LEND Alumni Help to Navigate the System of Care

July 18, 2019

Heather Gray, M.S. helping a student with his iPad

Many thanks to those of you who participated in the 603 Challenge back in May!  Your contributions will enable the program to offer partial scholarships for several trainees to present their posters at the AUCD Annual Meeting in November.  Your support is greatly appreciated!

While we are busily preparing for the next cohort of LEND trainees, we take a step back to reflect on the great work being done by LEND alumni. This month we highlight the efforts of a recent graduate from 2018 and a 2002 graduate who has worked in several parts of the system, both working toward an improved system of care for children with disabilities and their families.

Jodie Hall, B.S. (2017-2018)

Supporting Families to Navigate the System of Care

Jodie Hall has always had a strong interest in supporting families. In 2003, she graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. After college, she worked as a Case Manager for children with behavioral challenges and assisted families in accessing resources. Shortly after her career began, her son was born with Down syndrome and several accompanying medical needs. While her career was temporarily put on hold, she continued to have a desire to serve families. She then began working part-time as a contract Family Support Navigator for Maine Parent Federation. As a Navigator, Jodie supported clients by attending IEP meetings, preparing them for medical appointments, and accessing the various systems of care.

Participating as a Family Trainee in the 2017-2018 NH-ME LEND Program was a natural next step for her. She soaked up the instruction from faculty and her interdisciplinary team members, and she had her first experience in policy and national advocacy. Graduating from LEND with an enthusiasm to continue working on behalf of families affected by disability, Jodie stepped into a staff position at Maine Parent Federation where she now works as Lead Trainer for Central and Southern Maine.  She provides training to families of children with special health care needs or disabilities and the professionals who work with them.  

Heather Gray, M.S., CCC-SLP, ATP (2002-2003)

Leading the Way for Implementing High-Quality Assistive Technology Services

Heather Gray (above right) completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Maine-Orono and her graduate degree at the University of New Hampshire in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Her knowledge and skill in assistive technology (AT), including augmentative communication (AAC), grew first as a student and then in her first professional role with ATECH Services. She then gained valuable experience working in public schools as a speech language pathologist. She envisioned a model of service delivery that blended high-quality AT/AAC services with a strong focus on implementation beyond evaluation through interprofessional practice and active engagement of families.  In August 2017, Heather launched Gray Consulting & Therapy, LLC. Since that time, the practice has grown to include four speech language pathologists (including one who specializes in pragmatic language), an occupational therapist, and a special educator (with expertise as an executive functioning coach). 

Reflecting on the role of her LEND training on her career path, Heather noted that meeting family members and individuals with disabilities and learning about advocacy had a significant impact on her professional goals. “Knowing the legislative process and the fact that people can change things” was important, especially as threats to high-quality services continue to emerge. She also appreciated gaining a deeper understanding of “who did what” and the various resources available statewide. Her advice to trainees is to embrace learning about things that are not necessarily part of their discipline, as this knowledge is incredibly valuable. Heather continues to grow her practice, recently partnering with Vocational Rehabilitation to provide AT/AAC services and offering professional development training for families and service providers in the near future.  Heather will be presenting on Pediatric AAC at the fall conference of the New Hampshire Speech-Language-Hearing Association on October 25, 2019.