Westerville Central Student Awarded As National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist

Meet Sarah! Sarah is an exceptional young lady who is not only incredibly intelligent but is also heavily involved in her community. She is a member of National Honor Society, Key Club, Spanish Club and Board Game Club. Outside of her extracurricular activities at school, Sarah has worked as a ZooAide for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, volunteered at the Westerville Public Library’s Summer Reading Program and worked at the Stratford Ecological Center. In addition to all of these activities, Sarah works eight hours a week at Kroger in their Click List department.

As a junior, Sarah was invited by Nationwide Children’s Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders to participate in a panel discussion at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Nearly 80 medical students converged to hear from a panel of four people who are on the autism spectrum. “Not only did the students learn about autism, but they also saw me as more than my disorder,” Sarah shared.

While Sarah works and is very involved in a variety of clubs, she has made time for her schoolwork and done quite well. Sarah has an accumulative GPA of 4.6251 and was recently notified that she is a semifinalist for a National Merit® Scholarship. In her application for the National Merit®Scholarship Program, Sarah wrote about her journey through autism. At the end of her essay Sarah wrote the following:

“I may always struggle with regulating my emotions and fitting in, but whenever I doubt myself, I only have to reflect on my past to see how far I have come. My challenges were great, but my past has paved the way for my future success. As I did on the panel, I can continue sharing my story to inspire others to always improve, no matter how difficult change may seem.”

After high school, Sarah plans to attend either Miami University or The Ohio State University to study zoology and conservation. We asked Sarah what advice she has for others who are considering college and she said, “Go for it! Lots of colleges have disability support programs.” Wherever she chooses to attend, the school will be lucky to have her!

Best of luck to our National Merit® Scholarship semifinalist, Sarah! You’re a success and inspiration to us no matter the outcome of the award.

Meet the Kearns Kids

Addie and Alex are two years apart and share a very typical but also special sibling bond. In addition to their special love for dance, Alex and Addie work together to spread the word about the importance of inclusion. Addie is a fierce advocate for Alex. “[She] is a very caring and funny sister,” Alex shared.


The Kearns family has been participating in the Columbus Buddy Walk for 15 years, raising thousands of dollars for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO).  In 2017, Addie launched Buddies Inc. to help with raising more funds and awareness. She is the youngest Buddy Walk team captain in Columbus. We asked Addie what inspired her to start advocating for her brother and others with disabilities and she said, “When I was in second grade I noticed people not being treated fairly. They’re the same as us and should be included. All Down syndrome is, is a copy of their 21st chromosome. We’re more alike than we are different.”


2017 was a busy year for Buddies Inc. They organized ice cream socials, participated in World Down Syndrome Day, hosted a vendor table of artwork created by Addie, and watched on Facebook Live as Alex’s photo was featured at the Buddy Walk in New York City. Out of 3,000 submissions, Alex’s photo was chosen as one of the select few to feature in Times Square.


When Addie grows up, she is considering a few different career options — occupational therapist, dance therapy, or potentially working as an advocate. As for Alex, he hasn’t decided what we would like to do after college. In the meantime, he stays busy as the ball boy for the soccer team, playing basketball, spending time with friends, and learning new dances.


We asked Addie what was next for Buddies Inc. and she shared they will start raising funds for the 2019 Buddy Walk! Additionally, she hopes to increase her Instagram followers for @buddies._.inc and hopefully get her biggest role model @ellentv to follow her back!


Keep up the great work Addie and Alex! We love your enthusiasm and appreciate your desire to create a more inclusive world.

Meet Andrea

Andrea has worked for the Foot & Ankle Wellness Center for almost four years. As an active participant in the Delaware community, Andrea knows many of the patients that come through the door. She is always a smiling face that welcomes people to the Center. “She is fun and sociable” shared her supervisor. “Andrea is always looking for things to do.”


For the most part, Andrea’s work at the Foot & Ankle Wellness Center consists of shredding and scanning documents. Andrea likes to stay busy and when she has free time, she helps the marketing department fill goodie bags for upcoming events.


Outside of work Andrea likes to play Wii bowling, attend For Friends and community events, and watch her favorite shows Rosanne and the Last Man Standing.


We asked Andrea what advice she has for others who are thinking about applying for a job. She said, “Go and see how you like it. Check it out before you apply.” Andrea enjoys participating in the office’s Fifth Wednesday events. On months that have a fifth Wednesday, the office closes early and goes out into the community to volunteer or do team building activities.


When talking about the support she receives from her Support Administrator at the County Board Andrea said, “I like working with her. She knows everything and helps me out. She is my role model.”


We are happy to see Andrea enjoying her longtime employment with the Foot & Ankle Wellness Center! #EmploymentFirst

DCBDD Gives Back

On Monday, November 19, 2018, Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD) launched into a day filled with giving thanks. The day began with a Thanksgiving Luncheon for the entire staff of DCBDD prepared by members of the administrative team. “I always approach Thanksgiving with an attitude of gratitude,” shared Superintendent Kristine Hodge. “Our staff does so much to support people in our community. This is just our small way of saying thank you for their hard work and commitment to providing excellent services.”

