Sarah Hall in front of the poster she co-authored, speaking with a visitor at CEHD Research Day 2022.

From studying the detection of autism in early childhood to an exploration of retirement for older adults with disabilities, ICI investigators shared their work to address inclusion across the lifespan at the College of Education and Human Development’s recent Research Day. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence in Minnesota, a poster presented in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities category, received a “People’s Choice” award, based on votes from attendees.  

“We were humbled and grateful to receive this award from our CEHD peers,” said Jennifer Hall-Lande, who co-leads ICI’s ongoing study of Autism Spectrum Disorder prevalence. The poster was authored by Jeannette Sample, Amy Esler, Hall-Lande, Libby Hallas, Courtney Higginbotham, and Jenny Poynter. “Research Day is a great way to learn about the innovative research and work being done in our CEHD community, and it was wonderful to be back in person after two years away [due to the pandemic],” Hall-Lande said. 

Another featured project, What Do Older Adults with IDD Think About Retirement? shared data from interviews that found participants were typically pushed into retirement by health issues or negative experiences at work, so few were able to plan in advance. This research is now informing ICI’s work to modify the Australian Transition to Retirement program to the U.S. context. 

“I really enjoyed how Research Day brought together people from different disciplines who have similar and intersecting interests,” said ICI’s Sarah Hall (pictured), who presented the retirement research along with ICI’s Lynda Lahti Anderson, Roger Stancliffe, and Julie Kramme. “I talked with an occupational therapist who showed great interest in what she and her colleagues could do to support people with IDD in retirement. The more I described their retirement experiences, the more practical ideas we identified for occupational therapists to help adults with IDD to prepare for retirement.” 

Additional teams presented ICI’s work exploring how direct support professionals (DSPs) were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as racial disparities in DSP wages. ICI Director Amy Hewitt, along with Julie Bershadsky, Sandra Pettingell, Julie Kramme, and Jerry Smith, contributed to these projects, which included the largest survey to date of DSPs.  

Charity Funfe Tatah Mentan and Darrell Peterson presented Improving Instruction: Innovative Approaches to Engage English Learners, Parents, and Teachers for Educational Equity. This work from the National Center on Educational Outcomes at ICI created practical approaches for engaging parents, caregivers, and teachers of students who are learning English as a second language. A multi-lingual toolkit available in audio and PDF formats was presented, along with online training modules emphasizing collaboration among students, families, and teachers when making decisions about accessibility features to ensure equity in education.  

“There has to be synergy between home and school to provide the equity that is needed for children to succeed,” Funfe Tatah Mentan said. “Some parents of English language learners don’t always understand their rights and responsibilities around the accommodations their children are receiving.” She said the event helped spark several conversations with CEHD colleagues, graduate students, and others around the idea of increasing equity in the classroom. 

“It was nice to be able to see a lot of students at the event as well,” added Peterson. “Their insightful questions, particularly from a few who plan to go into related fields, was a neat experience for us and helps keep this work fresh.” 

Other projects selected for the day included What Do Teachers Know About the Accessibility Features for English Learners? by Yi-Chen Wu and Aparna Leena; and Shifting Tides in Medicaid-funded Supports for People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities: RISP FY 2018 Highlights, by Jon Neidorf and Sheryl Larson.