Two national disability-related organizations representing professionals and families recognized the accomplishments of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) members.
The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) selected the TRIAD Community Engagement Program and its coordinator Lauren Weaver, M.S., BCBA, for its 2017 Full Community Inclusion Award. The award recognizes culturally responsive programs that have succeeded in full community inclusion and participation. It was presented June 28 at the AAIDD Annual Meeting in Hartford, CT.
The TRIAD Community Engagement program is a partnership between TRIAD and community nonprofit educational and cultural programs to increase acceptance, accessibility, and inclusion of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. Activities include staff training, inclusive/modified performances, inclusive neurodiversity awareness and acceptance events, and summer camps. In addition to leading this program, Weaver is a TRIAD educational consultant and behavioral analyst.
Maria Mello, doctoral student in severe disabilities in Special Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, received the AAIDD 2017 Student Award, which recognizes student contributions in service, leadership, or scholarship in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mello has contributed to significant research in the areas of transition from school to adulthood, service delivery, and multicultural issues. As a trainee in the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), she has led activities within Next Steps at Vanderbilt and had led the Volunteer Advocacy Project, training special education advocates.
The AAIDD Annual Meeting provides researchers, clinicians, practitioners, educators, policymakers, local, state and federal agencies, and advocates with cutting-edge research, effective practices, and valuable information on important policy initiatives.
Elise McMillan, J.D., received the 2017 Education Award of the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) at its annual convention held July 20-23 in Sacramento, CA. McMillan is co-director of the VKC UCEDD, VKC director of community engagement and public policy, and a senior lecturer in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. This award recognizes McMillan’s “extraordinary impact at the community, state, and national levels by developing model inclusive education and higher education programs for students with Down syndrome.”
McMillan has been a leader in the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance, and was the founding faculty director of Next Steps at Vanderbilt, Tennessee’s first inclusive higher education program. She has worked closely with Think College, the national technical assistance center for these programs, and its Capacity Building Institutes in Tennessee and other Southeastern states. She has co-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals that advance the practice of inclusive higher education. She likewise has been influential in promoting inclusive school-age children at the community and state levels.
The NDSC works to promote the interests of people with Down syndrome and their families through advocacy, public awareness, and information.
“How perfect that a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center staff member, a graduate student and trainee, and a faculty member are being recognized for their accomplishments by these prestigious national disability organizations,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair, and professor of Psychology. “Each of them is truly outstanding, each making unique contributions to our mission of facilitating discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.”
Jan Rosemergy is VKC deputy director and director of Communications and Dissemination.