After staff finished their Thanksgiving lunch, they dispersed into the community for an afternoon of giving back. A total of nine different community partners were touched by DCBDD’s outreach. A group of staff assisted United Way (UW) with cleaning and decorating the UW Teen Room as well as, assembling diaper bags and cleaning the UW Kid’s Room. Several teams from DCBDD stopped by a few of Delaware City’s elementary schools to practice reading with children one on one. Another group of staff members helped prepare for the distribution of turkeys and meal kits for the Hunger Games Drive by sorting the donated food into complete meal kits. Other teams from DCBDD spent time visiting with residents at Willowbrook, stocking shelves at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, organizing items at Lutheran Social Services food pantry and sorting toys at People In Need for the Holiday Clearing House. A final group of staff members made fleece blankets to be donated to Turning Point and Delaware County Jobs and Family Services for new babies born in need.

“I was able to spend the afternoon at the Willowbrook Day Program volunteering with a group of residents,” shared DCBDD employee Lisa Fowler. “I feel blessed to work for an agency that cares for the well-being of the staff and offers opportunities like these to share our time in the community in places where we are appreciated.  Gratitude feeds the soul.”

DCBDD appreciates the support it has received from the community of Delaware. “These outreach opportunities were a great way for us to share our gratitude during this season of Thanksgiving,” said Hodge.




2018 Strategic Plan Progress Report

DCBDD has nearly completed its second year of the 2017-2019 Strategic Plan. Outlined in this plan are six core goals:

  1. Goal One: Strengthen community inclusion opportunities, supports, and successes
  2. Goal Two: Increase community employment success
  3. Goal Three: Educate and support individuals and family members
  4. Goal Four: Strengthen providers’ ability to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities
  5. Goal Five: Strengthen person-centered thinking throughout the agency
  6. Goal Six: Continuously improve internal operations

In preparation for the final year of the Strategic Plan, DCBDD would like your feedback on how well it did in accomplishing our 2018 goals. To review our 2018 Progress Report, please click here. After you review, please complete our brief 3-question survey to offer your feedback.

Meet Emma

Creative, funny, smart, and inquisitive are a few words that describe Emma. She is all around our American Girl. Emma is an active participant in her community, loves to read, and enjoys crafting things with her hands.


Emma just completed her sixth year of 4-H and has been elected as the incoming president for her 4-H club for 2019. According to Ohio 4-H Family Guide, “all 4-H programs focus on active involvement and quality experiences that stimulate lifelong learning of values and skills.”


This past year, Emma took a wide variety of projects to the fair. She took scrapbooking, sewing, vegetable gardening, seed art, and even made her own fairy garden. Emma received a total of seven blue ribbons and two outstandings. Her outstanding awards were for her beautifully designed seed art and for the pumpkin she grew.


Emma sews for more than her 4-H projects. It’s something she truly enjoys and has a lot of fun choosing the patterns. Emma has made custom clothing and quilts for her large collection of American Girl dolls. Her favorite outfit that she made for her dolls was a t-shirt and coordinating velour skirt. “I asked Emma if she wanted to make the skirt out of a fabric that is easier to sew,” shared her mom. “But she confidently said, ‘Nope I can do it!’ and she did.”


In addition to her joy of sewing, Emma loves to read books. She has so many books that her dad had to bolt her bookshelf to the wall to keep it from tipping over! “I know where everything is at the library. They should hire me to work there,” she teased. Emma’s favorite books are the American Girl books, especially those that teach her about the American Girl dolls she owns.  When we asked Emma what she thought she might want to do after school it was no surprise when she said she might become a librarian!


Emma is the youngest of six. She and her siblings have a close relationship and have grown up in a tight knit family. While the support from her family and community have been important, Emma’s mom also shared that the support of DCBDD has made things a lot easier. “When I have questions I can get help,” she shared.


We are happy to be a small part of Emma’s wonderful life. We look forward to seeing what Emma takes as her fair projects next year!

Meet Rick

Rick has been working with The Alpha Group for almost 20 years! Currently he is enjoying working on the janitorial crew. Rick finds joy in knowing his job creates clean spaces for others to enjoy. His favorite part about working at Alpha is spending time with his coworkers.


Outside of working at Alpha, Rick is an avid fan of all things Ohio State and the Walking Dead. In his free time, Rick likes to spend time outdoors fishing, camping, or riding bikes with his partner Marsha. We asked Marsha how she’d describe Rick, she smiled and said, “He’s a hard worker, a good person, and a good person to talk to.” When it comes to household chores, Marsha and Rick are good teammates. They take turns doing the cooking but since cleaning is one of Rick’s favorite jobs, he calls “Dibs!” on that.


Someday, Rick hopes to own his own lawn business. “I’m intelligent and I work hard,” he said. Keep up the great work Rick! With your determination and work ethic we know you’ll be successful!

#EmploymentFirst #employABILITY

Meet Emily – The Next Jack Hanna

Meet Emily. Emily is an all-around rock star. She is an excellent student and is involved in more extracurricular activities than most kids her age. She plays electric guitar, practices taekwondo, rides horses, plays various sports, is a member of 4-H, and in all of her spare time, works at The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (The Zoo). Did we mention Emily is a rock star?

