Validation Training Institute

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Four Decades of Involvement with Validation

My involvement with Validation goes back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. As a life-span developmental psychologist, I was interested in intervention approaches in working with older adults. With funding from the Administration on Aging, The University of Akron received funding to begin an undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in life-span development: adult development and aging later to be changed to certificate in gerontology. The first recipient of the undergraduate degree was in 1977 and the first graduate recipient was in 1978. This first graduate certificate with a Masters degree in family studies was Evelyn Sutton. Evelyn was the activity coordinator at Rockynol, one of the campuses of Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, which became a practicum site. Evelyn had established herself as one of the best activity coordinators in the area.Evelyn is the person who made me aware of the new work by Naomi Feil on Validation. We developed a training session at the university and had Naomi present her approach and share a number of her films. 

I’m not sure of the exact time sequence but after the workshop, Evelyn and I were invited to join what would become the Board for Validation. I remember clearly that this meeting was held at the home of Julius and Helen Weil, Naomi’s parents. Around this same time, there was an opportunity to carry out research on Validation at Rockynol. Julie Hicks Patrick chose to do her senior honors thesis on Validation and Rev. Tom Heinlein, Chaplin at Rokynol would fulfil his practicum requirements for a graduate certificate by leading the groups for the research. Naomi, Evelyn and I developed group goals and individual goals for each person in the intervention group. Group numbers were small but it gave us a start on an experimental research approach. Dr. Julie Hicks Patrick is now part of the current Validation research committee. 

In the 1980’s the Board for the Validation Training Institute was formally launched with Lita Kohn as President. Other board members included Dr. Al and Rosette Pailiano, Evelyn Sutton, Ed Feil, and me. Over time other members joined the board such as Frances Bulloff and Betty Kemper with representatives from a Kansas facility, Scott Averill and Dale Beulieau, and laterRita Altman and Stephen Klotz from the Country Meadows organization based in Hershey, PA. Later, Rita’s professional connection brought Sunrise Senior Living into the Validation community. 

The board focused on how to grow and expand Validation throughout the world. Developing an organizational approach to have Validation in various countries was a challenge leading to approved trainers and levels as well as the later establishment of AVOs. Our biggest concern was how to bring Naomi’s work to another generation. This work continued through the 1990’s and 2000’s. Meetings were held at Lita Kohn’s apartment in Cleveland and later at the home of Naomi and Ed Feil. Over time the board became more formalized leading to todays leadership. During June of 1994, I was presenting at the International Society of Behavioral Development meeting in Amsterdam. This provided me with the opportunity to meet Vicki de Klerk in person, who was in the process of finishing her nursing degree. Vicki coming on board as the European representative was critical in the growth of the organization leading to her important role as Executive Director. 

My involvement in Validation led me to join with Drs. Cameron Camp, Ronni Sterns, Anthony Sterns and staff at Menorah Park and Creative Action in developing the Memory Magic Therapeutic Activity drawing on Validation and Montessori approaches that is in use in over 3,000 facilities around the world. Evelyn Sutton contributed to curriculum design for Validation training. I will always be indebted to her for introducing me to Validation, her personal commitment to advancement of Validation and her choice to come and work with me at the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology for many years. We have now and in the past such great support for the growth of Validation.