Hoffman receives prestigious Kevin Burberry Award

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Kevin Burberry was a trailblazer. A tireless self-advocate, a gifted academic, and a dedicated leader.

Every year, HDI recognizes someone who demonstrates these qualities with the Kevin Burberry Award. This year, HDI is pleased to present it to Nick Hoffmann, who worked with the LEND program.

“The biggest thing that impressed me about him was his self-awareness about how he came into the LEND program thinking that he knew a lot about disability and realized that a lot of what he thought he knew wasn’t the best way to approach it and was willing to change the way he viewed disability,” said Dr. Tony Lobianco, chair of the Burberry Award Selection Committee. “The work that he’s doing providing supports for people who are on waiting lists is pretty awesome too.”

Hoffmann became involved with HDI’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program during his practicum work. He saw the opportunity to work with LEND and took an interest since focused on a multi-disciplinary treatment approach, something in which he had a significant interest.

“Learning about all the different ways that all these different fields can come together and provide supports…It was, I guess, a little humbling,” Hoffmann said. “I had to sit back and think about how I could be just a piece of this person’s support.”

He came away with a whole new perspective.

“I learned about the value and validity of self-advocate perspectives,” Hoffmann said. “In all of my training, in all of my schooling, we never at any point talked about self-advocates and their very valid argument of nothing about us without us, that if you want to be a member of a support team, you really do need to take our perspectives into account and you need to hear what we have to say about them…Neurodivergence is something to be celebrated, not something to be changed.”

It opened Hoffmann’s eyes to how even well-intentioned practices can be harmful.

“It was a little shocking, but it also taught me how to be humble. It taught me how to sit and listen and truly take those perspectives and learn from them rather than become defensive,” he said.

But he did listen, and since then, he’s updated his approach to reflect his new learning.

“In my training, there’s a lot of emphasis on parent perspectives within the family. And I think parent perspectives are valid and I think they’re important,” he said. “But most of the treatment approaches I was taught saw parent perspectives as the one perspective to follow in your treatment. Treatment targets didn’t necessarily reflect self-determination. A focus of mine this year…has been trying to check in with the client and make sure their voices are heard. Trying to make sure that if we’re looking at something as a target for change, that it’s a goal that the client has, it’s not something being forced on them.”

When asked about receiving the award, Hoffmann expressed that he learned a lot from and greatly enjoyed working with HDI and said that receiving the award left him feeling “humbled.”

“I just feel like I’m doing what somebody in my position should be doing. I’m really excited and have a lot of gratitude towards HDI for recognizing me,” he said. “I wish that there were other people focused on humanistic approaches so that it wouldn’t be award-worthy to have this kind of focus, but it feels good to be recognized.”