Imagine! Blogs - Then Again What Do I Know
Published: July 17, 2018
Touring Imagine!’s SmartHome yesterday: new Imagine! Foundation Board member Meg McCellan and her husband Jim Barlow.
Published: July 13, 2018
Imagine!’s Out & About and Dayspring departments will be receiving a donation of ten Strider Bikes at the Strider World Cup Championship on July 20 at 6 PM, Central Park/Boulder Civic Area. The bikes are excellent for helping to teach some of the young children we serve to learn to ride and experience the joy and freedom that come with it, and we are most appreciative to Strider for their continued generous support of Imagine! and our programs.
You are invited to join us for an evening of fun. More details below.
Published: July 6, 2018
The IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. “No way” is a common response when talking about this race. Or, “why?” Why put your body through that for 15 straight hours, let alone all the training leading up to it? These are valid questions given the toll it takes on the body. Heather Forsyth, an Imagine! employee in our Early Intervention department, has a valid answer.
Published: July 3, 2018
I have already shared one of my key takeaways from my IRONMAN 140.6 Boulder experience that I believe can be applied to our work at Imagine!. Today I’d to share another takeaway, and I’ll start with the video that got me started in the first place:
The video was sent to me in January, right after I committed to a coach and formal training, to get me inspired and moving down the correct path. It worked. The video made it clear that accomplishing something as difficult and challenging as an Ironman started with establishing the idea that the difficult thing could in fact be accomplished. Even if my goal of completing the race seemed extraordinary, I believed it could be done, made it public that I planned to do it, and set out on a course to make it happen.
I think we need to take more of that approach when considering how we create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It is far too easy to assume that some of the individuals we serve can’t do ordinary things, let alone extraordinary things, and far too often we design our services with expectations that are way too low.
I think we need to be bolder when we’re considering what people with I/DD can accomplish, and raise our own expectations. I am proud of my Ironman experience, but to be clear, it wasn’t an impossible task. It was difficult, and it took planning and training and discipline and hard work, but it wasn’t out of reach for me and my fellow racers.
Why can’t we look at services the same way? Start out by establishing that we want the people we serve to do the extraordinary, and put it out there that they in fact can, and will, do the extraordinary with the right supports. Then, working together with the individual and his or her support team, do the planning, training, sacrificing, and hard work to make the extraordinary a reality.
I understand that this approach isn’t easy, but lyrics from the song featured in the video above (and again in the video below) really hit home for me: “You can run the mile/You can walk straight through hell with a smile.”
I ran much of my race with a smile, even though it was difficult and occasionally painful, because I knew that the end result would be so meaningful. There’s no reason we can’t do the same when we are working to create a world of opportunities for abilities, and opening doors to self-reliance and true community participation. Even if it is difficult and intermittently painful, we can do it with a smile because we know if we succeed we will be accomplishing something extraordinary. We’re selling ourselves and our communities short if we don’t do everything we can to reach for the amazing and unexpected possibilities that exist for people with I/DD.
Then again, what do I know?
Published: June 29, 2018
Published: June 27, 2018
I think we can all agree that we’re living in a very unusual and contentious era in our country’s history. One indicator of the level of anger can be measured by the accusations of hypocrisy coming from both sides of the political arena, each directed at the other side.
This post isn’t about those charges of political hypocrisy. However it does make an interesting backdrop for today’s subject.
I’d like to talk about what I have come to see as systemic hypocrisy in the field of providing services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). I use the term systemic hypocrisy because I don’t believe it is driven by any one person, but instead, by a system that fails to recognize a clear contradiction in what we understand is our shared vision and the way we go about realizing that vision.
Our training requirements are massive – we do all sorts of background checks and training for our employees and volunteers, a good deal of it mandated by the State. And a good deal of those mandates don’t come with funds to cover their costs. Our reporting requirements are equally large and burdensome. Now, you may be reading this and thinking “sure, but it keeps the people we serve safe” or “it’s the only way to entrust Medicaid expenditure.” But here’s where the systemic hypocrisy comes in.
