Fund for Excellence Projects

The Human Development Institute (HDI) established the Fund for Excellence for the development of innovative programs, services or products to address the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. Fund for Excellence Projects are led by HDI staff.

Current Projects

Below are projects that are currently being funded by HDI.

Communication Initiative for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

A UK Human Development Institute (HDI) Fund for Excellence award has been given to Jackie Kearns, PhD, to create a set of unique online modules for speech/language pathologists, case managers, direct support workers, and program administrators, on developing communicative competence for the adults that they serve. Though many gains have been made in communicative competence for people with significant cognitive disabilities, we have learned that students who do not have a symbolic mode of communication can develop symbolic levels of expressive communication (Holman, 2011).  The Teaching Age Appropriate Academic Learning via Communication (TAALC) Project* and Kentucky National Core Indicator Data suggest that the communication needs of many adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are not being met.

The Fund for Excellence award will support the development of a set of American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-certified professional learning modules to meet the communication needs of adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who do not currently have or use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).   This will increase awareness and promote the availability of AAC and services for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Contact to learn more.

*funded by the Kentucky Department of Education

Percussion Empowerment Project

A UK Human Development Institute (HDI) Fund for Excellence award has been given to Haley Potter, BA, to fund a pilot project aimed at teaching young girls about music, percussion, and performance. This inclusive extracurricular activity will be accessible to all students who identify as female. Students will learn how to read and interpret music, study the history of percussion and female percussionists, and practice performance etiquette. Supports will be provided to students as needed to participate fully in the class.

The HDI promotes inclusion and independence in all areas of life. The music industry, especially band, is historically male-dominated and many young girls may be discouraged or become uninterested at an early age. Young girls who look for inspiration from adults will rarely find a female band director, as 80% of band directors at large, public middle and high schools are male (MTD Research).  The Fund for Excellence award will support the project aims to increase the inclusion of young girls in the percussive arts by addressing the challenge of gender bias and increasing the confidence and musical knowledge of the participants. 

Contact for more information.

Teacher Effectiveness Pilot

Project Lead:Dr. Caroline Gooden, Growing Together Preschool’s (GTP) Director Cerise Bouchard, and Education Coordinator Denise Menshouse

Project End Date: August 2019

The Teacher Effectiveness Pilot (TEP) will be conducted at Growing Together Preschool (GTP) in Lexington, with the full support of Director Cerise Bouchard and her staff. Four of GTPs classroom teachers will be the focus of the pilot, as classrooms where the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta et al., 2008) is administered three times a year. Teachers will be rated on their classroom climate, teacher sensitivity, and productivity. Teacher goals relative to CLASS scores will be updated quarterly and will inform progress with the TEP.

Based on CLASS scores, personal improvement goals will be established and discussed during monthly observations and meetings with each teacher and Project Director Gooden, in collaboration with GTP Curriculum Director Denise Menshouse. Each teacher will set goals for growth in increased efficiency and mentorship/leadership at GTP. Progress toward goals will be measured by changes in CLASS scores and by supervisory and employee reflection on teacher improvement plans. Teacher progress in self-efficacy will be measured by administration of the Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES; Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) at the beginning, middle, and end of the pilot.

Tools to be taught during TEP coaching sessions include improved awareness of teaching strengths and needs; improved communication skills with children, staff, and families; and mentoring skills with other staff at GTP. Techniques for tool use include videotaping of sessions, focused discussion, observations of other teachers, and reflection based on instructional videos. Emphasis will be placed on teacher-driven goals, activities, and reflection. Teachers will keep weekly journals of reflections, and will video-tape selected activities for discussion during coaching sessions. Other tools to be used include the Strong Interest Inventory and CliftonStrengths 34.

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A School-Based Physical Activity Intervention for Children with and without ADHD Symptomology

Project Lead: Megan Jaspersen, Dr. Alicia Fedewa, Dr. Heather Erwin, and Morgan Turner

Project End Date: July 2019

This grant will include approximately 100 children (5-7 years) across two elementary schools in Lexington, Kentucky (K-1st grade) to investigate the effects of a 16-week physical activity intervention in an elementary sample of typical-developing children as well as those at-risk for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The purpose of this study is to gather a relatively large number of young children to test whether a physical activity intervention improves children’s attention, executive functioning and behavior compared to a sedentary intervention, like board games.

Parents and teachers will be asked to rate the behavior of the elementary students before and after intervention to find out if students who are physically active end up displaying fewer signs of ADHD.

