Friday, April 24, 2015

SSP: A Cash Benefit Alternative to Individual & Family Services

One of the lesser known programs at DDA is a cash benefit alternative to Individual & Family Services. It’s called SSP (State Supplementary Payment) in lieu of IFS. For many, it’s a great way to pay for services and supports without being limited to approved services and contracted providers. To be eligible for SSP in lieu of IFS, an individual must be:
  • a client of DDA;
  • income-eligible for SSI; and,
  • eligible for Individual & Family Services.


How Is SSP the Same As IFS?
In addition to having the same functional eligibility requirements (including living in the family home), SSP has the same funding levels as IFS. The amount of funding is based on assessed need.

How Is SSP Different Than IFS?
The monthly benefit is delivered in the form of a monthly payment, either by paper check or direct deposit. No receipts or reporting to DDA are required. The money is for the benefit of the individual’s needs beyond what SSI pays for. In this way, it’s more flexible and easier to use than the IFS waiver program, which is limited to contract services only and does not cover reimbursements. 

Does SSP Affect Other Benefits I receive?
It should not impact the client’s SSI amount, but it could impact food benefits because the Community Services Office takes that resource into consideration. Clients and their families should always include this unearned income whenever they are asked about the resources available to them.

Can I Move from IFS to SSP?
Yes, as long as s/he is income eligible and there is capacity on the program (i.e. funding is available). DDA currently has capacity on SSP, but funding is always subject to change. Once SSP enrollment is filled, funding will only be available as other clients leave the program. Clients wanting to switch from IFS to SSP can request to do so at their annual assessment.

Can I Move from SSP to IFS?
Yes, if there are enrollment openings in IFS (i.e., funding is available). Right now, as thousands of enrollments are about to open up in IFS, being able to switch from SSP to IFS is possible. Once enrollment is filled, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. Clients wanting to switch from SSP to IFS can request to do so at their annual assessment.

Can I Stay on the State-Only IFS Program?
Everyone who is currently on the state-only program will be transitioned to the federal IFS waiver at their annual assessment. A very small number of individuals (those who are ineligible for the IFS waiver program) will remain on the state-only program. If you are income-eligible for SSI, then the SSP program will give you the flexibility (and more) of the state-only program that is being phased out. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Enrollments to Open Soon in Key DDA Programs: Part One

What to Expect
We’ve been talking about this for close to a year, and it’s almost here: several thousand new enrollments will open for individuals on the No Paid Services Caseload. A couple of program changes are taking place that make this possible. Each has a different process and timeline, but both are likely to affect most individuals who are applying for these new programs.

Individual and Family Services (IFS)
Beginning May, 2015, IFS is moving to a federal waiver, which brings in federal funding to double the program’s enrollment. It also comes with more regulations and less flexibility than the existing IFS program, but will basically offer the same type of services, plus a few more. Clients who transition to the IFS Waiver will receive Medicaid coverage in addition to any other insurance they already receive.

Personal Care & Community First Choice (CFC)
By the end of uly, 2015, personal care services are moving into a program that includes additional services to enhance independence, such as assistive technology and skills acquisition. The new program is called Community First Choice. A refinancing of the current personal care program brings in new federal funding that will add capacity to DDA’s Basic Plus waiver and the new planned Individual and Family Services waiver.

What to Do if You’re on the No Paid Services Caseload

Start Planning
My Life Plan, a new online tool created by the DDC and The Arc of Washington State, can help you start thinking about goals and support needs at home, school, work, and in the community. As enrollments open at DDA, you’ll be ready to see where services might fit into life’s bigger picture, making sure your son/daughter’s interests, skills, and needs are at the forefront.  Begin your journey at My Life Plan.

Raise Your Hand for Services
If you are not on a wait list for DDA services, call the DDA NPS caseload number in your region and request the service you feel best meets your son/daughter’s needs. For service descriptions, visit DDA's website.

Toll-Free No Paid Services Caseload Numbers:
Region 1
Spokane: 800-319-7116
Yakima:  866-715-3646
Region 2
Seattle: 800-974-4428
Everett: 800-567-5582
Region 3
Tacoma: 800-735-6740

Olympia: 888-707-1202

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Social Emotional Learning: Building Blocks of Success

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is helping students gain skills to manage their emotions, communicate, and resolve conflicts. SEL benefits all children at any age, including infants and toddlers; however, students struggling with behavioral and/or mental health issues can especially benefit from social emotional skills learned in school and reinforced at home.

Social Emotional Competencies*
  • Relationship Skills
    Communicating, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict, and seeking and offering help when needed. 
  • Self-Management
    Regulating emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals. 
  • Responsible Decision-Making
    The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interaction.
  • Self-Awareness
    The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. 
  • Social-Awareness
    The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior.
*Source: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Social Emotional Skills and Your Child’s IEP

Learning how to recognize and practice healthy interactions with others, manage emotions, be part of a team, make good decisions/recover from mistakes and show respect for other people—these skills are just as important for success in the world as any academic achievement. 

