CNMI Early Intervention Program Provides Services During the CNMI Shutdown


In efforts to ensure that all infants and toddlers enrolled in the CNMI Early Intervention Program receive services in a manner that protects the health of the child, family, and early intervention practitioners, Elaine Eclavea, Guam CEDDERS, Early Childhood Consultant facilitated a series of virtual professional development training via Zoom Video Conferencing. On April 14, the training entitled Providing Early Intervention Services through Distance Technology was designed to increase the knowledge and understanding of providers on how to use Tele-Intervention during this time of social distancing. The topics discussed during the session was on feasibility, system requirements, Planning the Visit, and the Framework for Tele-Intervention Home Visits (this included 3-parts of the Visit). The training included information from The Family, Infant, and Preschool Program’s presentation by Dr. Dathan Rush. The Tele-Intervention strategies identified by Dr. Rush aligns with the evidenced-based model of Early Childhood Coaching as indicated in the CNMI Part C State Systemic Improvement Plan. CNMI Early Intervention Staff continued weekly Reflective Coaching Training Sessions through the months of April, May, and June to build the capacity of staff in using the “Collaborative Problem-Solving” process to enhance tele-intervention home visits. 


On April 23, Elaine Eclavea, Guam CEDDERS Early Childhood Consultant, along with Keith Villaluna, Guam CEDDERS Data Specialist, facilitated the virtual Early Childhood Reflective Coaching session with the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) Early Intervention Program via Zoom. 1st Row, L-R: Peter Ryan Mendiola, Special Instruction Teacher,  CNMI; Keith Villaluna, Data Specialist, Guam CEDDERS; Nace Soalablai Jr, Family Partnership Advocate, CNMI; Veronica King, Service Coordinator, CNMI; Janelle Cepeda, Data Manager, CNMI; 2nd Row, L-R: Karri Fisher, Occupational Therapist, CNMI; Elaine Eclavea, EC Consultant, Guam CEDDERS; Keokia Mendiola, Speech-Language Pathologist, Guam; 3rd Row, L-R: Aljay Figueroa, Occupational Therapist, CNMI; Robin Palacios, EI Program Director, CNMI; Jonisa Sanchez, Special Instruction Teacher, CNMI.

Guam CEDDERS Reflects On Crip Camp Film


July 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In honor of this monumental legislation, Guam CEDDERS staff took time from their busy schedules on June 30 to watch the documentary Crip Camp. The documentary offered a raw and authentic portrayal of the people and events that led to the passage of the ADA in 1990.
The seeds of discontent for the status quo were planted at Camp Jened, nicknamed Crip Camp, a haven for teens with disabilities who were often neglected and overlooked by the outside world. Camp Jened gave campers a window to what a world where they were included could look like. This set into motion the events that would lead to the passing of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the 26-day 504 sit-in, and finally to the passage of the ADA in 1990.
After watching the documentary, Guam CEDDERS staff were given the opportunity to reflect on the impact of the message of the movie on their role at Guam CEDDERS. Everyone gleaned different lessons from the documentary. But it was strikingly clear that Guam CEDDERS carries the legacy of Camp Jened forward. The struggle of civil rights leader, Judith Heumann and her friends from Camp Jened has become Guam CEDDERS’ purpose. Their mission is our mission. As eloquently expressed by Denise Sherer Jacobson, an author, disability self-advocate, and former Camp Jened camper, “The ADA was a wonderful achievement, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. You can pass a law but until you can change society’s attitudes, that law won’t mean much.” And as such, we continue our work at Guam CEDDERS of creating partnerships and pathways to increase the quality of life of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

In the film, protestors, carrying signs, march together to demand Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act be signed into law.

Taking The Time To Prepare For A “New Normal”


Social distancing. Sanitizing. Washing hands. Wearing a mask. Daily temperature checks. ZOOM meetings. What does all this mean? Is this normal? Or is this the “new normal?” While we live in a world that has the most scientific and technological advancements, a virus that is invisible to the naked eye has destabilized our economies, healthcare, and educational systems. This pandemic lets us know that we must continue progress in science and research to face future challenges. Without a vaccine, humankind must continue to live not in fear but live differently. By living differently and safely, we need to be informed. Information overload? Maybe. But better to know than to not know and not know what to do.
On June 26th, the team at Guam CEDDERS embarked on the first of what will be an on-going information dissemination process of Guam CEDDERS’ Pandemic Plan & Procedures. This plan aligns with the University of Guam – Pandemic Plan & Procedures for Operating Under PCOR3 / UPPOP3. The Guam CEDDERS’ leadership team wanted to ensure that all employees under Guam CEDDERS are aware of the procedures and actions to take during a pandemic situation as well as provide feedback on best practices for the organization.
COVID-19 activities that included a Scavenger Hunt, COVID BINGO, and Guam CEDDERS Pandemic Plan & Procedures Quiz with prizes brought cheers and healthy, competitive spirits amongst colleagues. With much excitement and laughter, the team at Guam CEDDERS showed that preparing for the “new normal” does not have to be mundane. With camaraderie and teamwork, we as a family, an organization, an island community, people of the world can get through this pandemic together. As in all things in life, “life is what you make of it,” even when living in “new normal” times.

