Episode 2: UCP of Greater Cleveland

Join your host, Mike Hammer, as he discovers what ADA Cleveland member organization, UCP of Greater Cleveland, has to offer the disabled population of Northeast Ohio. 

This episode features special guests,Amanda Stohrer and Laurene Sweet. 

To discover more about UCP of Greater Cleveland and their programs, visit https://www.ucpcleveland.org/ 

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ASL Interpreted Video

Full Audio Transcript

Mara Layne 0:00

Disability in the Land, an ADA Cleveland production. Episode 2: UCP of Greater Cleveland.

Mike Hammer 0:08

Welcome to Disability in the Land, the podcast from ADA Cleveland. I’m your host, Mike Hammer. I’m a member of the Community Advisory Board for ADA Cleveland. I’m a former journalist and I’m hosting this podcast from my apartment in my wheelchair using some of the best technology we have access to. Today on Disability in the Land I am speaking with Amanda Stohrer and Laurene Sweet who work at UCP of Greater Cleveland. UCP of Greater Cleveland is one of the member organizations of ADA Cleveland. UCP of Greater Cleveland provides services to children and adults with disabilities through their two Centers of Excellence, LeafBridge for children and OakLeaf for adults. Today we’ll be focusing on LeafBridge. Amanda is the Associate Director of LeafBridge and Laurene is the Educational Program Development Manager for LeafBridge. Thank you both for joining Disability in the Land! First off, Amanda, could you please introduce yourself to the listeners? Describe your role and the function you do at UCP of Greater Cleveland.

Amanda Stohrer 2:06

Of course, it’s so great to be here. And thank you so much, Mike, for having us. Hello, everyone. My name is Amanda Stohrer and I am an occupational therapist and assistive technology professional. I currently serve, as Mike said, as the Associate Director of LeafBridge, which is the pediatrics branch at UCP of Greater Cleveland.

Mike Hammer 2:27

Laurene, can you introduce yourself, please?

Laurene Sweet 2:31

Sure, welcome, everyone. We’re so happy to be here with you today. My name is Laurene Sweet and I’m an intervention specialist and assistive technology professional and a doctor of physical therapy. My current role is the Educational Program Development Manager for the LeafBridge Alternative Education Program.

Mike Hammer 2:50

Tell our listeners a bit about your backgrounds. How you became interested in the work you do? Amanda, we’ll start with you first.

Amanda Stohrer 3:02

Sure. So my journey into my career started back in high school. That’s where I discovered my passion for health care, and in particular, the joy of working with children. I chose a career path then where I could focus on improving the engagement and independence of children with disabilities. I’ve been an OT for 13 years. I got my masters at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And for 12 of those years I’ve been working here at UCP of Greater Cleveland and serving children with complex disabilities. I have been afforded incredible opportunities to collaborate with experts in the field and to build on a variety of skills, and I am just continuously excited and inspired by the incredible team of professionals that I work alongside of.

Mike Hammer 3:49

Excellent. Laurene?

Laurene Sweet 3:52

Okay. Well, my background is a little bit unique. I started out as a physical therapist for children with autism in an educational program and it was here that my curiosity really grew with how children learn. So, in 2007, an opportunity came up with a federal grant for a master’s degree in special education and this included a concentration in assistive technology. So this program really opened my heart and actually my mind and it brought me home to UCP Cleveland about 15 years ago. So it’s here that I linked together the fields of physical therapy, assistive technology and education and became an intervention specialist. And it’s been really joyful to serve children and adults with some very complex needs in our programs. And especially alongside our incredible group of teachers and therapists and the leaders at our agency.

Mike Hammer 4:51

Thank you both for sharing your backgrounds. You both right now work at the LeafBridge Center.

Amanda Stohrer 4:59

So LeafBridge, which is our Center of Excellence for Children, is the pediatrics brand of UCP of Greater Cleveland. So we have OakLeaf, which is the branding for our adult programming and LeafBridge for our pediatrics programming. And we offer an array of services for, as you said, children, teens and young adults up to 22, but we’re kind of loose with that number that includes outpatient therapies, like physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy. We also offer our Therapy Services – PT, OT, and Speech – via contracts to local school districts in the Northeast Ohio area. And we offer case management supports, assistive technology evaluations and trainings, as well as an array of other educational services.

