The Plan for Full Access Becoming Two Brokerages

March 5, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access:

I have an update about future planning at our brokerage!   As I shared a few months ago, I am leaving Full Access in June this year.  A big part of the preparation for that is completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and strategic plan.  So far this has included work within our agency and outside of our agency, getting feedback from community partners, clients, family members and a broader group of constituents.   We are getting great input from dozens of people.  Any time you want to share your thoughts about Full Access, you can call or email me at 541-284-5070 or

One of the things we have been discussing in this process is that our primary region of Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Lake Counties is quite different in some ways from our Lane County region.  As the largest brokerage in the state with 875 clients, we have been considering changing the agency into two separate brokerages.  We recently started to actively pursue this!  It’s exciting news for most of the people that I have spoken with or heard from in surveys.  Our board of directors has had very meaningful discussions about this and approved us going forward to create two agencies.  In late January, our Assistant Director, Heather Hopkins-Slechta, and I met with people in leadership at the state.  We have an agreement to go forward with this separation.

One of our surveyed community members shared this viewpoint:

“I can only see this as a plus. FA seems to really cover 2 distinct service areas. Customers truly value local access to their case management service and to have the ‘main’ office really be local will likely be significant to the community. I also think having a brokerage who speaks specifically for that area of the state could be valuable.”

I agree with this perspective.  After more than 13 years leading the 5 county area as one brokerage, I see this new future as holding the strongest vision for locally driven support services.  We will have initial work done for the separation by July, 2015.  We also will have a very close working relationship for as long as it takes afterwards to have a smooth transition.  It will take quite some time to complete the internal changes.  We do always intend to stay in a close working relationship, even though the governance of the agencies will be different.  Each will have their own board of directors and operate as a separate business.

This also changes how we are hiring for the new person that will fill my role.  It is now our plan to hire an Executive Director for Lane County and one for the four other counties (Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson and Lake).  We have a search committee involved in our hiring process.  Once we have those positions filled, we will make announcements through our Facebook page and other means.

As one more big change to work through, the change to two agencies will take focus and hard work.  We are very excited to be part of the creation of the 14th Support Services Brokerage.  If you would like to share your thoughts about any of this I would be very happy to hear from you!



A Lifetime of Achievement

February 13, 2015

Dear Friends of Full Access,

Margaret with her award and a few of her fans

Margaret with her award and a few of her fans

Last night, our CEO, Margaret Theisen, was awarded the 2014 Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award from The Arc Lane County.   This award honors a volunteer or professional who has devoted themselves to making life better for individuals with disabilities. Nominating Margaret for this award was an obvious choice for those of us who know her.  What follows is our nomination letter outlining Margaret’s dedication to the people we serve.

Congratulations, Margaret!

-The Full Access Team


To Whom it May Concern,

We are writing this letter on behalf of the staff at Full Access.  We would like to nominate Margaret Theisen for the Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award.  Margaret has worked in this field for more than 25 years.

During her tenure, she has been a fierce advocate for the people we serve!  Over the years, she has worked tirelessly with the State to ensure the quality of life for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  She’s been proactive in making sure services maintain the focus of self    directed supports and that the supports we offer make a difference in people’s lives.  Margaret has advocated for client choice.

Margaret has incorporated self-determination as a guiding principle at Full Access.  This has been done by ensuring that all aspects of our operations are referenced to a single question: “Will this    decision/action, within a framework of health and safety concerns, be consistent with the                commitment to support the principle of self-determination in the lives of people with intellectual    disabilities?” This is seen through Full Access’ organizational structure, budgeting, job descriptions, hiring practices, staff training and support, support delivered on behalf of people, relationships with service providers, and quality assurance practices.

Margaret has been a champion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  She has accomplished a great deal of work in the nearly 13 years of Full Access’ history.  Some of these       accomplishments have been in our local area and some have reached to other parts of the world.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Over the course of the last 13 years, Full Access has helped 1,360 different individuals pursue a quality of life that is consistent with their preferences and choices.  Margaret was the first employee hired by Full Access and when the doors opened March 1, 2002 there were 79 clients enrolled and 6 full time staff members hired.  Since then, Margaret has helped grow our agency.  Today, we serve 866 clients with an equivalent of 39 full time staff members.  Margaret understands that to best serve our clients we need to hire, and retain, qualified staff members.  In order to accomplish this, she has created a work atmosphere that is beyond compare! Full Access has been recognized in several ways and received various awards, greatly in part to Margaret’s leadership and her commitment to our mission:
    • The Sloan Award, a national recognition for a family-friendly and flexible workplace. Full Access ranked in the top 20% nationwide.
    • The Family Forward Leadership Award. This means that Full Access was ranked in the top four businesses in the state that received the Sloan Award nationally.
    • Recipient of Oregon Business Magazine’s #1 Medium-Sized Non-Profit to Work For three years in a row!
  • Margaret has a wealth of knowledge about the people we serve and she is often invited to share that knowledge with others:
    • She presented information on the legal approach to systems reform, the Staley Agreement, and ADA to a group of people with disabilities and attorneys from Japan.
    • She has spoke at a House Human Services Committee on behalf of the brokerage system for people with developmental disabilities.
    • Through MIUSA (Mobility International USA), she traveled to Bahrain, in the Middle East, and provided consultation on disability issues to a group of professionals also traveling to Bahrain. MIUSA is an agency whose mission is in “advancing disability rights and leadership globally”.  The host in Bahrain, Essam Kamal from Bahrain Disabled Sports Federation said this about Margaret and MIUSA, “The awesome success of the recently concluded U.S./Bahrain Professional Exchange Program held in the Kingdom Bahrain makes us more enlightened and focused.” and “Let us appreciate your elite delegation’s insight and expertise that guided us to better concepts and projects to support the disabled in a fruitful manner.”
    • She supervised an intern who was one of the trainers on the trip to Bahrain. The intern was developing a non-profit agency to do international work with youth.  The focus was on teaching young people how to advocate.  Their goal is to make sure that young people with disabilities learned to set and reach their own goals.
    • She was selected for two presentations on the National Council on Disabilities invitation-only Forum in Portland.  She represented not only Full Access, but our IDD services system at this important event.
    • She served as the brokerage representative for the management team for collective bargaining advocating on behalf of clients throughout the state.
    • She was invited to be part of a lecture series at The Boggs Center in New Jersey on support services.  The Boggs Center lecture series is a prestigious opportunity.  Through this opportunity, Margaret was able to represent Full Access and our work in Oregon.  She was invited at the suggestion of a former Oregon State DD Director.
  • Margaret is committed to broadening public awareness of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and breaking down barriers between all people, particularly those who are marginalized or ignored.
    • 2015 will be the 9th year that Full Access will host The Sprout Film Festival.  For a film to be a part of Sprout it must: show a realistic portrayal of somebody with an     intellectual or developmental disability and if there is acting in the film, the person or people in the film with a disability must actually have that disability.  Over the last 9 years Margaret has been instrumental in growing this event to include a free matinee performance for clients and their support staff, shows for students at elementary, middle and high schools as well as community showings in Bend, Cottage Grove, Eugene and Springfield.
    • She was instrumental in the development of the film, “Against the Fence: The Riley Campbell Story.” This is a story about a young man’s recovery from a brutal beating and his own participation in bringing justice to his life.  With Margaret as the producer, this impactful film has been accepted into local, national and even international film festivals.
    • She is the co-chair of the Look Me in the Eye campaign. This campaign was created by Two Agencies: One Vision, a cooperative effort of Full Access and Oregon Supported Living Program.  The goal of the Look Me in the Eye Campaign is to develop relationships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their communities.  The Look Me in the Eye campaign has reached a wide audience ranging from students through our multiple school presentations, local, county and state legislators through annual proclamations of Look Me in the Eye month, community members through our participation in the Eugene Celebration Parade and the hosting of our Evening of Elegance event.
    • Through a grant from the Federal Centers for Disease Control, she began the Preparedness Mentoring Project.  This year long project helped develop plans for our clients in case of disasters.  She also wrote two grants to our State DD Coalition for community trainings.  One of the trainings was in Eugene as a Transition Forum; the other, included several trainings in Central Oregon on the Abuse Reporting requirements.
  • Margaret thinks outside of the box! She is often working on new, innovative ways that will help reduce the operational costs of Full Access so that we can redirect those funds in a way that will help us be in a better position to support our clients.
    • She led the way for Full Access to partner with Oregon Supported Living Program to purchase the building that our Eugene office resides in. The purchase of the building will assure that Full Access won’t see increases in lease payments and needing to spend additional operational funds.  It will also allow for us, once the building is paid off, to redirect all of the funds needed for lease payments into other areas of the organization.  She also coordinated grants that helped with the installation of solar  panels which will be an additional savings for our building.
    • A few years after the building purchase in Eugene, through Margaret’s leadership, Full Access purchased the building that our Bend office currently resides in.  This building has been named the Beth Rixe Service Center after a client of Full Access.  Her parents, Katie and Dave Rixe, had this to say, “There are no words for what Full  Access did for us.  They stayed the course and kept us moving forward.  Beth’s 7 years of independent living is largely due to the support and guidance of Full Access.” 

