Larry Burns – CEO Children’s Foundation, host Caring for Kids
On this monthly radio program, The Children’s Foundation President and CEO Larry Burns talks to community, government and business leaders about issues related to children’s health and wellness.
Guests for this discussion were Derek Dickow, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach; John McInerney, President and Executive Director, Buildup STEAM; and Kristin Rohrbeck, Director, Joanne and Ted Lindsay Foundation Autism Outreach Services (OUCARES) at Oakland University.
The hour-long show typically airs at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month on WJR 760AM. Here’s a summary of the show that aired Dec. 28, 2021; listen to the entire episode, and archived episodes, at yourchildrensfoundation.org/caring-for-kids.
Larry Burns: What are some key pointers for networking?
Derek Dickow, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach
Dickow: The number one thing is to be intentional about building your network the right way. From my vantage point, about 60 percent of people are just terrible at networking. Another 30 to 35 percent are what I would identify as well-intentioned introverts. I encourage those people to not think about making an impact with 500 people, but to focus on just three. Three is the number of sustainable, quality interactions that you can challenge yourself to have at any event.
Before anyone goes into an event, always have a couple of things in mind. Number one, what are my goals? That focus keeps you grounded and on task. Number two, always reach out to the event organizers. Let them know that you’re excited about attending the event and ask if there is anybody specifically that you should meet. Then, research in advance the people that you want to meet. Sometimes, I’ll reach out to people a week or two in advance of a big major event, and say, “Hey, I see that you’re attending the same event. I did some research on you. I find what you do to be very interesting. I would appreciate maybe five minutes of your time for a formal handshake and an opportunity to introduce myself to you.”
When I make that introduction, I’d say about 98 percent of people are willing to meet me. It’s important to maximize and be as efficient as possible.
The biggest point I make with people when they’re meeting someone for the first time is to forget about business cards. Your only job is to understand who they are, what they’re focused on, what their goals are, and what interests and excites them. Listen with your eyes and nod your head to demonstrate that you’re paying attention and fully absorb what they’re after; your goal is to add value. For most people, the one thing that they’re after is to meet the next person that could change their career. If you’re paying
attention, they often will tell you where they need to go. Our job as good networkers and power connectors is to bring those people together and unite the world.
Burns: Leaders for Kids raised over $50,000 in an evening. Was there a thought of combining philanthropy with professional networking?
Dickow: I’ve not met a successful person in my world that doesn’t have some charitable foundation or philanthropic cause that they don’t have passion about.
Burns: Tell us about your leadership summit ideas and what you hope to do in the year ahead.
Dickow: This was our fourth year of producing these types of events. There were three different panels that we produced with keynote speakers. Our role is to provide as much value as we can to our sponsors, to our attendees and to the service providers. We provide a power hour of speed networking; I did a 10-minute keynote on best practices of how to build your network, asking the right questions and helping people understand how to elicit positive responses.
Larry Burns: Tell us about Buildup STEAM.
John McInerney, President and Executive Director, Buildup STEAM
John McInerney: At the beginning, it was a very humble effort. I’d bring in LEGO and a few robots and set them up in the activity rooms at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. If anyone wanted to build a robot, I’d show them how to do it. I was doing that for about a year, and one day I got everything set up, ready to go, and no one showed up to the activity room. I thought, “It’d be better if I could just go to them.” The idea for the original program, Buildup Mobile, was born. I put everything into a cart and started going bedside to work with the kids. At that point I became a contractor for the patient technology team.
Burns: How did it evolve to where you are today?
McInerney: The reactions of the patients and families kept me going. There were some moments that really inspired me to continue working on this project. There was this little guy, maybe 5 to 7 years old; it was his last day at the hospital, but he didn’t want to leave until he built a robot. We built a race car with a motor, and we ended up going all the way around the unit. He called it his victory lap.
Burns: They don’t take the LEGO with them?
McInerney: No, everything stays within the hospital.
Burns: You were successful in getting a grant from The Children’s Foundation.
McInerney: Our goal is to continue to expand the program and work with as many kids as we can. This grant was our first opportunity to train someone else to run the program independent of me. We trained a schoolteacher who was interested in a career in Child Life. She was at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan for seven months. I just wrote her a letter of recommendation for her practicum, the next level in Child Life.
Burns: Do you want to be in more hospitals?
McInerney: That’s the dream — to be able to continue expanding this program to new hospitals, new spaces. Patient technology is something that is catching on in more hospitals. This past year, the first patient technology conference happened. It was exciting to be a part of that and to see other hospitals with patient technology programs where my program, like it did at Mott, could be part of that.
Burns: If anyone would like to help you expand, how do they get a hold of you?
McInerney: Our website is www.buildupsteam.org. You can directly contact me through it and get other information. You can also donate through the website. If we fundraise enough, we can partner with a hospital and fund the program for at least a year.
Larry Burns: Tell us about the autism outreach services.
Kristin Rohrbeck, Director, Joanne and Ted Lindsay Foundation Autism Outreach Services (OUCARES) at Oakland University
Kristin Rohrbeck: Oakland University Center for Autism (OUCARES) started in 2004 with one outdoor soccer program for about 20 families with young children impacted by autism. Now we offer over 100 programs every year to over 2,200 people. Those programs include things like recreational sports, social skills programs and clubs. We do a lot with adults, especially related to employment readiness training. Support begins at age three and we offer programs throughout the entire lifespan for individuals on the spectrum.
We also have programs for anyone who also supports people with autism, including parent training and events for educators.
Burns: What is the partnership like with the Ted Lindsay Foundation?
Rohrbeck: The Ted Lindsay Foundation was wonderful in helping acknowledge the hole in services and supports for teens and adults with autism spectrum disorders. There wasn’t enough to support that sector of the population. They gave us an endowment in 2018, and now OUCARES is officially the Joanne and Ted Lindsay Foundation Autism Outreach Services.
Burns: You mentioned that support starts at age 3, but hasn’t one of the issues been that kids aren’t
diagnosed until 5 or 6 years old, or even older?
Rohrbeck: Early intervention services and diagnostics have been developing more so kids can get diagnosed when they’re in infancy or toddlerhood.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are showing that at least 1 in 44 children are now being diagnosed with autism. There has been a 241% increase in the prevalence of autism since the year 2000.
Burns: What are some new developments in the field?
Rohrbeck: Insurance in Michigan now often covers autism services through age 21. We also have public school services for some individuals up to age 26.
Burns: What is The Children’s Foundation grant supporting?
Rohrbeck: The nearly $40,000 grant will be used to implement virtual reality and augmented reality technology to help teach emotion regulation, awareness and social skills to individuals with autism.
Burns: Do you have any advice for families who may suspect a loved one has autism?
Rohrbeck: OUCARES is a huge resource for the community. You can send an email and connect with us at [email protected] or call us anytime at 248-370-2424.
Burns: Anything else to know?
Rohrbeck: Oakland University has a great center for autism. Our center hosts an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) clinic for children. We also have great academics for people who want to learn to be a professional or an educator to support people on the spectrum.
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