A junior at Buckeye Valley, Emily places a high priority on her school work. She excels in her academics which her mom attributes to her extreme work ethic and dedication to her studies. Emily knows that to be accepted into a zoology program in college, she must put in the work to get good grades in high school first. Emily’s passion for animals and desire to be a zookeeper someday is what inspired Emily to apply to work at The Zoo.

Becoming a Zoo Aide is no easy task. Emily had to compete against 200 other applicants, go through an extensive interview process, and explain to The Zoo why they should hire her over someone else. To prepare herself for this experience, Emily participated in a job readiness training. During this training she learned about what she should wear to an interview, practiced how to communicate with coworkers, and participated in mock interviews. This 8-week course proved to be very useful in preparing for her interview with The Zoo.

When it came time for Emily’s big interview with The Zoo, her job coach accompanied her. However, Emily was so prepared from her job readiness course that she never needed to lean on her coach for support. They asked Emily why they should hire her and she confidently answered, “I am a hard worker and passionate about animals.” Emily interviewed so well that they offered her one of the positions in the Zoo Rides Department on the spot. We asked her what it felt like to hear she had gotten the job and she exclaimed, “It was awesome!”

Emily has worked as a Zoo Aide since 2016 and Rides Operator since the Spring of 2018. Some of her responsibilities include educating guests about animals, operating rides, and driving the train around The Zoo. In recognition of her excellent work as a Zoo Aide, Emily has received her fair share of Zoo Cash which is awarded by coworkers and visitors when they see a Zoo employee doing a good deed. It’s safe to say that Emily loves her job. Like most people who frequent The Zoo, Emily has her favorite exhibits and animals too. She enjoys the manatees, Asia Quest, kangaroos, giraffe feeding, and monitoring the polar bears on The Zoo’s tablet. “I have always wanted to work at The Zoo. This was a good way to get my foot in the door.”

We asked Emily what advice she would give to someone applying for a job and she said, “Practice before you go in for your interview. Don’t give up on what you’re trying to achieve.” Wise words from such a young professional!

In her free time, Emily enjoys playing video games, watching movies and writing letters to her favorite celebrities. Emily has written to Adam Sandler, Tia Torres (Pit Bulls & Parolees), Dr. Pol (Nat Geo Wild), Duck Dynasty, and Colleen Ballinger (YouTube celebrity). She has received an autographed picture or personalized note from all of these celebrities. The next star she plans to write is Kelly Clarkson.

We know that whatever Emily sets her mind to, she can achieve. Keep up the great work Emily!

Hugs for Hudson

Hudson is a sweet, charismatic, musical and above all, strong 10 year old. Just before starting Kindergarten, Hudson was diagnosed with Juvenile Batten’s Disease (JBD). There are currently 14 different forms of JBD, each varying greatly from person to person. Similarly, the symptoms experienced by each person are unique. Approximately two to four out of every 100,000 children in the United States have JBD. While JBD is a very rare, Hudson and his family remain positive and focused on the future.


When it comes to musical instruments, Hudson has played just about all of them. From guitar, to piano, to drums, Hudson loves them all. “Anything that stimulates his senses,” explained his mom.  In addition to his fascination with instruments, Hudson likes to read, travel, and try new foods. Unlike most 10 year old boys, Hudson loves vegetables. “We have learned to cook some of the strangest vegetables,” shared his mom. “We have made everything from broccoli to rutabagas and he likes them all!” Hudson has also been a joyful participant of Special Olympics and even qualified to go to State Games.


For Hudson, one of the symptoms he has experienced with JBD is blindness. While you might think losing his sight over time would be a frustration, “he has never complained about his vision,” shared his mom. “Hudson is so resilient and adapts to everything.” A fun fact about Hudson is he can tell you the name of any state or country just by feeling its shape.


We asked his parents what they have learned from Hudson and they said, “Hudson has taught us how to be parents of a child with a disability. He has shown us that we don’t need to sweat the small stuff.” A few years ago, Hudson and his family did not have much hope for the current treatments available for JBD. They were all too aware of the symptoms Hudson would soon experience and the devastatingly short life expectancy that comes with JBD. But recently, their hope has flourished with new clinical trials that seem promising. To advance these important research efforts and clinical trials, Hudson’s family established the Hugs for Hudson Research Fund at the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation (Beyondbatten.org/Hugsforhudson).


Some of the treatments now in sight are thought to be able to slow the progression of this disease and extend life. In partnership with other families who have a child with JBD, Hudson’s family joined the “Be Project.” The Be Project is a campaign to raise $6 million in 24 months to fund this new treatment. Since 2016, these families have raised $5 million. With only a few months left, they are actively working to raise the last $1 million needed towards their goal. As a part of this campaign, there is a “Be The Change” call to action encouraging participation in their text to donate initiative. By texting HUGS to 501501, a $10 donation will be added to the next phone bill to support continued research for Hudson and all of the other children impacted by Batten disease.


