Spotlights

HDC Spotlight: Michael Curry

Michael Curry helps young adults with disabilities transition from high school into an independent life through the Human Development Center’s Postsecondary Apprenticeship for Youth, better known as the PAY Check program. Since joining the PAY Check team, Michael helped kick-start the first PAY Check program on the Northshore, which includes 4 young men from St. Paul’s high school.

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HDC Spotlight: Family-Centered Values at the ASDID Clinic

The Human Development Center is committed to increasing access to quality services for underserved families. One such way is through the Autism Spectrum Disorders Interdisciplinary Diagnostic (ASDID) clinic, which provides outstanding services to families of children suspected of having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As an interdisciplinary clinic, the ASDID team consists of the family and professionals from different disciplines who work together to engage in best practices for ruling in/ruling out an ASD diagnosis. The ASDID clinic also provides recommendations for services and support for families who have children with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD.

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HDC Spotlight: Courtney Bissonnette, RN, MSN

Ms. Courtney Bissonnette, RN, MSN recently began working at the Human Development Center (HDC) as a Health Specialist for HDC’s Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) project and a member of the core faculty of the Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program. Before joining HDC as a Registered Nurse (RN) and Health Specialist, Courtney worked as an acute care pediatric nurse on pediatric medical surgical units for five-years. She also spent a year at a pediatric primary care clinic as a pediatric triage nurse. Courtney left the hospital setting and earned a Master of Science in Nursing Education, while simultaneously working full-time as a nurse at a childcare center that served young children with special needs. Courtney has a personal relationship with developmental disabilities. She is the mother of a child with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Courtney’s professional training and life experiences make her uniquely able to notice small details that can impact a family or child’s health, wellness, and quality of life. Courtney uses this lens in her daily work to make sure that faculty, staff, teachers, families and children possess the wellness tools they need to reach their full potential.

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HDC Spotlight: Ali Kowitz, M.Ed., ET/P

Ms. Ali Kowitz recently joined the staff of HDC’s K-12 Educational Initiatives as an educational facilitator.  Ali coaches special educators and regular education teachers to better serve students, including those with disabilities in several school districts across South Louisiana (i.e., Iberville, East Baton Rouge, ReNEW-New Orleans, and Belle Chasse Academy). According to Ms. Julie Riley, HDC’s K-12 Education Initiatives director, “Ali may have only been in this role for three-months, but her expertise in instructional strategies and transition has added greatly to our team.” In fact, Ali has already developed professional development materials focusing on instructional strategies and accommodations/modifications to assist students with disabilities function within school-wide and classroom norms. Happily, these strategies work for students of all abilities!

Ali Kowitz
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HDC Spotlight: Ray Leger, BA, CWIC

Because October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), this spotlight has a special focus on employment. Visit the NDEAM homepage to learn how you can help build an inclusive workforce.

Donald “Ray” Leger has worked as a Certified Work Incentives Counselor (CWIC) for the Human Development Center’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance project (funded by the Social Security Administration) since 2006.  Ray is passionate about being of service to others and has loved every minute of his role helping people understand how work affects their benefits. Today, he is Project Manager of the West South Central Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WSC WIPA) program.

Donald "Ray" Leger

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HDC Spotlight: Maria Blanco, M.Ed.

Maria Blanco, M.Ed. has worked at HDC for 15-years. She designs projects that increase access to quality early learning experiences for young children and families; she supports early childhood staff to implement projects with a high level of excellence; and she represents HDC’s interests, and those of children and families, on state and local policymaking bodies. Maria is currently the Director for the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) and the Director for HDC’s newest program, Inclusive Practices in Early Childhood (IPEC).

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HDC Spotlight: Carmel Polk, MS, CESP

As a Transition Specialist, Carmel Polk helps PAY Check participants transition to life after high school by teaching them community and work-related skills that are crucial for independent life. PAY Check’s mission to nurture young people’s abilities for full community participation is what attracted Carmel to the position.

It is important that we ensure students have the tools and skills to live independently in society. We want young people to be the best version of themselves in every capacity.

– Carmel Polk, MS, CESP
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HDC Spotlight: Liz Gary

Trainees in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program are generally knowledgeable about their respective disciplines. However, many don’t realize the ways in which public policies directly affect families and individuals with disabilities (IWD). As the Policy Coordinator for the Human Development Center and Louisiana LEND program, Liz Gary educates LEND trainees on policy and helps them feel comfortable connecting with elected officials and policymakers. Liz teaches trainees to remain neutral while educating elected officials and policymakers about the perspectives and priorities of the disability community. That is, LEND trainees do not directly advocate; rather, they provide elected officials and policymakers with the information related to how public policies and/or legislation may impact members of the disability community.

Liz Gary
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Employee Spotlight: Brandy Brooks, MSW, RSW

Head shot of Brandy Brooks, MSW, RSW

“To help families build a solid foundation, we must give them the tools and resources to build. That is what we do with the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership at the LSUHSC Human Development Center.”

– Brandy Brooks, MSW, RSW
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State Spotlight: Louisiana’s Collaborative Emergency Response

Join Mark A. Thomas, the Deputy Secretary for Louisiana’s Department of Health and Julie Foster Hagan, the Assistant Secretary for the
Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities also at Louisiana’s Department of Health. This podcast focuses on Louisiana’s emergency response both within the I/DD system and the larger departmental and state responses in Louisiana. Did previous emergency responses position the system to better respond during COVID-19? How do state agencies work as one effective system to serve the community? Find out more about the unique and universal challenges in this state’s crisis response.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN OR GRAB THE LINK TO SHARE: https://soundcloud.com/user-27965428-561770656/state-spotlight-louisianas-collaborative-emergency-response