When we talk to families and the people we serve about what they want, one overriding theme comes up again and again: they want to be treated like everyone else. They want to be part of their neighborhoods. They want to engage with friends and families; contribute, shop, worship, explore, and learn just like everyone else. Heaven forbid a person engaging anyone who hasn’t had a background check, or received hours of training in how to react and report about their specific interaction – down to the 15-minute interval.
Unfortunately, so much of the training we provide, and so many of the regulations we operate under, are about what we can’t do. Those can’t dos add up after a while, and the result is fewer opportunities for the individuals we serve to become active, contributing members of their communities.
The hypocrisy is that most people in our field would absolutely agree that the vision we have is natural community membership; living in a neighborhood where people look out for one another, having a career, building relationships and establishing a legacy. How does this happen when our system has lifted the incredible regulatory environment of institutional settings from generations ago, and then dropped that same environment into our very neighborhoods. Who thinks like this?
But here’s the thing - heavy regulations and full community participation just don’t go together, and I believe it is hypocritical to ignore that basic fact of life in our field. We work with people who often have a difficult time understanding and communicating, and families who are overburdened and stressed. Instead of making a easier path for them, or for the organizations supporting them, we have layers and layers of rules, regulations, and bureaucracies that make everything more difficult and contradictory than it needs to be.
What do we want in the end? Natural supports helping people with I/DD to live in our neighborhoods, and who are able to work, volunteer, be creative, and contribute to our communities. Despite our best efforts, we have systemic hypocrisy which severely hampers our efforts to bring our shared vision to life.
Then again, what do I know?
Published: June 22, 2018
Ian, who receives services from Imagine!, is a very talented artist. With the support of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department, Ian takes a unique approach to his art. He starts with a white canvas. He chooses colors using an iPad and CLS staff members mix the color into a spray bottle. Ian fills all the white space, emptying bottle after bottle. Once the canvas is full of color, he adds texture by spraying splashes of gold, silver, and other bright colors. What’s with the hazmat suit, you may ask? Once the spray and squirt bottles became Ian’s tools of choice, the suit, goggles, and tarps granted him the freedom to be as creative (and messy) as he wanted to be.
Check out the time lapse video below to see Ian in action.
If you are interested in seeing more great art by individuals served by Imagine!, visit our Etsy page: etsy.com/people/ImagineColorado
And learn more about Ian from this article from the Longmont Times-Call.
Published: June 19, 2018
Two Sundays ago, I completed the IRONMAN 140.6 Boulder.
The entire experience, from the very first days of training to the moment I crossed the finish line, was rich in lessons and takeaways that I believe can be applied to other aspects of my life. Today I’d like to share one of those lessons.
As soon as I began the process of training, I was surprised to discover the degree to which planning ahead was necessary. Diet planning, equipment, advice, training schedules, figuring out how to find the time to get workouts in while juggling work and family requirements. I was very consistent with sticking to the plans because that was the likely path to success.
But of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and my Ironman experience was no different. Leading up to the race, I experienced leg issues that at points made me wonder if I would be able to compete at all. Even worse, about four days before the race, the weather forecast indicated that it was going to be hot. Like, Colorado State record-breaking hot.
So as race day loomed, a lot of my planning went out the window and I had to adjust. I started slamming fluids (the healthy kind) at a much higher rate then I initially would have been drinking. I increased my salt intake as well, all to make sure my body was ready for the heat. Once the race started, and the weather forecast was proven correct, I made sure that I stopped at each water/food/aid station and replenished my fluids, as well as pouring a generous amount of water over my head each time and throwing ice cubes down my back to manage core body temperature. My initial plan to skip some of the stations to get a better overall finishing time went out the window.
