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HDC Employee Spotlight: McKenzie Esta

McKenzie Esta and her dog Finn
McKenzie Esta and her dog Finn

Hi there, my name is McKenzie Esta, and I am a Transition Specialist for the PAY Check Program at HDC. My husband and I have two cats and a dog. I am obsessed with my fur children. For fun I enjoy running at my local parks and participating in 5K races in the area. My goal is to one day work up to a half marathon.  I got my undergrad degree in Criminal Justice and later returned to school for a graduate degree in Human Services Counseling. After school I moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Metairie, Louisiana, and began working in Supported Employment. When I came to HDC in 2016, I began working in Employment Initiatives for the PAY Check Program. My goal is to facilitate smooth transitions into competitive employment for youth. HDC is a great fit for me because of its mission and the values of those that work here. I feel encouraged being surrounded by others who believe in employment for all. I am so proud to be in a position that allows me to witness the changes in students’ lives. Seeing them feel pride and understand what they are capable of is so rewarding. I am grateful to be here working with and learning from this team of people!

HDC Featured News

Bring On the Sunshine! Shining Light on ASD and Essential Supports

LASARD: Louisiana Autism Spectrum and Related DisabilitiesEssential Support Strategies to Success

Everyone utilizes essential support strategies throughout their day. Which essential supports have you used in the last 24 hours? Visual Supports (maps, signs, recipes)? Priming (agendas, reminders, notices)? Form of communication (text messages, emails)? Accommodations/modifications (glasses, watches, highlighters)? Reinforcement (paycheck, awards, bonuses)? As you can see, we use these essential supports several times throughout the day without even thinking about it. Join us in learning how these everyday supports can be used in classrooms and at home to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to be successful and avoid frustration. We will also share a checklist you can utilize to examine best practices, including essential support strategies, for individuals with ASD.

This webinar is geared toward educators that may be new to teaching students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), family members seeking more information about essential support strategies, or seasoned educators looking to refine their skills.

LASARD Webinars are offered live online via Adobe Connect. These one hour sessions are free and open to anyone interested. 

CEUs are provided to those who are online for the entire hour.

WHEN: Thursday, August 02, 2018, 2:00–3:00 PM

WHERE: Live online via Adobe Connect


SAVE THE DATES September 14 & 15 for Connections 2018

The third annual Connections 2018 Conference will be held Friday and Saturday, September 14 – 15 at the Human Development Center (411 South Prieur St, NOLA). It is being sponsored by the Louisiana Deafblind Project, Louisiana Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI) Program, and the Collaborative for Students with Unique Communication Needs. Featured topics include Mild Hearing Loss, Theory of Mind, Pro-Tactile Communication, and Communication Matrix. Registration Information will be forthcoming, please email ladbp@lsuhsc.edu for more information.

Save the Dates September 14 & 15 for Connections 2018 Flyer

WHEN: Friday, September 14, 2018, 8:00 to Saturday, September 15, 2018, 5:00 PM

Related Resources

HDC News

HDC CAC Members Elect Chairperson and Vice Chairperson

CAC members elected Shannon D’Aquila (left) as Chairperson and Patsy White (right) as Vice Chairperson at the meeting on March 9th, 2018. The two will serve in their leadership roles for three-year terms.


Shannon D’Aquila, CAC Chairperson

Shannon is the mother of two young ladies: Colleen age 11 and Kathleen age 10. Her youngest daughter, Kathleen, was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Since that time, she has advocated for both her daughter and other children with special needs, particularly Autism, with the school system, legislation, insurance companies, Jefferson Parish Human Services Authorities, medical professionals, and therapy providers. She has been family participant in HDC’s LASARD project, a speaker at the LASARD conference in 2012, and a LEND family mentor for the past two years. Second only to having all of her daughter’s needs met, she is most passionate about families of children with disabilities both being empowered to advocate for themselves and their loved ones and having knowledge on how to receive appropriate services.


Patsy White, CAC Vice Chairperson

Patsy and her husband of 38 years, Jeffrey, have five children and seven grandchildren. Her 20-year-old son, Michael, has Prader-Willi Syndrome and her 17 year-old-son, Jeffrey, is on the Autism Spectrum.  Over the years, she has worked to educate herself about advocacy in the disability community. She has completed the Partners in Policymaking and the LEND programs, as well as the Prader-Willi Syndrome WYATT Advocates for Education program. She is active with the Regional Advisory Council for Region 3, St Charles Council on Aging, St. Charles Parish Early Childhood Development Policy Council, LASARD, PAIMI Council, Board of Directors of the Advocacy Center, PWSA(USA) Louisiana, and PWSA(USA) Advocacy Committee. She has also served on the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, as well as the Louisiana Department of Education Special Education Advisory Panel. Her philosophy is not to change her child to fit the world, but to change the world to fit her child.

Shout Out to Ms. Walker

New Supported Employment Training Calendar

Louisiana APSE logoHDC Employment Initiatives have updated the Supported Employment Training Calendar for 2018, which includes both the 40 Hour Core Training Certificate and Continuing Education for LRS and Medicaid Employment Providers.

See the LSU HDC Employment Initiatives Website to register or for more information.
Note that the June session is right around the corner and that the price of training is going up after this June session.  There is now a discount for Louisiana APSE members, as the training is co-sponsored by Louisiana ASPE. Please email Laura Stazio at lstazi@lsuhsc.edu if you have any questions.
40 Hour Supported Employment CORE Training Certificate
for LRS and Medicaid Employment Providers
  • New Orleans at LSU HDC – June 12-14, 2018
  • Baton Rouge – August 21-23, 2018
  • Lafayette – Sept 18-20, 2018
  • New Orleans – October 30, 31 & Nov 1, 2018
  • Shreveport – Jan 15-17, 2019


Related Resources

LASARD June 2018 Newsletter

Check out the LASARD June 2018 Newsletter!

Highlights: The LASARD Project hosted two workshops for their partner and alumni districts in New Orleans on Wednesday, May 9th and Thursday, May 10th. The Alumni Workshop focused on the teams creating a sustainability plan and hearing what other alumni districts across the state are doing to sustain LASARD practices after graduating. Team Workshop 3 focused on celebrating the accomplishments and sharing ideas for moving forward.  Congratulations to the graduating class of 2018: Algiers Charter, Collegiate Academies, and Tangipahoa Parish.


Congratulations to Will Johnson!

Please join HDC CAC coordinator Lauren Griffiths in congratulating fellow CAC member Will Johnson on becoming a Storyteller who will advocate for the right to work for people with disabilities! Will was selected as one of three winners of the Rooted in Rights’ Storytellers 2018 competition. You can also see the announcement on Rooted in Rights Facebook page. Thanks to all of you voted during the voting period.

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