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Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities Student Spotlight: Emma Foret

Music therapy is gaining popularity as an effective approach for enhancing communication and social skills for people with developmental disabilities. This year’s cohort of Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities students include four from UK’s Music Therapy Program.

Emma Foret comes from a family of musicians in rural West Tennessee.

She said, “My dad plays trumpet and is a big reason why I chose the same instrument. My mom majored in saxophone performance… And then my grandparents are bluegrass musicians who also play rock and country and were inducted into the music hall of fame in Selmer, Tennessee, and I played a lot with them… I have a violin background with bluegrass roots, and I played trumpet in middle school through college.”

Emma’s parents are also both teachers. Her mom is a Kindergarten through eighth grade music teacher, and her dad teaches high school band, both in the McNairy County school system in Selmer.

Of high school band, Emma says, “That was where I found my place.”

It was also where she saw the value of inclusivity in classrooms. She said, “I was a section leader… but because our program included a wide variety of students, I worked with a lot of diverse learners. I got a lot of experience there. Even though I knew very little, it was just a common practice that everyone participated, and I feel like that was an important experience that led me here.”

She added, “In the special areas, like art, music, PE, choir, all of those things – I think that’s where you can see inclusion at its best. Those activities are very community based already.”

After a degree in music education at the University of Tennessee at Martin (about an hour from Murray, KY), Emma wanted to learn more about inclusive music education.

“I loved working with kids, and then I realized there was such a gap in my knowledge on what I knew about how to work with diverse learners,” she said. “I had a few experiences in my student teaching where I knew I wanted to learn how to better serve every child in my classroom.’ So that’s what brought me here. And that’s what brought me to this certificate, especially.”

In the certificate program, students conduct a research project and participate in a practicum. Coursework covers the entire lifespan and prepares professionals to provide services and supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

For her research project, Emma will be looking at the gap in music classroom participation from kindergarten through high school. She said there is a major decrease as students get older. She also realized that there is a gap in knowledge for certain educators when it comes to students with disabilities.

She shared, “I thought it was so interesting because in an elementary school, you see everyone. Music is where everyone belongs and has their place. Unfortunately, the numbers decrease a little bit, the older they get.

Students in the certificate program also learn from a variety of guest speakers with disabilities.

“I get to hear a lot of very different, intelligent people,” Emma said. “And it’s always different when you hear about someone else’s experiences, because I haven’t experienced a disability… I think hearing from diverse guest speakers is one of the best things [about the program].”

The certificate program brings students from a range of disciplines, and each cohort is unique with its own array of different perspectives.

Emma noted that the program “is a really great opportunity for you to grow your mind past what you’ve experienced, and you work with such different people, regardless of if you’re in the therapy or education field… We have so many different discipline areas coming together to step in and advocate, and I think that’s awesome… Emma hopes to do her practicum at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass on campus, where she and her husband (who also has a music education background) both work.

She said, “I was certified K-12 and I’ve always loved kindergarten through the awkward middle school phase… I’ve never taught students younger than kindergarten, but I love it.  They’re so fun and are so eager to learn.”

Students often note that what they learn in the certificate program transforms their understanding of disability and advocacy.

Emma shared her experience this way:

…I’ve definitely developed [as an advocate] since being here. I see the world as sunshine and rainbows most of the time… I want to help everyone and make the world a better place, and I guess I didn’t realize how much we still have left to go… I’ve definitely taken on more of that approach since learning and hearing from people with disabilities over the past year with different guest lecturers… I can even think back on projects I did… where I was interested in music therapy and I was specifically interested in intellectual/developmental disabilities and my terminology wasn’t correct—I came at it with such a good heart, and I think most people do—it’s just not knowing or being aware of the community. I strive to advocate for [people with disabilities], but also want to promote their voice because everyone deserves to be heard and understood.

She went on to say, “The world needs to be more accessible for everyone. If I were to acquire a disability, I would want to be able to experience life the same way that I do now… I’ve just become so much more aware, and it’s made me a better human, it’s made me a better teacher, and hope to be a better therapist.”

For more information about HDI’s Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities, follow this link: https://hdi.uky.edu/graduate-certificate.

Emily Moseley, a white woman is wearing a blue and white striped shirt and scarf. She has dark, shoulder length brown hair and is smiling. There are trees in the background.

Emily Moseley awarded prestigious Anne Rudigier Award

Emily Moseley, Human Development Institute (HDI) trainee, and graduate student in the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, has been awarded the prestigious Anne Rudigier Award at the 2020 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Conference.  This award is presented by the Rudigier Family to commemorate the accomplishments and commitment of their daughter Anne to recognize an outstanding trainee/student demonstrating a commitment to supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Emily began a research assistantship with HDI in 2019 and has recently worked on several research projects related to people with disabilities and their experience with COVID-19. She is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work and a Certificate in Developmental Disabilities from the UK Human Development Institute. Her commitment to social justice and equity, academic excellence, and leadership qualities were recognized in July 2020, when she received HDI’s highest student achievement, the Paul Kevin Burberry Award.

