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Starkloff’s October Community Outreach programs abound

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Sarah Schwegel and Katie Fields sit at a table with Starkloff Disability Institute's logo displayed on the table cloth.

Community Outreach opportunities filled the October calendar once again at SDI. Important meetings, tabling events, public speaking engagements and intake appointments with perspective students kept our staff busy throughout the month.

Sarah Schwegel, Youth Transition Coordinator at SDI, spoke to a group of fourth-year Occupational Therapy students at St. Louis University on October 3. Sarah described growing up, attending college and going to work every day as someone with SMA, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She also outlined the programs and services offered at SDI–resources these OT students might one day recommend to their clients.

As future OT’s, the students asked a number of questions about the logistics of navigating life as an adult with a disability. Sarah recommended a philosophy of treatment that emphasizes steady progress toward achieving goals established by the client, an approach that has produced positive results in her own life.

“Something that was important to me as a patient was that I could be involved in the direction of my sessions,” Sarah remembers. “It allowed me to work on the things I knew would help me become a successful adult with SMA.”

Sarah attended graduate school at SLU, and many of her Personal Care Attendants are products of the occupational therapy program there, so this speaking engagement held special significance for her.

“Lecturing to students and getting feedback from them was a real thrill,” Sarah reflects. “I’m so thankful for all of my experiences at SLU, and I’m glad I’m able to help students maximize their own educational experiences now.”

Katie Fields, College Outreach Coordinator at SDI, visited Maryville University for the October meeting of ABLE, Abolish Barriers through Leadership and Empowerment. The campus disability rights organization gathered to begin the planning of Speed Friending, ABLE’s most anticipated event.

Open to students with disabilities, members of other marginalized groups and the campus community at large, Speed Friending is a unique networking session where participants rotate from one conversation to the next, becoming acquainted with one another in five-minute intervals.

Katie, who volunteered to be the official timekeeper, likes the welcoming, unintimidating nature of Speed Friending. “It’s fun, relaxed, and a great way to break down and abolish attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities and other marginalized groups encounter,” she says.

Katie and Sarah hosted a table at St. Louis Community College-Meramec’s Disability Services Open House on October 24. STLCC-Meramec staff welcomed students, faculty, and community members for a day of food, fun and networking–all designed to promote disability awareness and build relationships on campus. Katie and Sarah shared their various program resources with the group. They also brought the disability trivia wheel, complete with fabulous prizes.

Katie says the Disability Services Open House, the first event of its kind at STLCC-Meramec, was a resounding success. “We were able to engage with several students, many staff members and even faculty,” Katie remarks. “It was an awesome form of fun outreach where we got to inform not only students about our programs but also the faculty who interact with students daily and can recommend our services.”

Later the same day, Sarah and Katie participated in the Special School District transition fair. The purpose of the fair is to introduce transition-age youth and their families to resources they can leverage for a successful journey through high school and college, resources like DREAM BIG and ACCESS U. Sarah feels encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response.

“There was a lot of interest. Several families came just to talk to us,” Sarah exclaimed. “We had about 15 people sign up, and we are eager to begin working with all the families who visited our table.”

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