Much of the race itself felt like a modification of my initial planning as well. My leg had never quite healed, so during the marathon I ran at a pace and a gait designed to minimize the pain but were not conducive to meeting my planned finish. When confronted with the question at mile 10, “How are you doing?” My response was, “I’m managing.” During the bike portion, especially, I was hyperaware of any signs of cramping and had salt products and electrolytes at the ready to ward off the cramps.
These adjustments worked, and I finished smiling, weary and uncomfortable but all in one piece. The experience exceeded my overall expectations.
When I reflect on the days leading up to the race and the race itself, I am aware that so much of what I was doing was “management.” Things didn’t go as planned, and adjustments were necessary for success. And I realized, to a degree that I hadn’t quite appreciated before, how much “management” means being able to adjust to new and unexpected circumstances.
The same is true at Imagine!, of course. If everything always went to plan, we wouldn’t have much need for managers. Planners, yes, but managers, no. Obviously things don’t always go to plan, despite our best intentions. Furthermore, so much of what impacts our work is out of our control (rates, rules and regulations, for just a couple of examples), making it absolutely vital that we have managers in place who are skilled at adjusting on the fly to new and unforeseen challenges and roadblocks. Those are the finer elements of management.
So today I offer a tip of the hat to those managers and supervisors at Imagine! who consciously and unconsciously embrace this key aspect of their roles at our organization, and pledge to support them as they adjust and manage while working to meet our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.
Then again, what do I know?
Published: June 15, 2018
Imagine! is a large and geographically dispersed organization, so it can take extra effort to ensure that we are supporting our employees in succeeding at their work and celebrating them in the way they deserve. Below are three recent examples of those efforts.
Imagine!’s Out & About Summer Camp and Summer Catalog 2018 has officially begun. We have a record breaking 42 qualified instructors and five interns ready and excited to go! To make sure the new staff members got started on the right foot, Out & About hosted a multi-day training and orientation, including a “Trust Run,” which, as the video below demonstrates, generated many smiles and much laughter.
Every month, Imagine! Behavior Therapist Jonny Brennan organizes a voluntary "rapport" meeting for the staff members at Imagine!'s Longmont CORE/Labor Source site. "It's a place to blow off steam, laugh, and pick each others' brains about techniques and tips to help each of our individuals be successful. These meetings are not mandatory at all, but as you can see, staff still dedicate extra time to the betterment of our 'family' because they know our clients deserve that dedication and support."
And finally, earlier this week Imagine! hosted a summer party coinciding with a Boulder recreational league softball game featuring the Team Imagine! squad. Imagine! fans packed the bleachers, waving their pennants and cheering on the team in what turned out to be an epic, extra inning, come from behind victory by the gang in grey and green!
Published: June 12, 2018
The good folks at Misty Robotics recently shot a short video at Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont discussing the possibilities that robotics can bring to home health care situations. The video also features our good friend Geoff Cooper, CEO of Carasolva.
Published: June 8, 2018
This is one of my favorite posts I get to make each year. Earlier this week, outside of Imagine!’s Dixons St. building, a group of kids and parents were allowed to embrace the sloppy side of life in the name of learning, courtesy of Messy Play Day.
What is Messy Play Day? Messy Play Day is one of Imagine!'s Dayspring department's Community Calendar Activities (CCAs). CCAs introduce young children with developmental delays and disabilities to places in our community that offer great activities and opportunities for children to meet their goals through fun and play. All activities encourage motor, sensory, social-emotional, cognitive, and speech-language development.
Messy Play Day is designed to introduce new sensory experiences to the children in a safe and comfortable environment. Learning occurs as children touch, manipulate, experiment, and talk about things, while interacting with people who facilitate without directing.
But the paragraphs above are just words. Take a look at the pictures below of some of the Messy Play Day sensory activities to see what the words look like in action.
Published: June 7, 2018
Here’s a quick quiz for you: In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has:
A) Almost doubled
B) Remained more or less the same
C) Almost halved
The correct answer is C. That’s right, in just the past 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the world has almost halved.