Oregon Support Services Association recently said, “We are deeply indebted and grateful to Margaret for her influential and principled leadership.”  We couldn’t have said it better!  To sum it up, we think that “Margaret ROCKS!”  She has been an employer, a teacher, an advocate and a      visionary, all the while keeping the focus on our mission of assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to pursue a quality of life that is consistent with their preferences and choices! 

For all of these reasons, we believe Margaret would be an excellent candidate for the Lisl Waechter Lifetime Achievement Award.


The Full Access Team

Full Access and Future Planning

December 9, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

Some of you have become aware that I am planning to leave Full Access next year for a “semi-retirement” experience!  For others, this may be news!  I have been in conversations with our board of directors about this and considering it for quite some time.  After close to thirteen years here, it is time for me to pursue other opportunities.  Our current plan is for me to stay until we complete several projects in preparations for the transition.  I will be leaving in June 2015, and we plan to have a replacement person hired by April.

My leaving is really at a very good time for the agency.  I already have been working on what is called a SWOT analysis, which is a process that helps create a strategic plan.  Strategic planning describes the process organizations use to determine how it can best meet its objectives and carry out its mission.  A SWOT analysis is a common strategic planning tool that can help us evaluate how to continue the great successes our agency has experienced.

The term “SWOT” stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.”  It involves creating lists of the internal strengths and weaknesses we have and then creating lists of opportunities and threats that exist outside Full Access that could impact our future.  Once all four lists are developed, we can brainstorm ways to maximize strengths, limit weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities and avoid or reduce threats.  Anticipating a new executive director of the agency, that person will be charged with the final strategic planning portion of this process, so she or he will be able to incorporate their own vision with the communities’ and agency’s input.

We will also use this process to determine what kind of qualities and skills are needed for the next director of Full Access.  Through surveys, interviews, focus groups and other communication, we will complete the analysis and also be looking for information to use in our hiring process.  We will reach out to our clients, families, staff, board of directors, advisory groups, and all our community partners that want to be involved such as CDDPs, state partners, other brokerages, providers and more!  This will be a comprehensive look at our work so we can ensure the best service for our clients well into the future.

This is such an exciting time in our system and even in difficult times of change, we can flourish!  By thoughtfully planning the future of our agency, we will make sure the excellence in our service system continues.  I look forward to working with all of our friends of Full Access to create the next step in the future!

