Faculty and staff members of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) provided oral or written testimony or signed on to 52 proposed bills during the Maryland General Assembly’s 2021 legislative session. The 2021 session was held virtually and ran from January 15 to April 12.

MCDD trainees Tracy Hincke and Keighly Little wrote an article, “Impact of COVID-19 on Relationships in the Disability Community: Facts and Resources.

On January 26, Mirian Ofonedu, PhD, LCSW-C, MCDD’s director of training, chaired a panel session, “Developmental Disabilities: Challenges, Opportunities and Future Directions,” at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Core Course for trainees. The panelists included Ken Capone, director of People on the Go of Maryland; Carmen Brown, LCSW-C, branch chief of the Interagency Collaboration MD State Department of Education; and Rachel London, Esq., executive director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council. The session provided participants with the opportunity to learn about policy changes that have improved the lives of people with disabilities; identify unmet needs that, if met, would improve the lives of people with disabilities; and identify ways in which they can contribute to the solutions to these challenges. In small groups, trainees discussed and identified challenges and solutions to the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and/or their families. Some of the challenges identified by trainees include, but are not limited to, accessibility and system navigation issues, stigma and discrimination, loss of services and limited support, especially during COVID-19. Some of the solutions identified include needing to approach each family and person as an individual and allowing them to communicate their needs as they perceive them, and engaging in advocacy efforts to address accessibility and inclusivity concerns faced by individuals with disabilities and their families.

ScienceDirect published work by Alison Marvin, PhD, research manager, and Kiely Law, MD, MPH, research director, both of the MCDD Autism Research and Engagement Core, and colleagues Daniel Coury, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; Beth Malow, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee; and Amanda Bennett, MD, MPH, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. The paper, “Brief report: Measures of effectiveness for single-question sleep problem screeners in children with autism spectrum disorder,” appeared in February’s Volume 80.

The MCDD and Kennedy Krieger’s Human Resources department hosted the first virtual Women’s Leadership Initiative event. The February 2 event included a keynote address by Maria Trent, MD, PhD.

On February 3, Dr. Ofonedu participated in the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (American Psychological Association [APA] Division 37) virtual mid-winter executive board meeting in her role as member at large—task force and diversity activities, and liaison to the Committee on International Relations in Psychology.

Dr. Kiely Law headshotDr. Law participated in an Autism Society of America Facebook Live Webisode, “SPARK Autism Research Project: A Discussion on Autism Research and COVID-19.” The event was led by Autism Society of America’s president, Christopher Banks. Guests included Dr. Law and Pamela Feliciano, PhD. The event was held on February 4.

On February 5, Dr. Ofonedu facilitated a general meeting for the diverse, racial, ethnic and multicultural special interest group of the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (APA Division 37). Two special guests from the APA’s Public Interest Directorate’s Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) joined the meeting to discuss APA’s youth-related criminal justice system document and how the group can support their work.

On February 9, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) network elected Maureen van Stone, Esq., MS, director of the MCDD, to a two-year term to serve as the co-chair of the AUCD Policy Committee.

Also on February 9, Dr. Ofonedu co-organized and led a lunch-and-learn session for MCDD trainees and disability community members and leaders following the Maryland General Assembly’s virtual Developmental Disabilities Day. The session provided participants with the opportunity to learn about ways to become involved in policy work related to people with disabilities, understand past and current state and federal laws that are significant to the lives of people with disabilities, and learn about current and future laws that are of priority for people with disabilities.

On February 11, Alyssa Thorn, Esq., staff attorney for Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law), and Tami Goldsmith, self-advocacy program coordinator for People On the Go Maryland (POG), presented the tools and framework of the Charting the LifeCourse Ambassador Series to Kennedy Krieger’s Therapeutic Foster Care program. Thorn and Goldsmith completed the course through the Institute for Human Development at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2019.

On February 16, van Stone co-presented the core course “Medical Decision Making/Informed Consent and People with Intellectual Disabilities” with Ellen Callegary, Esq.

Also on February 16, Mallory Legg, Esq., and Thorn, both staff attorneys for Project HEAL, participated in virtual on-campus intern (OCI) interviews at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. OCI interviews are a law student recruitment process. Project HEAL staff members participate in the event to interview students for summer jobs.