In planning ahead for your son or daughter’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), ask yourself what success would look like at the end of the school year. Which social emotional skills will help your child reach her/his goals along the way? Consider building those skills into the IEP and brainstorm with the IEP team how to best achieve those goals and the kinds of supports needed.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Department of Early Learning
SEL for Washington


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

by David Maltman, Guest Contributor

I have found the articles posted to this blog too often demonstrate the challenges that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families experience in participating in the social, economic, cultural lives of their community. We all know that personal relationships and community networks are often the place to start when looking for a job or ways to better connect with neighbors and other members of our communities.

In response to this situation, the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) has crafted a project intended to assist individuals and their families be more involved and included in community activities.  Inclusion, we believe, results in relationships with other people outside of the DD Silo who share common interests. In turn, communities will learn to utilize the gifts, talents, and skills of all citizens.

The DDC is working with Friendship Adventures to provide small grants to promote inclusion and innovation in building relationships. The "micro-grants" range from $100 to $500 and can be used to purchase goods, services, or pay certain fees. The application is simple to complete.  The only catch is that the purpose for seeking the grant must involve and benefit Washington residents with developmental disabilities in an integrated setting—it really is that simple..

If you have an idea about an activity or event that will promote inclusion, go to the Micro-Grant website for information and an application at:

The website explains who may submit an application, the award process, and how the micro-grants can be used to promote inclusion in the community. The website includes a tab for Frequently Asked Questions. Most ideas about ways to initiate or participate in community events or activities that create relationships between individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and their community, would be considered.

David Maltman, Policy Analyst 
Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council

Click here for a printable one-page fact sheet on Inclusion & Innovation Micro-Grants.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Unintentional Exclusion

by Charlene McCarty & Travis, Guest Contributors

Parenting is hard. Single parenting a child with developmental disabilities- even harder. Every child is unique and there are no “one fits all” solutions to parenting. You find yourself questioning every decision you make.

“Am I doing enough?"
"Am I doing too much?"
"What if this happens? What that doesn't happen?"
"Will this come back to haunt me later?”

But, at the end of the day you tell yourself you're doing the best you can, and you hope for the best. At least, that was my mind set on my journey with my son, Travis.

Travis was diagnosed with developmental disabilities when he was 4 years old. Communication and social interaction is one of his biggest challenges. He entered school with an IEP (Individual Education Plan), and it became immediately evident that he was not comfortable interacting with his peers or participating in group activities. The school and I agreed to let Travis integrate into the group at his own pace and not force interaction with his peers.

During his grade school years, the inability to manage his emotions caused frequent meltdowns if he was over-stimulated or placed in a chaotic environment. So, in what I thought was in the best interest of my son’s emotional well-being, I allowed him to be excluded in those types of situations. I would consult with his teachers before each event and come to a mutual agreement on whether Travis would benefit from participation or if it would cause undue stress.

Needless to say, he didn’t participate in many events such as field trips, assemblies, and school group activities. Was that the right decision? At the time, it felt right. Looking back, I’m not so sure.

As Travis continued on to Junior and High School, his social interactions did not improve much. I was learning more about inclusion and advocating for our child’s rights to be included, but I felt strongly that part of advocating for a child was respecting his right to make choices about his life.

I would encourage him to participate in social events, join groups or clubs, interact with his peers, but I also respected his decision of choosing not to do those things. On the few occasions that I insisted he participate in something against his will, with the hope that he would enjoy himself once he got there, did not work out that way. If he really did not want to participate, there was little we could do to change his mind.

Travis was slipping into the cracks of social exclusion unnoticed. Partly, I think, because of the type of person he is. He is a likeable, polite young man who is known by many. Everywhere he goes, people recognize and greet him and he always responds. But, that’s as far as it goes. Travis enjoys doing things with his family like going to the movies, attending plays, shopping at game stores, and eating out (a lot!). The key phrase there is “with his family."  Travis has been content to only have his family as his social network, and although that’s not a bad thing, it has allowed him to be unintentionally excluded with his peers. 

Travis will turn 20 in a few short weeks, and is in the final phase of transitioning from high school to adult life.  As I look back at his life and the decisions that were made along the way, I worry that the lack of a social network other than family is going to isolate him from engaging himself with his community.

The good news is, it’s never too late to change! Recognizing and acknowledging this now, we can develop a plan to help Travis be successful as be builds his future. Travis will have a team of dedicated people to help him through this process. Through the transition services at school, he is learning basic living skills, means of transportation and getting out into the community by volunteering or perhaps part time employment.

