Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Designers Had People with Autism in Mind with Development of Smart Scarf

What better to add to your collection of contactless payment gloves and music beanie hats than a smart scarf? Microsoft Research has just presented exactly that at Stanford University's Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI).
The smart scarf is still in the early stages but the current prototype both heats up on demand via a smartphone app and vibrates - we assume to alert the wearer to notifications and alarms. What's really clever is that the smart garment is modular so the heating and vibrating modules can be snapped off and switched around to best suit the wearer.

High Court Hears Medicaid Rate Case

U.S. Supreme Court justices weighed whether hospitals and other health-care providers have the right to challenge Medicaid reimbursement rates set by states.A group of health-care providers argued in an Idaho case Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution allows them to contest their reimbursements under the Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor. The position is backed by hospitals, which say that the low rates aren’t covering their costs.Chief Justice John Roberts asked during arguments in Washington whether allowing such lawsuits from hospitals and health-care providers would put state budgetary decisions in the hands of federal judges.

Crimes Against. People with Disabilities

Some alarming statistics.

Not many violent sex crimes are reported in Baxter and Marion counties, but occasionally, it comes to light. And when it comes to understanding these types of attacks against people with developmental disabilities, state agencies say many questions are left unasked, unanswered.

Roberta Sick
The discussion has resurfaced locally following the arrest of Mountain Home resident Joseph L. Snurr Jr., 41, on a charge of rape involving a mentally challenged woman. The alleged crime has touched a nerve in the Twin Lakes Area, with the Marion County Sheriff's Office saying Snurr raped the victim multiple times over the course of two or three days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Education Dept. Warns Louisiana

The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Louisiana officials, warning them that a state law creating alternative paths for special education students to complete high school may be in violation of federal law.

Vacuum Makes Birthday Special

WASHINGTON — A vacuum cleaner may not seem like a typical birthday gift for a teenager, but when a Virginia boy received one on his birthday, it moved all of the guests to tears.Dylan Johnson, a Chesterfield County boy diagnosed with autism, has had a passion for vacuum cleaners since he was 2 years old, his mom Jodie Greene said.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2 Minute Autism Test In the Works

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have developed a brain-imaging technique that may be able to identify children with autism spectrum disorder in just two minutes.
This test, while far from being used as the clinical standard of care, offers promising diagnostic potential once it undergoes more research and evaluation.

Warren Decries SSDI Changes

This will be long, because I'm pasting it from The Wall Street Journal, re: the recent Social Security disability.

Congress last year unanimously closed a loophole that allowed surviving Nazi war criminals to claim Social Security benefits, but that’s where the entitlement reform consensus ends. Now the political left is melting down over a modest budget change that could require Congress to be honest about the Social Security disability program’s fiscal problems and employment distortions.
Republicans are “inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions and put our most vulnerable at risk,” wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren , in one of her subtler commentaries. AARP and other left-leaning groups are also war-whooping that a procedural rule the House adopted last week will mean about a 19% cut in disability-insurance benefits.
If only. Social Security payroll taxes finance traditional income transfers for the elderly and disability payments, and an ever-larger share is going to the latter for what amounts to promoting middle-age retirement. What used to be last-resort insurance has come to apply to ailments like back pain or anxiety. More and more workers are leaving the labor force permanently and substituting disability for wages.
In 1990 about one of every 10 Social Security dollars flowed to disability. Now it’s nearly one of five. The disability rolls doubled between 1990 and 2008, and then they spiked 21% in the Obama era to 10.2 million Americans and their dependents. Only about one-third of this growth can be explained by the underlying health, size and demographic composition of the working-age population.
Payments have exploded 32% since 2008 to $140.1 billion. And every year since 2009 disability payments have exceeded the revenues dedicated to disability by a portion of the Social Security payroll tax. The nearby chart tracks the decline in the so-called trust fund that is scheduled to run dry in 2016.
Like the separate trust fund for seniors, this does not mean that some pool of money in the Treasury is running down. All current Social Security payments are financed by current payroll taxes. Trust funds are an accounting fiction that Congress invented to give the appearance that payroll taxes are being saved and invested.
There is one legal catch: When a trust-fund balance reaches zero and current revenue can’t cover current claims, the Treasury isn’t allowed to pay out full benefits. The projected disability shortfall for 2016 is 19% of liabilities, which is how the same liberals who created this shortfall get their figure for phantom cuts.
In practice Congress always protects entitlements for current beneficiaries. Eleven times since 1968, most recently in 2000, Congress has reallocated balances back and forth between the disability fund and the old-age trust fund to disguise Social Security’s financial shortfall. Liberals want to do it again to fill the growing disability hole.
But this bookkeeping maneuver would be especially reckless now, given that the long-term shortfall for payments to the elderly is much larger in absolute and relative terms. The crisis merely arrives later—about 2030—than the immediate disability shortfall.
The best analogy is to an underwater borrower transferring debt from one maxed-out credit card to another with a higher balance but also a higher spending limit. The new House Republican rule merely bars this accounting ruse, on the sensible grounds that Congress shouldn’t keep lying to the public. It may even force Congress to confront each of the two Social Security programs on its own terms.
Reforming disability insurance needn’t mean slashing benefits. It does require setting priorities that help the genuinely disabled while encouraging people who can work to remain on the job.
The subjective eligibility criteria for disability haven’t been updated in 35 years despite advances in medicine and rehabilitation, and they are enforced at the discretion of administrative judges. Applicants often use a shadow industry of lawyers, doctors and bureaucratic fixers to qualify. And as former Senator Tom Coburn amply documented, fraud is rampant.
If the GOP’s truth-in-advertising change forces Congress to fix the disability mess and protect the most vulnerable, so much the better.