MNLEND Fellows Complete “a Truly Transformative Year”

Sat Jun 15 2019
The graduating class of the 2018-19 cohort of MNLEND Fellows.

On May 14, 29 MNLEND Fellows (pictured) received their Certificate of Completion, recognizing the culmination of their year-long appointment with the Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MNLEND) Program at ICI. Each year the MNLEND, which is funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, selects outstanding graduate/postgraduate students and community members to become Fellows. In partnership with other academic departments at the University, the MNLEND offers Fellows a unique interdisciplinary training experience that prepares them for leadership in serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDD) and their families in health care, education, human services, and policy settings.

When asked what they gained from their MNLEND experience, this year’s cohort had much to say. Here are a few quotes:

MNLEND has taught me three important lessons: (1) interdisciplinary work leads to the best solutions; (2) the perspectives of individuals with disabilities and their families and communities matter; (3) the LEND competencies really are a way of life. I am that MNLEND alumni who is guilty of over-enthusiastically promoting MNLEND to too many friends, family, and acquaintances. — Pang Chaxiong

MNLEND has helped me to see how important the voices of self-advocates are, as well as the ways that I can directly impact organizations and individuals by sharing my experiences. It has created bridges between my role as an autistic woman and the parents and providers I hope to work with as an advocate. — Olivia James

Not only have I learned much from families and people with neurodevelopmental disorders through the MNLEND program, I’ve appreciated the rich discussions with fellows from so many different backgrounds as well as the presenters and learned from all of them. I’m taking away considerations around the meaning of disability, self-advocacy, and policy that I will continue to explore and expand for years to come. — Mira Martin

The self-advocacy motto of “nothing about us, without us” is generally accepted as the right thing to do, but is rarely done. Methods should include music, art, stories, laughter, hugs, theater, lots of movement and big visuals. This culture is kinesthetic, energetic, and almost always includes food. This is the environment in which people with developmental disabilities can participate equitably with others and it leads to authentic disability leadership. — Patrick Mitchell

MNLEND has inspired me to collaborate with others to enhance the lives of kids with NDD. The opportunities MNLEND has provided have helped me take many steps towards my goal of becoming a champion of oral health for all kids. It has been a truly transformative year. I hope to keep in touch with all LEND fellows so that I can continue to learn from them. — Quentin Knutson