As a special part of their fundraising efforts, Hudson’s family has teamed up with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a night of hockey and philanthropy. On October 20, for every CBJ ticket purchased, $10-$20 will go back to support Hugs for Hudson. For more information regarding this event, visit: bluejackets.com/hugsforhudson.


Hudson and his family have found great support from families all over the world and through their support administrator at the County Board. Together, Hudson’s family continues to persevere and live life to the fullest.


As we left Hudson’s home, his mom said, “I can’t wait for you to come and do a follow up story next year! We have so much hope for the impact this treatment could have on Hudson’s quality of life.”  We are excited to follow up with Hudson too! Stay tuned for more Hugs from Hudson in 2019!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of NDEAM is to provide education about disability employment issues and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”


The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.


“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation.”


Reflecting this year’s theme, throughout the month, DCBDD will be highlighting stories of successful employment and employment resources.  “DCBDD is proud to be a part of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Superintendent Kristine Hodge. “We want to spread the important message that providing inclusive gainful employment opportunities is beneficial to both the employee and the business.”

Proposed 0.4 Mil Continuous Levy Request on November Ballot

DCBDD has proposed a new 0.4 mil continuous levy for the November 6, 2018 ballot. DCBDD currently serves around 2,500 people from birth throughout their lifespan. Over the past 5 years, DCBDD has seen enrollment grow by an average of 3% each year. This significant growth is projected to continue. DCBDD has proposed a 0.4 mil continuous to support and sustain this growth. The facts and information below explain the reason for the new request.


About the 0.4 Mil Continuous Request

  • It will generate $3,131,579 per year to support the continued growth and demand for services (based on 2017 assessed values)
  • The cost to the taxpayer is $14 per year (based on a home valuation of $100,000)
  • If the 0.4 mil levy passes, DCBDD will allow its existing 0.56 mil levy to expire

Why is DCBDD requesting this levy?

  • 79% of the people served by the board are children
  • The cost to serve a child on average is $2,101 compared to the average cost to serve an adult which is $16,293
  • In the next 5 years, 159 children will transition to adults increasing services by nearly $8.5 million
  • The 0.4 mil continuous levy provides a long-term and stable funding source for DCBDD
  • The 0.4 mil levy supports DCBDD in preparing for future growth and demand for services

What existing levies does DCBDD have currently and what are the plans should the 0.4 mil levy pass?

  • Currently, DCBDD has a 0.56 mil levy and 2.1 mil levy which are both up for renewal in 2020
  • Should the 0.4 mil continuous levy pass, DCBDD will allow the 0.56 mil levy to expire resulting in a tax decrease for taxpayers

More Information

Download Fact Sheet

If you have questions or comments about the upcoming levy, please contact 740-201-5810 or send us an email.

Early Intervention ROI

DCBDD is now accepting informal Requests of Interests (ROI) for our Early Intervention Core Team Primary Service Providers. Interested applicants must apply by October 8, 2018. Click here to learn more or to apply

Technology is Independence

Can you imagine a world where you were completely dependent on another person to do things for you, take you places, and help you with daily tasks? Chris couldn’t either, and thanks to technology he doesn’t have to rely on others to be independent!

Meet Chris. Chris is a senior at Ohio Dominican University (ODU) double majoring in business and insurance. During his time at ODU Chris has played drums in the marching band and enjoyed different social activities. In his free time, Chris loves trying different instruments. “There isn’t an instrument I don’t have an interest in,” he said. The piano was the first instrument he learned but he said it has taken a back seat to the guitar. In what little free time he has left after work, school, and music, you might find Chris working on cars, a hobby he has picked up along the way.

Even as a full-time student Chris found time to work at Apple as a sales specialist, a job he’s enjoyed now for three years. We asked Chris what his favorite thing was about working at Apple. While some might say the product discount, Chris responded with, “The people you meet. Apple fosters an honest environment where it’s not so much about selling but about a conversation of what the customer wants and needs.” As a part of Chris’ job, he helps customers set up their new devices and demonstrates what the products can do.

When it comes to technology, Chris embraces all it has to offer. He showed us how his new smart glasses and braille display work. His smart glasses are connected to a service called Aira where he can connect to an agent anytime, anywhere. Chris has used Aira to navigate new places, travel, and even to check the temperature gauge on his grill. “Through technology over the years I have gained a lot of independence.”

Chris learned to read braille when he was in pre-school. Chris shared that a common topic of discussion among people who are blind is “Is braille relevant?” To which Chris confidently shared, “Braille to me is literacy!” Chris likes being able to use his new braille display to read to himself instead of relying on another person or audio to read aloud to him.

So how does the braille display work you ask? Well to those of us in the room watching Chris’ demonstration it was pure magic. But Chris would tell you it’s not magic but rather a quick connection to Bluetooth. In a matter of seconds, Chris can connect his phone to his braille display and be browsing the web, answering email, and scrolling through social media just like anyone else who is sighted.

