Virtual Learning Opportunities

photo of a line of children Text: Paving the Way to Self Determination

Paving the Way to Self Determination is a program developed to support children with developmental disabilities (ages birth – 12) and their families raise expectations people have for them by introducing the concepts and tools they need to lead self-determined lives. This series provides virtual (online) educational opportunities for children with developmental disabilities and their families on topics that promote self-determination and independence, including history of the disability rights movement, disability pride and ally-ship, how to ask for an accommodation, supported decision-making and self-determination and how employment will impact social security benefits.  The program will also provide information and referral services to families on a statewide level and access to the Charting the Life Course program.

The registration form for all Paving the Way to Self Determination events is available at the bottom of this webpage.

Follow this link to read about the background and need for the Paving the Way to Self Determination program. If you have any questions about this program, please click here to contact Mary Fortney, Disability Network Program Development Coordinator or call her at 269-345-1516 x 201.


Trainings Now Scheduled:

Below are the webinars being offered within the Paving the Way to Self Determination program at this time. All webinars are live and interactive; participation is available through an internet connection or a phone call, and accommodations are available.

The Basics of Supported Decision Making
For family/guardians

Every adult has the right to make life decisions, to direct their life and to be treated with dignity, as an autonomous adult. All adults need and get advice and counsel when making different life decisions. Many options, other than guardianship, are available to provide counsel, guidance, and assistance with making decisions. Person Centered Planning and Self-Determination require that adults with disabilities are respected and honored to make life decisions with the support and counsel, they need and to remain as independent and autonomous as possible. Multiple avenues are available to support individuals to make decisions and direct their own life. This presentation will discuss tools, that can be used to support people in decision-making while retaining their rights. (Presented by Mary Shehan – The Michigan DD Council.)

  • Thursday, January 12th, 3:30 – 5:00 PM — (Registration has closed. Please check back for June-December trainings.)


How to Ask for an Accommodation
For family/guardians & youth ages 12 and under

This webinar focuses on identifying a child’s strengths and disability related needs to request appropriate accommodations in school or future employment. Youth ages 12 and under, will participate in a fun activity to help them explore their strengths, while learning more about accommodations. Guardians and family members will continue training by being provided information on the protections provided through IDEA, 504 Plans vs. IEPs, types of accommodations, and options available when accommodation requests don’t go as planned. (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Wednesday, January 18th, 6:00  7:30 PM — (Registration has closed. Please select a remaining date or check back for June-December trainings.)
  • Thursday, February 23rd, 3:30 – 5:00 PM 
  • Wednesday, March 29th, 3:30 – 5:00 PM 

Understanding Social Security Benefits  
For family/guardians

Parents and guardians often feel lost when it comes to navigating Social Security disability benefits for their loved one with a developmental disability. This training will provide an overview of the two Social Security disability benefit programs – Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – which can provide financial support to individuals with disabilities. Presenters will touch on the benefit application process, important factors around turning age 18, the impact of parental income/assets, and the myth that people receiving benefits can’t hold employment to reach further financial security. (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Thursday, January 19th, 6:30  8:00 PM — (Registration has closed. Please select a remaining date or check back for June-December trainings.)
  • Wednesday, February 22nd, 12:00  1:30 PM
  • Tuesday, April 11th, 6:30  8:00 PM

Disability Pride and History
For youth ages 12 and under

Disability is a natural, beautiful part of the human condition. People with disabilities are not charity cases, nor items that need to be fixed. This fun, interactive training for youth up to age 12 will highlight the many important contributions that people with disabilities have made in society. It will illustrate the unique perspectives and experiences of young people in the disability community. Most importantly, it will show participants why being a part of this community is an awesome thing, and that we’re amazing, just as we are. (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Tuesday, January 24th, 6:00  7:00 PM
  • Wednesday, February 15th, 4:00  5:00 PM

Understanding Neurodiversity 
For family/guardians 

Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds. The neurodiversity movement is a human rights movement for people with brain differences. In this workshop, we will discuss how neurodiversity contributes to sensory, movement, and communication differences. We will examine how ableism impacts people with brain-based disabilities and how you can support your neurodivergent loved ones. (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Thursday, January 26th, 3:30  5:00 PM
  • Wednesday, March 8th, 12:00  1:30 PM
  • Tuesday, May 16th, 6:00  7:30 PM

Building Resilience
For family/guardians

How do we help children with the skills they need to not just survive but thrive? Being a caretaker is hard work and at times overwhelming. A caring and resilient adult’s role is crucial in the formation of a resilient child. In this course we will identify the skills that go into becoming a resilient adult, how to instill that resilience in our children, provide some scientific insights, and provide some practical tools and resources. (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Wednesday, February 8th, 6:00  7:30 PM
  • Wednesday, April 26th, 3:30  5:00 PM
  • Monday, May 22nd, 10:00  11:30 AM

Rise Up! Disability History, Pride & Allyship
For family/guardians

Many parents and guardians of a child with developmental disabilities are unaware of the rich history in the disability community. Family and friends can sometimes lack the knowledge of disability history and struggle to find ways to support their loved-one’s journey to disability pride. Let’s change that! (Presented by Disability Network Southwest Michigan.)

  • Tuesday, February 21st, 12:00  1:00 PM
  • Thursday, April 20th, 6:00  7:00 PM

Ableism and Implicit Bias 
For family/guardians

Ableism is the discrimination against people with disabilities based on the belief that “typical” abilities are superior. To address ableism, we must start by acknowledging we all have unconscious bias. These unconscious attitudes and stereotypes impact our understanding, actions, and decisions. This session will define implicit bias, help participants be more aware of their own bias, and explore strategies to challenge our unconscious beliefs. (Presented by Michigan Alliance for Families.)

  • Tuesday, March 7th, 6:30  7:30 PM
  • Thursday, May 18th, 6:30  7:30 PM

Problem Solving and Decision Making 
For youth ages 12 and under  

Problem solving skills help children gain confidence and independence. Learning how to make decisions is a valuable life skill. These skills are necessary for all children, but even more important for children with disabilities. This fun, interactive training for youth up to age 12 will provide the opportunity to learn more about, and practice, problem solving and decision making. (Presented by Michigan Alliance for Families.)

  • Tuesday, March 14th, 6:30  7:30 PM
  • Thursday, May 11th, 6:30  7:30 PM
Learning about MiABLE Accounts 
For family/guardians

The ABLE Act was signed into law in 2014 and changed the U.S. tax code to create tax-free savings accounts for eligible people with disabilities. Money can be added to these accounts without fear the account holder’s public assistance will be affected. Join R. Scott de Varona of the Michigan Treasury Department to learn about the features and uses of a MiABLE account for your loved one.  (Presented by R. Scott de Varona, MBA, MiABLE Director Michigan Treasury Dept.)

  • Thursday, April 13th, 3:30  5:00 PM

Powers of Attorney 
For family/guardians

The purpose of this training is to provide family members with an introduction to powers of attorney as an alternative to guardianship. Focus will be given to the law as it applies to persons with developmental disabilities. The presenter will address how the scope, intent and content of powers of attorney can differ and the importance of understanding the different types of powers of attorney that are available to support your family member.
(Presented by Lisa Lepine – Attorney & the Executive Director of The Arc of Macomb County.)

  • Tuesday, May 9th, 3:30  5:00 PM

Event Registration:

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Paving the Way to Self Determination is a collaboration with Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council, Arc Michigan, Michigan Alliance for Families and Charting the Life Course and was made possible through funding from Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council.