Name: John Wilcox
Cohort Year: 2012
Department of Occupational Therapy, College of Health & Human Services, University of New Hampshire
Leadership Placement: Durham Campus, University of New Hampshire
Capstone Project Title: Family-Centered Planning
My LEND Experience
What were you doing before LEND?
I was working as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in various clinical settings and in academia. I was the OT for a K-12 school district in Waterville, Maine, as well as teaching night courses in Assistive Technology at Husson University. My weekends and summers were focused on Occupational Therapy services in the area hospitals and home health agencies, ranging from in-patient acute care to out-patient rehabilitation settings. I also engaged in some private consulting for individuals with anoxia, as well as children on the autism spectrum.
How did you hear about LEND?
I heard about LEND from a colleague in academia who knew I was interested in increasing my focus on teaching at the University level and thought it would be a nice addition to my clinical skills.
What made you apply?
For years I often sat with parents, school staff, and other professionals at IEP and IFSP to discussing the challenges their children faced in the school settings, as well as the treatment plans had created to address those challenges in the school setting. I soon realized that there was a big disconnect with the services provided at school and the services available in the community. The family unit was often overlooked or had limited resources or knowledge of how to navigate the world of social and medical supports. I realized the services provided in the school setting were never going to be maximized unless the supports were in place at home. This realization helped me to decide to help the families, as well as the children I was treating, through education, advocacy, and engagement in policy review at the local and national government levels.
How did you know that the LEND program was the right program for you?
I knew LEND was the right program for me after the first 2 seminars when the scope and focus was dedicated to the perspective of a “balcony view” when thinking about the families of children with disabilities. The instructors helped us realize the importance of looking at the big picture from a raised level to capture not only the focus of our specific professions (OT, Education, Social Work,etc..), but look beyond and capture the needs of the entire family unit, as well as the community supports and barriers that were present.
What else did you do while you were participating in LEND?
I was fortunate to have a great mentor, Alan Kurtz, who taught me about the importance and delivery methods of Family Centered Transition Planning with young adults with ASD, as well as engage in a grass roots coalition meeting to discuss his findings on the importance of FCTP on reaching goals of post-secondary education, employment, and overall increased participation in the community around them.
We also had an opportunity to meet our state senators/representatives to discuss our experiences as professionals working with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and advocate for the continuation of current services, as well as the development of new services and funding to address the family needs in various settings.
What part of LEND has been the most useful?
The realization that it was my responsibility to help make the changes needed for family supports at a local, state, and national level that I had felt were important when working as a clinician, but felt I did not have the time or the professional ability/resources to influence.
What are you currently doing?
I’m currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at UNH teaching classes that encompass courses/labs related to service learning experiences in community based practice, pediatrics, mental health, practice and professional roles, assistive technology, and adult physical dysfunctions. I also still practice in the clinical settings in various hospitals and home health agencies during the summer months, while beginning to engage in research related to community based settings for individuals with brain injuries and the elderly within an upcoming fall prevention group.
How did LEND impact your current work?
I joined the faculty of the Occupational Therapy Department at UNH full time, while continuing my clinical work during the summer months. Since at UNH, I’ve had the opportunity to create new community service-learning partnerships for my students, as well as help facilitate the continued growth of existing community-based partnerships between OT grad students and programming ranging from adults with brain injuries or post-concussion syndrome, the homeless population, Independent living centers, and day programming for adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. LEND has embedded the importance of community services to families/individuals with disabilities and instilled a consciousness of responsibility, which would resonate regardless of the profession.
What are your goals for the future?
One goal is to explore my role in the OT department at UNH and create innovate ways to teach students the same principles LEND mimics, within the scope of Occupational Therapy, using service-learning experiences and technology to enhance their learning.
Another goal is to stay active in research initiatives that focus on community-based Occupational Therapy and contribute to our body of evidence that helps guide our clinical decisions.
Why should other people participate in LEND?
LEND is the type of experience that doesn’t really end, it keeps you asking what else should be done…and gives you the confidence and feeling of responsibility to address the issues locally and nationally, as much as you are able.
LEND is vast network of professionals. The networking opportunities from the various participants, clinicians, educators, and others involved with LEND is invaluable if you are pursuing a career in the social sciences or health care.
LEND gives you the time and opportunity to step away from your current routine/job/life and take a fresh look at the personal, environmental, medical, and legislative challenges these families face. You also engage in various types of seminars/experiences that teach you how to address those areas of need at a hands/on personal level, as well as legislative level to help change policy.