Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'She Radiated Light'

Such a tragic story. Our hearts go out to the Vlassenko family.


ARVADA, Colo. -- Serguei and Liliya Vlassenko moved across the ocean for the love of their child five years ago. From a comfortable life in Bryansk, Russia, about 235 miles from Moscow, to America, so their daughter Kristina, who had autism and was nonverbal, could have a better life.
"Our daughter was a wonderful child. We loved her very much," Serguei Vlassenko said in Russian. "The main reason why I moved here is to help Kristina get better. Unfortunately, in Russia we couldn't be helped, even though we asked a lot of institutions, even went to Moscow we went to many doctors. But they couldn't help. When we had a chance to move to America, we took advantage of the opportunity."
They say 10-year-old Kristina was happy here. In Russia, she could only stay at home. In Arvada, she went to school, had lots of professional help her parents say.
"Here we get everything we need so that the child can have a normal life and grow," Serguei Vlassenko said.

Exploring Untraditional Teaching Methods


Boys in Ginny Stevens' third-grade classroom spent the school year without desks. It wasn't because of budget cuts -- it was action research.
Stevens and about 80 other Clark County School District educators displayed their findings after months of unorthodox teaching practices May 13 as part of the fifth annual Best Practices Action Research Data Fair at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.
Stevens' class of 22 boys had small, portable desktops to work on, but how they positioned themselves and where they sat, or lay, was up to them.
"Furniture really does get in the way," Stevens said. "They like free seating, and it offered a lot of flexibility. Boys need more space than girls. They like to stretch out."

Closing of Georgia Facility Delayed Due to Lack of Community-Based Services

The deadline to close a state psychiatric hospital in Rome has been pushed back amid advocates’ concerns that community services for mentally ill and developmentally disabled individuals wouldn't be ready in time.
Tentatively slated to close June 30, Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital will remain open until at least Sept. 30, as the state continues to roll out new community services in North Georgia, including crisis stabilization units for the mentally ill.
The effort is part of a larger $70 million-plus push to move mentally ill and developmentally disabled people out of institutions and into the community as part of an agreement reached last fall between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Study: MRI of Brain May Detect Autism

Brain scans may be able to diagnose autism early.
In a small study doctors at Columbia University were able to identify kids with autism because a section of their brain was less active.
Right now the disorder is not diagnosed until kids display symptoms like repetitive behaviors and impaired language.

How to Enforce Law and Recognize Autism


SAN MARCOS, Calif. -- The news clip that trainer Brian Herritt played for his class Thursday began with grainy surveillance footage of an autistic 11-year-old boy handcuffed in the back of a squad car, screaming and beating his head on the Plexiglas divider until officers restrained him by buckling his seat belt.
Then, a clip of his mother alleging that police in Levonia, Mich., had mistreated her severely autistic son.
"What did those officers do wrong?" Herritt asked the approximately 25 regional law enforcement officers taking his three-hour course on recognizing and responding to people with autism.
The officers ---- from agencies that included the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the Carlsbad and Escondido police departments ---- pondered the question for a few seconds.

Horticulture-Based Day Program Provides Opportunity for Adults with Disabilities


FARMERSVILLE, Calif. -- Tammy Beach reaches deep into a lavender bush at Herbs and More in Farmersville. She grabs a handful of fragrant lavender in one hand and cuts the stems 4 inches below the buds with her other hand.
The public is invited to cut their own bunches of the aromatic herb during the second annual you-pick lavender festival Saturday and June 11 at Herbs and More, 226 E. Front St. in Farmersville. Herbs and More grows four varieties of highly aromatic lavender: hidcote, munstead, grosso and provence.
The horticulture-based day program for adults with developmental disabilities focuses on each client's ability to participate, said co-owner Kathy Lewis.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles and Graduating


WAVERLY, Ohio --Most students couldn't imagine making it through school with multiple disabilities,but Waverly senior Jonathan Hill, 17, has lived with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities throughout his entire school career.
"Jonathan wasn't born with a disability, but when he was very small, he contracted pneumococcal meningitis, which attacked his spinal column and left him disabled," said Hill's mother, Brenda.
Despite his handicaps, Jonathan's experience in school has been a positive one, and he has received support from not only teachers, but also fellow students.