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Rural Transportation Toolkit Project

Project Lead: Christina Espinosa Bard and Jeff White

Project End Date: January 2019

The purpose of this project is to identify and then work collaboratively with a rural community in Kentucky, partnering with local government and organizations, to implement and evaluate a Rural Transportation Voucher Program (developed by the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living [APRIL]) for providing rural transportation solutions for community residents with disabilities.

This collaborative approach is critical to building relationships, identifying resources, and implementing the toolkit. The project will ultimately rely on local administration by a civic or community agency based program. The role of HDI project staff will be to initially organize and administer the transportation solution. KentuckyWorks will additionally contribute marketing and communication strategies to promote the transportation offering.

Unpuzzled: Leadership and Allyship Development Project

Project Lead: Bev Harp and Laura Butler

Project End Date: January 2019This project proposes to launch a series of discussions around self-advocate leadership with a statewide unconference for people with disabilities. The unconference, along with supporting social media, will create a space for engaging with ideas around self-advocacy and self-determination, and for experienced self-advocates to mentor [allies and] those who have had fewer opportunities to self advocate.

HDI Supported Training Experiences Post-Secondary (STEPS) Case Study

Project Lead: Teresa Belluscio

Project End Date: January 2019This project will build upon work started in the HDI Summer Leadership Experience camp of 2017. The SLE provided skill-building experiences for high school junior and seniors who had plans to transition into postsecondary education. The SLE had 11 participants, many were juniors who would enter their senior year Fall 2017 and graduate May 2018. This project will focus on a select group of those campers who would like to continue building the skill sets needed to be successful leaders and self-advocates.

HDI Consumer Advocacy Toolkit (CAT)

Project Lead: Caroline Gooden, Jennifer Ulbricht, and Lindsey Coleman

Project End Date: January 2019

The Consumer Advocacy Toolkit will provide resources, and it will teach users how to help themselves, family members, or clients. The Toolkit will be self-guided and written in plain language. Unique features of the Toolkit include question-and-answer sections where users will fill-in-the- blanks to define their experience and needs by writing or typing.

The Impact of Robot-Assisted Gait Training and Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Proof-of-Concept Study

Project Lead: Kathy Sheppard-Jones/Lumy Sawaki

Project End Date: June 2018

Anecdotal evidence from therapists and family indicates comprehensive benefit for children with CP. More specifically, robot-assisted gait training for children appears to enhance not only gait but also outcomes of speech and occupational therapy. The main objective of the proposal is to collect strong preliminary data enabling proof-of-concept as well as a foundation for submission of a NIDILRR grant.

Expanded Photo Library to Improve Representation of Diversity, Employment, and the Lifespan

Project Lead: Stephanie Meredith/Harold Kleinert

Project End Date: March 2018

Project Summary: The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) is expanding its photo library and creating an important resource to improve the broad representation of people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds. The photos will be utilized by institute as well as the National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources.

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Completed Projects

Below are projects that have been funded and completed by HDI to improve outcomes.

Rural Clinic Assessment for Accessibility Project

Project Lead: Christina Espinosa Bard, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, and Pat Kitzman

Project End Date: October 2017

The purpose of this project is to collaboratively work with 1-2 smaller rural hospitals to assess accessibility of the facility, develop a collaborative plan to address any barriers, and support efforts to secure funding to address those barriers. This will be accomplished through the following strategies and activities: 1) determine current best practice in physical accessibility, 2) create and refine assessment tool for health care facilities, 3) conduct assessments with pilot sites, 4) develop solutions for enhancing accessibility, 5) show proof of concept, and 6) share project results.

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Using Propensity Score Matching to assess effectiveness of health navigators on outcomes for stroke patients

Project Lead: Tony LoBianco, Chithra Adams, and Pat Kitzman

Project End Date: June 2017

The purpose of the study is determine the impact of the KC3T interventions on healthcare utilization. The project will use existing databases and propensity score matching to create an artificial statistical control group. Individuals from the control group will be matched to the individuals in KC3T based on demographics, health risk factors (smoking, obesity), geographical factors (residing in food insecure region, lack of health care). Analysis will be conducted to see if the KC3T participants had a lower health care utilization rate than the control sample. This is an innovative method of looking at health outcomes without using randomized control trials.