Best regards,


The Surprisingly Wonderful Benefits of Mindfulness Training for People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Caregivers – Part 2

November 20, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access,

In part 1 of this series, we looked at some evidence showing how a regular mindfulness practice can not only benefit the practitioner, but can also profoundly and positively impact recipients of care within the I/DD community. In part 2, we will look at hypotheses and neurological evidence indicating why these effects occur and how to develop our own mindfulness practices.


Why does mindfulness work?

KEEN1010-1The researchers in these studies hypothesize several possible reasons for why mindfulness not only benefits the study participants but also those in their care. It could be that mindfulness imparts to the practitioner a beginner’s mind: a blank slate without expectation [3] which allows the care provider to disengage from preconceived notions of how the recipient of care typically behaves, and eliminates the tendency to preemptively control that behavior [2]. Mindfulness improves one’s ability to be available in the present moment, to roll with the punches. It also diminishes the tendency to judge behaviors as good or bad, but rather to see them simply as behaviors. In the studies discussed in part 1, staff members who trained in mindfulness were observed being more patient, creative, and adaptable when interacting with the individuals in their care. This mindset may be key to the success of mindfulness training. Singh, et al. found a link between staff attempts to preemptively control violent behaviors and the subsequent acting out of these same behaviors [2]. It may be that many recipients of care follow the behavioral modeling set in place by their caregivers. Once an interactional pattern has been established, people tend to repeat it. With a non-judgmental focus on the present moment, we have the room to act and react in novel ways, making space for new, healthier interactions.


A momentary brain geek-out

Now, let’s talk about the brain. Brain plasticity has been a popular topic in the neuroscience community for many years now. Plasticity describes the brain’s ability to change, both structurally and chemically, as a result of life experiences. For example, when a person is under chronic stress, the structures of their brain adapt accordingly. The hippocampus shrinks [5,6] which, in turn, impairs attention, learning, and memory functions. Amygdala volume increases [7] which can influence a person’s behavior toward more reactivity and less emotional control.

However, after only 8 weeks of mindfulness practice [8] evidence predicts a reversal in both of these structures [9, 10]. A decrease in amygdala volume could mean less emotional and physical reactivity to stress. An increase in hippocampal volume may lead to improvements in learning and attention span. These results add to a large body of work indicating that the effects of stress on the brain are reversible (i.e.: plasticity at work) [11].


The red and yellow dots are the left hippocampus. The red bar measures how much denser it became. The blue bar measures a group of people who did not meditate during the same period. Retrieved from:


A success story

The following story was told by a father of twin boys with Asperger’s Syndrome, after participating in mindfulness training:

 I needed to let them know that the game would end in 10 min. Previously, this thought would have ruined the fun for me. The remaining 10 min would have been filled with anxiety and dread. But on that night, I realized that I could have the courage to issue the warning now and then move on and enjoy the time that followed for what it was—a good time. I could do both. I could, in the moment, take care of my special needs children in the special way that they required, and then, in the next moment, enjoy them. And I could do this without bitterness or regret. This was a new path [1].


So how is it done?

The following is an example of a technique taught to participants in a 2006 Singh, et al. study [1]:

Calming the Mind

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Close your mouth and breathe through your nose.
  3. Feel the sensation of your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils at the tip of your nose. You may feel the sensation more strongly within the nostrils or on the upper lip.
  4. To help you locate where you feel the touch sensation of the breath most distinctly, inhale deeply and force the air out through your nostrils. Wherever you feel the sensation most clearly and precisely is the place to focus your attention during your meditation sessions.
  5. Feel the beginning, the middle, and the end of every in-breath, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of every out-breath.
  6. Sometimes the breath will be short—there is no need to make it longer. Sometimes the breath will be long— there is no need to make it shorter. Sometimes the breath will be erratic— there is no need to even it out.
  7. Just become aware of the breath as it goes in and out of the nostrils at the tip of the nose.
  8. Feel the beginning, the middle, and the end of every in-breath, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of every out-breath.
  9. Let the breath breathe itself.
  10. Every time your attention moves away from the breath and shifts to a different object of awareness, such as a physical sensation or a thought, gently but firmly draw your attention back to the touch sensation of your breath.


