COVID-19 can’t stop Alexandria student from sharing his love of reading

By Anna Jeffries, Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities

ALEXANDRIA – COVID-19 hasn’t stopped Jason Turner from sharing is love of reading with others.

Jason Turner has always been an avid reader.

In middle school he placed highly in his school’s Battle of the Books and his literary interests continued through high school and beyond.

“I love to read,” he said. “I love the freedom of where stories can take you so I want to share my love of reading with others.”

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t stopping him from doing that.

For the past few weeks, Jason, of Alexandria has been recording videos of himself reading books using his communication device.

His audience — made up of about 50 children who attend Columbus’ Summer of Fun Adventure Day Camp — love the videos and look forward to them,  said Katie Atkinson, a therapeutic recreation specialist at the camp.

“It’s been going really well,” she said. “All the kiddos love it.”

Jason, is a junior in the TOPS program at Ohio State University.

TOPS, which stands for Transition Options in Post-secondary Settings, is a program of the OSU Nisonger Center that allows students with developmental disabilities to participate in academic classes and work experiences while also gaining independent living skills.

The program requires students to do community service and complete internships.

To fulfill this, Jason started going into local schools — in Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, Westerville and Whitehall and reading books to the children, using his device.

He was reading to a variety of ages, said his mother Kathy Turner.

“The feedback was just amazing,” she said. “The questions and the engagement from the kids,  the humor — it was just heartwarming to be a part of.”

Jason was introduced to the Franklin Park Adventure Center, and had approached the facility about reading to the children participating in its day camps when the coronavirus pandemic began.

It has been important for Jason to stay home to protect his health, but he and his family came up with a plan to continue to read to the children virtually.

They reached out to day camp leaders to find out the themes for each week of camp. Then they selected books from the Alexandria Library and Jason — with help from Kathy and his nurse  Cindy Hickey — typed the books into his communication device.

With Kathy recording on her iPad, Jason uses his device to read each page. Once they have captured the perfect take, Kathy uploads them to Youtube and sends the link to the daycamp.

So far they’ve recorded books about science, the Olympics, the American states, water, community service and talents. They have about ten more to go to get through the rest of the summer, Kathy said.

In previous years, the day camps would have guest speakers come in before or after lunch to do activities with the kids, Katie said.

This year, pandemic restriction had camp organizers rethinking that option, so Jason’s books were the perfect solution. The campers watch them on an iPad or projected on a screen.

Summer of Fun is an inclusion day camp, made up of campers with and without disabilities.

Organized by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Therapeutic Recreation department, the camp has three locations at Thompson Community Center, Dodge Community Center and the Franklin Park Adventure Center.

All three locations have been enjoying Jason’s books, Katie said. It’s been great for the campers to see a reader using a communication device that might be familiar to some of them.

“Every day we are having those conversations about how people communicate,” Katie said. “It’s a great opportunity for our campers and for him.”

Jason always tries to start the books off with something personal and friendly, Kathy said. At the beginning he told the campers, “I have cerebral palsy and use a communication device but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I like to do.”

When he isn’t recording books, Jason has been writing articles for the LENN Foundation’s newsletter. He is hoping to write a book someday.

“This will give him all kinds of things to write about,” Kathy said.

To hear some of Jason’s stories, go to



Upcoming Leadership Academy Course (APPLICATION DEADLINE IS 8/31)

The Center for Disability Empowerment is pleased to offer a Leadership Academy Course made possible through a grant from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Photo flyer describing the CDE course; all details from this flyer are included below in the article. This flyer has the CDE logo and a photo of the man smiling in the top left corner. There is a logo for Ohio Family Network and a photo of a young boy and older woman facing each other smiling at the bottom of the flyer.

Photo flyer describing the CDE course; all details from this flyer are included below in the article. This flyer has the CDE logo and a photo of a man in a wheelchair smiling with his arms spread open in the top left corner of the flyer.

What is the purpose of Leadership Academy?

The purpose of the program is to teach best practices in disability policy and delivery of support for individuals with disabilities; to teach competencies needed to influence public policy at all levels; to facilitate systems change in the disability community; to work toward and achieve a new vision for people with disabilities; to prepare leaders of tomorrow.

Who may participate?

Participants are selected through an application process.

  • Residents of Franklin, Delaware, Licking and Union counties
  • Parents or Caregivers of young children with disabilities
  • Individuals with I/DD
  • Preference for individuals who have had no, or minimal, experience with advocacy and leadership opportunity


  • Participants must commit to the 8-month program which includes involvement in online meetings, contribution to group discussions and completion of homework.
  • Participants must have access to a computer with video capability and internet as well as the support necessary to use the equipment to participate in meetings and to complete homework assignments. (Note: lack of equipment will not be a reason to disqualify individuals. The program will assist in attaining appropriate technology to the greatest extent possible).

Session Style

Meetings will be held monthly on a Wednesday evening (6:00PM to 8:00PM) and Saturday morning (9:30AM to 12:30PM) in September, October, and November 2020 and in January, February, March, April and May 2021 with graduation in June. All meetings will be held virtually.

Session Schedule

September 23/26, 2020

  • Intro Meeting
  • History
  • Parent Movement
  • Independent Living Movement
  • Self-Advocate Movement

October 21/24, 2020

  • Inclusive Education
  • Lifelong Learning

November 11/14, 2020

  • Service Coordination
  • Person-Centered Planning

December 2020 – NO SESSIONS

January 20/23, 2021

  • Supported, Competitive and Customized Employment

February 24/27, 2021

  • Supported Living
  • Technology

March 24/27, 2021

  • Community Organizing, Advocacy, Using Media
  • Meeting and Communicating with Public Officials

April 21/24, 2021

  • State and Local Government/Legislation
  • Federal Government/Legislation

May 19/22, 2021

  • Serving on Boards
  • Developing a Vision for 2030



For more information or to request an application, contact either or

The Leadership Forum application is also available online at

The application deadline is Monday August 31, 2020.