On June 26, the Guam CEDDERS team engaged in a full-day professional development to review operational procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, share professional growth experiences with the LinkedIn Learning platform, and continue to build collective knowledge about disabilities through opportunities to view national videos in preparation for the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act in July 2020. The CEDDERS team includes (pictured top row, L-R): Josephine Cruz, June De Leon, Michelle Aguigui, Vera Blaz, JJ Mendiola; (second row, L-R) Brittany Masang, Zachary Hecita, Coleen Dela Cruz, Ruth Leon Guerrero, Tanya Simer; (third row, L-R) Marie Wusstig, Jenika Ballesta, Nancy Cueto, Keith Villaluna, Ryan Cueto; (bottom row, L-R) Jef Limtiaco, Leah Abelon, Dolores Cruz.

EHDI Conducts Virtual Training On ChildLink Data System


On January 23, Joseph Mendiola, Interoperability Data Manager, Guam CEDDERS (Left) with Carlo Docago, DMR (Right) perform operations for EDHI’s server.

First and foremost, Guam Early Hearing Detection and Intervention 

(EDHI) would like to thank our partners during this COVID19 Pandemic for their service to Guam’s community! Like in most places throughout the world, COVID19 has caused a halt to most services on Guam since March 16, 2020.  As a direct result of the government shutdown, the Guam Early Intervention System (GEIS) and the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) audiology unit postponed scheduled outpatient hearing screening appointments for the safety of families and staff during this challenging period.

Although this shutdown has setback the ability for infants to receive timely follow-up hearing screening services to infants delivered at the local government hospital who refer at the initial hearing screening, there is still a silver lining for infants born on Guam!  Amid all the COVID19 challenges that the medical community has encountered, Guam EHDI’s birthing site partners continue to provide initial newborn hearing screening before discharge from Guam Memorial Hospital Authority (GMHA) and Sagua Mañagu Birthing Center (SMBC).  GMHA staff continued to monitor and track the number of babies needing an outpatient hearing screening appointment and gathered the families’ contact information to assist the Guam EHDI partners once outpatient hearing screening services can be resumed. The SMBC did not miss a step as staff continued providing follow-up outpatient hearing screening appointments at their facility.  Kudos to the hardworking team at GMHA and SMBC for advancing the mission of screening babies before discharge in line with the Joint Commission on Infant Hearing Screening (JCIH) guidelines!

Our Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) family partner, Guam’s Positive Parents Together, Inc. (GPPT), was also affected by the pandemic.  GPPT canceled an inaugural Deaf and Hard of Hearing Family and Mentor Pool Party scheduled by GPPT for its DHH families to meet and interact with DHH adults. The long-awaited and highly anticipated event to bring families of children who are DHH together with the adult DHH community would have provided families the opportunity to interact and foster relationships with DHH adults and provide DHH children role models for them.   Guam EHDI continues to work with GPPT to ensure families receive opportunities to engage with the DHH adult community.

On May 7, Guam EHDI provided training on the Guam ChildLink Data System at the request of Guam’s Preschool Development Birth to Five Leadership Workgroup.  The presentation allowed participants to learn how Guam ChildLink has evolved to be a data collection, surveillance, and reporting system for five early childhood projects on Guam. During the presentation, the Guam EHDI Interoperability Data Manager, Joseph Mendiola, summarized the Guam EHDI network, reviewed the Guam ChildLink database development and maintenance, and discussed opportunities for data sharing. In attendance were representatives from Guam CEDDERS, the Guam Early Learning Council, the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) Maternal and Child Health Bureau, DPHSS Family Health Information Resource Center, DPHSS Bureau of Social Services Administration, and GDOE GEIS. 

On May 7, Guam EDHI  provided training on the Guam ChildLink Data System at the request of Guam’s Preschool Development Birth to Five Grant Leadership workgroup. Joseph Mendiola conducted a virtual training to 10 participants using the Zoom Meeting platform.  Participants included, Top row, L-R:   Elaine Eclavea, Consultant, Guam CEDDERS; Keith Villaluna, Data Specialist, Guam CEDDERS; Marie Wusstig, Guam EHDI Coordinator, Guam CEDDERS; 2nd row, L-R: Joseph Mendiola, Guam CEDDERS Interoperability Data Manager; Barbara Leon Guerrero, Data Control Clerk II, GEIS, GDOE; Dennis Bakker, Data Manager, GDOE; Cathy Tydingco, Part C Coordinator,  GEIS, GDOE; 3rd row: Pauline Camacho, Program Coordinator Family Health Information Resource Center (FHIRC), Department of Public Health & Social Services (DPHSS); Bottom right, Joseph Mendiola, Interoperability Data Manager, Guam CEDDERS.

Staying Connected Virtually


During this time of a “new normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guam CEDDERS continues its mission to “create partnerships and pathways to increase the quality of life of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.” Guam CEDDERS stays connected virtually with partners on island, within the Pacific region, in the mainland United States, and even down under in Australia to find ways to continue facilitating the technical assistance and training supports prioritized by our partners for improving outcomes for children, youth, and adults with disabilities and their families.

The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) continues their technical support in the region through virtual Zoom sessions. During a virtual Zoom meeting with GDOE Division of Special Education, Laura Taisipic, Parent Services Coordinator (pictured at the bottom), speaks while pointing towards Cesar D’Agord, NCSI Pacific Liaison (pictured right above Laura). All others share a giggle because it sounded like and looked like momma Laura was scolding Cesar. First row L-R: Josephine Cruz, Associate Director, Guam CEDDERS; June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Tricia Taitague, Program Coordinator, GDOE; Second row L-R: Terese Crisostomo, Special Projects Coordinator, GDOE; Cesar; Mari Shikuzawa, Program Associate, NCSI; Third row: Laura.
Christine Jones, Associate Director, Bookshare, meets virtually via Zoom with Nora Renguul, Special Education Coordinator, Republic of Palau, and June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS. The virtual meeting provided an opportunity to learn about how Bookshare can support qualifying students with print disabilities in Palau. Bookshare is an OSEP-funded ebook library that makes reading easier for students with reading barriers, such as dyslexia, blindness, and physical disabilities. Pictured top row L-R: Christine and June; bottom photo: Nora.
On May 26, a virtual consultation call via Zoom was held with Kristy Capes, Manager of the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre, and Guam CEDDERS June De Leon and Josephine Cruz to discuss the technical assistance needs for developing and implementing to fidelity the Group-based Early Start Denver Model (G-ESDM) prioritized by the GDOE Division of Special Education. Ms. Capes is the Manager of the La Trobe University Community Children’s Centre, which comprises the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (ASELCC) in Melbourne, Australia. Ms. Capes is an Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) Certified Therapist and Trainer. ESDM is an evidence-based intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder. The ASELCC is the flagship site for certification in the G-ESDM. Beginning August 2020, Ms. Capes will be providing virtual technical assistance to the special education preschool program to develop and implement the G-ESDM. Pictured top row L-R: Josephine and June; bottom photo: Kristy.
 On June 24, Guam CEDDERS June De Leon meets virtually via Zoom with American Samoa Thor Tinitali, Program Director, and Elaine Niko, Fiscal Officer to discuss their technical assistance needs related to the implementation of the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) online alternate assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities in American Samoa. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel restrictions, the discussion also included the possibility of providing virtual technical assistance in lieu of an on-site consultation visit. Pictured top row L-R: Thor and June; bottom photo: Elaine.

GDOE SSIP Project Continues Planning During Covid-19

Guam Department of Education

The Guam Department of Education (GDOE) in collaboration with Guam CEDDERS held several virtual planning meetings in the last few months with stakeholders to collect input on how the State Systemic Improvement Project (SSIP) will be adapted in response to COVID-19. Sessions were comprised of the SSIP Project Director, SSIP Principals, SSIP teacher leaders, GDOE Special Education personnel, and SSIP on-island consultants. The focus of the meetings was on how professional development will be delivered amid the COVID-19 restrictions and what supplemental resources were needed by schools. The content and format of professional development sessions were discussed. In addition, a Teacher Leader Survey was also sent out to ascertain areas that need to be targeted during professional development.

On May 5, SSIP stakeholders met to discuss how the SSIP project will be adapted during COVID-19.  Top row, L-R: Josephine Cruz, Associate Director, Guam CEDDERS; June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Elias Taisipic, Acting Principal, Price Elementary.  Middle row, L-R:  Natasha Dela Cruz, Principal, M.U. Lujan Elementary; Darlene Castro, Principal, Chief Brodie Elementary; Joshua Blas, SSIP Project Director, GDOE; Bottom row:  Rose Castro, Acting Principal, J.M. Guerrero Elementary.

GDOE Holds Stakeholder Input Session on Significant Disproportionality

Guam Department of Education

On May 1, the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) in collaboration with Guam CEDDERS held a virtual stakeholder input session on significant disproportionality with 14 GDOE personnel and members from the Guam Advisory Panel for Students with Disabilities (GAPSD) and the Guam Developmental Disabilities Council. New regulations require states, inclusive of Guam, to use a standard methodology to determine if significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and the local educational agency.  An important part of the reporting process is how the State included stakeholders in determining whether or not significant disproportionality exists.  There are three categories for significant disproportionality: identification, placement, and discipline.

On May 1, GDOE conducted a stakeholder input session on reporting significant disproportionality. From top to bottom: Cathy Tydingco, Part C Coordinator, GDOE; June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Terese Crisostomo, Special Projects Coordinator, GDOE; Dennis Bakker, Data Manger, GDOE; Yolanda Gabriel, Assistant Superintendent, Division of Special Education, GDOE; and Faye Local, parent, GAPSD.

Pacific Entities Continue Virtual Engagement During OSEP’s Clarification


The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is responsible for ensuring that states comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Annually, each state must have a State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR). The SPP/APR evaluates the state’s efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of Part B and Part C of the IDEA. In April, OSEP provided a clarification period so states may provide additional information or clarification to their initial report submission. Guam CEDDERS Interim Director, June De Leon provided support to Guam, the Republic of Palau (ROP), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in submitting any required clarifications to their Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2018 SPP/APR report.

On April 17, CNMI is all smiles under their masks after reviewing their IDEA FFY 2018 Part B SPP/APR clarification. Top right: June  De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS , displays UOG pride by showing the Triton sign. Bottom (L-R): Donna Flores, Acting Director of Special Education, CNMI; and Nora Fujihira, Data Management & Compliance Program Manager, CNMI, show the peace sign.


On April 22, Guam CEDDERS June De Leon participated in a Skype call with Guam Division of Special Education Administrators and the US Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) State Lead for Guam.  The purpose for the call was for the OSEP State Lead to discuss OSEP’s review of Guam’s Part B and Part C FFY 2018 Annual Performance Reports submitted in February 2020.  L-R: Cathy Tydingco, Part C Coordinator, GDOE; June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Laura Taisipic, Parent Services Coordinator, GDOE; Terese Crisostomo, Special Projects Coordinator, GDOE; Yolanda Gabriel, Assistant Superintendent, Division of Special Education, GDOE; and Charlie Kniseley, State Lead, OSEP.

On April 24, L-R: Genee Norbert, OSEP State Lead for FSM; Arthur Albert, Assistant Secretary, FSM Department of Education; and Guam  CEDDERS June De Leon meet virtually through Zoom video conferencing to discuss FSM’s IDEA FFY 2018 Part B APR submission and the opportunity for FSM to provide “clarification.”

On April 24, Guam submitted their IDEA FFY 2018 Part C SPP/APR clarification. From top to bottom: June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Laura Taisipic, Parent Service Coordinator, GDOE; Cathy Tydingco, Part C Coordinator, GDOE; Terese Crisostomo, Special Projects Coordinator, GDOE; and Yolanda Gabriel, Assistant Superintendent, Division of Special Education, GDOE.

On April 30, FSM submitted their IDEA FFY 2018 Part B SPP/APR clarification. Arthur Albert, Assistant Secretary for the Division of Special Services, FSM Department of Education, is all smiles when he sees “submitted” in green above “current status.”

On April 30, Nora Renguul, Special Education Coordinator, Palau Ministry of Education (top photo), uses Zoom video conferencing to meet virtually with Guam CEDDERS June De Leon (bottom photo) to finalize Palau’s “clarification” for its FFY 2018 IDEA Part B APR.  All smiles indeed!

GDOE Provides Training on the Delivery of Tele-Therapy

Guam Department of Education

In partnership with the University of Guam (UOG) Office of Information Technology and Guam CEDDERS, Guam Department of Education (GDOE), Division of Special Education prioritized providing technical support to their speech-language pathologists in delivering teletherapy. With facilitation support from Guam CEDDERS June De Leon and Josephine Cruz, UOG’s Interim Chief Information Officer Manny Hechanova conducted five virtual sessions in April and May with the Division’s speech-language pathologists assigned to providing Extended School Year services in the summer. A total of eight Division personnel and speech-language pathologists participated in the virtual sessions. The sessions covered an array of topics related to using the Zoom and Moodle virtual platforms. Participants learned how to use the various features on virtual platforms.  They also engaged in problem-solving on how to make the platforms more interactive as they deliver teletherapy.


