Welcome 2015-2016 Training Cohort


Va-LEND is excited to welcome 17  trainees this year. We have 13 new long term trainees- (3) family discipline, (3) genetic counseling, (1) occupational therapy, (2) physical therapy, (1) public health, (1) social work, and (2) special education (an early childhood special educator and a teacher of students with chronic medical conditions).  We are also welcoming two new advanced medium term trainees-  (1) occupational therapy, (1) physical therapy, one medium term family discipline trainee, and one autism fellow. Welcome to the program!


May Leadership Projects

playing pictureThrough recent clinical experiences, Paige Knowlson (Occupational Therapy Trainee), observed that while clinically substantiated and user-friendly screeners existed for Speech Therapy, the equivalent was not currently readily available for Occupational Therapy (OT).   A screener can be used by health and education professionals to determine whether clients, aged 18 months to six years, would benefit from OT therapy services. The ideal screener is basic enough to be used across various disciplines, but targets the developmental milestones appropriate to determining if performance deficits exist within the OT scope of practice.  A screener was developed and pilot tested across disciplines to determine accuracy results and ease of use.  The screener was compiled in 6 month increments, and packaged with all necessary testing items.  It was distributed to three speech therapists, who utilized the testing measure across three age ranges. The screeners found it to be understandable, user friendly, and sufficient in determining the need for further OT evaluation.  This screening tool is continuing to be developed.

Equine Assisted Therapy

Rhonda Wilder, Nursing Trainee, devoted her leadership project to developing an Equine Assisted Therapy Resource Guide. Within the guide, she listed certified equine assisted therapy programs in Virginia, their target audience, contact information, cost, and description of services.  This guide can be found here and on our resource page.  Equine assisted therapy is a treatment that includes equine activities and/or an equine environment to promote physical, occupational, and emotional growth in people.

For her leadership project, Andreina Andueza-Croce (Physical Therapy runTrainee) explored the need for community based fitness programs for teens and young adults with disabilities to address decreased fitness levels and to promote healthy lifestyles.   The Tuckahoe YMCA addressed this need by creating a Pilot Fitness Program for Teens with Aspergers.  The main objectives of the fitness program were that the teens would learn fitness terms and concepts, gym etiquette, and would demonstrate general improvement in fitness.   The fitness program was held twice a week for eight weeks total; there were eight teens (ages 14-18) and five coaches in the program, including Andriena. As a coach, Andreina helped the teens gain independence with the fitness machines and provided a fun and safe environment to encourage the teens to continue participating in physical activity.  At the end of the eight weeks, post-fitness measures were collected and the teens demonstrated improvements in each of the fitness activities.  Not only did the teens show improvements in fitness levels, but the program also fostered friendships and socialization among the teens.

Leadership Projects

BeckyBecky King
(Social Work Trainee) developed and implemented several presentations and a webinar on Virginia’s Medicaid Waiver Redesign Initiative.  These presentations and webinar were for families, self-advocates, and providers.  Presentations were made to the Arc of Roanoke, the Arc of Augusta, and the Arc of Southside. The objectives of the presentations included increasing awareness of system change initiatives in the I/DD service system among families, self-advocates and providers, and educating families on national movement of more inclusive services and policies driving change.

Laura BellHer Leadership Project, Laura Bell (Occupational Therapy Trainee)  initiated the development of objective measures for Occupational Therapists seeking to work in the VCU Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).   The objectives included determining appropriate resources to assist in the development of NICU competencies, researching the role and skills Occupational Therapists bring to the NICU setting, finding appropriate steps individuals can take in order to obtain necessary knowledge and skills, and finally developing a detailed set of competencies.  This is the beginning of an ongoing process.


For her Leadership Project, Lindsay Bailey (Genetic Counseling Trainee), explored how to talk about hereditary cancer at the end of life.  The aims of her study were (1.) to identify potentially effective and appropriate methods of delivery of cancer genetic information to family members of patients with terminal cancer, and (2.) to assess the impact that the exploration of hereditary risk of cancer has on the family members of the dying patients.  Communication with a health care professional, communication between family  members, and methods of communication were explored.  Emotional responses of participants were assessed.  The study found that the best method of delivery of hereditary cancer information needs to be explored further because the preferred method was often situational and varied based on each person.  Also, it is important to be cognizant of the wide range of emotions that a family member of a palliative care patient with terminal cancer experiences and adapt communication appropriately.

Melissa Beyer (Genetic Counseling Trainee) did her Leadership Project about Melissa BeyerHuntington’s Disease (HD).  Huntington’s Disease is a rare, progressive, neurological disorder characterized by changes in movement, cognition, and psychological disturbances.  Typically, individuals with HD begin to show symptoms in their thirties or forties.  There is no cure for HD.  Melissa presented her findings and developed a handout to educate healthcare providers about HD, specify who should care for individuals with HD, and identify unique challenges that young people at risk of a developmental disability face.