access to your print materials for humans with Dyslexia? Dyslexie font is a typeface – specially designed for people with dyslexia – which enhances the ease of reading and comprehension.

Heather Bourgeois - There’s a lot of Dyslexia is not a visual problem. It’s actually a neurological issue. It takes three parts of the brain working together efficiently to process the information. That work of reading is hard or difficult. There’s no font that’s going to make it easier. An early sign might be a speech delay. That’s where the disruption is. Until you have kids work on that skill, you’re not going to be able to work on that issue.

Can these programs be used in carceral facilities?

Jim Hanophy - From an eligibility standpoint there are issues to getting waiver slots. Practically what’s done, the mild to moderate disabilities are the most likely to be incarcerated. That population would benefit most from these services.

Mandy - We are working on perfecting our model on making it available to other groups so that they could scale, model, replicate. The true holistic approach. I honestly think we’re talking about marginalized populations, but even if you think about your coworker who irritates you, if you start looking at that person as an individual with challenges and needs, it would improve the situation.

Jim Hanophy - part of individualization is about addressing the individual needs.

Mandy Noerper - There are so many options outside special ed.

Rev Anderson - I am crying. This is such an amazing conversation. We hear over and over and over again these same stories and yet we cannot get the attention of legislators, judges, education policy makers, to tell them we need ways of testing people and making sure they are not always isolated. As a society we’ve chosen not to address these issues. You have no idea how many caretakers tell us these stories. One of the things I had a question about is how do we reset getting this information into everybody's hands as early as possible. We see it in the criminal system and then the options are so much more limited and the risks are so much higher.

Jim Hanophy - Some years ago on the other side in the mental health arena, the touchpoint between the first contact with an officer and the public is so important. We talked about mental health officers. I almost think if we should be coming up with a pilot to train officers how to interact properly. I think of how successful we were with mental health officers and we could do the same with intellectual disability officers.

Heather Bourgeois - About identification - a stigma identification. The kid already knows. They know they aren’t getting the words but they don’t know why. When I talk to parents and they say they don’t want to label or identify my kid. I’ve never had a kid cry about being dyslexic. They are always happy to know. When you tell an adult they're dyslexic, that’s when they cry. Because the pain of the missed opportunity is hard. To know is to be empowered and to have what you need. That kid wants to know.

Mandy Noerper - As someone who got a diagnosis of autism as an adult, I know how important it is. I now have a director level job because I know how to approach the world around me. We have to be so intentional about combatting the stigmas. Every single day, when we meet somebody, we need to use person first language and support how they are experiencing the world. Even if you don't have verbal skills, that’s fine, come be part of the conversation. We have the goals that the state sets for them, but if they have different interests, we have classes that support those things as well. What is it you want that will make you happy in addition to the skills you need? When it comes to moving into employment, people will say that they want to do something that’s not really fit for them. We will explore that, and help guide them through that so they can come to the conclusion on their own.

Jim Hanophy - one of the best tools to help someone have a voice and they’re called personal outcome measures. They discovered that was getting them nowhere. They interviewed people about what it means to have a good quality of life. They came up with 22 different dimensions. It’s also a driver of services and learning. Historically in the human services system we told people how many friends they needed to have. Now we take a look at the person to see if it’s appropriate for them. It’s a fantastic tool because it’s turned the system on its head. Council on Quality Leadership. When the survey team came out, they talked to individuals about individualized choices. Two of the outcomes lead to a high quality of life.

Pay equity - women make less than men and neurodivergent people make less than women. Can people speak to what pay equity could look like for people with disabilities.

Jim Hanophy - There’s a contradiction with pay equity for people with disabilities. There’s pay incentives for people who get disability insurance. It allows people to make a decent wage and still get their SSI. It’s very complicated and there’s so many myths out there and you’ll find people in these services might hold people back because they don’t want people to lose their benefits. It really is a generous system. We try to do good by people by holding them back because people don’t understand the work incentives. I have seen a shift with the mass resignation, companies are willing to pay market. We’ve noticed a turn for people making a good wage.

What is the language we should be using? Once we get past how people see themselves, what should we be advocating for?

Heather Bourgeois - We ask people to use the word dyslexia, right now is SLD (specific learning disability), which is not specific at all. Rather, we want people to use the word dyslexia. We advocate for people to use the knowledge. We encourage adults to talk about it to encourage people.

Mandy Noerper - There are a couple factors to consider - first is how the person wants to be referenced. Typically the deaf community, that is a deaf person. But if I’m speaking to a person, I want to know how they want to be referenced. I have friends who want to be called African American and I have friends who want to be called Black. Not everyone with a disability is neurodivergent. I think there are times when a person with disabilities is going to be the right framework. If I’m serving somebody who has some sort of neurodivergence, if I'm serving the person I’m serving all people with disabilities. If I’m helping one person I’m helping all people. I think neurodivergent is a fantastic term.

Jim Hanophy - The way the human services system is designed, it’s designed around a specific language. We have to play that game. We have to prove someone has a disability to qualify. Once that’s gone, you’re just the person. A lot of people don’t care about the language so much as they care about what that means.

How do we recenter people in a structure in which they don’t fit?

Jim Hanophy - I used to crack up when people say Joe’s confined to a wheelchair, but no, Joe uses a wheelchair.

Many Patole - How do you have those conversations with the caretakers of children or adults. If you’re lucky you have two people in the household. What do you do if one wants to approach it one way and the other wants a different way? How do you have those conversations?

Mandy Noerper - You want to respect the needs of the parent.

Jim Hanophy - one of the best resources for a family struggling with this is another family struggling with this. And the other is making it okay to ask for help. Some parents are just exhausted.


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