Building societies that include and benefit people with disabilities will be topic at Brehm conference at Eastern Michigan University on Nov. 9

by Debra Johnson, Published October 29, 2013


YPSILANTI – Educators at an inaugural conference at Eastern Michigan University hope to raise awareness about individuals with disabilities with the goal of building more inclusive societies.

The conference, entitled, Connecting the Dots: Building Inclusive Societieswill be held on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center, located at 900 Oakwood Street, Ypsilanti, MI.

Presented by The Delores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research and the EMU Brehm Alumni Association, the conference aims to stimulate conversations about inclusion through presentations, a keynote panel discussion and poster sessions.

“I hope that participants and attendees will walk away from this event with enthusiasm and a vision for what they can do to help transform special education,” said Linda Polter, executive director of the Delores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research at EMU.

The day is divided into two parts. Following the oral and poster presentations, and keynote panel, the EMU Brehm scholars will present their year-long research projects at the Brehm Scholars Research Symposium starting at 2:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“I am pleased to be a part of this inaugural conference, as it embodies what we are striving for: inclusive societies, equitable opportunities and valued individuals,” said Polter. “I am particularly proud of the fact that this conference has come to fruition because of a core group of Brehm Scholars, who founded the Brehm Alumni Association. They are amazing folks who are not afraid to put their dreams into action and to do the good work that it takes to make change.” 

Below is the schedule for the first annual Brehm Conference:

  • 8 - 9 a.m. - Registration and breakfast
  • 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Oral presentations and poster sessions
  • 12 - 2 p.m. - Keynote Panel: “Inclusive Societies in Action,” will be moderated by Dr. Eleanor White, director of the Office of Special Education for the Michigan Department of Education. Lunch will be provided.
  • 2:15 - 5 p.m. – Third Annual Brehm Scholars Research Symposium. EMU Brehm scholars will present their year-long research projects.

The keynote panel will include students and faculty from Eastern, along with educational leaders who are involved in innovative research and work aimed at building inclusive societies. They will discuss an apartment project where a young man with a disability lives semi-independently with adequate support, such as a roommate.

They will also talk about a service project that the EMU Best Buddies program was involved in where the people providing the service, included individuals with disabilities. Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that provides quality one-to-one friendships, leadership opportunities and jobs for people in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“There is often the perception that people with disabilities need help,” said Kevin Dorn, graduate student in special education from Eastern and a 2011-2012 Brehm fellow. “The service project shows people with disabilities helping others, which helps to reframe our construction of what a person with a disability can or cannot do.”

The special keynote panelists are:

  • Becky Ralls: Teacher/transition specialist at Stadium Transition Services for Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Ralls has served young adult students and their families for over 33 years, providing transition training, education and support.
  • John Rose: Teacher consultant for Washtenaw Intermediate School District, currently serving the county’s high school’s transitional needs. Rose has been instrumental in creating collaborative positive relationships and programming for students with disabilities at EMU and throughout the county.
  •  James Kleimola: Student with the Ypsilanti Transition Services. Kleimola serves on the board of directors for the EMU Best Buddies organization. 
  • Deon Chaneyfield: Student with the Ypsilanti Transition Services. He works two part-time jobs and is a member of the EMU Best Buddies organization.
  • Megan Hoorn: Student at Eastern who is studying speech-language pathology with a minor in human biology and human sexuality. Hoorn is also the buddy director for Best Buddies.

The Delores Soderquist Brehm Scholarship was established by an endowment from William and EMU alumnus Delores Brehm, of McLean, VA to support a total of eight students (at in-state tuition rates) for one year in each of the academic programs within the Department of Special Education. Scholarship recipients exemplify outstanding pre-professional skills in the field of special education coupled with a commitment to serve children and adolescents with special needs.

The Delores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research at Eastern Michigan University provides advocacy, equity and justice through educational change.

For more information and the complete schedule of events, visit the Brehm Conference registration homepage. Visit the Delores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship & Research website to learn more about Brehm scholarship opportunities.

Debra Johnson

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