Developmental Disabilities Community Forum Meetings Scheduled

the BHDDH crestThe Department of BHDDH, Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), will be holding two open community forums in February 2017. The first forum is specifically for individuals and families involved with self-directed supports and the second one for all other persons.

a graphic of word bubbles with questions like 'where?', 'what?', and 'how?'The Forums are typically held quarterly. They are an opportunity for people with disabilities, families, advocates, providers and other interested persons to meet with the director and leadership staff from the department, hear about updates on different policies, topics and various initiatives. It is also an opportunity for you to provide some feedback and ask questions.

Please save the following dates and times. You can click here to check for updates on the BHDDH website.

a graphic of a note with the words 'put this on your calendar!'February 6, 2017 – Self-Directed Individuals and their Families

4:00 – 6:00 PM
Cranston Senior Center
1070 Cranston Street
Cranston, RI

February 9, 2017 – All Other Individuals and Families

4:00 – 6:00 PM
North Providence Senior Center
2 Atlantic Blvd
North Providence, RI

“Thursdays at 2”… Poems to gladden the heart

the cover of 'Thursdays at 2'James Boucher and Susan Raposo, from West Bay Residential Services, Inc., put their heads together and came up with the idea of starting a creative poetry class about 7-8 years ago. It started with a few people coming together to talk about different topics on “Thursdays at 2” and then just expanded!

a photo of Susan RaposoAccording to Susan they put pieces of paper on the wall, picked a Topic for the day and people brainstormed ideas to develop some poetry. It got everyone involved, laughing and having fun! The group even dreamed about the possibility of someday publishing a book of their favorite poems.

And then it happened! Two years ago Susan met Tracey Karner, an author and publisher, from RI, who became very interested in the group. She volunteered her time to help people in the poetry class to really develop their creative talents to publish a book on their best poems. In September 2016 there was a Release Party and book signing at Barrington Books. 66 copies of the book were sold!

The “Thursdays at 2” group has done public readings at The Elephant Tea Room, Kent Regency, Garden City Corner Bakery and other community locations. Last Monday, January 9, 2016 they gave a well-received presentation at the RI Cross Disability Coalition. Thursdays_at_2-03Susan facilitated a process where members of the Coalition developed a poem about “Snow”.

Poet Corrine Charlette told everyone that she really enjoys “Thursdays at 2” because it has helped her to meet people, overcome some shyness and poetry is a lot of FUN!


Supreme Court Cases May Reshape Special Education

Supreme Court Considers How Schools Support Students With Disabilities

a photo of the supreme court

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a dispute that advocates describe as the most important case involving public school special education in three decades.

At issue is whether federal law requires public schools to provide more than the bare minimum in special services for children with disabilities. The court’s ruling could have a profound effect on millions of children.


How US Supreme Court Cases could Reshape Special Education

In a year without many landmark cases, two cases provide the high court an opportunity to significantly reshape how American schools educate students diagnosed with disabilities.

a photo of Ehlena Fry and her service dog

The high court heard arguments Wednesday in what experts say is the most important special education case to come before the justices in almost 25 years. The case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, will revisit the knotty question of what quality of education school districts must provide their disabled students.

The court heard arguments two months ago in another special education case, Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, that questions when the parents of disabled students can seek damages from a school district in federal court.


Kerri Zanchi Named New DD Director for RI

a photo of Kerri Zanchi, the new director of DDDKerri Zanchi, a former high-level developmental disability service official in Massachusetts, has been named Rhode Island’s Director of Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

Zanchi, who has past ties to Rhode Island, begins her job here Jan. 23, according to Rebecca Boss, acting director of BHDDH.


BHDDH Using New Assessment Tool for Adults with Developmental Disabilities …”Supports Intensity Scale: SIS-A Adult Version”

the BHDDH crestthe AAIDD logo

Background Information

Supporting people in community settings is
recognized as the new way of thinking in the disabilities field. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) has been developing tools and informational materials to advance this paradigm.

a photo of the Supports Intensity Scale coverThe Supports Intensity Scale (SIS), is an assessment tool developed by AAIDD and published in 2004. The SIS measures an individual’s support needs in personal, work-related, and social activities in order to identify and describe the types and intensity of the supports the person requires.

