Meet Alex Bradley

The program you’re building will give us the many hands we need to make this work…lighter for those struggling under the system and fighting to improve it.”

Alex Bradley served on our Complex Mental Health Survey Workgroup. Their job was to help make our needs assessment survey easier to read and answer. Alex lives in a rural community outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. She has Aspergers, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, C-PTSD, and chronic depression. She also has several chronic, invisible, rare diseases. She is the President of The Self-Determination Group and a member of the Board of Texas Advocates. Alex enjoys reading, watching YouTube videos, and playing PC video games. Before the pandemic, when she had the time and space, she also enjoyed quilting, sewing, and swing dancing.

Q: What are some of your hopes for the future?

A: Short term goals are finding a clean, safe place to live when my lease is up, getting more hours at work, getting better medical treatment now that I’ve finally gotten health insurance. It’s going to take an incredible amount of work and luck, but I hope in the next few years I’ll be able to go back to grad school. I’ve always wanted to be a scientist.

Q: What are some challenges you have as a person with both a disability and mental health conditions?

A: The social safety net in Texas is nearly non-existent. I usually have several days a month where I can’t get my psych meds that I spend in withdrawal. It’s bad enough that my coworkers have a saying that “25% of an Alex is better than no Alex!”

Q: What was your favorite thing about working on this project?

A: It was honestly really wonderful to see how much you all cared about our perspectives and experiences, and how you really listened and integrated the information we gave you to make a better survey. Not only does the finished product make sense to neurodiverse people, written in literal language we can all understand without any double meanings, but the way the answers are structured will give the scientific community meaningful data about our struggles so they can figure out how to really help us.

Q: Did you feel you were listened to? How do you feel your contribution will improve this project/topic?

A: I very much felt listened to. I think personally my most effective contributions were giving the autistic perspective and giving feedback on how changing the phrasing and order of the questions in the mental health survey is going to affect how people answer them so that the researcher will have better quality data at the end.

Q: How do you think this project will help other self-advocates?

A: Mentorship is an extremely important aspect of advocacy work, for any cause. It gives people community, a connection to the otherwise untaught history of the movement, an understanding that progress was made before and can be made again. Specifically with the disability movement, it shows you all the ways you can advocate for yourself and others despite your individual setbacks. You can learn how to get your message across, how to speak to power, even when you’re nonverbal.

Q: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the project and your work?

A: I’m really glad you guys decided to do this work in Texas, specifically. Our state has a lot of work that needs to be done before disabled people here are treated equitably in society, especially compared to other US states. The program you’re building will give us the many hands we need to make this work not just lighter for those struggling under the system and fighting to improve it, but in some cases will make the work just possible. One of the reasons our voices are ignored is because we aren’t effectively speaking together, and I think your program will help immensely with that.


Check out The Self Determination Group on Facebook and Texas Advocates’ website. We’d love to have you join us!

Trends in Sexual Assault Prevention & Response

We are hard at work in this first year of our project. We’re already learning so much about this important topic. We want to share some of our early findings with you.

Prevention Focuses on Sexuality Education

Sexuality Education is used most often to prevent sexual assault of people with IDD. These programs might focus on healthy sexuality, understanding boundaries, and learning how to keep our bodies safe. These programs are important and can be very helpful. But they don’t focus on the perpetrators–the people doing the assaults. And often, people shy away from sexuality issues. This puts people with IDD more at risk.

Group Housing Is a Big Risk Factor

Group housing can include anything from a state supported living center (SSLC) to an informal home where roommates share space. Sexual assault happens at higher rates in group housing. But assaults are less likely to be reported. When they are reported, staff are less likely to involve police. This often leads to a cycle that keeps the perpetrators safe and continuing to commit assaults/abuse.

Adjudication and Survivor Support Get Little Attention

Most studies, programs, and resources focus on prevention and reporting. Yet, adjudication (making sure perpetrators are tried and convicted) is very important too. Abusers who do not receive consequences usually continue to assault/abuse.

Also, little is being done to support sexual assault survivors with IDD. We know that healing trauma is difficult but critical. More needs to be done to provide survivors with a clear recovery plan and the resources to make it happen.

We are excited to be able to bring light to this dark topic. We will publish our complete gap analysis framework in July of 2021. We will then begin working on resources to help fill those gaps.

Comment below to let us know what you think is most important in supporting people with IDD!

First Peer Support Specialists Trained!