But I bet a lot of you didn’t give that answer. I’m making that bet not because I’m Nostradamus, but because I have recently been introduced to the work of Hans Rosling. Rosling was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker, and one of the things he focused on in his later career was using statistics to argue that the world is, in many ways, better than we think.
Here are a couple of TED Talks by Rosling that show how great he was at spreading his message of well-documented positivity:
If you aren’t able to watch the videos, here’s some facts that may surprise you: Over time, the world has seen substantial increases in key indicators of progress such as: literacy, democracy, women’s right to vote, immunizations, and my favorite, guitars per capita.
Meanwhile, the world has seen decreases in: oil spills, plane crash deaths, deaths from disaster, ozone depletion, and hunger, to name just a few.
Those are incontrovertible facts backed by mountains of data. And yet, many of us, myself included, can have trouble believing they are true. Furthermore, we tend to have a very pessimistic and dim view of the world and the progress we are making facing our biggest challenges.
Why do we have such a hard time believing things are getting better? Rosling argues there are multiple reasons:
- Humans have an instinct to notice the bad more than the good,
- we tend to romanticize the past and feel that things aren’t as good as they used to be, and
- we are subjected to never-ending cascades of negative news from across the world.
I’m motivated to change some ideas at least in part because I recognize that I often use this blog to point out some of the aspects of those services that aren’t so great. I don’t apologize for that, as we can always do better, but I do want to acknowledge the amazing progress we’ve made. So here goes:
- Between 1977 and 2010, the number of residential settings that served people with I/DD increased by a remarkable 1,598 percent, with most of these new settings being small and privately operated.
- In the same date range, the number of home and community-based services recipients outpaced residents receiving specialized Medicaid licensed intermediate care facilities (ICFs/IID) by 676.1%, while the number of people receiving ICFs/IID care decreased by 63 percent.
- The number of people with developmental disabilities in public institutions declined from 149,892 in 1977 to 51,485 in 1999.
- Ninety percent of individuals with I/DD now live in a setting with 15 or fewer people, 75 percent of which reside in settings of six or fewer residents and 49 percent in settings of three or fewer residents.
If you’d like to learn more, the links below help provide stats and background for this post.
Published: June 5, 2018
The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) has teamed up with Imagine! to present a webinar highlighting our long and fruitful collaboration with the University of Colorado’s School of Engineering. Details from ANCOR are below.
Universities can be an invaluable resource for providers. From professors to laboratories to students eager to innovate, universities offer a culture of critical thought that can aid providers and the person with I/DD they support. Don't know where to start? Learn how to partner with them during this webinar!
Imagine!, a private service provider in Lafayette, CO, cultivated a thriving partnership with the University of Colorado to provide person-centered technology solutions for use by the individuals that receive supports and services at Imagine!. Through this partnership, University of Colorado engineering students collaborate with Imagine! to create inexpensive, technology solutions that address everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities.
Presenters from Imagine! and the University of Colorado will share their experiences in creating this partnership, their lessons learned, and ideas on how you can create similar collaborations with local universities in your communities. A recording will be made available for registrants.
Fred Hobbs, Director of Public Relations, Imagine!
Melinda Piket-May, PhD., University of Colorado
Brodie Schulze, DSP, Imagine!
ANCOR member: $29 Non-member: $109
Published: June 1, 2018
Participants of Imagine!’s Out & About adult program set a goal to walk a 5k, and spent all spring training for it. Every Thursday morning, the group spent time training and preparing for the race.
Published: May 31, 2018
Today I’d like to bid a fond farewell to Colette Marie, who is leaving Imagine! to pursue new opportunities in the Pacific northwest.
There is no measuring stick large enough that can capture Colette’s impact on Imagine!. In her 30 plus years at Imagine!, Colette worked for both our community employment and for our residential programs, and when parents challenged Imagine! to create a community-based program for school aged children outside of what the school districts were providing, Colette stepped up to the plate and built Imagine!’s Out & About program from scratch. Out & About remains a unique program in our state, and the many families, children, and adults who have learned life changing skills through the program have Colette to thank for that opportunity.