Opinion: Cutting Funds for Supported Employment Programs Poses a Higher Cost

Compelling argument by Cameron Haste, chief operations officer of Bay Federal Credit Union and a HOPE Services board member, in the San Jose Mercury News.

In this challenging time, state funds need to provide an effective return on investment. Cuts to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) continue to threaten job placement programs that get individuals with developmental disabilities employed -- and when these cuts occur, we increase these individuals' reliance on state funding.
In a study released by Kent State University in March 2010, researchers demonstrated the cost-efficiency of supporting employment for people with severe disabilities.
Another study published in the Tash Journal showed that hiring these individuals returned an average monthly net benefit to taxpayers of $251 (or an annual net benefit of $3,016 per supported employee) and generated a benefit-cost ratio of $1.46 for every dollar spent.

A Trip to Chicago -- Autism Style, Conclusion

The conclusion of Laura Shumaker's trip to Chicago with her son Matthew from SF Gate.

A recap of the Trip to Chicago:
a) Matthew's trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a trip he'd saved up for and that he had been talking about for months, was cancelled.
b) Matthew and I decided Chicago might be a great alternative, since it is a big music town and is near states that Matthew has not been to. But who could travel with him?
c)Matthew suggested that I travel with him, even though his original plan was to travel "without my mother."
d)Matthew never gets sick. Fast forward. We check into Hard Rock Hotel, and Matthew is so sick (fever, sluggish, sore throat) that I summon the hotel emergency doctor, who gives Matthew a shot of B12 and an antibiotic. "He'll be fine in a few hours. Want a restaurant recommendation?"
Matthew was not fine in a few hours. He slept through till morning
.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Trip to Chicago -- Autism Style, Part 2

Part 2 of Linda Shumaker's blog from SFGate.com

When we left off (link to Part 1 if you missed it):
a) Matthew's trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a trip he'd saved up for and that he had been talking about for months, was cancelled.
b) Matthew and I decided Chicago might be a great alternative, since it is a big music town and is near states that Matthew has not been to. But who could travel with him?
c)Matthew suggested that I travel with him, even though his original plan was to travel "without my mother."
I asked my friends from the autism community to recommend some good travel sites. Within minutes, I found a great deal: Two nights at the Hard Rock Hotel plus plane fare for just a little over $800 dollars.
Before I clicked the box that said "I want to purchase this travel", I contemplated the travel insurance option, but shrugged it off
.

'She's a People-Pleaser Big Time'


WARSAW, Ohio -- It wasn't the sash, crown or being the center of attention that made being the River View prom queen special to senior Cortney Wright. It was the fact her classmates, her friends, thought enough of her to bestow the honor.
Cortney is developmentally disabled and attended special needs classes at River View. Today, she will replace her crown with a cap as she walks across the stage and accepts her diploma along with her classmates.

A Memorial Day Tribute

Just came across this video thanks to a high school friend. Granted it was earlier this month, but thought it was appropriate for the Memorial Day holiday. I hope you enjoy it. And yes, credit to the Red Sox fans (hard for any New Yorker to say).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Rachel Simon's 'The Story of Beautiful Girl' Changes Perceptions

Rachel Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl was released in May 2011 by Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hatchett Group. Within two weeks, the book hit the New York Times best seller list.
How does society deal with those of us who cope with disabilities? How would you want to be treated if you had a disability? The Story of Beautiful Girl forces us to address these questions. More importantly, it gives us a glimpse into the innermost thoughts of those treated as "feeble-minded" in an uncaring, ignorant society.
Both captivating and heartbreaking, the book is meant to be savored, not merely read. Adeptly nuanced and originally wrought, the book explores our compassion and intolerance toward people different than ourselves.

Students Overcoming Hidden Barriers


EAST PORTLAND, Ore. -- Students in Ellen Green's class were having a hard time focusing.
They had just returned from three days at Outdoor School, and the sun outside reminded them that summer break – for some, the end of middle school – was less than three weeks away.
Those were hardly the only challenges facing the 16 preteens in Green's first-period class at H.B. Lee Middle School in outer East Portland. The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders face much deeper barriers, year-round and invisible to most.
Most of them, like 80 percent of their classmates, live in poverty. Many in Green's class are in special education, and nearly all are learning English as their second, third, fourth or even fifth language.

