What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?
The Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit approached our agency in early May 2010 with the idea to have students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) complete their community service component for graduation with our organization. DiAnn Baxley, Susquehanna Valley Women in Transition CEO suggest that our award winning Internet Safety Video and curriculum be adapted to utilize with individuals with I/DD and that the students participate as peer presenters. CSIU and SVWIT immediately recognized the need for this program within this population and the positive impact that this project proposal would have on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Agency CEO, DiAnn Baxley, and Education Director, Heather Shnyder, met with representatives of CSIU to discuss the specific changes that the video and curriculum would need before being appropriate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During this time, three focus groups of CSIU students with these types of disabilities were created to review the video and curriculum as it currently stands. In one of these focus groups, Heather Shnyder recognized one of the students in attendance. This student and Ms. Shnyder had met at the Milton Area High School in April 2010 when the latter was there to present the Internet Safety video and curriculum in a mainstream classroom. This student had come into the classroom over the lunch period when Ms. Shnyder was setting up for the program, and the student viewed the video for a few minutes. When the student had to leave to go to her specialized classroom, she stated to Ms. Shnyder, “I wish someone would come into one of my classrooms and teach these things to us”. Ms. Shnyder remembered this statement and often pondered ways in which to bring this program to a broader population. Approximately one month later, the CSIU contacted our agency. Research about necessary changes and feasibility and budget investigations have already commenced. Once funding sources are established the staffs of Susquehanna Valley Women in Transition, the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, and the production company Patterson Brandt, Inc. are ready to begin work on this very important project.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
The Social Innovator behind the project idea is DiAnn Baxley, Chief Executive Officer of Susquehanna Valley Women in Transition (SVWIT). Ms. Baxley brings over 30 years experience in working with the target population. She is an expert researcher and presenter on issues of sexuality and individuals with I/DD. She has developed sexuality education curriculum for individuals with I/DD for the state of Florida designed to educate students, educators and parents on how to empower individuals with I/DD to develop safe, non-abusive relationships. The innovator behind the internet safety program is Heather Shnyder, the current Education Director. Our agency has been providing prevention education programs in the schools for almost ten years. We are very excited about the proposed Internet Safety Awareness Program for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Through this project, it is our goal to increase the knowledge and skill sets of individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) to safely navigate the Internet. Ms. Baxley knows from her years of work, all students are in need of prevention education and awareness programs, particularly individuals with I/DD who are not always present in customary public school classroom setting during prevention programs presentations. Individuals with I/DD are at a higher risk for abuse because of the lack of inclusion in prevention education classes; they use the Internet to browse topics and issues that interest them, just like peers in mainstream classes. Their understanding may be at a different level than that of a typical middle or high school student, and yet have very similar interest in the “world wide web”. With all things considered it is time to reach out to this population and provide trainings and educational programs beginning with our Award Winning Internet Safety Video and curriculum. As the winner of the 14th Annual Communicator’s Award of Excellence, our video has received a very high honor and has generated a demand for the program at an increasingly challenging rate. Our longstanding public recognition for quality prevention education and the expertise of Ms. Baxley and Ms. Shnyder position SVWIT to successfully design and implement the proposed internet safety program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
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