Guest Author: Tia Nelis
Within the president’s budget, the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program is being cut due to lack of funds. The LEND program provides long-term, graduate level interdisciplinary training designed to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals with disabilities. This goal is accomplished by preparing trainees from diverse professional disciplines to assume leadership roles in their respective fields, and by ensuring high levels of interdisciplinary clinical competence. LEND focuses training on the policy, advocacy, research, and clinical skills necessary to affect positive change on all levels, from the individual to systems.
As a self-advocate, LEND program trainee/graduate, and coordinator for the new self-advocates participating in the Illinois LEND program, I am strongly advocating for the program to be funded. During my time as a LEND trainee, I learned so much by networking with other disciplines, listening to speakers, and growing my leadership skills in new areas. It also gave me resources that I could share with others to help them advocate for what they want and need on an individual level, systems level, and within the community. Please talk to your Representatives and Senators about reinstating the funding for the LEND program.
Self-advocates are especially important contributors to the LEND program. As trainees, they bring a different point of view – one from people with disabilities. They contribute to the discussion around disability and help educate other trainees on how to interact with people with disabilities. For example, self-advocates help others understand the preferred language that should be used to talk to and about people with disabilities. Self-advocates also serve as support networks and as a vision for the future for parents who have often been told that their child will not be able to do things.
Self-advocates also benefit from participating in the LEND program. Self-advocates learn about the medical perspective, as well about the diagnosis process. With this knowledge, self-advocates will be able to better partner with physicians. Learning this information will also be helpful to self-advocacy groups because they are becoming more diverse by including people with all different disabilities. This knowledge will help self-advocates be able to better include others.