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Volunteer Advocacy Program Project

Project Lead: Meada Hall and Annette Jett

Project End Date: June 2017

The Volunteer Advocacy Program (VAP) was developed through Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center, one of Tennessee’s University Centers for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD). Adapted for Kentucky in partnership with the Human Development Institute (HDI) at UK, Kentucky’s University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, VAP is a 36-40 hour training designed to produce competent advocates who can help with Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s). Unique to Kentucky’s VAP, a dyad model focusing on self-determination and advocacy skills has been added to the curricula. This is designed to allow a family member or guardian to learn alongside a self-advocate for the portion of the course covering student-led, i.e. “self-advocate-directed,” IEPs. Build Inclusion’s partnership with HDI to bring VAP to Kentucky combines the expertise of industry and educational professionals with the firsthand experience of families associated with Build Inclusion – as staff, board members, volunteers and supporters – to ensure the highest quality replication for VAP.

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Understanding Language Environments in Community Settings in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Project Lead: Joanne Rojas

Project End Date: January 2017

Project Summary: The primary goal of this project was to assess language environments in community settings among families of children with ASD ages 3-6 years (n=10) using precise, objective measures: the Language ENvironmental Analysis (LENA) systemTM and a Global Positioning System (GPS) (i.e., QstarzTM).

Click here to view the final report.

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My Choice Kentucky: Exploring Supported Decision-Making in the Commonwealth

Project Lead: Laura Butler

Project End Date: October 2016

Project Summary: The primary goal of this project was to educate people in Kentucky about alternatives to legal guardianship, specifically, supported decision-making. The focus was primarily on adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities, their families, and service providers. Some outreach was also made to attorneys, judges, and public guardians. The goal at the end of every session or conversation was for people to understand that legal guardianship is not the only option for people who may need help making life decisions. Over time, the project also grew to include information about what guardianship is and isn’t (dispelling myths). This work was done in conjunction with Kentucky Protection and Advocacy.

Click here to view the final report.

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HDI National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources Turner Syndrome Photography

Project Leaders: Stephanie Meredith/Harold Kleinert

Project End Date: September 2016

Project Summary: The purpose of this project was to complete the production of a booklet on Turner Syndrome for parents and prospective parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of this condition. We received a grant (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016) from the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to create the text of this booklet in collaboration with our National Center Medical Advisory Committee.

The HDI Fund for Excellence provided supplemental funding to our Kennedy Foundation grant so that we could create the accompanying photography for the booklet. Studies have indicated that culturally diverse photography that portrays individuals with their families in the ordinary activities of daily life enables prospective families to see beyond a diagnosis, to what it might mean for someone in their own family living with that condition (Levis et al., 2012). Photography that captures individuals across the life span also enables prospective families to envision possible positive futures, at a time when the initial diagnosis often generates paralyzing fear, and a sense of profound isolation.

Click here to view the final report.

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Sibling Support: Building Capacity for a Kentucky Sibling Leadership Network Chapter

Project Lead: Carolyn B. Wheeler

Project End Date: December 2016

Project Summary: In order to “grow” a Kentucky Chapter of the Sibling Leadership Network as a strategy of sibling support, an investment in local efforts to find and invite siblings to not only join the KY SLN Network but also to provide meaningful opportunities for siblings to gather, share information and “figure out” what makes sense for them in their local communities is the focus of this project. This was accomplished through mini-grants to organizations throughout Kentucky which have a focus on family support to encourage their recruitment of adult siblings to the KY SLN Chapter, as well as provide assistance in supporting siblings in whatever role, current or future, they have in their brother or sister’s lives. In addition, funding was made available to two adult siblings to attend the Ohio SIBS Conference in Columbus, Ohio as a leadership development opportunity as well as to provide concrete direction for the development of a similar event as part of The Arc of Kentucky’s Conference. Supporting siblings and their involvement in their brother or sister’s life is a critical element of “changing practice – changing lives” which is at the core of HDI’s mission.

Click here to view the final report.

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Adaptation of Healthy Lifestyles Curriculum With Universal Design for Learning and Dyad Approach

Project Lead: Lindsey Mullis

Project End Date: June 2016

Project Summary: This project focused on modifying a health and wellness curriculum to use a more universal design that is accessible for people with disabilities and different learning styles — and enables them to make more informed choices about their health and wellness using the Dyad approach. Persons with a developmental disability chose a health partner with whom he or she would participate in self-selected health promotion activities. Participants chose the health component that was of most interest to them and worked toward positive changes in that specific area, such as exercise or nutrition. The lessons learned from the evaluation of this project will be used to create new resources that promote healthy lifestyles. Resources will be housed on the existing website to insure that they are available statewide.

Click here to view the final report.

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