Our first group of peer support specialists was trained last month. Self-advocates from ARC Beaumont had four days of training over Zoom, including courses on:

– Talking and listening

– Being a strong self-advocate

– Helping others through peer support

These amazing self-advocates learned valuable skills like active listening, keeping conversations going, problem solving, and handling conflict. Courses were presented on Zoom using content we created in Moodle, an online learning tool.

Peer support specialists will now start providing services to clients. They will meet with clients matched to them several times a month. They will help clients:

– Explore their needs, wants, hopes and dreams.

– Set goals and make plans to reach them.

– Make decisions and solve problems as they work toward their goals.

– Find needed services to help reach their goals.

Participants were surveyed to see how they felt about the training. All parts of the training received high marks. Peer Support specialists especially liked learning how to believe in yourself and learning how to do the job of a peer support specialist. Contact us for more information about our program.

Free Tech Videos!

The team at self-advocate central has posted free videos on using Google apps and Zoom. The videos are short, simple, and easy to follow. They include lessons on:

  • How to set up a Google account;
  • How to use Gmail;
  • How to use Google Calendar;
  • How to use Zoom; and
  • How to use Google Forms.

The videos can be viewed for free on YouTube or Vimeo.

The videos were created for the Peer Supports Specialist project, but can be used by anyone who wants to learn to use technology. Feel free to share the links above!

Texas Advocates Conference 2020

What a thrill to speak at the Texas Advocates Annual Conference! We missed seeing our friends and colleagues in person. But we were pleased to share information about keeping your mental health in good shape. We are also excited to connect with self-advocates as we move forward with our project.

For those who missed it, here’s a snippet from our presentation. This short video shows how different people are working on mental health during the pandemic.

Many thanks to Brooke, Deborah, Annessa, and the self-advocates, sponsors, and other who made this a great conference!

Project Welcome: Complex Mental Health Needs

Did you know that people with IDD are more likely to also have mental health challenges? And that often, these challenges are never diagnosed?

Strategic Education Solutions (SES) and University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) are working on a new project about mental health. We will research what’s happening now in mental health care for people with IDD. We’ll also do a survey, asking self-advocates about their experiences. Then, we’ll start building tools and training to help self-advocates and their families and friends get better mental health care. We’ll also teach service providers, mental health specialists, and others to serve people with IDD better. Stay tuned for updates!

Our Team

Project Welcome: Sexual Assault Prevention & Response

Did you know that people with IDD are much more likely than others to be victims of sexual abuse and assault? By learning and talking about it, we can all help change that!

Strategic Education Solutions (SES) and University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) are working on a new project about sexual assault. We will research what’s happening now. We’ll also hold focus groups to ask self-advocates, families/friends/allies, service providers, and first-responders about their experiences.

Then, we’ll start building tools and training to help self-advocates and others prevent sexual assault and improve response when it happens. Stay tuned for updates!

Our Team

ARC Beaumont Selected as First Pilot Site

The UMMS/SES team will train Peer Support Specialists at its first pilot site—The ARC of Greater Beaumont—this Fall. Beaumont was chosen for its strong group of self-advocates, the experience of its staff, and Jefferson County’s demographics.

“We wanted a location that reflected the demographics of the state as a whole. Working in Beaumont will give us a great idea of the challenges and successes we can expect as we expand statewide. Partnering with an organization that has an established and vibrant community self-advocates is a bonus,” says Cynthia Burrow, Project Director and owner of Strategic Education Solutions.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Jefferson County who receive or are on the interest list for Medicaid waivers can apply for free peer support through the program. People of diverse ethnicities, language needs, and socioeconomic status, and those for whom transportation and geographical isolation may be challenging, are encouraged to apply.

Fill out the application online. Service decisions will be made in October-November of 2020.

Project Welcome: Peer Support Specialists

About the project

Our project will teach self-advocates to help others with IDD live the lives they choose. In our first year, we’ll write the training curriculum. Starting in year 2, we’ll teach a growing group of coaches and peer support specialists. Use the form on the right to join our mailing list and get project updates.

Join us at the Texas Advocates Conference

Project staff will be at the Texas Advocates annual conference in San Antonio, August 2-4. We will give a workshop presentation about this exciting new project. We will also have an exhibit table. Come by and meet our staff. Enter our raffle to win a restaurant gift card!

Make your voice heard

We want our project to meet your needs.  To make sure that happens, please:

  1. Take our online survey. Tell us what kind of help you want and need. Service providers–Please share this link with your clients!
  2. Volunteer for our curriculum review panel. You will review our program and tell us what you think. You must have access to a computer or other device and have Web access.  You must be able to use email and to do surveys online. If you are interested, email us.
Meet our team!