My own mindfulness practice is inconsistent. I do great for a few weeks: meditating for 20 minutes a day, feeling a lovely calm begin to envelop my life… Inevitably, however, the practice starts to dwindle until I wonder how I ever fit it into my schedule. The thing is, for me, it really does help with anxiety and depression, so eventually I try again. I’ve been practicing this way for years. Each time I begin again, I start off finding it difficult to empty my mind. I repeatedly and gently redirect my attention to the flow of breath and remind myself not to judge my busy brain. Every time I sit, I feel myself sinking into the sensation more deeply than the time before. In his book, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh provides a nice example for how to re-focus the mind: “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” Remembering this quote always helps me.



We know that caregiving can be stressful for both the caregiver and the recipient of care. Even with the best of intentions, we may still find ourselves stressed, uninspired, or burnt-out. We also know that stress is harmful to our bodies. It damages our respiratory and cardiovascular systems, kills brain cells, and can shorten our lifespan. More and more, studies of mindfulness as a therapeutic application are showing a reversal of symptoms associated with chronic stress. Mindfulness practice is free, flexible, and simple to do. So there it is, let us sit and do nothing. It just might save our lives.


Melissa Farley
Personal Agent





  1. Hwang, Y. , & Kearney, P. (2014). Mindful and mutual care for individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic literature review. Journal of Child and Family  Studies, 23(3), 497-509.
  2. Singh N. N., Lancioni G. E., Winton A. S. W., Fisher B. C., Wahler R. G., McAleavey
    K., Singh J. & Sabaawi M. (2006b). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance & self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders 14, 169–177.
  3. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., Sabaawi,
    M., et al. (2006a). Mindful staff increase learning and reduce aggression in adults with Developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 545–558.
  4. Dykens, E.M., Fisher, M.H., Taylor, J.L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014). Reducing
    distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: A randomized trial  Pediatrics, 2, e454-e463.
  5. Gold, S.M., Dziobek, I., Sweat, V., Tirsi, A., Rogers, K., Bruehl, H., Tsui,W., Richardson,
    S., Javier, E., & Convit, A. (2007). Hippocampal damage and memory impairments as possible early brain complications of type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia, 50, 711–719.
  6. Sheline, Y.I. (2003). Neuroimaging studies of mood disorder effects on the brain. Biological Psychiatry, 54, 338–352.
  7. McEwen, B.S. (2007). Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: central role of the brain. Physiology. Review, 87, 873–904.
  8. Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C.E., Wasserman, R.H. et al., (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport, 16, 1893-1897.
  9. Hölzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M. et al., (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research, 191, 36-43.
  10. Hölzel, B., Carmody, J., Evans, K., et al., (2010). Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Soc Cogn Affect Neuroscience, 5,11-17.
  11. Farb, N. A. S., Anderson, A.K., & Segal, Z.V. (2012). The mindful brain and emotion
    regulation in mood disorders. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57, 70-77.

The Surprisingly Wonderful Benefits of Mindfulness Training for People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Caregivers – Part 1

November 4, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access,

caregiver_griefIn our community, we place a great deal of importance on quality caregiving. Recipients of care seek support that is empathetic and skilled. The individuals we serve may need occasional support or require constant monitoring to ensure their safety and well-being. For people with higher needs, caregiving can be demanding both physically and emotionally, making the quality, patience, and resilience of the caregiver a high priority. This kind of high-demand responsibility can lead to burnout for both the caregiver and the recipient of care, particularly if it is a long-term relationship, as with a parent and child. According to Stress, Portrait of a Killer, chronic stress can lead to lifelong damage to the body, including the immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, as well as to our DNA. With this in mind, finding ways to stay healthy and resilient is important to sustaining quality care over the long term. One approach to cultivating resilience is a regular mindfulness practice. Recent evidence has shown that mindfulness training, for both paid and family caregivers, is associated with increased work satisfaction, improved interconnectedness between caregivers and recipients of care, and a reversal of many physiological and psychological indicators of stress.