I share this news with mixed feelings because while I am happy that Colette is moving into the next phase of her life and comfortable in the knowledge that the difference she has made in the lives of local citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities is enormous, I am sad that she is leaving, because her strength, grace, intelligence, humor, and commitment to our organization and the people we serve will be sorely missed.
Thank you, Colette, for all that you have done for Imagine!, and good luck!
To learn more about Colette’s contributions to Imagine! and the birth of Out & About, click here.
If you'd like to pay it forward and make a donation in honor of Colette to support Out & About, click here.
And check out this video to hear from Colette and one family whose lives were made better by her work:
Published: May 25, 2018
Thanks to University of Colorado Leadership Studies Minor students Mackenzie Arena, Soren Fuchs, Lindsey Allen, Brooke Bower, and Jonah Yaden for their hard work on a Leadership Challenge Project to help support Imagine!’s Out & About department in their efforts to promote active community involvement for people who experience cognitive and developmental disabilities. The presented to the Out & About team earlier this month, and their fresh insight and thoughtful suggestions were very well received.
Published: May 22, 2018
Today, I’d like to welcome the newest members of the Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors.
The four met last week with Foundation Board President Don Brown and Foundation Executive Director Patti Micklin for orientation, and they hit the ground running! I am so grateful that they are willing to offer their time, service and efforts toward helping the Imagine! Foundation support Imagine!’s mission.
Published: May 18, 2018
Our generous friends at McGuckin Hardware have set aside the dates of May 18 – May 27 to help support the Imagine! Foundation and our mission of creating a world of opportunities for all abilities.
During that time period, shoppers are encouraged to round up their bill at the cash registers, with the extra portion going to the Imagine! Foundation.
We thank McGuckin Hardware for their commitment to their community, and we invite you all to visit the most amazing hardware store you’ll ever see and help local citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the same time.
Published: May 11, 2018
Ian Markiewicz creates original works of art using some very unique methods every Thursday through Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) program. Ian’s work is getting noticed: the Longmont Times-Call recently did a feature story on him!
Check out the story here.
And if you’d like to see some of Ian’s work in person, along with a bunch of other CLS artists, they will have their artwork displayed on Saturday, May 19, during ArtWalk Longmont, a free arts festival in downtown Longmont. Join them if you can!
Published: May 8, 2018
Readers of my blog interested in how technology can (and is) being used to enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are encouraged to check out the:
A "meet and greet" picnic will be held Friday June 22 5PM-8PM at Sayre Park 1702 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO
- Personal Assistants with Google Home and Amazon Alexa
- Behavioral supports with technology
- Updates and creative ways to utilize technology with communication
- Employment supports
- Independent Living
- Maintaining Privacy - as we enter more and more into the internet of things
Published: May 7, 2018
One of the biggest challenges facing providers of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is the lack of housing available to them. Not everyone with an I/DD is able to live independently, or have family they can live with. The options for those individuals are extremely limited, and continue to dwindle, especially in Colorado. I’ve written about this before.
I recently came across a letter, which you can read below (click on the images to make them larger and more legible), from a large group of interested parties offering one potential solution to this crisis. The letter is addressed to key leaders at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
I’m not sharing this letter as an official endorsement by Imagine!, however, we can endorse the conversation. Imagine! has always been at its best when we have listened to parents and the people we serve offering new ideas and ways of delivering services. We owe it to ourselves as a community to think about our approach to housing individuals with I/DD and explore if there may be ways we can do it better.
I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Published: May 4, 2018
A couple of weeks ago, Girl Scout Troop 3302 honored the Imagine! SmartHome as their “Hometown Heroes” and brought boxes and boxes of scrumptious Girl Scout cookies. They also enjoyed a tour of the home. Thank you girls and your leaders!
