On August 13, 2020, Leah Abelon, GSAT Center Coordinator conducted a Virtual Webinar, “Creating Accessible Documents,” where 80 individuals from various agencies and the general public registered. As information is now being delivered electronically, it is essential that individuals with disabilities have access to digital information. The webinar offered tips and guides to assist service providers in creating documents that are readable to individuals with disabilities. It covered topics such as the importance of including a document title, filename, headings, lists, accessible tables and links, alternative text, and distinguishing appropriate color contrast and running the accessibility checker.
After fully engaging in an “epic marathon,” Project EPICS scholars are “quickly approaching the finish line!” Currently, midway into the planned final year of a five-year project, the “Educating Pacific Island Clinicians in Speech Pathology” project, also known as “Project EPICS,” is in “the last lap” of this amazing endurance event. Eighteen student “scholars” are entering their last few months of the project whose mission is to produce graduate-level speech language pathologists to serve and provide much-needed speech services to the children of Guam and the Pacific region. This project is funded through a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs personnel preparation awarded to San José State University (SJSU), in partnership with Guam CEDDERS. The Spring 2020 semester is packed with activities including completing two online courses and finishing up the required number of practicum hours in school and hospital settings. In April, the scholars can opt to participate in an online “Praxis Preparation Workshop” with Dr. Kay Payne, CCC-SLP, a nationally recognized expert on Praxis prep and the author of numerous Praxis Preparation resources. Similar to the national Praxis examination for teacher certification, the Praxis test for Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) is a requirement for national certification for SLPs. Scholars have the option as to when to sit for this examination. The last SJSU program requirement for all the EPICS scholars is the Comprehensive Examination, fondly referred to as “Comps.” This is scheduled for May 2, 2020. If you may recall, the group of 18 scholars was divided into two cohorts for the purpose of completing an externship in the San José, California area at various sites in collaboration with SJSU. Nine scholars in Cohort 1 completed this externship in August 2019. The remaining nine who comprise Cohort 2 are scheduled to complete their externship this summer, ending in early August 2020. Upon this group’s return, the Project will hold a much-anticipated graduation ceremony to celebrate the incredible effort of these scholars in completing this “marathon” program. As of this writing, however, things are looking like Cohort 2’s externship plans will need to change, given the situation with the COVID 19 pandemic. And sadly, graduation may have to be postponed as well. Stay tuned for the next issue of I Tellai for the update.
In early March, a team of four embarked on flights from Guam to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the 2020 Annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Conference. The Guam Team consisted of Guam EHDI staff and a parent from Guam’s Positive Parents Together, Inc., the non-profit organization which provides Parent-to-Parent Support for families with children identified with a hearing loss. The Annual EHDI Conference gives participants the opportunity to learn new and relevant information related to EHDI, network with other professionals in the EHDI system, and participate in face to face meetings with each EHDI’s Project Manager and Quality Improvement Technical Assistance provider.
The four-day conference began with the Islands/Outlying Territories Meeting held on March 7. Representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Palau, Hawaii, Virgin Islands, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam presented on their respective program successes for the grant year. Tony Ronco, a parent with California Hands & Voices facilitated a discussion on website development in preparation for the new EHDI grant year. Also present at the meeting were Leticia Manning representing HRSA; Marcus Gaffney representing Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Karl White, and Alyson Ward representing National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM).
Over the next three days, the Guam EHDI Team planned their schedules to attend plenary and topical sessions that would assist the Guam EHDI Project in meeting its goals and objectives. While at the Conference, the team met with Bethany Applebaum, HRSA Project Manager for Guam EHDI, and Alyson Ward, Quality Improvement Director at NCHAM, to discuss the progress of the Guam EHDI Project and to provide guidance on how to address data concerns for new grant objectives in light of the loss of CDC funding for territories not meeting the minimum birth rate requirements for continued grant funding.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and one of the highlights of the month is the Guam System for Assistive Technology (GSAT) Fair. This year’s theme, “Assistive Technology: Leading Our 2020 Vision,” showcased the advancements in technology and services available for the commuity. GSAT, in collaboration with the Guam Developmental Disabilities Council (GDDC) and Guam Legal Services Corporation-Disability Law Center (GLS-DLC), held the fair on March 7 at Agana Shopping Center.
The fair gave the public an opportunity to network with service providers and learn about available services and programs. There were twenty-eight vendors who participated in the fair. They included various programs from the Department of Public Health and Social Services , Guam Client Assistance Program, WestCare Pacific Islands, Office of the Public Guardian, Ross Hearing Aids, Helen Keller National Center / ICanConnect Program, Guam American Sign Language – Machanao Congregation, Guma’ Mami, Inc., Guam Department of Education Student Parent Community Engagement Project, Guam Community College Office of Accommodative Services, Autism Community Together, Department of Integrated Service for Individuals with Disabilities, Health Services of the Pacific, The Medical City, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Phil MD – St. Lukes Medical Center, Parents Empowering Parents, Pacific Human Resource Services Inc., and TOHGE (Transforming Guahan through Healing, Growth, & Enrichment). Vendors were given an opportunity to present brief descriptions of their agency/organization. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters were present to assist with communication for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH). AT devices and equipment were on hand for participants to try out with assistance provided by Guam CEDDERS staff.
Maria Bontogon and Rodney Calimlim, both individuals with disabilities, were available to demonstrate the devices they use to access information and help them perform activities of daily living. The fair also showcased The Guam Community College ASL students who performed songs in sign language and the “MagicMan” show with Wally Wusstig.
Si Yu’os Ma’ase to the staff, vendors, and participants who made the fair a successful event.
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services Project Bisita I Familia, in collaboration with Guam CEDDERS, began facilitating a series of focus group meetings with parents of children birth to five years and early childhood providers to pull together data and information about home visiting services for the updated Needs Assessment. First conducted in 2010, the Needs Assessment identifies communities with concentrations of defined risk factors, assesses the quality and capacity of home visiting services in the territory, and assesses the territory’s capacity for providing substance abuse treatment and counseling services.
The purpose of updating the territory-wide needs assessment is for grantees to gather more recent information on community needs and ensure that Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) programs are being implemented in areas of high need. The 2010 Needs Assessment identified the areas of Dededo, Yigo, and Mangilao as areas of high need and as such home visiting services are offered to families residing in these villages. Updates to the needs assessment will determine if home visiting services should continue and/or expand to other villages around the island.
The focus group meetings, facilitated by Early Childhood Consultants Mary Kidd and Elaine Eclavea, provided parents and early childhood providers the opportunity to examine and assess services currently being offered in the community. Parents provided feedback on the types of questions and modes of delivery to garner feedback from families receiving early childhood services. Early Childhood providers were given the opportunity to discuss current services and gaps in training, acceptance of services, and job satisfaction. The completed 2020 Needs Assessment will be submitted in September.
On February 25, Mary Kidd, Early Childhood Conusltant, facilitated a stakeholder input session with parents enrolled in Project Bisita I Familia, Guam Early Intervention System, Early Childhood Special Education Preschool, and Head Start Program at the Dededo Farmers’ Market Complex. This group of parents provided suggestions on the types of questions necessary for garnering feedback about home visiting and early childhood services on Guam.
On February 25, Mary Kidd (standing right), Early Childhood Consultant, facilitated the first focus group meeting with parents receiving services from early childhood programs at the Dededo Farmers’ Market Complex.