HDI Celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2023 with Amanda Stahl

HDI Celebrates Developmental Disability Awareness Month

This month (March), HDI celebrates Developmental Disability Awareness Month. For some people, that may lead to questions about what defines a developmental disability. Developmental disabilities are conditions that begin during development and usually last throughout a person’s life.

For Amanda Stahl, LCSW, it’s a wide spectrum. 

“It’s a disability that happens before the age of 18,” Stahl said. “A disability that affects your daily life skills. It affects your development, how you become who you are as a person.” 

But at the same time, Stahl stresses that there is a human being behind every label and every diagnosis. 

“In my work, I don’t focus only on definitions. I focus on people’s stories,” she said. 

As part of her work with Merge, an HDI project focused on improving mental health access for individuals with mental health conditions and developmental disabilities, she’s helping ensure those stories are told. 

Merge seeks to improve the mental health systems that support people with co-occurring mental health conditions, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Stahl is one of the researchers interviewing people with lived experience for Merge. 

“Some of the work that I’m doing is going around Louisville and going around to different parts of the state and collecting people’s stories around their experiences with mental health and disability,” she said. “What were the good experiences they had, what were the negative experiences they’ve had, what would they want to recommend to other direct support professionals and providers?” 

Stahl thinks that isolation, loneliness, and societal expectations placed onto some people with disabilities can have a tremendous negative impact on the mental health of individuals with disabilities. 

“It’s not done on purpose,” she said, adding that some have difficulty find more positive ways to think about themselves until they find ways of building community and experiencing inclusion. “People with disabilities may be isolated from other people with disabilities, including older people with disabilities,”

She also noted that she sees patterns in the interviews she’s completed. For example, she finds that even experienced mental health providers can have difficulty working with people with developmental disabilities, especially those who are in more controlled environments. Sometimes individuals, she says, may not feel like they have the space to feel or process their emotions. Another thing that she noted is that a lot of individuals with lived experience feel like outsiders. 

“Knowing my own story, a lot of their stories are very similar,” Stahl said. “I felt like I was the only one until I met this one person.” 

Stahl hopes soon to do more research on individuals in day programs to get an even wider view on what the community’s needs are. From there, the information will be used to develop training that will be designed for individuals and providers around the state. 

“I’m trying to get stories from the most impacted people,” she said. Ms. Stahl stressed that people often underestimate others due to disability – something she says is a mistake. 

“There may be limitations to what someone can do,” she said. “But always assume people can do more than you think they can.”

Amanda Stahl, LCSW, is a Disability and LGBTQ+ Activist from Louisville, Kentucky. Amanda is the lead organizer and director of a non-profit organization called the Independence Seekers Project (ISP), organized and developed by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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HDI Receives Notice of Awards

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) received notice of award of a five-year grant from the Administration for Community Living to better serve Kentuckians who experience co-occurring mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Kentucky Mental Health, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (KY-MHIDD) Training Initiative will let us hone our work from the National Training Initiative that was co-lead with Utah State and Alaska. The goal is to increase understanding and improve implementation of person-centered, culturally relevant services and referral systems. Existing supports will be strengthened and integrated, addressing racial, health (including COVID-19 pandemic), and economic inequities in underserved communities. This is a partnership grant that includes people with disabilities, family members, state agencies, organizations and other stakeholders. Kristen Dahl, Dr. Chithra Adams and Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones will represent HDI in this important work.

The HDI is also working with the Child Neurology Foundation to review the materials they provide to help families and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities navigate the transition from pediatric to adult healthcare system. Laura Butler, Bev Harp and contractors with HDI will review print and web-based content to identify accessibility issues and potentially ableist language or images. HDI will also conduct a training for Child Neurology Foundation staff and provide a resource guide for the development of new materials.

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Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities Student Spotlight: Emily Moseley

After nearly ten years as a photographer, Emily Moseley decided to change careers. She wanted her work to promote social justice and equity while being of service to others, so she enrolled in the University of Kentucky Master’s degree in Social Work program along with the Human Development Institute’s (HDI) Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities. She also began a research assistantship with HDI and is working on several projects related to people with disabilities and their experiences with COVID-19.

Emily explained that social work offers a holistic approach that appealed to her, and the certificate in Developmental Disabilities complemented her studies nicely. “I knew very little about disability,” she said. “It was a way to increase my learning experience, but I’ve been continually surprised about how well aligned HDI is with the social work program.” She went on to say that the certificate program has been “very enlightening and eye-opening and will definitely inform my work.” Continue reading

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HDI Hosts Virtual Open House for the Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute invites current and prospective students, staff, and faculty to a Virtual Open House to learn about the Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities. This certificate prepares professionals from a broad range of disciplines to provide services and supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The coursework emphasizes the lifespan from an interdisciplinary perspective.  

Register at https://bit.ly/3dFWTYk to participate via Zoom on Thursday, May 28 at 3:00pm ET. A stipend up to $3000 is offered to students who are accepted into the certificate program on a competitive basis. You can also visit the HDI web site at https://hdi.uky.edu/graduate-certificate to learn more about the certificate.