Friday, June 30, 2017

Kit and Phil - This Isn't Goodbye

At the end June, two longtime Imagine! employees will be retiring from our organization. In addition to being voted “Cutest Couple at Imagine!” for ten years running, Phil and Kit Peiffer leave behind a legacy of more than 37 years of service!

While it is an impossible task to truly capture their impact on Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities, we did ask a few co-workers to share their thoughts as Kit and Phil ride off into the sunset to enjoy a life of luxurious retirement. Here are just a few of them:

“Kit has been an important part of the Early Intervention (EI) Team. She is taken on lots of different duties over the years and has been hardworking and kind. EI will miss Kit and all that she brought to the department.”

“Phil was a compulsively competent Case Manager and then became my supervisor and was able to guide Case Managers to the point of becoming competent themselves.”

“I will miss my conversations with Kit about bikes and her stories of riding adventures, and the fact that she is one of the few ‘early birds’ like myself in the office. Kit helped me out a lot the last several months with a task in our department and volunteered to take this on. I’m very thankful for that help.”

“Phil had a good mix of seriousness about the important matters and humor for things that could be light-hearted.”

“Kit has been an integral part of Early Intervention. She has so much knowledge to share with the group. Her personality was a great addition to the EI team!”

“I’ve never been so sad to see a supervisor go. Phil has made my transition to Case Management as easy as it could be and it’s been a pleasure working with him the last year.”

“Kit has been such an asset to helping getting services for children. Her knowledge about insurance is awesome and so helpful. She will be missed in so many many many ways!!!!”

“Phil is easily the best supervisor I have ever had. He is approachable, supportive and light hearted. He has made Imagine! a great place to work. We will all miss him, and his candy bucket.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Better Care Reconciliation Act Update 6/28/17

While there is a great deal of uncertainty right now, it seems clear that the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) poses great risk to individuals with disabilities who use Medicaid funds for vital services and supports. We encourage all Imagine! stakeholders to do their best to keep up to date on this fast moving process, and to participate in the process as they see fit.

To do our part to keep you up to date, we’ll be sharing updates on this blog as necessary.

As of 6/28/17, here’s what we do know about the AHCA (now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017) and the bill’s potential impacts on services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On June 22, the Senate released its version of the American Health Care Act, now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017, 142 pages of proposed legislation that built off the House passed version from May. On June 26, a slightly revised version was released. Check it out here.

Meanwhile, the Senate has delayed its vote on the BCRA until after the July 4th recess due to lack of support among both moderate and conservative Republican senators.

Analysis of the BCRA in its current incarnation indicates that:

The acute workforce crisis in our field is likely to worsen with the bill as written.
  • According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), the Medicaid growth rate in the AHCA/BCRA’s per capita caps proposal will continue to be lower than the expected growth rate of costs for services and supports. 
  • There is already a 45 percent national turnover rate among Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), who offer front-line supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Turnover is high because low Medicaid rates make it difficult for providers to be competitive employers, and they cannot negotiate rates. Staff members often leave for other industries with better wages. 
  • Without enough employees, providers cannot meet rapidly increasing demand for supports, leading to large in-state waiting lists and putting quality of care at risk. 
States may be hurt by the AHCA/BCRA as written and programs for individuals with disabilities may not be protected.
So how big of an issue is this?
  • 10 million people with disabilities in the U.S. rely on Medicaid for the services that help them live and work in the community, known as Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). 1.2 million people in Colorado are enrolled in Medicaid, and close to 11,000 receive comprehensive services through HCBS. 
  • Many people with disabilities are unaware that the services they receive are part of Medicaid. Services funded through Medicaid may have different names depending on the state. If a person with a disability receives any community-based support, it’s very likely through Medicaid. 
We’ll continue with the updates as we gather more information, so check back often.

