About 170 students, faculty and staff from Penn State Lehigh Valley, as well as students from local community colleges, providers and community members attended the forum, “Developmental Disabilities in Adults: A Multi-Perspective View,” hosted by the Rehabilitation and Human Services (RHS) and Biobehavioral Health (BBH) Programs at Penn State Lehigh Valley.
Topics explored during the day included the science, the stigma, the parent perspective, and the services available for individuals with these disabilities.
“Hearing the personal stories from parents and people in the field help us students learn how to deal with these situations in our future jobs. This event is helping us become more aware,” said Soma Asad, a sophomore majoring in BBH at Penn State Lehigh Valley. Asad served as a student ambassador along with other students who are BBH and RHS majors. The student ambassadors introduced the guest speakers and were available to answer questions and provide general help for guests.
In partnership with the Faculty Invitational Lecture Series Committee, the forum featured Michael Bérubé, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and chair of the University Faculty Senate at Penn State, as the keynote speaker. He has authored several books including “Life as We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child” published in 1996, and in 2016 he published “Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up.” These books chronicle his son Jamie’s journey from childhood to adulthood.
Bérubé read from “Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up” and described his experience in finding employment for Jamie. At the end of his talk, Jamie joined Bérubé to answer questions from attendees.
“We need an infrastructure for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities after they turn 21, much like the infrastructure we have for their years in school,” Bérubé said. "We need to find a way to play to their strengths.”
“I think it is invaluable to a student's academic success to allow them to have access to and engage with local professionals in the field,” said Samantha Beebe, coordinator of BBH program and lecturer. “Everyone benefits from the reciprocal sharing of information and we were fortunate to host such a knowledgeable slate of speakers.”
Other speakers included:
- Nina Wall, director, Bureau of Autism Services, Pa. Dept. of Human Services
- Jennifer A. Bradley, associate professor of applied psychology, Northampton Community College
- Paul Coleman, CEO, LifePath
- Cortney Lakis, director of employment services, VIA of the Lehigh Valley
- Ashley Moser, community connections program manager, VIA of the Lehigh Valley
- Jessica Huhn, admissions coordinator, Kaleidoscope Family Solutions
Throughout the day, attendees were invited to visit Centre Hall where several service providers set up tables and passed out information and resources.
Leigh Cundari, coordinator of RHS program and assistant teaching professor, delivered the welcome and opened the morning session. Beebe opened the afternoon session and gave closing remarks.
“Feedback from the students not only underscored the general value of programs like this one, but reflected the topic of developmental disabilities in adults and the service challenges that they face resonated with many of them.”
-- Leigh Cundari, coordinator of RHS program and assistant teaching professor
The forum was planned by the following committee: Samantha Beebe, Leigh Cundari, Pam Fleck, Teri Kistler, Margie Nelcoski, Linda Rumfield and Tammy Yocum-Cwienkala.