We hope to have a Person Centered Plan in the near future where all of Travis’s network (teachers and family, etc..) will be invited to brainstorm ideas and help build a better vision of who Travis is and what kind of life he would like to have. There will be timelines and goals that are realistic and achievable. The desired outcome is to instill confidence in Travis and give him something “real” to work towards.

Borrowing the concept of a quote from Al Condeluci that rings true for Travis: “The more you get to know him, the more you see his value."  Travis is also going to participate in a pilot project that The Arc of Grays Harbor is conducting called “intentional inclusion” to help build his social capital by connecting him with community members involved in things that Travis is interested in.

Although Travis may never have a large capacity social network, I feel confident that it will grow substantially in his future as an adult. He is beginning to understand the importance of having a social circle other than family and is working hard to learn how to build stronger communication and social skills.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Latino Strong: The New Voice of Advocacy

As the result of the Developmental Disabilities Council’s (DDC) ongoing efforts to provide outreach to minority communities, the Council is seeing some exciting growth in the participation of individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds in its Local Leadership project.

Known as Partners in Policymaking in other states, the Local Leadership project is the DDC’s approach to developing leaders who create tangible impact on local communities, as well as state and federal governments.

The purpose of the project is to create a lasting base of individuals and parents who remain active advocates and change makers at the local and state level long after each local project runs its one-year course. The project has shown great success over the years, creating leaders who have moved into local and statewide positions of advocacy and policy development.

In 2012-2013, the King County Arc held classes for Latino, Somali, Asian and African American participants, who were all bi-lingual.  In 2014-2015, the Arc of Snohomish and Yakima counties conducted classes with all Latino members, some of whom were bi-lingual.  Materials were translated and interpreters utilized.

According to co-coordinator of the Snohomish group, Catalina Angel, “The Leadership training has been a platform for immigrant parents to gain advocacy skills and learn about the systems that support their children with disabilities.”

Snohomish County Leadership

This past month, the three Local Leadership groups attended an intensive on-site legislative training in Olympia, where two of the Snohomish groups' Latino legislators visited with the participants; Representative Luis Moscoso from the 1st district, and Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self from the 21st.

Yakima Leadership
(L-R) Jesus Ramos (Sunnyside), Joel Tovar (Mabton) and Itza Reyes (Toppenish)

"The participants in our Yakima County program are excited to polish their skills in advocacy and become leaders in our local Hispanic community on I/DD issues," says Linda Fox, coordinator of the Yakima Leadership program. "Itza [Reyes] reminds us that 'disability is in all cultures', and looks forward to developing cultural bridges that connect all citizens and strengthens collaboration on the I/DD issues we face.

With the increasing push toward ethnic outreach, the Council hopes to see more individuals and families empowered to make changes that include their values and vision for the community.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Many Paths to Inclusion

by Betsy McAlister, Guest Contributor

The realization that something is unfair comes in many forms, and often during unexpected moments. Our moment came last year when my older daughter was a senior in high school. She had tears in her eyes after listening to me explain that her freshman sister was being asked to drop choir due to vague reasons that it might be too difficult.

Her sister, born with developmental disabilities, had been in choir since elementary school, and we thought her participation in the high school choir was a given. And yet discrimination and the difficulties of inclusion were unfolding, once again, in our family life.

As a parent, there have been many times I have faced a teacher, neighbor, friend or stranger who does not understand inclusion; however, my mind kept questioning how my younger daughter could enjoy the benefits of a music program if she wasn’t even in the class.

The reality is, physical presence is the first step to inclusion. If my daughter is not even at school events, public places or family gatherings how can she participate? Where is her dignity of risk? Shouldn’t high school, for her, be about new experiences and classes and not about exclusion and imposed limits?

We were faced with choices: educate, push, pause, agree or disagree. In this instance, my mandate from my younger daughter was clear: it was time to push.  She repeatedly made it clear to me she wanted to stay in her choir class, and she needed help in advocating. This opportunity was not about a power struggle between her teacher and me but about my daughter’s passion for music and her goals in high school.

As my husband and I strategized and attended numerous meetings, we agreed that we had to do what is really hard to do: we listened. We went to every meeting requested, and we listened...again and again and again. We listened when the teacher mentioned that my daughter’s presence was not fair to other students because it was a performance choir. It was hard to listen to that, but we did.

We engaged our daughter in the process, made our expectations clear and found her additional support for the class. We refused to agree to her being transferred out of choir, but we also came to the table with ideas, openness and support. And through the process we found her choir teacher became willing to work with us and offered many great suggestions and ideas.

This September, at a fall choir performance, my husband and I listened to a few choir members on stage share why they loved choir. Each mentioned the beautiful music first thing in the morning, the friendships, the learning, and the caring atmosphere of their “choir family.”  One student gushed, “Choir is just the best.”

My husband smiled at me as we understood those same experiences were just what we hoped our daughter would enjoy. The path was difficult, but there she stood in a beautiful dress on stage singing.