Special Ed Teacher's Words Spark Outrage

BAINBRIDGE, Ind. -- A special education teacher's Facebook comments have incensed parents and prompted an investigation by the school district.
Amber Russell, a teacher at North Putnam Middle School, posted on Facebook, "I love dumb people. I call it job security," along with "5+1=Freedom from the Hell hole" and "I feel sorry for preachers and teachers. No matter hard they work, there's always an incoming batch of sinners and dumb people."

Illinois Families Relocating for Services


Chrisa Hickey, a northwest suburban mom whose 16-year-old son hears voices, has bought property in Wisconsin with an eye to the future.
She wouldn't leave Barrington for career, retirement or the more languid pace of small-town living. Her relocation plans are strictly a way to keep Tim in his $85,000-a-year residential treatment center, currently funded by the state of Illinois.
"People ask, 'Why spend that kind of money on one kid?' And I tell them that he's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and could pick up a desk when he was 4. If he gets angry in class, do you want him sitting next to your kid?"
Although no one tracks why people leave one state for another, anecdotal evidence suggests Hickey is one of several who are planning to leave Illinois — or has already left — because of diminishing human services here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Opinion: Illinois Cuts Will Prove Costly

Guest column by Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, in the Rockford Register Star.

Illinois is planning devastating cuts in services for individuals with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities. These cuts target our most vulnerable citizens and are being sold as a way to balance Illinois' estimated $13 billion deficit. The truth is, these cuts are shortsighted and will send us on a path of destruction.
Illinois ranks last in the nation for supporting citizens with disabilities in their home communities. Disability services that are the lifeline to more than 220,000 people with disabilities, and their families have already experienced deep cuts and are hanging by a thread. In addition to funding reductions several critical programs are being eliminated, and it’s estimated that 3,052 direct care staff will be laid off as a result. At the same time the budget calls for the hiring of 950 state employees and grants union employees an 8.25 percent wage increase.

Asperger's To Lose Its Diagnosis Status

Eileen Parker was 41 years old when she discovered her quirky, misunderstood behavior had a name: Asperger's. The syndrome, which is marked by impaired social interaction and sensory overload, joins other neurological disorders on the autism spectrum. And for Parker, the label came as a relief.
"It opened up my world," said Parker, who is now 45. "Having been on the outside, I all of sudden found I was on the inside with millions of other people."
Parker said the Asperger's diagnosis, which is used interchangeably with high-functioning autism, made it easier for her to get along with others -- even her husband and their four kids.
"They could finally understand why I was a certain way. They said, 'Oh, that's why you're like that.'"
The American Psychiatric Association formalized the diagnosis of Asperger's in 1994, 50 years after it was first described by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger. But the association plans to remove the term "Asperger's" from its new diagnostic manual, set for release in 2013 -- a decision that has sparked criticism from advocacy groups.

Mom, Son Press for Autism Services, Awareness


RYE BROOK, N.Y. — As the mother of an autistic son, Doris Perez aims high in her efforts to raise awareness — as high as the Empire State Building.
Three years ago, she lobbied successfully for lighting the building in blue, symbolic of autism, on the eve of the official World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. She said her son, Emil Jensen, came up with the idea.
"When he dreams of something, and when he dares hope for something, I feel that I have to help him," Perez said from her kitchen in Rye Brook. "And I have to push it."

Wages Tricky for Workers with Disabilities

Such a touchy issue. On one hand, some companies provide opportunities to train people with disabilities on the job, while providing them with a paycheck, which yes, may be below minimum wage. If they didn't have this, chances are they might not be working at all. On the other side, however, it does appear that this is so unfair to people with disabilities who can and are reliable, hard working and productive employees.