Published: May 1, 2018
The spring semester is coming to a close, and for us at Imagine!, that means another opportunity to share projects created by University of Colorado Engineering students in a class taught by Associate Professor Melinda Piket-May.
For the past eight years, students in these classes have worked on projects to design adaptive technologies to aid increased independence for some of the individuals Imagine! serves. This past Saturday, the students presented their projects at the Engineering Projects Expo. Student projects designed to assist individuals served by Imagine! (and others with disabilities) that were debuted at the event included:
Various Interfaces With Smart Home Devices
Products like Google Home or Amazon Echo and Alexa can use verbal commands to operate any number of household devices or control entertainment options. However, there is still a gap for individuals who are non-verbal, as these devices may not be able to “understand” the commands. Several projects were designed to improve the ability of non-verbal individuals to access these devices.
Automated Wago Opener
Wago products are designed for electronic interfaces. Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department provides staffing for GE Lighting, which uses these Wago products. The device created by the students allows one of the employees who has limited range of motion in his arms to effectively and efficiently open the Wagos at GE, making him a more productive employee.
A low cost alert system to be used in Imagine! group homes or other residences.
Musical Shopping Cart
Designed for an individual with limited motor skills who is encouraged to push a shopping cart around in order to improve his physical fitness. Since the individual tended to get bored just pushing the cart around, this project added a musical component to the cart to make the exercise more interesting and rewarding.
Our good friends at Oskar Blues Brewery provide employment for individuals served by Imagine! who make Oskar Blues “Can Bling” – necklaces with a beer can with the top removed for use at events such as beer festivals. However, connecting the necklaces to the beer can can be difficult for those with a limited range of motion. The Twister-O-Matic makes that process much easier, therefore making for more productive employees.
iPad Wheelchair Arm
Designed for a woman served by Imagine! who uses a wheelchair for mobility, and doesn’t have the range of motion required to use an iPad while in her chair. This arm make it possible for her to do so.
Adaptive Locker Opener
Designed for an elementary school student with limited mobility, the button makes it much easier to open his locker independently.
Data Tracking Device
This was designed to track noises made by a non-verbal individual to gather data to help caregivers better understand the individual’s needs. The hope is the data will allow caregivers to correlate certain sounds with specific needs, it will decrease outbursts and allow the individual to better communicate with those around her.
Automatic Door Opener
Designed for an individual who uses a wheelchair and whose limited range of motion means she can't access standard accessible door opener buttons. This device "speaks" to the door, allowing the individual to open it using a button attached to her wheelchair.
Published: April 27, 2018
Transportation is so vital to Imagine!. If we want to provide the individuals we serve opportunities to participate in and contribute to our community, we need to be sure they can travel throughout the community.
Today, I’d like to share three stories of support that have increased our ability to keep local citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the move in Boulder and Broomfield counties.
The van pictured above was made possible by a grant from the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation for Imagine!’s Out & About department. Thanks to this generous grant, Imagine!’s Out & About program will increase of transportation options and safety by adding a vehicle to support community based activities. Thanks to this addition to our fleet, we will increase the opportunities for children with disabilities to more fully engage in their communities from a very early age into adulthood.
The RAV4 pictured above, for Out & About children’s program, was made possible by the tremendous generosity of guests attending the 2018 Imagine! Celebration. Guests raised their paddles to support Imagine!’s Out & About children’s therapeutic recreation program, bringing in $175,000 in support. This vehicle is just one of the many ways donors gifts are impacting the lives of those we serve.
And finally, I’d like to thank the volunteers from the Empowerment Center of East County who braved freezing temps and snow showers last Saturday with smiles as they cleaned Imagine!’s Out & About department vehicle fleet.
The event was planned in conjunction with Global Youth Service Day.
Published: April 24, 2018
Touring Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome last week: the Leadership team from Foothills Gateway of Larimer County, Ed Watson, new Imagine! Foundation Board member, Michael Dougherty, Boulder County District Attorney, and Elliot Moore, Music Director of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra.