Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities supports local families at annual picnic

LEND family picnic
LEND trainees were pleased to meet families in person again after a two-year gap because of the pandemic

The Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) recently hosted families at its annual picnic.

Fun and food were the themes of the event held on the lawn of Alexander Hall.

The event is a way to support families in the community and to spearhead family-led partnerships, which are integral to the training program. 

Maine LEND interprofessional trainees, including UNE students from the Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Social Work, and Nursing programs, as well as community leaders in family discipline, self-advocacy, speech and language pathology, special education, and audiology, planned and implemented creative activities.

Activities such as snap bracelet creations, sensory bins, and I spy visual games were designed to meet the fun factor for children and young adults with diverse age, development, and ability levels.

“Attending the LEND picnic was a great experience,” said Shannon Landry, family discipline trainee. “It was nice to meet other families and hear their stories. My son met another young man his age and they both go to the same college. After a few minutes they started to play a game together and chat. My son doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to meet others his age. This was an amazing occasion to meet and come together as a community.”

Forty-seven people attended this year’s event including 31 family members, 11 LEND trainees, and five faculty members. The families included some LEND alumni.

“I am so glad we had such a great turnout at the picnic,” commented Jenna Carey (DPT, 2023). “I had a blast getting to know everyone and would love to work with any of the families.” 

Following the picnic, Maine LEND trainees were paired with families who taught them about the joys and challenges of life with children who have neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Faculty at the event included Kathryn Loukas, O.T.D., M.S., OTR/L, FAOTA, LEND training director; Valerie Jones, LMSW, family interprofessional team coordinator; Audrey Bartholomew, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator of special education programs; Sanaa Abduljabbar, family trainee and community health outreach worker; and Eric McVay, self-advocate. 

The group is grateful for the organizational talents of Lianne Lissauer, LEND program coordinator, and for the support of Eileen Ricci PT, D.P.T., M.S., PCS, LEND program director.

During the past two years, COVID-19 precautions became barriers to meeting in person.  So, this year the Trainees were pleased to meet families, play with children, and engage with young adults in person. 

For more information on the Maine LEND program visit

LEND family picnic
LEND families