BUCYRUS, Ohio -- Wages are wide-ranging for disabled workers in Crawford County.
Recent reports show thousands of adult workers with developmental disabilities in Ohio are paid less than minimum wage. The Columbus Dispatch reports 14,600 disabled Ohioans are affected by a federal law provision that allows employers to pay less than minimum wage to adults with disabilities that limit productivity.
Critics of the lower wages paid to disabled workers say it is taking advantage of them, while supporters say it provides more opportunities for them to have jobs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

High School Student's Inner Circle


BRENTWOOD, Calif. -- Equipped with an ample supply of M&Ms in pastel shades and polka-dot ribbon, Emily Simino and a couple of friends are turning miniature glass jars into party favors for a mutual companion's birthday.
The Brentwood 15-year-old maintains a running conversation with Brandon Gruber, who snips off strands of ribbon and affixes them along the edge of the lids at her direction.
"Cut it right there," Emily says. "Perfect. Do you have a little glue?"
Gruber carefully applies a few drops.
"Yeah, you really are good with a glue gun," Emily says.
That both Brandon, 15, and fellow favor maker 23-year-old Brittany Cassen have Down syndrome makes no difference to the Heritage High School sophomore, who counts them among her closest friends in a social network that includes dozens with similar disabilities.

'Glee' Stop R-Word Campaign Grabs Attention with Use of Ethnic Slurs


Confession: I had a preview of this PSA months ago. I thought it was brilliant, powerful and certainly had shock value to grab viewers' attention. Most important, the message was compelling and clear with strong call-to-action. However, I thought it would never air on any television station or network (clearly I was wrong about that. The PSA will be shown on "a majority of their(Fox) cable channels and regional sports networks, MTV, USA Network, Oxygen Network and Turner networks including TNT, TBS, truTV and CNN," according to the campaign's website. because of the use of ethnic slurs. It certainly has people talking. Share your thoughts.

There are some words you just don't hear on network television - and a public service announcement airing during last night's "Glee" used them all.
The uncensored video, filmed as part of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign to put a stop to the use of the R-word, featured men and women of different minorities firmly telling viewers it is never acceptable to use a slur.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Study: Prenatal Vitamins Cut Autism Risk

Women who reported not taking prenatal vitamins immediately before and during a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a child with autism, UC Davis researchers reported Wednesday. If the women also had a mutation in a high-risk gene, they were seven times as likely to have a child with the developmental disorder, the researchers reported in the online edition of the journal Epidemiology. The study is scheduled to appear in print in July.

Apple's iPad App Creates Communication Device for Children with Special Needs

Interesting segment from New York 1 News. So wonderful that mainstream companies are developing apps to help children with special needs.

For children and parents, Apple's line of iOS devices can be a great resource for learning. Take, for example, "Scene & Heard," which turns the iPad into what's called an "augmentative and alternative communication device," or AAC for short.
Essentially, it allows kids with autism to both learn and communicate with others by pushing or arranging pictures, helping them clearly communicate what they're trying to say. What makes this app different from some of the others out there is that it allows users, parents or anyone helping that child to easily upload their own pictures, videos and sounds to create their own so-called "scenes." Developers say that in doing so, the app can be customized to feel more comfortable for each user.

Potato Cart Cooking Up Careers


This is a story I came across this morning. Consider it one for my mother, who is experiencing some health issues at age 88. Hope you will send her good vibes. By the way, she loves potatoes!

WARWICK, R.I. -- The Trudeau Center recently cooked up an interesting way to generate jobs for clients and create revenue for their facility. With the help of an old-fashioned potato cart, they are serving up baked potatoes topped with all the fixings.
"My favorite part is taking orders and talking with the customers," said Agnes Desjarlais, 55. "I really like working the cart."
Agnes also is the "chef" of their homemade chili, used for one of their specialty potatoes, the "Federal Hill-E-Chili." This makes her proud.
"My parents used to own Flo's, a wiener place, and I've known how to make chili for a very long time," Desjarlais said. "My mother was always cooking at home. Cooking is in my blood."
Gayle Reid, the program coordinator for the Worksite Partners Program that finds employment for people with special needs, said it's required that the cart employ people with developmental disabilities. They named the business the Providence Potato Company.
"It [the cart] never runs without two people with disabilities," said Reid. "They want to work there."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alabama Bill Could Point Toward Change


TUSCUMBIA, Ala. -- Change could be coming to Alabamians with developmental disabilities. Representatives from the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program were in Tuscumbia on Monday with Haylee Cain and her family — Judson, Donna and Nadia Emens — to kick off their campaign for Haylee's Law.
"This state is in dire need of legislative change, regarding those disabled as I," Haylee told those gathered on the lawn of the Colbert County Courthouse. "Twenty-one-year-olds do not need to be in a nursing home, and there are too many in this state who are."

