b/w photo of infant with black hair

HDI to Host Prenatal Disability Education Summit

On May 13, 2022, the National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources, housed at the UK Human Development Institute will host the Prenatal Disability Education Summit at the Residence Inn Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus. This event is sponsored by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation (JPKF) and will bring together national medical, advocacy, bioethics, industry, and policy leaders to collaboratively identify current challenges and potential solutions in the ethical provision of prenatal screening for disabilities.

Leaders from five national obstetrics, genetics, and pediatrics organizations will meet alongside bioethics experts, industry representatives, academics in disability studies, and leaders from federal agencies and 12 national disability advocacy organizations representing multiple conditions that can be diagnosed prenatally. The event will be held in Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.

JPKF Trustee, Alex Pender, says, “The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation (JPKF) is thrilled to sponsor and be a part of the Prenatal Disability and Education Summit. For more than 75 years, JPKF has pushed for progress, inclusion, and respect for people with intellectual disabilities. The Foundation has helped inspire and advance a wave of landmark federal legislation providing support and programs for the disability community, including the Community Mental Health Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This summit is an important step forward to advance the way in which women and families are given a medical diagnosis at the early stages of pregnancy and will be pivotal in how doctors care for the women and children these practices will impact most.”

Stephanie Meredith, the event organizer and the Director of the National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources says this event will be the first of its kind to bring together such a diverse coalition of stakeholders to discuss strategies for making sure that patients undergoing prenatal screening get the support and information they need when learning about disabilities.

Meredith shares that, “Research shows that patients continue to struggle to get information about disabilities that meets their needs at that vulnerable moment when receiving prenatal screening results. They want to know about the medical issues and genetics, but they also want to know what life is like for people living with these conditions and their families. This is particularly vital because people with disabilities are part of a historically marginalized population, so we must make sure discussions about disabilities are based on accurate and up-to-date information without being clouded by stereotypes. And the stakes are high because patients can experience lasting trauma when they don’t receive the information and support that they need.”

Meredith adds, “As prenatal screening efforts increase, we are heading into a looming public health crisis of genetic information without a sufficient infrastructure for patient education and support. That means the work of this interdisciplinary team is essential to ensuring that all stakeholders are working together to meet the needs of vulnerable families and to provide clinicians accurate and up-to-date information and training about disabilities.”

The Summit will:

  • Assess the current state of education about disabilities for expectant parents undergoing prenatal screening.
  • Review collaborative accomplishments since the last Down Syndrome Consensus Meeting in 2008.
  • Establish collaborative goals in the areas of public policy, organizational policies/guidelines, research, and ethical practices for the next decade to ensure that families receive accurate, up-to-date, and balanced information, resources, healthcare, and support they need following a diagnosis or screening results and to help families and clinicians better understand a more up-to-date vision of people living with disabilities.
  • Discuss best practices for building relationships between the disability advocacy and medical communities and discuss strategies for the education and training of medical and genetics professionals to better understand current life outcomes for people with disabilities.
  • Produce a directory of stakeholders who want to continue to work collaboratively on disability education in the prenatal setting

The primary sponsor of the event is the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, and other vital sponsors include The National Parents First Call Center, a program of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network, The National Down Syndrome Society, The Trisomy 18 Foundation, Sunflower Neonatology Associates, Case Western Department of Bioethics, and Genetic Support Foundation with support from the Kennedy Krieger Institute at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, and the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities.

A group of high school campers sitting in UK Student Center

UK Human Development Institute Welcomes Kentucky High School Upperclassmen with Disabilities to Apply to its Summer Leadership Experience Camp 

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute will host its Summer Leadership Experience camp for its sixth consecutive summer. The transitional experience camp, which will take place July 6-9, welcomes rising high school juniors and seniors with disabilities in Kentucky to apply. The camp, which is sponsored by Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, offers both in-person and virtual options. The in-person camp is available to students who are current clients of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the virtual camp is open to students who are not.  

According to Teresa Belluscio, Human Development Institute disability specialist and Summer Leadership Experience director, the camp is perfect for students who are planning to continue their education after high school, whether through a university, community college, internship, apprenticeship or other special program or training. The camp is designed to introduce the students to new experiences they can’t get at home, such as navigating a college campus and sharing space with a roommate, while also providing practical information sessions.  

The information sessions are available in-person to students, as well as virtually to parents and virtual campers. In previous summers, representatives from UK’s Disability Resource Center have come in for panel discussions, teaching students how to navigate disability resources in university settings and how to set up accommodations. In another information session, a representative from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority came to talk to students about KEES money–scholarships available to all Kentucky students based on GPA and other metrics.  

“We want them to understand the financial piece, because most high school students really don’t,” Belluscio said. 

In a hands-on activity, campers are given a schedule of active UK courses and taken to the campus bookstore to track down the textbooks needed for each course. Students work together in small groups to locate each textbook and write down the books’ prices. Belluscio then leads a discussion on the various options for college textbooks–such as renting, buying used books and eBooks. Belluscio and camp staff help the students understand why you might choose one type of book over another depending on the course and your own needs. 

Students at the in-person camp stay in residence halls on UK’s campus and eat meals in a UK dining hall. The days are broken up with recreational activities, such as rock climbing at the Johnson Center. Evenings are filled with fun and motivational guest speakers. 

“A favorite is Cody–who is autistic, went to college, has a degree and built a business for himself as a magician,” Belluscio said. “He’s an all-time favorite. He did multiple sessions last year, from a magic show, to talking about living with autism, to how he built his business.” 

Campers are sent evaluations at the end of camp each summer. Cody, the magician, got the highest ratings last year. 

“So we know which sessions [the students] really liked and what they enjoyed,” Belluscio said. 

Applications for the Summer Leadership Experience are due May 15. The in-person experience is limited to 20 campers. For more information and to begin your application, click here

For more information, contact Teresa Belluscio at 859-257-1714 or teresa.belluscio@uky.edu

Written by: Court Cox