Using the Health Matters Curriculum with the Project SEARCH® Program Model

Source: HealthMatters WebEx Event Center

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 Description:    Project SEARCH is committed to supporting health and fitness education during the transition to employment. Accordingly, Project SEARCH partnered with UnitedHealthcare last year to provide Project SEARCH sites with Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for People with Developmental Disabilities. More recently, we were awarded a grant from the Ohio DD Council to study the use of the Health Matters curriculum in the context of Project SEARCH. As a first step, we surveyed Project SEARCH Instructors on their experience with the Health Matters curriculum and other health and fitness activities. The purpose was to learn about both the successes and obstacles that instructors encountered. The results of that survey will be presented here, and we plan to gather additional information from members of the audience in an informal focus group discussion. Ultimately, we plan to create and test a clear set of guidelines for integrating the Health Matters curriculum into Project SEARCH in a manner that will optimize learning of health and fitness principles without interfering with the primary Project SEARCH goal of competitive employment.
PRESENTERS  Maryellen Daston, PhD, Program Specialist, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati, OH. Maryellen is a technical writer with a background in biomedical research. Prior to her current position with Project SEARCH, she was involved with research in the field of developmental neuroscience. In her current position, Maryellen works with the Project SEARCH central administration team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Maryellen manages the Project SEARCH database and is responsible for editing and writing content for the Project SEARCH website, articles for professional journals, and other communications. She is also involved with researching funding opportunities, writing grant proposals, and overseeing research related to Project SEARCH. In addition, Maryellen co-authored the book on the history, philosophy, and practices that define the Project SEARCH model, “High School Transition that Works: Lessons Learned from Project SEARCH”, Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.


  1. Julie Christensen, PhD, LMSW, Director, Center for Disabilities and Development (UCEDD), University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. Julie is the Director of Iowa’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), at the University of Iowa. Prior to joining CDD in May 2016, Dr. Christensen served as the Director of Employment Programs at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Christensen’s background encompasses work in schools, not-for-profits, government and higher education. For the past 14 years, her career has centered around improving quality of life outcomes for at-risk youth, including youth with intellectual and development disabilities, through promoting employment and access to leisure and recreation opportunities in inclusive settings. She has considerable experience developing, administering, and evaluating federal, state and local grant-funded projects with an emphasis on cross-systems collaboration and systems change. She currently maintains a research faculty appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and adjunct appointments in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the University of Iowa School of Social Work. Her research is in the areas of employment, quality of life, and leisure and recreation participation of adolescents and young adults with IDD.
  2. Dennis Cleary, Co-Director of the Transition, Employment, and Technology (TET) Lab, Columbus, OH. Dennis is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at The Ohio State University. His primary area of interest is transition services for young adults with disabilities and promoting their employment outcomes In partnership with the Transition group at the Nisonger Center, Dr. Cleary works to test and refine methods to support young adults in academic, social, and work environments through the use of technology, activity analysis, education, and job matching strategies. Dr. Cleary has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
  3. Karen Guo is an Occupational Therapy Doctoral Student at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.
  4. Beth Marks, RN, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL. Beth is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Associate Director for Research in the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, and President, National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities. Beth directs research programs on empowerment and advancement of persons with disabilities. She has published numerous articles and books related to health promotion, health advocacy, and primary health care for people with disabilities. She co-produced a film entitled “Open the Door, Get ‘Em a Locker: Educating Nursing Students with Disabilities.” She has also authored two books published in 2010 entitled Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for People with Developmental Disabilitiesand Health Matters for People with Developmental Disabilities: Creating a Sustainable Health Promotion Program.
  5. Jasmina Sisirak, PhD, MPH, Research Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago; Chicago, IL. Jasmina is an Associate Director of Training and Dissemination in the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and health (RRTCDD) in the Department of Disability and Human Development at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her research interests consist of nutrition, health literacy, and health promotion for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She coordinates several health promotion projects in the RRTCDD; and has written publications and presented papers in the area of disability, health, and nutrition. Jasmina has co-authored two books entitled Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for People with Developmental Disabilities and Health Matters for People with Developmental Disabilities: Creating a Sustainable Health Promotion Program.


These webinars are hosted by the HealthMatters ProgramTM in partnership with Project SEARCH® and funded by The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health (RRTCDD). The RRTCDD is funded through United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living (ACL), National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), Grant # 90RT5020-01-00, and a grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council.

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