OSU Nisonger TOPS Program Information Sessions

What is TOPS?

Red block O with buckeye leaves

The Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings program at The Ohio State University Nisonger Center offers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities a unique opportunity to engage in OSU academic coursework and work experiences.

We offer a 2 and 4-year Workforce Development Certificate Program that focuses on: Academics, Career Development, Independent Living, and Self-Determination.

The sessions will feature in-depth discussion on: 

  • Academic Classes
  • Work Experiences
  • Independent Living
  • Application and Financial Aid Processes

Session Dates and Times:

  • 9/11/20 9:30am-11:00am
  • 10/5/20 12:00pm-1:30pm
  • 11/10/20 5:00pm-6:30pm
  • 1/13/21 5:00pm-6:30pm
  • 3/4/21* 5:00pm-6:30pm

*Please note that the March information session is after the application deadline

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action: November 15th
  • Regular Decision: February 1st


Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 973 8452 0687
Password: 891356


Call 614-685-3185 or email

Visit our website at

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Tell Us About Your College Experience!

Do you want to write a chapter for a book? Consider creating something that tells the world about your college experience!

Mike Gill and Beth Myers of Syracuse University are writing a book and creating a website about students’ experiences in inclusive higher education programs.

You can write it on your own, with a friend, or with a professor, classmate, mentor, or someone else. You can send them different types of work including photos, videos, poems, essays, blogs, art, and more! The book will be published by the University of Minnesota Press. There will also be a website that will feature the work of the student authors.

If you have any questions or are interested, let Mr. Gill and Ms. Myers know at

If your work is too big to send in an email, that’s okay! They can give you a special link so you can put it somewhere they can see it.

Research Opportunity for Sex Ed Instructors

Researchers from the University of Delaware are doing a study on teaching sex ed to individuals with intellectual disabilities. If you teach sex ed to individuals with intellectual disabilities and are willing to participate, please email Melissa Stoffers at to set up an interview. The interview will take about 1 hour and you will receive a $15 Amazon gift card for your time.

Internship and Employment Planning amidst COVID-19

As we are planning for our return to campus later this month, we have reached out to internship and employer partners to determine if they are able to host interns/student employees (and created a few new partnerships!). We have found that a lot of our partners are closed or not able to have interns or volunteers at this time (and some will not allow interns until a vaccine is available).

Families and students – please let us know your comfortability and any restrictions you may have with interning/working this upcoming semester should something be available. Students would be expected to follow any protocols/procedures put in place by the work site.

We will do our best to place students in work experiences as we understand this is an important component of the program and appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate these difficult times. In addition to interning, students are able to gain career development hours through activities such as:

  • Career Advising Meetings
  • Career Research and Exploration (maybe virtual informational interviews, career videos, etc. as well??)
  • Resume and Cover Letter Development/Updates
  • Job Search and Practice Applications
  • Career Fair Preparation and Attendance
  • Creating accounts for and exploring job search engines (e.g. Handshake, AlumniFire, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Interview Preparation and Practice
  • Soft Skills Activities (e.g. teamwork, communication, networking, problem-solving, professionalism, etc.)
  • Online Trainings – Microsoft, LinkedIn, OMJ
  • Buckeye OnPACE Career Modules
  • OMJ Practice Interview Center
  • Getting involved in OSU virtual career opportunities

Please reach out to Ashlee Leslie ( or Patty Conkey ( regarding questions, your comfortability with returning to work and/or any restrictions you may have.

Mental Health Survey Opportunity

Image of a flyer describing a research survey opportunity

The Ohio State University needs the help of individuals with intellectual disabilities (ages 14-24) to develop an interview about mental health.

Participants will take part in a 2-3 hour interview online through a secure video chat platform. They will be asked to respond to a set of questions about their moods, feelings, emotions, and behaviors over time. Caregivers and parents will be asked to answer questions about their child as well.

Those who participate will help with the development of the first diagnostic assessment of mental health disorders among youth with ID in addition to receiving a gift card.

To find out if you are eligible to participate or for more information with no obligation, please contact Cori O’Boyle at 614-366-1715 or via email at cori.o’

Research Study Opportunity: Health and Health Care Services

“Researchers” or “staff” at The Ohio State University (OSU) Nisonger Center want to talk to adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) to learn how they feel about their health and health care.

Nisonger staff would also like to interview support persons, family, friends, and care providers who know the adult with ID well.

Interviews can be done by video chat (Zoom) or in-person. Both people will get a gift card for their time (up to $75 each).

Sample questions about health include: (1) Are you happy with the health care you receive? (2) In the last two weeks, did your health make it hard to do things? and, (3) Do you feel sad a lot of the time, or do you feel sad only a little of the time?

Listening to people with ID talk about health is key to making health care better for the whole community.

If you are interested in participating, you can sign up by:

Any questions you have can be directed to or Andrew Buck at

This study is funded by National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) Grant #90RTHF0002.

Sex Talk for Self-Advocates Webinar #7: Marriage

Join the AUCD Sexual Health Special Interest Group for Sex Talk for Self-Advocates Webinar #7: Marriage on Wednesday August 12, 2020 from 2:00 – 3:30pm EST. Our expert hosts of sexuality educators and self-advocates have invited a panel to discuss questions and topics related to marriage for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This webinar is part of an on-going series that addresses self-advocate questions about relationships and sexuality.

Register for the webinar here: