At the prompting of Board Member Jill Tatz and former Board Member Sue Iliff, Mary Becker applied for and was selected to participate in the prestigious Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training program at UNM’s Center for Development and Disabilities. Mary, who has a Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology and has worked at LifeROOTS for several years in different capacities, describes the LEND program as one “designed for family members, self-advocates and interdisciplinary professionals” seeking to improve policy, enrich service delivery and enhance advocacy. Mary’s own experiences – as a pediatric speech-language pathologist in early intervention settings and as a parent of children with learning differences – offer unique and effective contributions to the program.
LEND meets every Friday and Mary has described it as “action-packed.” Participants include family members of individuals with disabilities, self-advocates, interdisciplinary graduate students, community professionals and university faculty. So far, discussion has occurred regarding various competencies. In addition, each participant has been matched with either a family that has a child with a disability or a self-advocate. Participants will spend several hours with the families or self-advocates to understand better their disabilities. Establishing a mentoring relationship with a faculty member, exploring ideas for Capstone Projects and contributing to book club discussions are additional responsibilities of the participants. Each participant is also asked to maintain a journal and to facilitate both a journal and book club seminar.
Mary’s commitment to the training program is both stimulating and intense. In addition to her workload, she is encouraged to attend the Southwest Disability Conference in October and the New Mexico legislative session for the coming year. She has already delivered a presentation to a graduate class in the UNM Speech and Hearing Sciences’ Department entitled “Early Intervention and Service Delivery.”
It goes without saying that Mary is an incredible asset to the Children’s Therapy and Services’ division. In the case of her experiences in the training program what distinguishes her skills is her unwavering commitment: “LEND is a community of people who inspire me to think beyond the obvious, treasure the strengths we all have, and never forget that a ‘disability’ is just a label we assign rather than the defining essence of the person.”
Article written by Mary Bevoni