Opportunities – March 2022

Advocate Weigh in on plan Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan outlines how state departments can help people with disabilities to lead their […]

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Weigh in on plan

Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan outlines how state departments can help people with disabilities to lead their best lives and be part of their home communities. Every year the Olmstead Plan is updated with new goals called plan amendments, with updates released for public review. Input will impact the 2022 Olmstead Plan. Learn about the updates and take the survey. There are many areas to weigh in on. FFI: https://mn.gov/olmstead/get-involved/mn-olmstead-plan-amendment-survey-2022 

Attend rally days

The Minnesota Legislature is in session so it’s time to sign up for rallies and events. In 2022 the events will again be virtual. Some events will be on Facebook as well as livestreamed so check with sponsoring groups.

Disability Services Day is Tue, March 8, led by ARRM and MOHR. The day includes a policy briefing, 10 a.m. rally, and meetings with lawmakers. FFI: https://www.arrm.org/arrmevents/day-at-capitol

Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities offers regular policy updates and events, including Tuesdays at the Capitol. FFI: https://www.mnccd.org/ 


Attend AuSM conference 

Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) has opened registration for the 27th Annual Minnesota Autism Conference, April 27-29 at the Hyatt Regency in Bloomington. After two years of offering the state autism conference virtually, it’s time to get together in person again. hear speakers, attend workshops, visit the AuSM Shop and exhibitors, and meet others with shared issues and values. Scholarships and discounted volunteer rates are available. FFI: www.ausm.org 

Tax help 

It’s tax time!  

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax-Aide programs help prepare federal and state income tax and property tax refund returns. People with disabilities may qualify for free tax preparation for their returns. Most free tax preparations sites are open February 1 to April 15. Some sites stay open through October 15. The Minnesota Department of Revenue search tool and interactive map is updated regularly to provide current site availability. Be aware that many free tax return preparation sites in Minnesota have limited services due to COVID-19. Use the Find a Free Tax Preparation Site tool on the state’s web page — or try an interactive map — to find open sites, hours and contact information. Also check to see if taxes can be filed for free online. 

Generally VITA sites provide help for people ages 60 and older, people with disabilities, people who speak limited or no English and if annual income is less than $58,000. AARP Tax-Aide sites do not have income or age restrictions. All sites only prepare basic returns. For help with complicated returns, consult a professional preparer. FFI: https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/free-tax-preparation-sites 

Children and families 

E.X.C.I.T.E. camp offered 

E.X.C.I.T.E. stands for Exploring Interests in technology and Engineering. The free five-day camp is offered by PACER Center for middle school students (6th-9th grades in the fall) with disabilities who identify as girl or non-binary. Camp is held July 21 to Aug. 4. Camp will be held virtually through Zoom. 

Opportunities to participate in engineering projects, see the magic in science with fun experiments and create life-long friendships await. Application deadline is Fri, May 27, 2022. FFI: PACER, 952-838-9000, 800-537-2237, www.pacer.org  

PACER workshops sampling 

PACER Center offers many useful free or low-cost workshops and other resources for families of children with any disabilities. Workshops are online and livestreamed at this time. Advance registration is required for all workshops. At least 48 hours’ notice is needed for interpretation. Check out PACER’s website and link to the newsletter of statewide workshops that allows participants to pick and choose sessions designed for their needs. 

Inspiring Possibilities: Living, Learning, and Working After High School is 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Fri, March 4. Part two of PACER’s free, virtual transition-to-adulthood mini-conference for Minnesota parents will feature community experts and PACER transition specialists on a variety of need-to-know topics. Ask questions and connect with other parents. Informative sessions will include life planning: guardianship and conservatorship, and special and supplemental needs trusts, and college options for students with intellectual disabilities.

Tech for Girls Club: Deep Sea: Bioluminescent Creatures is 10-11 a.m. Sat, March 12. How do creatures see in the depths of the ocean? Join a virtual workshop about bioluminescence (a creature’s ability to create its own light) and how it helps deep sea creatures navigate.

