$2.8 million grant allows Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University to continue its mission
DETROIT — Michigan residents with disabilities, along with their families, can look forward to five more years of service from the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) at Wayne State University.
The institute recently received a $2.8 million core grant from the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.
As a result, DDI will continue its mission of contributing to the development of inclusive communities and quality of life for people with disabilities and their families through a culturally sensitive, statewide program of interdisciplinary education, community support and services, research, and dissemination of knowledge and information to and about Michigan’s disability community.
“We’re delighted to receive this funding to continue to support Michigan’s families and children with disabilities,” said Barbara LeRoy, Ph.D., DDI director, “and we’re delighted to be here at Wayne State.”
DDI began in the 1960s at the University of Michigan and moved to WSU in 1983. Every five years DDI must reapply for its core funding, which it then leverages to secure other funding sources to support programs in areas such as schooling, employment and housing that serve people with disabilities from birth through retirement age.
Developmental disabilities are defined federally as occurring before age 22 and having lifelong implications. The core grant supports a big-picture plan, which identifies topics of community-based research to be addressed, using input from statewide survey results and taking into consideration actions by the governor or state task forces.
The institute also trains emerging professionals of all disciplines on campus who may have an interest in disability, including social workers, journalists, doctors, psychologists, special education teachers and mainstream teachers. It is one of 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities nationwide and in U.S. possessions such as Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
DDI has had several noteworthy achievements over the years, LeRoy said. After a statewide study found that violence and abuse against women with disabilities was six times higher than women without disabilities, staffers used that information to create the Healthy Lifestyles Training program, which teaches women how to avoid abuse and violence and create safety for themselves. Another version of the program has been offered for men.
As part of a large dissemination program, DDI counts its comprehensive website, which as of this past year includes links to the “Possibilities” video series. The five-minute ads for self-determination show examples of inclusive schooling, as well as people with disabilities on college campuses, in employment settings or in housing. The videos have been shown all over the world and are featured on YouTube.
“What we heard was that no one could translate a vision of what they wanted for their lives during planning meetings for individualized education programs or adult service systems,” LeRoy said. “People can now take these to meetings, set them up and show them on a laptop or other device to set the context for the kinds of services and support they want.”
Previous DDI core funding has been leveraged to get 12 years of support devoted to enabling students with disabilities to be educated in classrooms alongside peers. A statewide program has trained 60,000 teachers on best practices for inclusion, LeRoy said, substantially increasing the number of disabled children going into mainstream classrooms.
Since 1997, the institute has trained 18,000 direct care workers who provide support in those classrooms, as well as in residential homes statewide.
DDI also has leveraged funding for a nationally recognized program that for five years has trained parents as systems navigators, who then work with other parents to get services and support for their children. A new version of the program targets Spanish-speaking families in southwest Detroit.
This fall, institute officials will begin a new learning community for all academic disciplines on Wayne State’s campus. It will serve partly as a service to WSU and partly as a best-practices model for dissemination to other universities.
“We are always trying to improve outcomes for people with disabilities of all types,” LeRoy said. “We try to take key areas of interest for people with disabilities and make them into something useful for the community.”
Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.