On April 30, UOG Manny Hechanova’s virtual Zoom session included a virtual fun pose (really?).  Top row, L-R:  Terese Crisostomo, Special Projects Coordinator, Division of Special Education, GDOE; June De Leon, Interim Director, Guam CEDDERS; Josephine Cruz, Associate Director, Guam CEDDERS; Bottom row, L-R:  Michelle Camacho, Speech-Language Pathologist, GDOE; Manny Hechanova Jr., Interim Chief Information Officer, UOG; and Amalia Badua, Speech-Language Pathologist, GDOE.

Project EPICS Final Year Activities Derailed By Pandemic


Three Project EPICS scholars from Group 1 completed their California externship in Summer 2019 at the LEARN Speech Therapy Clinic. L to R: John Payne, and Lillian Reyes, scholars, Dawn Hansen, externship supervisor, Lisa Eclavea, scholar, and Lynzy Melzer, Co-supervisor. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Group 2’s externship originally scheduled for this summer has been postponed.

As the much-quoted Scottish poet Robert Burns has said, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” so have the plans with Project EPICS.

The Educating Pacific Island Clinicians in Speech-Language Pathology (EPICS) Project, is a personnel preparation grant funded by the US DOE awarded to San José State University, in partnership with Guam CEDDERS. With a start date of May 2015, the goal of this five-year project is to facilitate the training of graduate-level personnel from the U.S. affiliated Pacific Basin jurisdictions in speech-language pathology to meet the critical need of certified professionals in this specialty area.

Although some challenges occurred during these past four and half years since the start of the project, the Work Plan and timeline originally mapped out for the implementation of EPICS, including activities and milestones, were, for the most part, met for the majority of the student “scholars” enrolled in the program.  Over the past two years, 18 scholars were on track to complete their requirements to graduate with a master’s degree in speech-language pathology in August 2020.

And then the coronavirus pandemic hit in full force in mid-March.

Initially, coursework actually proceeded as planned. The scholars were in the midst of completing two online courses so there was no need to develop modifications in that area.  What was impacted, though, was their ability to earn their practicum hours, which required face-to-face interaction under the direct supervision of a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP). An on-site visit scheduled for the end of March through the first week of April by Dr. Wendy Quach, EPICS Co-Principal Investigator, and Project Director, to facilitate final scholar advisement and project logistics was canceled as air travel was suspended.  An even bigger challenge was the cancellation of the second cohort of nine scholars going to California in the Summer to complete their eight-week externship in the San José area.

After a two-week period of waiting to see how the quarantine unfolded, the following decisions were made: 

  • The Comprehensive Examination, a final requirement for the program scheduled for May 2, proceeded as scheduled.  Scholars were able to take the examination online in their homes.
  • Scholars were given additional opportunities to earn practicum hours via “Simucase,” a platform under the supervision of SJSU instructors.
  • Final program completion activities including student exit interviews and completion ceremony were postponed until August 2021.
  • The scholars who completed their externship during the Summer of 2019, and who meet all other graduation requirements would receive their master’s degree by August 2020.
  • The scholars in Cohort 2 whose externships were canceled for this summer were given an option to earn their practicum hours this Fall on Guam or wait until Summer 2021.  One scholar has opted for the first choice while the remaining eight have decided to wait till next Summer.

Project officials are in the process of formally receiving approval for a “No Cost Extension” year to complete the project.  In addition, EPICS administrators met online with representatives from the CNMI Public School System and Guam Department of Education Division of Special Education to provide project updates and discuss the next steps relative to the availability of scholars and potential clinical/job placements into their respective systems.

After a challenging four-and-a-half-year grueling schedule for all involved and getting to the point of making it to the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” to say that project stakeholders are disappointed and saddened by this unfortunate turn of events is an understatement. However, given the global state of affairs faced by all, these steps had to be taken.

During the summer months, scholars for the most part will be working on completing their online Simucase hours and completing other requirements as needed and available online.  They will also be studying for and taking the Praxis examination online, an examination required for national certification that is needed to be eligible for their nine-month Clinical Fellowship under the mentorship of a licensed speech pathologist.  By the end of July, several of them will have completed all requirements and will be eligible for graduation.  The remaining scholars will continue with their preparation for Praxis, if they decide to take it later, and keeping their knowledge and skills up to date in preparation for their Externship next summer.   

Hopefully, no new challenges and barriers will arise to derail these plans.  Stay tuned for the next update in September.