Sources: ANCOR, Center for Public Representation

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Farewell To The Moody Family

Last week we said goodbye to the Moody family (Barbara & Rolland), who have been working as day porters at Imagine!’s office for the past several years, keeping the place clean, organized, and filled with kindness and humor. The Moodys are moving to Kansas, and as a parting gift, a group of employees pooled some money to purchase one of Barbara’s favorite paintings, which was hanging in our Coal Creek office. The painting is by a student in one of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source art classes, who is one of Barbara’s good friends, and will make a great addition to their new home. Barbara and Rolland, thanks for all you have done for Imagine! and the people we serve, and good luck. We’ll miss you!

Monday, June 26, 2017


This week’s write up features Imagine! participant Jessie, who celebrates recent progress with achieving her goals. 

Earlier this month, Jessie, passed her driver’s license exam with flying colors.

“I was really nervous. I asked her how I was doing and she told me I was doing great. Whew! That made me feel better. Before we even got out of the van after the test, she told me that I passed.”

Jessie and her friend purchased a GMC Safari Minivan – 1997, with pedal extensions already installed to meet her needs. “It’s old school.”

Jessie also recently started taking classes at Front Range Community College.

“I’m just taking the electives right now so I can get my Associates Degree. My ultimate goal is to get a degree in social work. Not sure exactly what I will do with it, but I know that I’m good at working with kids and people with disabilities, just not sure which one I want yet.”

On behalf of Imagine!, congrats Jessie for pushing yourself to achieve your goals - it's very inspiring!

Friday, June 23, 2017


Betty accepts services from Imagine! and lives on her own in Boulder. (Betty and I chatted in her apartment and she gave us permission to write up her comments). 
Pictured below is Betty and her two birds, Pepper and Angel. 

I grew up in Pittsburgh and at that time, they didn’t have the type of programs for me they have here. I grew up with animals, dogs and cats, but we had to get rid of them as we moved around a lot for my father’s work.

I’m 69 years old and I have learned to push yourself and take what you can get. When I moved to Colorado over 30 years ago, my sister taught me how to take care of myself … how to use my fork, use the restroom, get dressed, and more. I have worked at a restaurant in Boulder for 26 years and had to be on my feet a lot, serving people, folding napkins, and cleaning bathrooms.

I participate in Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE). It’s a human rights group and we advocate for rights of people with disabilities. I want everybody to love each other and don’t like to see hate. Be kind and give presents to people all the time, not just at Christmas time. To those kids who want to get married, it’s none of my business, but take your time. Be patient for everything and understand people.

One of my favorite memories is a long time ago, when I was visiting my nephew at his house. His daddy told him to get on his lap so he would calm down before bedtime. He said, “no!” His mamma asked him, “Why aren’t you listening to your daddy?” And my nephew responded, “I want Aunt Betty’s lap!”

Friday, June 16, 2017

Nick O'Connor: Instructor and Musician

Nick is an Imagine! employee and has worked in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities for about ten years. In addition, he is a singer/songwriter and has been playing music since he was 13. I sat down with Nick to learn more about these two passions of his: 

 1) What inspires you to write and play music?
I was kind of an awkward kid growing up. Wasn’t good at sports. Felt like I didn’t have much to give and wanted to express myself in a way. Started playing songs and playing guitar. That’s one thing I did that got me positive attention in school. Pouring my heart out in a song feels good, kinda like an anti-depressant. The performing is just as important as the song writing. I don’t think I could just write a song for other people. I like getting my message out there.

2) How did you get into this line of work, assisting individuals with developmental disabilities?
I have a passion for the line of work we’re in. We work with a population that isn’t talked about a lot and we’re still fighting for their basic rights. I have a heart for stuff like that, that’s why I’m in this field. I want to help people. 

 We were doing karaoke in a music class at CLS Longmont. One of our student’s sang “I feel like a motherless child.” She started to tear up. I told them that if you get emotional with music, there’s no shame in that. We proceeded to watch YouTube videos of songwriters talking about their songwriting process and how it goes beyond feeling happy. I think they were hip to that. To share that and get a positive response is meaningful to me.