We asked Chris, how technology has changed his life. “It has leveled the playing field. I remember going to school and trying to do everything by hand. It wasn’t until high school that I started using more technology and developed a real passion for it. It’s insane what technology does for us. I’m holding my breath for autonomous cars. To me, that could be the biggest game changer.”

As someone who is more than familiar with technology, we asked Chris what advice he’d give someone who was hesitant about trying technology. “Don’t be intimidated by it. I’ve always embraced technology and never approached it with a mindset of worrying if it didn’t work.”

“I can’t thank [the Board] enough for your support. Helping me access technology has opened a lot of doors. Having someone that works with me to put together a new plan and ask me what I need has been a big help,” Chris shared.

Chris is looking forward to graduating in May and putting his degree to use! While he’s still not sure just exactly where he wants to be, we know that wherever he lands he will succeed.

Board Appointment Application

The Delaware County Board of Commissioners is seeking to appoint two members to fill seats on the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The appointed individuals must be 
residents of Delaware County and citizens of the United States, and must be interested and knowledgeable in the field of developmental disabilities and related fields.
For this particular round of appointments, applicants must be receiving or have an immediate family member eligible to receive or currently receiving services from the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The Commissioners are seeking to appoint two citizen members for terms that will begin January 1, 2019 and end Dec. 31, 2022.

Taryn is Rocking at Two!

A year ago, Taryn was working on strengthening her mobility and walking independently. Today, Taryn is an active 2 ½ year old who is rock climbing, running, and living her life to the fullest! She has made great progress but that didn’t come without hard work and a lot of self-determination.

During an appointment with Taryn’s physician, Taryn’s parents asked about activities that would be helpful towards her progress. They were thinking about enrolling her in dance or swimming. To their surprise, their doctor recommended rock climbing. Taryn’s mom admitted she was a little hesitant about the idea and was not sure if there was a gym that would even take on rock climbing with a child so young. Nevertheless, she called Vertical Adventures which is well known for their adaptive climbing clubs for youth and adults with disabilities.

This was a first time experience for her coach Nick. Nick went to school for teaching with a focus on K-12 physical education. Children under the age of four would be a new adventure for him but one he grasped willingly with both hands.  “When we first started, I couldn’t even get her off the ground” explained Nick. “Now she’s really strong. We are thinking about moving her up to the pre-school group (4-5 year olds). The ability is there.”

The connection between Coach Nick and Taryn is palpable. When we asked Nick what is his favorite thing about coaching Taryn he smiled and said, “Seeing her grow. Witnessing her growth first hand is incredible. I try to journal about all of her milestones as she reaches them. She continues to surprise me.”

While rock climbing has been a huge benefit to Taryn’s physical growth, she has also advanced mentally.  Prior to her rock climbing lessons, Taryn was reluctant to try new things explained her mom. “Her confidence has grown. Now, she goes right up to different playground equipment without any hesitation.” Additionally, rock climbing has helped Taryn’s awareness of her body. As she calculates which rock to step to next, she is thinking about where she is currently before she makes her next move.

Her parents have even noticed Taryn practicing her climbing breath to self-regulate when she is frustrated. One night at the dinner table, Taryn’s parents noticed she was starting to get frustrated. Before they attempted to intervene, they saw Taryn taking deep breaths to relax. “I asked her, ‘Where did you learn to do that?’ and she said, ‘Coach Nick!’” shared her proud father. The variety of skills Taryn has learned through her climbing practices have proven to be applicable in many other areas of her life.

In 2019, Nationwide Children’s Hospital will be partnering with Vertical Adventures to conduct a research study on the impacts of rock climbing and children with cerebral palsy. Nationwide Children’s has been following Taryn’s journey closely and is excited to see how rock climbing could positively impact more children like Taryn.

Way to go Taryn! We are continuously amazed by your progress and inspired by your positive spirit!

National Disability Voter Registration Week

National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) is recognized each year to make a concerted effort to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about this year’s election, and prepared to cast a ballot in November. This year, NDVRW is July 16 -20, 2018.  The Delaware County District Library (DCDL) and the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD)are teaming up in the national campaign also known as REV UP. The REV UP campaign launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2016, is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The Campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!

To learn about how DCBDD and DCDL are partnering during this week, read the press release below!

Read Press Release

Meet the Perry Sisters!

Navigating College
Sisters Ellie and Savannah have just finished their freshman year of college at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) and now proudly go by the description of sophomores. Completing the first year of college is an accomplishment for every college student. For Ellie and Savannah, their first year was a first for MVNU as well. The Perry sisters attended their freshman year with their provider, something no MVNU student has ever done before.

Ellie, Savannah, and their brother Will are triplets. When the time came to choose a college, the family searched for a school that would fit all three of their interests and needs. Before applying to MVNU, the family met with the Office of Student Success to talk about the accommodations Ellie and Savannah would need at school. “The college was very accommodating. They coordinated the classes Ellie and Savannah had in common so that they could share their provider when possible,” explained their mom, Michelle.

Once they determined MVNU was going to be a good fit for all three, the next step was managing the tuition. “We didn’t think it would be possible to send three children to MVNU,” said Michelle. Through a combination of academic and community scholarships, 82% of Savannah and Ellie’s tuition was covered. The scholarships lifted the final barrier for the Perry family allowing all three to attend MVNU.