Approximately 23 States, including the RI State Division of Developmental
Disabilities (DDD), are currently using the SIS to assess the support needs of new individuals determined eligible for services and individuals currently receiving services.

The assessment is done during an interview with the individual and the people who know him/her well. Since 2011, RI has used the SIS assessment to determine the support needs for individuals receiving developmental disability services to live a successful and independent life, as possible. The SIS was chosen to replace an assessment used by DDD called the “Personal Capacities Inventory”, which some people thought was too subjective. The SIS was utilized by many other states and thought to be a more reliable instrument for assessment.

What Is the SIS-A?

a photo of the SIS-A coverThe SIS-A is a newer version of the SIS with some restructured and additional questions in the areas of behavioral and medical/health care needs. RI DDD started using the SIS-A this month. There have been numerous complaints by providers, advocates and families that the original SIS was not capturing a true picture of a person’s medical and behavioral needs.

What Does the SIS Measure?

The SIS-A measures support requirements in 57 life activities and 28 behavioral and medical areas. The assessment is done through an interview with the consumer, and those who know the person well.
SIS-A measures support needs in the areas of:

  • home living,a man with a pencil, checking off on a clipboard
  • community living,
  • lifelong learning,
  • employment,
  • health and safety,
  • social activities, and
  • protection and advocacy.

The Scale ranks each activity according to frequency (none, at least once a month, etc.), amount (none, less than 30 minutes, etc.), and type of support (monitoring, verbal gesturing, etc.).

What are Support Needs?

Support needs are the pattern and intensity of supports necessary for a person to successfully participate in activities linked with normative human functioning.The supports approach recognizes that individual needs change over time, and that supports must change as well. They must be developed and delivered in age-appropriate settings, with the understanding that, regardless of intellectual abilities or limitations, people should have the opportunity engage in activities and life experiences just like any other person.

“SUPPORTS” means the assistance and level of intensity a person needs to do something successfully… things needed to have a good life including friends/relationships, choices, home, employment or meaningful day activities and community activities. The SIS measures support needs to find out:

  • WHAT TYPE of support is needed
  • HOW OFTEN support is needed
  • HOW MUCH support is needed

“SUCCESS” means a level of performance, involvement, and participation in an activity that is comparable to that of typical adults without disabilities.

Statewide Informational Meeting

In addition to complaints regarding the questions within the original SIS format families, advocates and providers have had ongoing concerns about the interviewing process conducted by staff from DDD in terms of how questions have been asked and scored by DDD staff Interviewers. Some individuals with disabilities have been tested more than once with the SIS and have had very different results ultimately changing their Tier Authorization to a lower Funding Level.

Many family members, advocates and providers have described the SIS as a tool to cut funding. They have said DDD staff interviewers administering the questionnaire have been argumentative regarding how to answer questions on the SIS, show little respect for families, and sometimes appear determined to lower assessment scores.

Heather Mincey, DDD AdministratorHeather Mincey, DDD Administrator, has stated the State is working on addressing these concerns and has encouraged parents to file Appeals if they believe the SIS results for their family members are inaccurate – or if they have problems with a shortage of funds.

Appeals are ongoing and very time-consuming, especially for parents who have full time jobs, and for Plan Writers and staff from provider agencies who have to complete the required paperwork for the Appeal.

Mincey referred any further questions about the SIS to Donna Standish, State DDD SIS Supervisor, at 401-462-2628 or at

On November 17, 2016 BHDDH hosted a statewide informational meeting with an AAIDD representative to help individuals and families prepare for the change to the SIS-A and to answer questions. Complaints about the SIS that have continuously surfaced at various BHDDH public sessions throughout the year indicate there a lack of public confidence in the SIS. A number of family members expressed their serious concerns about their personal experiences with SIS interviews and results.

Several suggestions and safeguards were mentioned to help family members and providers feel more confident in the SIS process.

To read about these suggestions and more about the meeting, click here to check out Gina Macris’s article.