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Leadership in IDD
July 2021


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Leadership in IDD

         July 2021

Promoting Interagency Collaboration to Support the Transition from School to Employment for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Dalun Zhang, PhD, FAAIDD, Texas A&M University

Employment has positive impact on all aspects of quality of life for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). It is probably the most important post-school transition outcome for many people with IDD, and its achievement requires careful planning and preparation. Collaboration among the student, family, school, and vocational rehabilitation and other agencies is essential for achieving a successful transition from school to competitive integrated employment. 

Students with IDD need opportunities for work experiences in addition to classroom learning. Families need to actively support the transition to the world of work. Schools need to prepare students to be “entry-level employable,” with basic academic, social, self-determination, and vocational skills. Vocational rehabilitation and other agencies need to provide pre-employment and employment services to students with IDD in-both school and out-of-school settings. In addition, every state’s education and vocational rehabilitation agencies should develop a memorandum of understanding to guide their collaboration in activities designed to facilitate the successful transition of youth with IDD from school to competitive integrated employment.

Mission of the Century

Caya Chiu, PhD, FAAIDD, National Taiwan Normal University

As the field of research in intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) progresses, more and more researchers have begun recognizing the value of engaging people with IDD in inclusive research. It may indeed be our responsibility as researchers to do, to deliberately and strenuously ensure that research reflects the true meaning of ‘Nothing about us without us.’ 

It is unignorable that there have been research studies in the past that harmed people with IDD (e.g., the human radiation experiments). In response to these abuses, ethical guidelines were established as safeguards to ensure that studies do not involve unacceptable risks for participants, especially for vulnerable populations, such as people with IDD. Unfortunately, researchers may be discouraged from recruiting participants with IDD by the additional time and effort it takes to obtain approval from institutional review boards. However, the lack of active participation of individuals with IDD in research could very well be viewed as failing to acknowledge their right to inclusion. 
For this reason, in recent years more researchers have urged the field to design and conduct inclusive research. Achieving this goal may involve transforming perspectives toward people with IDD as an empowered population, developing plain language research materials for all participants, improving strategies for inclusive research designs that could benefit all stakeholders, and training researchers to implement those strategies to ensure that benefits outweigh any risks. It may be difficult, but it is our responsibility to push for research to be more relevant to the IDD community.
Because, after all, we did not choose to go to the moon because it was easy.

The Responsibility of Leadership

Leonard Abbeduto, PhD, FAAIDD, UC Davis

I have had the privilege of working in the field of IDD for nearly forty years. During that time, I have held leadership positions at the university level and in professional organizations. In terms of AAIDD, I was book review editor, and then editor, of AJIDD and am now serving the organization as the immediate past president of the Board. For each of these positions, a senior person championed my appointment, election, etc. and provided mentoring along the way. People like Al Baumeister, Gershon Berkson, Terry Dolan, Laraine Masters Glidden, Steve Warren, and Randi Hagerman all supported my advancement as a leader. These people also taught me that being a leader is more than fulfilling the responsibilities of any one role: A leader creates opportunities for the next generation of leaders, removes barriers, teaches and models leadership skills, and sometimes sacrifices a little self-glory so an emerging leader can shine. The responsibility of a leader also extends to supporting the next generation in more anonymous ways, such as reviewing tenure and promotion cases, evaluating nominees for awards, and serving as a reviewer for grant applications and journal articles.

None of us succeed without the help of others and that rightly creates obligations we should take very seriously. Just as those ahead of us have given us a hand, it’s our responsibility to help those behind us.

View the archive of the Leadership in IDD newsletter here.

Member Spotlight

Judith M.S. Gross, PhD, FAAIDD
Director of the Center on Community Living and Careers, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana University

Member since 2006

Why did you join AAIDD?
To become more connected to professionals, current policy and practice in the field as I pursued my doctorate in special education.

Why did you choose the field of intellectual disability? 
In all honesty, I didn’t choose it. It kind of chose me. When pursuing my teaching degree, I thought I would be working with students with learning disabilities. However, when I started teaching in a cross-categorical classroom, I had students with a wide range of disabilities and support needs for whom I was responsible. As I pursued more education for how to better instruct my students with IDD and autism, I became the local “expert,” and that professional interest carried through as I pursued my doctorate.


Recent awards, accolades, appointments, and other honors

Meghan Burke joins Karen Shoemaker on the Board of Directors of The Arc of the US, and Grace Francis is now its Vice President. See the Board of Directors of The Arc.

Dan Habib
is starting a new position as Director of the Inclusive Communities Project at the Westchester Institute for Human Development.

Esther Lindström
awarded an IES Early Career Research grant to examine the connection between reading instruction strategies and growth in reading skills among elementary students with IDD.

LaRon Scott to be presented with the University Award of Excellence at the VCU Convocation on 9/2/2021, recognizing his superior performance in scholarship, teaching, and service.

Shea Tanis authored a new report issued by the University of Colorado and ANCOR, Advancing Technology Access for People With I/DD: Perspectives from Intellectual and Developmental Disability Service Providers Across the Nation, on the results of the Technology Solutions Supporting People with ID/DD and Their Families: Provider Survey.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, EP Magazine is honoring 50 Advocate Heroes. Honorees will be profiled across several issues, David Ervin, Matt Janicki, Maggie Nygren, Liz Perkins, and Allen Wong were among those honored in the July 2021 issue.


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

NICHD’s STrategies to enRich Inclusion and achieVe Equity (STRIVE) Initiative, aims to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in all aspects of our research and workforce. Submit your ideas and feedback to the STRIVE for Change Ideascale Campaign to help inform health disparities research across NICHD's portfolio at

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