Both Savannah and Ellie were happy to report it was a successful freshman year. Savannah achieved the Dean’s list both semesters and Ellie was published in the spring edition of the MVNU Literary Journal. Savannah is majoring in psychology and Ellie is majoring in English. We asked them both what surprised them about their first year of college. Ellie shared, “I was nervous to meet new people and I was surprised how quickly I made good friends.”  Savannah shared, “People have been really nice. I wasn’t sure what it’d be like.”

What’s next?
While Ellie and Savannah are enjoying some time off school, they’ve signed up to take a few classes over the summer. In the fall, Ellie has applied for a job in the writing lab to help other students with academic writing. Both Savannah and Ellie are taking their commitment to school seriously.

When they graduate college, Savannah hopes to be a counselor for children and teens at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As for Ellie, she would love to be a published writer. But, if that does not work out, she plans to manage a company’s social media account. There’s no doubt that these girls are going places!

Advice to Future Students
We asked Ellie what advice she would give to a high school student who wants to go to college. She said, “Work hard, get good grades, and apply for scholarships. It’s not just about your ACT score.”

Similarly, we asked Savannah what advice she would give to a student with a disability who would like to attend college. She said, “Show people what you can do. Don’t be discouraged by your limitations.”

What do you wish people knew about you?
Ellie shared that she wished people understood more about Asperger Syndrome. “People make assumptions that it’s like Autism. If people understood Aspergers better, people would understand why I act the way I do,” Ellie explained.

“I wish people would realize she’s [Savannah] not stupid,” Ellie shared. “People in the mall will talk to her like she’s a little kid. She’s fully capable!” Savannah agreed with Ellie wishing that more people understood just how capable she really is.

What is your favorite thing about your sister?
Savannah smiled and said, “She makes me laugh a lot. Some of the things she says are just so funny.” The girls looked at each other and giggled. Their connection and friendship is undeniable. Ellie shared, “I like that she doesn’t let her disability get her down. I admire how smart she is. She makes me laugh too.”

How has the County Board supported your family?
“Receiving support from the Board has helped our children not just survive but thrive. I truly believe it has allowed them to get where they are,” explained Michelle.

Meet Matthew!

Matthew, a junior at Olentangy has reached an exciting milestone in his life. After many hours of practice and hard work, Matthew passed his driving exam! Matthew enrolled in an intense driving program where he practiced with an instructor once a week for two hours over a 9-month period. When we asked how it felt to finally hold his driver’s license he said, “it feels great!”

In addition to celebrating his recent achievement, Matthew is looking forward to the start of summer in a few weeks. Like most high school students, he has been studying hard for his final exams. Matthew’s favorite subject in school is biology because he loves learning about living things. While biology is his favorite subject, his reading teacher Mr. Kirk is his favorite teacher. Mr. Kirk spends extra time with Matthew to make sure he understands the material the class is currently covering. The two have even formed a special bond over their mutual love for Star Wars and video games.

Matthew keeps busy outside of school too. He really enjoys participating in Service Club activities. “They’re always lots of fun and we get to help people,” he said. In addition to giving back to the community, Matthew likes to swim. Matthew has been swimming since third grade and is a member of the YMCA club team. His best events are the backstroke and freestyle.

While Matthew is looking forward to summer for a break from school, he will keep busy working at Meijer for the second summer in a row.

So, what’s next for Matthew? Next year he will be gearing up for graduation and applying for college. At the moment, he’s thinking about The Ohio State University or Columbus State. His goal is to become a fitness trainer working for the NFL or the NBA. As a major LeBron James fan, he wouldn’t mind getting to work for the Cleveland Cavaliers!

When we asked Matthew what advice he would give to younger kids he said, “Never give up – just don’t ever give up!” Matthew has seen what can happen with hard work and perseverance and is a great role model for other kids. “When he makes his mind up to do something, he can do it,” shared his mom. “After he received his license he was beaming because he was so excited.”

Congratulations on your big achievement, Matthew! We look forward to seeing where you go next!

Meet Will!

Will is 10 years old and loves Taekwondo and was determined to achieve his black belt. After his most recent class, Will successfully completed his test and now is a 1st Degree Black Belt Recommended! When we asked him what his favorite part of practice is he confidently answered, “round kicks!”

Will enjoys reading comic books, swimming, and conducting science experiments at school. His most recent experiment was the fizzy volcano. When Will grows up he wants to be a scientist whose experiments help people.

When Will’s parents first learned about his diagnosis they were overwhelmed and did not know where to start. After connecting with DCBDD, they were assigned an SSA who was able to offer guidance and support.

Will has made great progress over the last few years and was proud to share he’s receiving all A’s and B’s in school! “We don’t see much holding him back anymore,” shared his parents.

We look forward to watching Will continue to learn and grow. We can’t wait to see what experiment he comes up with next!

Bath Bombs by Kyle

Meet Kyle!

