person working on a computer at a desk

Fund for Excellence Projects Awarded

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute Fund for Excellence was created to support the development of innovative programs, services, or products to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. Below is a list of the most recent awards.

Expanding the Social Networks of Adults with Autism

Project Lead: Patti Logsdon

This project supports autistic adults in expanding their friendships, social networks, and community participation in valued community roles and activities. This will be achieved through a blended approach that builds upon person-centered planning, circle of friends/support, peer networks and valued social roles. This project will support HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by developing social networks.

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Executive Skills for Families

Project Leads: Dr. Joanne Rojas and Sally Dannenberg 

Mind in the Making (MITM) is a research framework that summarizes decades of developmental research into the seven essential life skills. The MITM training consists of eight modules geared to early childhood professionals and family educators to engage them in an experiential and reflective process of self-discovery of their own competence in these life skills, connect their experience to the research, and learn to promote these capacities in themselves as well as in the children in their care. The goal of this project is to provide this training to communities throughout the state that serve families that are at risk because of a variety of circumstances. This project supports HDI’s mission of addressing the inequity of access to resources and support networks. 

Working Alternatives to Guardianship (WAG)

Project Lead: Laura Butler 

The goal of this project is to form a workgroup of stakeholders that will work together to inform workable decisional support options for people who have not traditionally had viable options beyond legal guardianship. The initial objective of the group will be to create a Continuing Legal Education course that will focus on providing people with legal documents that will be accepted by a wide variety of other professionals. This project will further HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by helping identify ways for more people to experience full personal and civil rights. 

Person using an adaptive bike in the woods

UK HDI Fund for Excellence Award to fund Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative 

Kentuckians will soon have access to an adaptive mountain biking trail, thanks in part to an internal grant funded by the UK Human Development Institute. The trail, to be built by the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association, will be designed with the interest of people with disabilities at the forefront, prioritizing input and feedback from trail users with disabilities. 

The $10,000 grant, known as the Fund for Excellence award, was awarded to John C. Hill and Laura Butler. The Fund for Excellence Award is issued to Human Development Institute staff members for innovative projects, services and products that address the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families.  

Hill, principal investigator of the grant, is a survey project coordinator at HDI, an adjunct professor in the College of Education and the College of Information and Communication, and, fittingly, a mountain biker himself. 

“When I look through things, I try to find ways to connect my personal life to my research,” Hill said. 

The grant proposal written by Hill and Butler for their project, called the Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative, addresses indicated barriers to physical activity and equitable access to outdoor recreation. Butler, disability program administrator at HDI and project director of the mountain biking initiative, works closely alongside Hill to collect and analyze Kentucky National Core Indicators survey results to assess the services and supports offered to people with disabilities.  

The location of the new trail, which will be in central Kentucky, is still being determined. It may be its own trail or a new branch or modifications to an already existing trail. However the logistics pan out, the scope of the project that is funded through the Fund for Excellence Award will conclude in the second half of 2023. In the meantime, Hill, Butler, and their partners on the project are working to install QR codes on trails throughout the bluegrass, in order to conduct surveys to better understand what limitations current trail users have and what sorts of trail features and/or adaptive technology would best support their needs. 

In Hill’s experiences, he has seen that the culture within the bluegrass mountain biking community is to support new bikers and cheer them on, even when that means slowing down the pace a bit.  

“The mountain bike community is really special to me because [there are so many] extremely intelligent, nice people, and they care about others. They just want to get people involved,” Hill said. 

Hill and Butler are relying on the expertise of the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association to physically build the trail. Together, and in collaboration with Midway University and the UK Community Innovation Lab, the team plans to consult with experts in trail building, universal design, and the community members who the trail is designed for throughout each step of the process. 

For questions about the Bluegrass Mountain Biking Accessibility Initiative, please contact John C. Hill at  

three dental mirrors

My Choice Kentucky: Making Decisions in Dental Care

The UK Human Development Institute (HDI) and the UK College of Dentistry have received a grant from the WITH Foundation, the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, and Ability Central to create materials to enhance the dental care of people with intellectual and  developmental disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). These materials will include videos and symbol sets that will improve communication and understanding for AAC users, their supporters, and dental professionals. Additionally, the materials will facilitate the use of supported decision making in dental care.

Applicants were encouraged to develop new partnerships or significantly enhance existing partnerships between disability organizations, advocates, community organizations, and healthcare providers. Laura Butler and Jacqui Kearns will represent HDI in this project that forges a new partnership between the HDI and the UK College of Dentistry.

Dr. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, Executive Director of HDI says, “This is a powerful collaboration with the potential to positively impact dental health for AAC users. The partnership shows how we can not only build capacity for success, but also bridge capacity across areas of expertise that ultimately builds stronger communities.

Follow news and HDI events on our website, and our social media accounts.
Facebook:  @ukhdi
Instagram:  @uk_hdi
Twitter:  @hdi_uky
Project Contact: Laura Butler
Photo by Cristina Romano

Man with Down syndrome working at a computer.

Fall Seminar: Supported Decision-Making and Guardianship

“Guardianship has been the default option for people who “need protection” for centuries.  It’s time to rethink that option. There are people who have a legitimate need for a guardian; however, many other people could be better served by simply  getting some support to make decisions. Supported decision-making is being utilized across the globe both as an alternative to guardianship and as a way to increase self-determination for all people with disabilities and older adults.” – Laura Butler

Join us in person or online for our Fall Seminar series on Friday, September 28, 2018 from 1 – 3pm ET to learn more about “Supported Decision-Making and Guardianship.”
Learn more from experts Laura Butler, Camille Collins, and Bill Dolan. The seminar will be held at the UK Coldstream Research Campus Human Development Institute Training Room 1525 Bull Lea Road, Lexington KY. A link to the live video stream of the seminar will be sent to registrants.

Click here to register for the seminar. For help registering, contact Continue reading