“Making the world more equitable for people with disabilities is making the world better for everybody.” – Emily Moseley

Graduate Certificate Student Spotlight: Chelsea Gibbs

Chelsea Gibbs began working in the disability field by chance and fell in love with it, which led to her pursuing a Master’s in Music Therapy and enrolling in the Human Development Institute’s Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities where she’s researching the intersectionality of disability and the LGBTQ+ community.

Chelsea has a background in music education and moved from Vermont to Kentucky two summers ago. She was in the process of looking for a teaching job when she took a part time job as a Community Living Supports provider, which led her to her job at Build Inclusion, an organization created by advocates that aims to improve community access and inclusion for people with disabilities.

“We offer what’s called supported employment services,” she explained. “We help people find competitive, integrated, and meaningful employment who might otherwise be facing vocational barriers.” She’s also working toward her certification to be a customized supported employment specialist through Marc Gold & Associates.

“I took the job thinking it would be very temporary,” she said, “just a couple hours a week until I got a music teaching job, and I’m glad I didn’t get a music teacher job because that opened me up to the disability world.”

Although she loves her job, Chelsea still wanted music in her life, so she enrolled in UK’s Music Therapy Program where she is focusing on piano and guitar. Chelsea defines Music Therapy as an evidence-based practice delivered by a certified music therapist where music interventions are used to work on an individual’s goals.

For example, in schools, a music therapist helps students work on their Individualized Education Program goals. In a hospital setting, music therapists can help with relaxation, pain management, or fine and gross motor skills. Chelsea hopes to bring her skills to her job to help clients with vocational goals.

Alongside her Music Therapy studies, Chelsea is working toward a Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities. As part of that program, students complete an individual research project. Chelsea is doing hers with her partner, who is a PhD. Student in the College of Social Work at UK, and they will be studying the intersectionality of disability and the LGBTQ+ community.

Specifically, they will be comparing ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, with conversion therapy (the controversial practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or identity) and the lack of mental health options for people who have had those interventions. Chelsea said, “Autistic self-advocates have spoken up about the harmful effects of ABA therapy, which often aims to change behaviors seen as undesirable by society. Neurodiversity is a natural and normal variation of the human genome. There is still controversy about both ABA and conversion therapy.”

Chelsea explained there is a high rate of autistic people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and that it’s a very specific category of people that are underserved. She went on to explain the significance of the research project:

A lot of people… don’t have that training or aren’t able to offer effective therapies for people with disabilities. And when you add on top of that also being part of the queer community, there really is just a lack of knowledge on that subject and a lack of mental health resources. [And] if you don’t have those mental health resources, how does that impact the rest of your life?

Chelsea hopes the project will eventually lead to better access to services for individuals who are a part of these populations. “I’m an advocate for the disability community,” she said, “And you can’t be quiet being an advocate. You have to speak up.”

While she is most excited about her research project, Chelsea also said, “I am very glad I signed up [for the Certificate Program]… We’ve had just an array of wonderful guest speakers to come to talk to us about literally everything in the disability community… [and] I love the diversity of the students, which I think is great because no matter who you are, you’re probably going to come across somebody with a disability.”

Between what she’s learning in music therapy courses, the certificate program at HDI, and her job, Chelsea said it’s amazing to see how everything comes together, and she feels that her entrance into the disability field was “meant to be.”

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I was planning on getting a teaching job, but life decided something else. I’m glad it did.”

For more information about HDI’s Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities, contact Dr. Phillip Rumrill at phillip.rumrill@uky.edu.

Article by Amanda Corbin, MFA

Photo of Lisa Dunkley

Research Assistant Spotlight: Lisa Dunkley

Article by Bill Mazzoleni. Photo by Kari Jones.

Lisa Dunkley was born in Kingston, Jamaica. She has a BSC in Psychology and a MA in Rehabilitation Counseling. She is pursuing the doctoral program in Rehabilitation Counseling in the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation.

Her research interest is focusing on the offender population inclusive of juvenile offenders. She is currently working at HDI as a Research Assistant with Jill Griffiths on the College and Career Readiness Project. She is also pursuing the graduate certificate in Developmental Disabilities and the AUCD Trainee Liaison.

I’m interested in working at HDI because it offers me an excellent overview of intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan. It has given me a great opportunity to learn more about working with the childhood and adolescent population as opposed to adults.

Ms. Dunkley’s long term goal is to become a Dean of an institute and employ what she has learned to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for individuals with disabilities in higher education.