Kyle is a budding entrepreneur and passionate musician. After graduating high school, Kyle worked at a few different businesses but just could not seem to find the right place that met his interests. He wanted his own business. After researching a few ideas, Kyle and his family combined his interest in crafts, cooking and essential oils to create Bath Bombs by Kyle.

Bath Bombs by Kyle offers three main products: bath bombs, shower melts, and lip balm. All of the products are made with 100% natural ingredients. Perhaps the most important “ingredient” to Kyle’s product is the handwritten thank you and customized treat that accompany each order. “Kyle is always thinking about people and what makes them happy. He is proud to have his name on his product,” explained Patty, Kyle’s mom. Making others happy is important to Kyle and it shows in everything he touches.

Kyle plays a key role in his business. He has his hands in the online marketing of his products, creating new scents, counting and tracking inventory, grocery shopping for ingredients, making his products, and of course, choosing the next themed treat to go along with each order.

Currently, Bath Bombs by Kyle is focusing on finishing up their Easter orders and preparing for the next major holiday, Mother’s Day! Bath Bombs by Kyle will start accepting Mother’s Day orders on April 1st. Growing quickly, Bath Bombs by Kyle is in the process of adding an online payment option to keep up with demand.

With the success of his new business, Kyle has experienced what it feels like to get a pay check. When we asked Kyle what he was saving up his money for he quickly answered, “new cymbals for my drums!”

Kyle is a music enthusiast. He is a drummer, song writer, and loves playing in his band. Kyle enjoys listening to live bands at Mudflats, many of whom have grown to know Kyle and his love for music. Occasionally, Kyle is invited to join the bands on stage to play in a song or two.

Outside of his new business and playing in a band, Kyle finds time to volunteer and give back. Every week he helps prepare the Wednesday night dinner at his church for around 150 people.

We are so proud of Kyle for following his passions and starting his own business! Keep up the great work. We look forward to seeing what you do next!

National Developmental Disability Awareness Month

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month! While we strive to raise awareness every day for the many people who have developmental disabilities, we use the month of March to bring added focus on the important mission of making society more inclusive for all.

This year, our theme for National Developmental Disability Awareness Month is #JustAskMe. The idea for this theme came from a story we featured earlier this year about siblings Rachel and Mathew. During the interview, Rachel was asked what she wished people knew about EB and she said, “I wish they knew it wasn’t contagious and that they’d be brave enough to ask about it.” And the idea of #JustAskMe was created.

Throughout the month you will see DCBDD end the “just ask me” phrase with things like: about my job, to play, to be your friend, or for help. The goal of the #JustAskMe campaign is to open the lines of communication between people with and without disabilities, encouraging people to engage in genuine conversations.

People with disabilities are people first and should not be defined by their disability. At the end of the day, we all have similar wants, needs, and dreams. It is our hope that the #JustAskMe campaign shows we are more alike than we are different.

Take the challenge! #JustAskMe




Board Appointment Application

The Delaware County Commissioners are seeking applications to fill current DCBDD Board Member, Jeffrey Wallace’s seat. After 11 years of dedicated service, Jeffrey has resigned his position on the board effective February 28. We greatly appreciate Jeffrey’s dedication and support to the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

To apply for this open position, applicants must be a resident of Delaware County and a citizen of the United States, and must be interested and knowledgeable in the field of developmental disabilities and related fields. Individuals and family members of individuals receiving services from the Board are eligible to apply. Individuals who have professional training and experience in business management, finance, law, health care practice, personnel administration or government service are encouraged to apply. The Commissioners are seeking to appoint one citizen member for a term that will expire December 31, 2020.

Interested individuals can apply by using Delaware County’s online application portal.  For any questions regarding this application procedure, please contact Dana Bushong, Delaware County Human Resources, 740-833-2129 or dbushong@co.delaware.oh.us. Completed Board Appointment applications must be received through the Applicant Tracking portal no later than 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2018.

Meet Kaitlin!

Kaitlin recently received her teaching license and is now certified to teach kindergarten through 12th grade! She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Findlay and her master’s degree from Otterbein University. When asked how it felt to finally receive her teaching license Kaitlin said, “It feels surreal.” In the next few weeks Kaitlin will be taking the test to receive her Reading Endorsement.

Having grown up on an IEP, Kaitlin is interested in being an Intervention Specialist or a Reading Specialist. “I know the process and understand the child’s perspective,” Kaitlin explains. The Ohio School for the Blind and Woodward Elementary were two of the schools where Kaitlin did her student teaching. She experienced a variety of inclusionary classroom models, preparing her for her future career.

Kaitlin has a team of people who have supported her along the way. Family, friends, and former teachers were all there to cheer her on when times were tough. “When I said ‘I can’t,’ I had a team that showed me how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished.”

Understanding what her future students will experience uniquely qualifies Kaitlin for her job. When asked what she hopes to pass on to other students who have disabilities she said, “a diagnoses doesn’t stop you.” It certainly has not stopped Kaitlin. Her incredible determination and perseverance has shown that nothing is impossible.

Kaitlin is currently serving as a long-term substitute teacher until the end of the year. She will begin her full-time teaching position in the fall.