3) What are your music goals right now? Any big projects?
In the next couple of months, I am recording an EP. My goal is to record a series of 4 EPs and release them every six months. I’ll be writing music on my own. Sometimes I bring people in to bounce off ideas. I’m going to work with Clark Hagen on these EPs. He’s a genius. Did some stuff with Chet Atkins back in the 90’s and on a record that won Grammys.

Click here to visit Nick’s website. You can listen to his original tracks and see where he is playing next.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Free Furniture and Electronics From Former Imagine! Group Home

Imagine! is clearing out its former 19th St. Group Home (1836 19th St, Boulder) in anticipation of selling the property, and will be giving away some items that we won’t be able to reuse.

For the next couple of days the items, including furniture, cabinetry, and electronics, will be in front of the property and FREE for the taking. You just need to provide the labor and the vehicle to transport the item. Some stuff it is in very good shape, other stuff perhaps not so much, but beauty (and need) is in the eye of the beholder, so if you can get there feel free to help yourself.

The items will be available until Friday afternoon (June 16). Below are pictures of just a few of the available goods.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Errorless Learning

Errorless Learning 
By Dr. Jeff Kupfer, PhD, Imagine! Consultant

We perform skills throughout our lives, but performing competently often requires a combination of precision or finesse, along with a minimum of errors. Both are necessary — a fancy omelet cannot include eggshells.

Performance errors often discourage learning. We may try harder when we perform slightly under par, but frequently walk away if we commit errors that results in financial loss, harm to ourselves or others, social embarrassment, and so on.

Persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities may encounter this same effect and become discouraged with learning, in general. Learning situations have an impact on all Learners. When skills are not taught well, or taught with frequent reprimands and few words of encouragement, it is not surprising that Learners who stand to benefit resist or reject teaching plans. My own observations in Planning Meetings lead me to suggest many Learners will agree to participate in teaching plans, but only if the role of the Instructor is strictly casual advisor – there in spirit only, providing neither guidance nor correction.

Errorless Learning uses instructional methods specifically designed to prevent or substantially minimize any Learner errors. This is readily accomplished by providing the maximum amount of support to the Learner in the earliest stages of learning, and then gradually reducing these supports until the skills remain intact with little or no support required (Terrace, 1963). There are three components to this method: (1) prompting, (2) fading, and (3) backward chaining.

Some steps in learning skills require prompts to complete, perhaps starting with several hints or clues provided by the Instructor until the skills are performed more accurately. We can provide these prompts to ourselves (such as Post-it Notes) to improve our self-management skills.

Once these skills are performed with accuracy and few errors, prompts can be faded until the skill is performed without any external support.

In the Figure directly below, a Learner may practice writing the letter “E” using a complete sample of that letter. Successful reproduction of the letter leads to a new sample that contains less of the previous sample and invites more letter-writing by the Learner with less prompt. This fading process can continue until the Learner writes the letter without requiring a sample.

From Sidman, 2010

If you have ever been in a school play perhaps you learned your part by studying a script, reading it directly at first, then covering up portions as you learn it well. Or maybe you learned to sing a song using the written lyrics at first, then removing them as you improved. We often use a model or sample of printed information as an example of the correct way to do something and gradually reduce its influence.

In backward chaining, a skill is taught from the end of the activity to the beginning. A bow to a shoe is pulled tight by the beginning learner and immediately encounters the benefit to a tied shoe. Once this is mastered, the Learner can begin to learn how to make the bow, naturally leading to the step of “tightening the bow” which has been mastered and can be performed independently.

Thus, all the steps in the activity are “taught backwards”. If there are 10 steps to teaching a skill, we start with the last step (Step 10) which results in the Learner coming into direct contact with the accomplishment. Then, we teach Step 9 which, when completed, naturally leads to Step 10 — a step that has been mastered and requires no prompting.

This process continues until we teach the very first step of the activity as the last step. Once Step 1 is mastered, steps 2-10 should be performed with little or no errors, and no prompting In the example below, A Learner can to write his name, first with the entire sample, then one letter at a time. The letter “E” is well-learned in step 2 so that when step 3 is introduced and completed correctly, the sample for “E” is no longer required and the name can be completed without prompting.

