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Leadership in IDD
August 2021


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Leadership in IDD

         August 2021


Commentary from the field

Ruth Luckasson

Ruth Luckasson, JD, FAAIDD, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Special Education, University of New Mexico

I find Michael Fullan’s framework of effective leadership in a culture of change useful in my work. Fullan framed leadership around five essential elements of moral purpose—understanding change, relationship building, knowledge creation and sharing, and coherence making—surrounded by a circle of enthusiasm, hope, and energy – which then generates commitment and leads to more good things and fewer bad things (2001, p. 4). I believe that AAIDD’s recently published 12th edition of Intellectual Disability: Definition, Diagnosis, Classification, and Planning Supports (Schalock, Luckasson, & Tassé, 2021) provides tools that mirror Fullan’s framework and can support effective leadership for each of us in the field of ID, whatever our current role. 

The AAIDD manual combines both a conceptual thoroughness and practice guidelines. This manual provides the field of ID and others with a unifying definition of ID, five essential assumptions, and a systematic approach to diagnosis, optional subgroup classification, and planning supports that reflect Fullan’s moral purpose framework: an understanding of change, communication tools for stronger relationship-building, strategies for knowledge creation and sharing, and an integrated coherent whole.  Finally, I believe that to have the good fortune to lead in the field of ID and be a member of AAIDD is to be surrounded by enthusiasm, hope, and energy.

Justin Kuehl

Proactive Responses to Crisis Situations

Justin Kuehl, PsyD, FAAIDD, Chief Psychologist, Director of Psychology Training, & Director of Professional Training Programs, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, Wisconsin

 As colleagues in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), we are keenly aware of the ongoing challenges in providing community-based support and encouraging genuine integration.  The continuous struggle to recruit, train, and retain a sufficient workforce of direct support professionals is well documented.  As a result, residential providers oftentimes experience difficulties assisting people with complex needs, which contributes to housing instability and frequent moves, and can result in even more problems.  To further complicate matters, we remain in the midst of the ongoing pandemic and all of the associated stressors.  Now more than ever, there is a need for the expertise of knowledgeable professionals.

At the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, we utilize crisis mobile teams consisting of psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, and nurses that are dispatched into the community to offer in-person interventions.  I provide supervision for one of those teams that specializes in working with people with IDD. The individuals who comprise this team have accumulated years of clinical knowledge and experience, which they use to deescalate situations and help decrease the over-reliance on more intense interventions involving law enforcement or emergency room services.  They also offer consultation, develop crisis plans, and provide ongoing educational opportunities for community providers.  Through these proactive approaches, we strive to improve the quality of life for people with IDD.

View the archive of the Leadership in IDD newsletter here.

Member Spotlight

Elizabeth Kurfiss Watts 

Elizabeth Kurfiss Watts
Assistant Administrator for Delta American Healthcare, Inc
Delhi, Louisiana

Member since 1994

Why did you join AAIDD?
I wanted to learn from the leaders in our field so that I could provide the best support possible to the people that we serve.  I have also learned the value of networking and have made some awesome friends through my affiliation with AAIDD and my career in the field of IDD.

Why did you choose the field of intellectual disability?
When I was about 7 years old, our mom took us to the local fair and I saw a lady pushing a person with IDD in a wheelchair and I remember telling my mom that I wanted to work with people like that when I got older.  When I was 18, I started my first job in the field of IDD as a lifeguard and even though I have changed agencies and positions, I have experience in large ICF ‘s, community homes, day programs and waiver services.


Recent awards, accolades, appointments, and other honors

 Congratulations on the following new NIDILRR grant awards:

  • Evan Dean, Field Initiated Project grant: Promoting Career Design and Development via Telehealth for Rural Adults with Intellectual and Development Disabilities
  • Tamar Heller, ARRT grant: Advanced Training in Translational and Community Engaged Scholarship to Improve Community Living and Participation of People with Disabilities.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, EP Magazine  is honoring 50 Advocate Heroes. Honorees will be profiled across several issues; Isobel Hodge, Sharon Lewis, and Sheryl White-Scott were among those honored in the August 2021 issue.

David Ervin had an article published in the August EP Magazine, Why the Impact of COVID on People with IDD is so Devastating.

Shauna Mulcahy has become the Executive Director and Joanna Pierson has become the Director of Research at The Arc of Frederick County (Maryland).

Jerry Smith will be recognized by NADSP with its 2021 John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Workforce Advocacy and Leadership on September 13th.

Sue Swenson has joined the Biden/Harris administration for a short-term appointment as a senior advisor in OSERS.

Michael Wehmeyer and Jennifer Kurth authored a new book, Inclusive Education in a Strengths-Based Era  (Norton Press).


Opportunities to participate in research, projects, policy development, and other collaborations

Guest editors--including Giulia Balboni--accepting submissions to publish in a special issue of Research In Developmental Disabilities Journal on enhancing research practice in developmental disabilities.
Deadline: October 31, 2021

Produced by AAIDD, this monthly digest features the recent (first made available within last 3 months) and emergent (will be available within the next 4-6 weeks) work of AAIDD members only. Journal articles, while important, are not featured in this publication.

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