New Bathtub Creates Big Difference

Siblings, Rachel and Matthew are your typical teenagers. They have hobbies, passions, and bright visions for the future. Rachel is a sophomore at The Ohio State University Marion studying Early Childhood Education.  Matthew is a senior at Delaware Christian and loves playing video games and watching the Cincinnati Reds.

Both Rachel and Matthew were born with Epidermolysis Bullosa otherwise known as EB. EB is a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that affects 1 out of every 20,000 births in the U.S. The unofficial “mascot” for EB is the butterfly because people with EB have skin that is as delicate as a butterfly’s wings. The skin of people with EB blisters and tears very easily.

Because of the nature of their skin, bathing can be a very painful process. However, over the summer, Rachel and Matthew received a new bathtub that changed their bathing experience entirely.  According to Jason Hydrotherapy, the MicroSilk Hydrotherapy tub oxygenates bath water up to 70% more than regular tap water. The “microbubbles enter the skin’s pores, removing impurities, carrying oxygen for improved metabolism, lightly caressing skin for exfoliation, and improving hydration for dry skin.” Both Rachel and Matthew complete two 20-minute cycles in the tub every other day. It is a four hour process from the removal of their bandages, to the tub, to the reapplication of the bandages. While unfortunately the tub does not shorten this process any, it does make it much less painful and more importantly, it cleans the wounds more effectively. By using the hydrotherapy approach, there is less need for pool salts, bleach, vinegar, and other cleaning products commonly used to clean the skin of people with EB.

“This tub makes it easier to know they’re getting clean and are in less pain. It’s a much more relaxing process than it was before we got this tub,” explained Molly, Rachel and Matthew’s mom.

There are only four comprehensive interdisciplinary EB centers in the United States. Rachel and Matthew visit the EB center located within the Cincinnati Children’s hospital.  Since they visit Cincinnati so regularly, Molly always tries to plan something fun to do while they are there. They have become big fans of the Cincinnati Reds and in fact, Matthew attended spring training in Arizona in 2011 as a part of his Make-A-Wish and received Joey Votto’s bat.

A sophomore in college, Rachel is getting ready to start her student teaching. She enjoys working with younger children and appreciates their candidness when it comes to her skin condition. When asked what she wishes people knew about EB, Rachel said, “I wish they knew it wasn’t contagious and that they’d be brave enough to ask about it.”  As a part of Rachel’s Make-A-Wish, she had the joy of meeting the cast of NCIS. “It was awesome,” she exclaimed! If she could do Make-A-Wish again, she said she’d like to go to Hawaii or meet the original casts of Once Upon-A-Time and Hawaii Five-0.

As a family, they have attended many of the EB conferences that occur every two years bringing people, doctors, and researchers from all over the world.  Molly said the most valuable part of the conference is talking to other families. There are only three families in Ohio that Molly is aware of who have children with EB.  Facebook has become an incredibly useful tool for questions about new products and medications, as well as tips and advice. In fact, it was a family Molly connected with through the EB Facebook group who informed her about the MicroSilk tub.

Rachel and Matthew are simply remarkable young adults. Not because they have an extremely rare diagnosis but because in spite of their diagnosis, they push forward to lead the same lives as their peers, participate in clinical trials to promote the research of EB, and strive to achieve their dreams. The determination and openness that both Rachel and Matthew share, is what allows them to lead personally fulfilling lives and achieve their full potential.

Meet Tristan!

Tristan recently graduated from Delaware Hayes High School on December 15, 2017 and is now a Delaware City Schools employee! He began working in the school system over the summer completing landscaping and custodial work. Tristan is a very determined and fast paced worker. In one afternoon, he collected nearly 10 large bags of walnuts from the grounds at Willis. A true member of our community, Tristan played a major role in clearing the playground at Willis in preparation for the ice skating rink for the December First Friday, one of the city of Delaware’s most beloved events.

Working for Delaware City Schools is Tristan’s first job. When asked how he felt about receiving his first paycheck he said, “happy.” His coworkers are happy to work with Tristan too. “Tristan filled a major need. Willis had limited custodial support. Tristan took care of areas that had been totally neglected,” shared Rhonda, Tristan’s mom.

Not only is Tristan a great worker but he has become a role model. Rhonda has been told many times that Tristan has been a role model for other students who see him working around the school.  “We couldn’t be happier with what happened with Tristan’s transition after high school. It has exceeded my expectations,” Rhonda explained. “We are so grateful to the collaboration between DCBDD, DCS and our family in supporting Tristan’s successful transition.”

When Tristan is not working, you will likely find him being active outside! Tristan enjoys kayaking, watching lacrosse, long hikes, biking and riding wave runners. Last summer, Tristan participated in the summer Letterbox Adventure through Preservation Parks. He has hiked through all of the parks in Delaware County and is working his way through the parks in Franklin County.

“Tristan’s supports were community-based, coordinated and self-determined enabling outcomes in living, learning, working, recreating, and socializing. We are excited about what his future holds,” Rhonda said.

We too, look forward to seeing what Tristan accomplishes next. The sky is the limit!