What is Mindfulness?
There are many variations on the definition of mindfulness. Some use flowery, inspirational language; others operationalize mindfulness into its measurable components. Jon Kabat-Zinn, developer of a technique called: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), defines it as: “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” [1]. Applying mindfulness to parenting, Nyanaponika describes it as: “the application of ‘bare attention’ to what one’s children do and to one’s spontaneous response to their behavior” [2]. Regardless of the framing, all definitions contain the same basic components: patience, present-moment focus, absence of judgment, and acceptance of things as they are [3]. The idea is to remain objective and observant without allowing our thoughts and emotions to interfere with our reactions, attitudes, or behaviors, to relate to others with compassion and empathy, and to experience life without concern for expected outcomes or rewards.


Supporting Evidence
I first became interested in mindfulness as a therapeutic technique while studying psychology at the U of O. I read several papers indicating a link between a regular mindfulness practice and reduction of measurable symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and depression. From there, I wondered if mindfulness training has been studied in association with caregiving in the disability community. I came across an article describing a study in which mothers of children with disabilities participated in a 6-week mindfulness training. At the outset, 85% of these mothers experienced significantly heightened stress, 48% were diagnosed with Homepage-Locationsdepression, and 41% had extreme anxiety. After 6 group training sessions of 1.5 hours each, participants experienced reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression, healthier sleep patterns, and increased life satisfaction, with particularly strong effects for depression and anxiety [4]. As I dug deeper, I found several studies conducted with both group-home caregiving staff and parents who provide full-time caregiving for their children. In a 2006 study, after 12 weeks of two-hour trainings, group home behavioral interventions decreased by more than 50% across 4 houses, and the use of physical restraints decreased by almost 100% [3]. Another study, conducted with parents of autistic children, measured results during a 3-month mindfulness parent training program and 1 year of practice. The children of these parents showed a 51-94 % reduction of aggression and self-injury [1]. These studies also found increases in work satisfaction for professional caregivers and improved assessments of these caregivers by the parents of those in their care [3]. As you can see, the effects of this type of practice not only apply to the practitioner of mindfulness, but also the people they interact with and care for. This piece of information is profound: just by practicing mindfulness, people are improving the quality of their relationships with, and reducing suffering and discomfort for, the people in their care.

In part 2, we’ll look at the hypotheses and neurological evidence for why mindfulness has such positive effects and share some tips for how to develop your own practice.

Melissa Farley
Personal Agent



1. Hwang, Y. , & Kearney, P. (2014). Mindful and mutual care for individuals with developmental disabilities: A systematic literature review. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23(3), 497-509.

2. Singh N. N., Lancioni G. E., Winton A. S. W., Fisher B. C., Wahler R. G., McAleavey K., Singh J. & Sabaawi M. (2006b). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance & self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders 14, 169–177.

3. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., Sabaawi, M., et al. (2006a). Mindful staff increase learning and reduce aggression in adults with Developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 545–558.

4. Dykens, E.M., Fisher, M.H., Taylor, J.L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014). Reducing distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: A randomized trial. Pediatrics, 2, e454-e463.

How about this?!

October 23, 2014

Dear Friends of Full Access:

Full Access staff members, Margaret Theisen and Nick Kaasa, along with Gretchen Dubie of Oregon Supported Living Program and Rick Dancer of the Look Me in the Eye campaign,  presented to nearly 250 people at the Northwest Conference: Professional Development in Disability Services.   The presentation on the campaign was a simulation of what we do at schools.   The audience was given specific roles to consider as a student in a middle school.  The interaction was great and we had a very positive response from the group.

Margaret Theisen, CEO and Nick Kaasa, Customer Service Assistant at the Northwest Conference.

Margaret Theisen, CEO and Nick Kaasa, Customer Service Assistant at the Northwest Conference.