 From Sidman, 2010

Of course, not everything needs to be learned in this manner. When we have already learned a skill, but have not performed the skill for some time, we may need a few prompts just to get the ball rolling. That is, we only require a minimum amount of prompts. We may say: “Okay, I have it now… let’s take it from the top.” Think Frank Sinatra…

On the other hand, newly acquired skills or ones that haven’t been performed for years may benefit from a greater amount of supports. Errorless learning techniques have been used in education for decades, particularly when the skill to learn must be performed with accuracy and when there is little room for error. More recently, errorless learning has been used in rehabilitation settings and has produced improved outcomes and sparked motivation in participation. Therapy-related skills are acquired more rapidly with less frustration and with greater success and satisfaction.

Sidman, M. (2010). Errorless learning and programmed instruction: The myth of the learning curve. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 11, 167-180.

Terrace, H.S. (1963). Errorless transfer of discrimination across two continuua. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 6, 223-232.

Friday, June 9, 2017


Today's post features an Imagine! participant, Eric, who accepts Out & About services:

My name is Eric and I was born in Denver, CO. I was born with a handicap which had a great impact on me, it’s called CP for you all do not know, here is a little background on this. There are a lot of disabilities and that does not mean that you can’t do the same as those who don’t, it means that you are slow at things and you may need some help. So that’s what I got. When my mother and father had me they wanted to do everything in their power to help. I couldn’t speak that good or walk. So mother and father put me in children hospital and there they teach how to walk and work on my speech, but mostly on my walk. I did not want to some days. My dad told my mom to make sure “Eric get down here and do the exercises that the hospital told him to do.” It was a big part on him, and it work for me and I did that for about 13 years and now I am 55 and doing great. And for that I got my mother and father to thank. They really were great at that and that's how I walk and talk a little better now.

Now I did have a woman in my life when I was 13 or 14, she was good and caring about me. We went out for about two or three years. At that time I did not understand it at all, all I knew is that she love me and I love her. After school was out and if I did my homework, I could go out and see her. Each time I went to her house we go out like a park or something like that and it was a good feeling to see her each time. But we sat down one day and we hold hands and we talk and talk and she told me that she was seeing someone else and that hurt me a lot. She told me what she wanted and it made me upset for couple of weeks, seemed like. But I got over her slowly and since today we are friends but we don’t see each other anymore but I would love to see what has become of her. But who knows maybe we will.

I had speech all through school and did good and people that helped me thought I was getting really good at my voice and I had work very hard on it. I made lots of friends. Got out of school with A+ and A’s. Got a good job for about 22 years and retire. I found Out & About and it has been great to me. Lots of cool people and we do things that are pretty cool. I think I had hard times but got over that, lets just say things are looking up.

Thanks mom and dad, never will forget the good old times we had. Love, your son,

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cheer Central Suns

Brittany, Kacey, and Ashleigh accept services from Imagine!'s Out & About, and have become good friends over the years. Their friendship started outside Imagine!, however, at a training facility in Denver, practicing tumbling and cheers. These three belong to the Cheer Central Suns squad and compete every year, across the country. This year in Orlando, FL, their team took 1st place at Worlds Competition. 

I spoke with Brittany and Kacey about their experience on the squad and learned what it meant to be a Cheer Central Sun.  

Kacey - "It's nice to be on stage with all of my teammates. We earned the award together and worked hard for it." 

Brittany - "The coaches are friendly and it gets me out of the house. I started in high school and this was my 10th season. We work as a team and help each other out."

The sense of team that Kacey and Brittany reflected on has helped them grow as individuals as well. Their parents chimed in during the interviews to say that they both have become more confident and independent individuals throughout the years. Kacey's mom, Michele, commented that the gym treats them like any other athlete and expects them to work hard at each practice. 

(Pictured from left to right: Coach Michelle, Brittany, Kacey, Ashleigh, Coach Sloan)