And Dr. Ofonedu participated in the AUCD sexual health special interest group quarterly meeting on February 16 and collaborated with members who share similar interests on the topic of sexual health and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On February 17, Legg and Thorn gave a virtual presentation, “Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation of Students with Disabilities,” to the Kent County Special Education Citizen’s Advocacy Committee (SECAC).

On February 18, Dr. Ofonedu participated in a public meeting held by the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) Citizens’ Advisory Committee for accessible transportation, as part of a continuation of MCDD’s training collaboration outreach efforts with MTA departments.

Tracy Waller headshotOn February 19, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) published a blog post, “Stop Discrimination in Organ Transplantation Against People with Disabilities,” by Tracy Waller, Esq., MPH, an attorney working with the MCDD to develop the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities. The post was published on the AUCD Policy Talk blog.

Van Stone was a guest lecturer for a virtual course, “Evidence and Opportunities to Mitigate Childhood Adversity and Promote Well-Being,” at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Students from all over the country participated in the February 22 event.

Also on February 22, van Stone and Thorn participated in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: Women’s Legislative Summit.

Jenny Jones, MCDD’s Resource Finder coordinator, gave a virtual presentation, “MCDD Overview,” to the Kennedy Krieger Pediatric Developmental Disabilities Clinic. The presentation was held on March 2.

Disproportionate Discipline of Students with Disabilities event screenshot.

On March 4, van Stone, Legg and Thorn presented “Disproportionate Discipline of Students with Disabilities” at the national Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) conference. The virtual conference was held from March 4 through March 6.

At the March 5 awards luncheon of the COPAA conference, the COPAA recognized van Stone for her two years of service as the chair of the COPAA Board of Directors.

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities published Waller’s blog post, “Vaccine Allocation Confusion,” on March 5.

March 5 People on the Go Event screenshot.

Ken Capone, public policy director of POG, and Amanda Del Riego, POG board member and legislative policy committee member, provided testimony to the Maryland General Assembly on the topic of the Developmental Disabilities Administration budget on March 5.

Capone and Goldsmith facilitated the POG statewide virtual quarterly meeting on March 6. The meeting’s agenda included the POG legislative policy committee report. Lisa Hovermale, of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration, spoke on “Moving Forward After the Pandemic and the Vaccine Rollout.”

On March 18, Dr. Ofonedu and Hincke organized a free virtual event, “Early Screening of Children for Developmental Delays: How Parents and Providers Can Help,” to mark Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Rachel Demma, EdD, director of early childhood system development for the Maryland State Department of Education, and Susan Perkins-Parks, PhD, director of Kennedy Krieger’s Behavior Management Clinic, were speakers. The session provided participants with the opportunity to increase their awareness of and knowledge about early screening while serving as advocates for prevention and intervention in their local communities and agencies. Participants also learned about ways to increase their confidence in and intent to identify and refer children for intervention earlier rather than later, and effective strategies to disseminate available screening materials to parents and caregivers of young children in their practice or local communities. An “Early Screening of Children for Developmental Delays Resource Guide” was shared with the 190 providers and community members who attended the session.

Mallory LeggLegg participated in the virtual Battle Monument School Transition Workshop on March 22.

On March 23, van Stone participated in The Daily Record’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit.

Also on March 23, Legg gave a virtual presentation, “Special Education Law During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” as part of the CARD Winter Training Series.

In late March, van Stone participated in the AUCD’s virtual TA Institute for two hours per day over the course of four days and facilitated a panel discussion, “Lessons Learned from Past Recessions and Crises/Recoveries.”

On April 1, the MCDD sponsored a free virtual session, “Self-care, Work and Well-being: Finding the Balance on Caring for Self While Caring for Others.” This was a coordinated effort with the MCDD’s training director, Dr. Ofonedu, and MCDD’s spring undergraduate trainees: Kendall Dillard, Rachel Carroll and Keighly Little. Speakers were Claire Strock, MAT, RYT 500, yoga instructor and art educator at Kennedy Krieger, and William Webster, advocate, caregiver and member of the MCDD’s Community Advisory Council, who shared with attendees the impact of stress on health and well-being, and explored practical strategies for building resilience and avoiding compassion fatigue and burnout. This 21-page self-care resource guide was also developed and shared with the 115 providers and community members who attended the webinar.