FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

May 2013

MN LEND Fellows Reflect on Their Life-Changing Year

Each year the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program (MN LEND) at the University selects a small group of outstanding graduate/postgraduate students and community members to become LEND Fellows for a year. In partnership with other academic departments at the University, the LEND, which is an affiliated center of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), offers the Fellows a unique interdisciplinary training experience. This experience prepares them for leadership in serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, and their families in health care, education, human services, and policy settings. With the academic year winding down, FYI asked the 2012-13 LEND Fellows about the highlights of this past year’s training. Here’s what some of them shared:

  • It’s hard to really put into words or for me to even clearly understand how much I’ve gained from LEND. My career goals have changed because of the great interactions and relationships I formed with the LEND Faculty, Mentors, and Fellows, as well as all the exceptional experiences. As a LEND Fellow, I gained a new way of looking at the world; disability will be the focus of my career in global public health. – Jess Nelson

  • What I have enjoyed most during this year is learning about policies pertaining to youth with special healthcare needs through the Policy and Advocacy course and the Families as Teachers component. My assigned family allowed me to attend doctor appointments, IEP meetings, Special Education Board meetings, family social events, and art and music therapy. This experience showed me how much families need to know to effectively advocate for their children with special healthcare needs. Although we have completed the program, I anticipate remaining in contact and building on this relationship that was formed as part of LEND. – Kiana Johnson

  • For me, the most rewarding and enriching part of my LEND experience was the learning and activism that occurred outside the classroom, including visits with Senators in Washington D.C., hearing Temple Grandin speak at the AuSM Conference, and connecting with professionals and families in the disability community. – Emily Wesel

  • LEND was an incredible opportunity to learn and to share. One of my key reflections during LEND was regarding how we translate research into practice. The development of effective measures, rigorous evaluation, and compelling dissemination of best practices is critical to the creation of evidence- and community-based care for people with disabilities.
    Nicole Kast

  • The thing that stands out to me the most about LEND is the breadth of information that was available to us as Fellows that is directly applicable to families currently facing and coping with various forms of neurodevelopmental disabilities. I think that everyone in the disability field can benefit from this knowledge. – Trina Simmons

  • Over the course of the past year interactions with other fellows and the LEND mentors have expanded my knowledge about disabilities. The LEND program has reinforced my belief in the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. I hope to use this passion to impact individuals as a future Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. – Denise Post

FFI about LEND Fellowships, visit