A 40-year partnership leads to a lifetime of impact

KU Partnership

GoodLife’s history is filled with passionate people demanding better care for their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Two of our co-founders, James Sherman and Jan Sheldon, also held faculty positions at the University of Kansas (KU). Together they recognized and understood the importance of evaluating and applying best practices to service settings and addressing societal concerns. This likemindedness led the way for a 40-year partnership between KU and GoodLife that continues today. 

This four-decade-long collaboration includes highly respected faculty, postdoctoral professionals, and students from the KU Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences, one of the top 10  graduate programs in applied behavior analysis (and second-most research producing) in the country. The department provides applied research, consultation, training, clinical practicums, quality assurance, and external evaluation to enhance and advance GoodLife’s mission. These individuals have been instrumental in developing some of our most effective programs. Together we’ve designed innovative service models, measurement and evaluation, and promoted a meaningful, independent, and inclusive life for individuals with disabilities. 

Situational observation leads to practical solutions
Today, GoodLife continues to partner with KU to specifically enhance our mission through three key performance indicators: improve capacity, improve access, and improve quality practice. A key player in the groundbreaking work being done today is Dr. Claudia Dozer, Associate Professor in Applied Behavioral Science at KU. Dr. Dozer works with GoodLife as a consultant and supervises doctoral and undergrad students studying better ways to work with adults with disabilities. 

“My work with GoodLife began when Mike Strouse reached out for additional expertise in assessment and intervention with residents that displayed severe behavior disorders, my specialty,” Dr. Dozer shares. Through this partnership, she and her students went into GoodLife residential homes and day service programs and observed. From those assessments, they worked with GoodLife to develop Healthy Behavioral Practices, a baseline training for staff on active treatment: how to have positive interactions with residents, how to de escalate or respond to problem behavior, how to provide choices and opportunities for leisure activities, how to reward appropriate behavior, and so on.

“We spent a year and a half training staff in Healthy Behavioral Practices, and began to see such great results that over time GoodLife implemented this system into its mandatory new staff training,” says Dr. Dozer. “What’s exciting is that we’ve presented our data and package at national and international conferences, and there’s a lot of interest in a simple-to-teach, simple-to-implement training program that ultimately improves an individual’s quality of life.”

Full-circle impact
To date, the GoodLife/KU partnership has developed a number of nationally regarded service models including the Family Teaching Model, Professional Family Teachers, Neighborhood Network, Midnight Farm, North Star Academy (a Montessori school for typically developing and special needs kids), and T.E.A.M. Work

The collaboration not only provides benefits for GoodLife residents and staff, but KU graduate and undergraduate students are also getting unique, situational experience working with adults with disabilities and training staff – an opportunity they can’t find anywhere else in the country. 

“Through this partnership, my students receive one-of-a-kind training that both enriches their educational experience and equips them to truly make an impact on how we care for individuals with disabilities,” shares Dr. Dozer proudly. 

Dr. Dozier continues, “I would also venture to say that there isn’t another residential or day service program in the country that has the expertise and collaborative manpower that GoodLife has. GoodLife gives adults with severe behavioral problems a place to go. As someone who’s dedicated her life to serving adults with disabilities, that really hits close to my heart.”

A future of possibility
Over the years, our partnership with KU has given us tools to create a better life for individuals with I/DD time and time again, and we’re not done yet. Dr. Dozer and her students continue to work with GoodLife residents and programs, observing behaviors to develop and improve ongoing systems and support staff in how best to implement them. They are also using the partnership as a clinical research site, conducting vital systematic research on service provision in the adults with I/DD space that hasn’t been gathered in quite some time. 

In addition to Dr. Dozer’s work is KU’s Performance Management Laboratory helmed by Dr. Florence DiGennaro Reed. Dr. DiGennaro Reed specializes in preparing GoodLife staff to deliver care to individuals with disabilities and examining the effects of systems-level interventions on staff performance with the goals of improving service quality.

Want to know more about how we’re partnering to provide individualized, supported, and affordable care? Let’s chat – we’d love to share more about what we’re working on.

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