Nick shared what his favorite moment was… “my favorite part about speaking in front of 250 people at the conference today was being a part of getting the campaign one step closer to being felt all around the world by having Rick and I speak to a room full of professionals.  It is my hope and belief that it will benefit us!  It seemed to me that there was a lot of interest in getting it heard more on the state level and that is definitely very inspiring. To sum it all up my quote for the look me in the eye Keynote?   CHANGE IS COMING!”

Following the Keynote, Gretchen and Margaret also did a break out session for 60 people to share details on the development of the Look Me in the Eye campaign.  Our colleagues are ready to create a similar effort in communities throughout Oregon.  People are getting the message and taking our pledge.  Please consider taking it as well!


The Look Me in the Eye Pledge:

I believe all people want and deserve the opportunity to

meaningfully participate in all aspects of our community and,

Our community gains value when we respect and include

individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and,

I pledge to look people in the eye,

and respect and include everyone in my community.

Sit This One Out: Putting Stress in Perspective

October 1, 2014


Dear Friends of Full Access,

I’ve seen the documentary: Stress, Portrait of a Killer, six times. The first was in my Psychology 203 class. We were talking about the effect stress has on the body and brain. I was blown away by the information neuroscientist, Robert Sapolsky, has discovered over the course of his 30 year career. In this film, he and other scientists describe profound, lifespan depleting effects of stress on the immune and cardiovascular systems, DNA expression, brain function, and even appearance. I went home and watched it again. Then I showed it to a friend. I watched it twice more in other classes then showed it to another friend. This information is potentially a game-changer in a culture that values a high-stress, multitasking lifestyle. The antidotes are simple: taking time to breathe, laugh, and connect with others, as well as feeling a sense of control and empowerment in our lives.

The Physiological Stress Response
Our body’s stress response, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, is highly functional in acute, life-threatening situations. During these times, our body secretes hormones that direct all non-essential functions to shut down until the threat has been averted. Stress hormones also stimulate an increase in heart rate, sending more blood to our muscles so we can move more quickly and have more strength.

Our modern lives tend to be chronically stressful. Financial, familial, political, health, and professional concerns can overwhelm us. We move through our days bathing in stress hormones that should only be present during times of crisis, but are often constant companions. tigers_hunt_bird_01The problem is that our bodies react as though we are being chased by a tiger: immune, reproductive, and digestive systems function poorly, while our heart rate and blood pressure stay high. In the long run, chronic stress has been associated with a build-up of plaque in blood vessels, decreased connectivity between brain cells, resulting in diminished memory, decreased ability to experience joy, and a higher distribution of fat around our mid-sections. All of this equates to a shorter lifespan and poorer quality of life.

So What Can We Do About it?
Stress is inevitable. Just by living a typical Western life, most people are under constant demands to expend time and energy. We spend most of our week barely maintaining our home and community lives until the weekend finally comes when we try to catch-up and, with any luck, get some rest. Many of you have children, some with very high needs. They keep you busy and you would do anything for them. Ironically, the way you can preserve your best parenting power, is by taking time for yourself.

4UT4E5A7Studies show that some of the most profound reversals of the damage caused by chronic stress are: social connection, personal empowerment, and mindfulness. Having even one close relationship that allows you to talk through your issues can have a therapeutic effect. Social connection not only gives us someone to talk to, it also gives us opportunities to feel loved and valued, to laugh, and to put our lives into perspective.

Another important contribution to stress reduction is feeling a sense of control over at least some part of our lives. According to my favorite documentary, this can be as simple as being captain of the softball team. Feeling personally empowered and that our input is valued by our community is associated with improved health and well-being, so start that book club!

mindfulness funMindfulness, in its most basic form, is the practice of focusing one’s attention on the experience of the present moment, without judgment. Research has shown that as few as 6 weeks of mindfulness practice can significantly reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. These benefits not only occur for the practitioner of mindfulness, but also for the people in relationship to that person. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the benefits of mindfulness training for people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers.

Melissa Farley
Personal Agent


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