Mike Hammer 5:47

That’s located on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. Is that correct?

Amanda Stohrer 5:54

We are. We’re on Euclid and East 101stwhich is right by Cleveland Clinic’s main campus area. And we have a couple of group homes in the Northeast Ohio area, and we have an alternative education program, which is currently in a facility just about two or three blocks north of our main campus building, which we call Wolstein. And that’s the one you referenced on Euclid and East 101st.

Mike Hammer 6:22

Laurene, can you tell me what makes the LeafBridge Alternative Education Program unique?

Laurene Sweet 6:32

Sure. Thank you for asking that because we believe that our program is incredibly special. Particularly for kiddos with really complex needs. Our team works extremely hard to deeply understand each student. In particular, their strengths and their abilities. And it’s rare to find a program that has the intensity of support as ours does with physical, occupational and speech therapies embedded right into the program every single day. And what’s more as we have some exceptional assistive technology professionals, and this is to ensure that every learner has access to the curriculum. It’s all about accessibility. And we go to great lengths to collaborate with our community partners, as we mentioned, and some of these include teachers of the visually impaired, music therapists, teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and so many more so that every one of our learners succeeds.

Mike Hammer 7:29

Your goal is to be inclusive. What are your thoughts? What is UCP of Greater Cleveland’s thoughts about including people?

Amanda Stohrer 7:41

I think this is such an important question to ask, Mike, always in any of the programming that we’re doing at UCP. It’s really important to remember that inclusion is a philosophy rather than a place. Inclusion is a state of being valued and respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions for each child to achieve their full potential. We know that for learners with complex needs, this requires a village. A village with very specific skills that can be difficult to pull together in traditional school settings. This involves a melding of an educational and a therapeutic approach. Our hope is to eventually partner with schools and other programs to make this an achievable reality across all settings that students are in.

Mike Hammer 8:31

Our listeners or other people in the disability community in Cleveland and members of ADA Cleveland, how can they get included? Can they get involved in UCP of Greater Cleveland?

Laurene Sweet 8:51

Well, we would love to have more people in our village. We would love to partner with advocates and community members to make connections and get the word out about the extensive services that we offer in the LeafBridge Alternative Education Program as well as our entire program with UCP. We have really unique and specialized skills that help to break down barriers to create schools and learning communities that are truly accessible and rich with opportunities for all children.

Mike Hammer 9:24

ADA Cleveland seeks to celebrate the ongoing legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We lead to ensure access, increase awareness, promote independence and provide opportunities for those with disabilities. We engage our community as advocates for positive change. As a member organization of ADA Cleveland, how will UCP of Greater Cleveland continue to forward the mission of ADA Cleveland in the coming year?

Amanda Stohrer 10:12

This really connects back to what Laurene talked about with accessibility. UCP Cleveland provides a wide and deep spectrum of services to support people across the lifespan. We promote positive change by advocating for everyone, including our most vulnerable and historically marginalized individuals. In addition to promoting access related to education, our agency forwards the mission of ADA Cleveland by also removing barriers in workplaces, in homes and across the community with a goal to create access and inclusion with everyone.

Mike Hammer 10:46

Well, I appreciate your time today. Thank you for making this a good show.

Laurene Sweet 10:52

Thank you for having us, Mike. It was a pleasure to be here.

Amanda Stohrer 10:55

Thank you, everyone. It’s really great.

Mara Layne 10:58

You’ve been listening to Disability in the Land, an ADA Cleveland production. Your host is Mike Hammer. Special thanks to our guests, Amanda Stohrer and Laurene Sweet of UCP of Greater Cleveland. ASL interpretation is from Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center. You can find UCP of Greater Cleveland at www.ucpcleveland.org or by emailing info@ucpcleveland.org or calling 216-791-8363. Stay connected to ADA Cleveland by liking us on Facebook, or by following us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn @ADAinCLE. Or visit our website, ADACleveland.org, for a full video, transcript and ASL interpretation of this podcast that will all be on the website. Have a question or a comment? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email to ADAinCLE@gmail.com.

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