Housing: Starting the Journey: How do we start? (Step 1) is 6:30-9 p.m. Mon, March 14. Help adult children get started with their vision for community living, housing, and services. An overview of housing and service options will be provided. Registration recommended for all three workshops in this Housing: Starting the Journey series (Monday 3/14, Monday 3/28, Monday 4/11). Please register for each session separately.

School Avoidance and Challenging Behaviors: The Role of Special Education and Section 504 is 6:30-8 p.m. Tue, March 15. the workshop will help parents and others understand the role of Section 504 and Special Education when supporting a child with mental health needs who struggles with school attendance.

Tech for Teens Club: LEGO Stop-Motion Videos is 10-11 a.m. Sat, March 26. Using just a mobile phone and LEGO brand toys, workshop participants will learn to create stop-motion style videos. Learn to create smooth animation using the Stop Motion Studio app (iPhone & Android), and then bring characters to life. Requirements: one mobile device with a camera (iOS or Android) and the Stop Motion Studio app installed, and the participant’s choice of moveable figures or objects such as LEGO brand toys. FFI: PACER, 952-838-9000, 800-537-2237, www.pacer.org  

Info & Assistance 

Online and in-person groups offered in suburbs

NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) sponsors free support groups for families and friends of individuals living with a mental illness. Groups are offered virtually and in person. Led by trained facilitators who also have a family member with mental illness, the support groups help families develop better coping skills and find strength through sharing their experiences. An online Washington County support group meets on the second and fourth Wed of each month, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. FFI: Dan, 612-341-8918.

NAMI also offers an in-person family support group that meets on the first and third Mon of each month,  from 6:30-8:00 p.m., at the Bayport Public Library, 582 4th St. N., Bayport. Group members are required to wear masks and follow COVID-19 protocols.

A support group is offered in West St. Paul for families and friends of individuals living with a mental illness. The group meets 6:30-8 p.m. second and fourth Mon at Augustana Lutheran Church, 1400 S. Robert St. Group members are required to be vaccinated, wear masks and follow COVID-19 protocols. FFI: Joanne, 651-815-9556.  

A support group is offered in Eden Prairie for families and friends of individuals living with a mental illness. The group meets 6:30-8 p.m. second and fourth Thu at St. Andrews Lutheran, 13600 Technology Dr., Room 207A. Group members are required to be vaccinated, wear masks and follow COVID-19 protocols. FFI: Carol, 518-331-8099, or [email protected]. FFI: www.nami.org 

New website announced 

The System of Technology to Achieve Results (STAR) Program has a new website for its library of loanable devices. Visit Minnesota Assistive Technology for All (MNAT4ALL) at https://mn.at4all.com/ and check out the new database. The STAR Program team has developed a site which features images of devices and links to manufacturer websites. MNAT4ALL allow users to create their own account, track the history of items they have borrowed, request loans, request demonstrations, and complete surveys. Feedback is sought on the new database. FFI: 651-201-2640; 1-888-234-1267; MN Relay: 711 or toll free at 800-627-3529 

Centers for independent living statewide 

Minnesota centers for independent living statewide have gone to more in-person operations. Typically centers offer an array of classes, training programs and other services tied to independent living. Centers that proving PCA, homemaker and other staffing for clients continue to do that in person. Check with a local center for open hours. FFI: www.macil.org/ 

Classes offered online 

NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has set up a wide variety of free online mental health classes. Choices include Hope for Recovery, Transitions, Ending the Silence, Understanding Early Episode Psychosis for Families, In Our Own Voice, Family to Family, Positive Psychology, Creating Caring Communities, a suicide prevention class called QPR – Question, Persuade and Refer, a special QPR class for Agricultural Communities and many more. 

The classes are designed for family members and caregivers, persons living with a mental illness, service providers, and also the general public. Find a complete listing of these classes and how to join in by going to namimn.org and clicking on “Classes” or go straight to https://namimn.org/education-public-awareness/classes/scheduled/ 

  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.
  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!

You are not alone. Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.