Get Free Help Building Your Life!

If you receive or are on the interest list for Medicaid Waivers in Texas, our Peer Support Specialists can help you:

– Make a plan for your life.
– Solve problems and make decisions to stay on track.
– Find services and supports to help you reach your goals.

Service is free of charge. Here are the steps:

1. Fill out an application that tells about you.
2. Then, we will match you with a peer support specialist.
3. Starting in November, you will meet with your peer support specialist and their coach on Zoom. Each meeting will be 45 minutes.
4. If it’s a good match, you can have more meetings.

Click the link above to fill out the application. You can get help from a trusted person if you need it. You can also get help from our Virtual Pilot Coach by clicking this link and emailing him:

Email Virtual Pilot Coach

Fill out your application soon–space is limited.

Please share this information with anyone you think might want free peer support!

Job Opening: Peer Support Specialist

Join our great team of peer support specialists! It can change your life and the lives of other self-advocates!

Peer support specialists will:

– Learn how to do the job.
– Get matched with clients who need help.
– Meet with clients online or in person to help them build the lives they want.
– Fill out a log to track their work hours.
– Get support from a coach to do all these things.

Peer support specialists will be paid $15/hour. They will be paid for training and for hours they work with clients. They will work between 5 and 7 hours per month from August 2021 – March 2022.

Peer support specialists must:

– Be strong self-advocates.
– Like helping people.
– Know or learn how to use email, Zoom, and the web (we will teach you).
– Like working with a coach or teacher.
– Have or be on the interest list for a Medicaid waiver: Community Based Alternatives (CBA), Community Living Assistance & Support Services (CLASS), Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities (DBMD), Medically Dependent Children Program (MDCP), Texas Home Living (TxHmL), Home and Community-based Services (HCS); or Community First Choice (CFC).
– Have experience getting services in one or more areas: Person-directed planning, Employment/Education, Transportation, Housing, Independent Living Skills.

To apply, fill out the application online by clicking this link:

Peer Support Specialist Application

You can get help from a trusted person to fill out the application. You can also get help from our Virtual Pilot Coach by clicking this link and emailing him:

Email Virtual Pilot Coach

Please share this information with anyone you think would be a great peer support specialist!

A Roadmap to Mental Health

For the past year, we have worked hard to learn as much as we can about the mental health needs of people with IDD. We are finally ready to publish our results: Complex Mental Health Needs of People with IDD: A Gap Analysis Framework and its Texas-specific supplement. To create these works, we analyzed hundreds of sources. We organized our findings into key mental health domains:

– Awareness
– Access
– Diagnosis
– Quality of Care
– Treatment

We also looked at the special ways people experience mental healthcare, including people of different races, incarcerated people, those living in rural areas, and more. We addressed special issues like Covid-19, family stress, and trauma/PTSD. We also found resources, organizations, and tools available in Texas to help people with IDD get good mental healthcare. And we showed where there are still many gaps in service.

We hope this work will shine a light on this important issue. People with IDD have more common and more serious mental health care challenges than others, and they need support now. We want everyone-policy makers, legislators, researchers, practitioners, and self-advocates-to use what we’ve learned to fill the gaps.

You can download both publications below. Please share this post far and wide to let everyone know about these valuable resources.

Special thanks to the project team members and self-advocates who helped create the framework: Charles Lee Baird, Cynthia Burrow, Eduardo Hernandez, Alisa Miller, and Sarah VanMattson. And huge thanks to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities for funding our work.

Get Paid to Talk!

Our team will be holding listening sessions to learn more about important issues and concerns related to sexual assault of people with IDD. What we learn will help us develop resources and tools to prevent sexual assault and to support people if it does happen to them. We’ll have five groups:

  • People with IDD (who identify as survivors of sexual assault)
  • People with IDD (who do not identify as survivors)
  • Family/friends/allies
  • First responders including law enforcement (who have CIT or Pathways to Justice training), EMS, and emergency room nurses with experience working with people with IDD
  • Service coordinators (e.g., LIDDA, ARC, SSLC, Day Hab, etc.)

Each group will have four people. They will meet two times over Zoom for 1.5 hours each time. Participants will receive $75/session. The first session will be in late June/early July. The second session will be in August.

We want diversity within these groups, including people with differing races and ethnicities, languages, disabilities, gender, gender identification, and sexual orientation.

All participants must be at least 18 years old and willing to discuss these sometimes-difficult topics. We are working with SAFE Austin to ensure all participants have control and choice within the sessions. We will also include a therapist with trauma-informed training in the sessions.

If you or anyone you know is interested in participating, please contact Alisa Miller no later than May 21. Let her know in which one of the five groups you want to join. Alisa will follow up to get more information.

Your help can make a huge difference!

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

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