'Nobody Put Limits On Me'

Feel good story of the day. Don't miss the video.

WOODBURY, Tenn. -- Kaysi Paul came to Cannon County High School as the girl with the blue walker. She has endured a dozen surgeries for her cerebral palsy -- major surgeries, such as removing her feet and reattaching them.
Kaysi's disability could have meant a tough four years in high school, because kids can be mean. Her mother, Kelli, said she expected taunting and cruelty.
"When I came to this school, I was the one who cried," her mother said.

Displaced Special Educator Speaks Up

The feeling of telling someone you lost your job is difficult task to undertake. I didn't really lose my job though; I had it taken from me by New York Governor Cuomo with his budget cuts to education and by NYSUT, the union I belong to, whose support of an inane "Last in, First out" rule has prevented me from continuing my work with my high school students.
I have been on a nine-year journey through two graduate schools, three one-year teaching positions between New York and Florida and countless days of substitute teaching in the hopes that I would be more marketable to a district in the process. The 'Last in, First out' rule cost me and thousands of others around the state this year and it is destroying the institution of teaching.
As a nation, we do not give support to teachers and educators: instead, politicians and parents alike condemn teachers when students do not succeed and decide to make drastic budget cuts that make educating the next generation less appealing as a career. Where are the priorities of this once great nation? Governor Cuomo says that districts should have better fiscal management: "Manage the school system. Reduce the waste. Reduce the fraud. Reduce the abuse."
Well, which one am I Governor Cuomo? A waste? A fraud? An abuse of the system? Was my hiring a poor choice for a resource room for students with Asperger's Syndrome despite my expertise with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders? Are you really in a position to make a call like that?

Hacking Autism

I know this may appear as a free commercial, but this was sounded too good to pass up. Thought it might be good for followers. Please pass on to others.

One thing that most experts in the autism community can agree with is that those on the spectrum tend to perform well with computers. In fact, many special education teachers have found a lot of technology to be of use in the classroom. For instance, our son's teacher has computers that teach letters, reading, colors, shapes, etc. But resources are few, and often expensive.
Hence, enter Hacking Autism, a social initiative that was announced at the Maker Faire by Phil McKinney, the CTO of HP's Personal Systems Group.
Hacking Autism is a place where software developers and parents or specialists who need apps for those on the spectrum can get together and work out projects for their needs. The idea is to provide software tools for free (or at least with a free trial), thereby giving those on the spectrum assistance through technology.

New Study Reignites Vaccine-Autism Link

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Researchers released the most recent news in the autism-vaccine debate at a press conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
A study scheduled for publication in the Pace Environmental Law Review closely examined public information on 1,300 cases in which the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program compensated families. Significant brain injuries were found in compensated patients as a direct result of vaccinations. Eighty-three cases specifically resulted in autism and are being called, "the tip of the iceberg."
Parents of vaccine-injured children were present at the press conference along with representatives from the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy. All participants demanded that Congress acknowledge the findings and explain why the NVICP awarded damages for these cases while the government continues to promote the safety of childhood vaccinations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

School Transition Plans Coming Up Short


Can't resist more of this excellent series from Columbus Dispatch. They are totally on the mark. While there are plenty of children with autism and other developmental disabilities, they eventually become adults. Then what?


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As a preschooler, Daniel Coffey drove the wheels off his battery-powered car.
His parents wrote the manufacturer for spare parts, again and again, so that their youngest son - autistic, obsessive-compulsive and afflicted with a dash of Tourette's syndrome - could perfect his parallel parking.
That stubborn focus provided early clues about how much Daniel loved to master a task.
"He wants to get things just right," said his mom, Venta. "Daniel appreciates a job well done."
The Canal Winchester family worked for years to nurture his interests and abilities, then jumped at the chance to involve Daniel in an intensive employment-training program. Coffey, who is 21, will be graduating in June.
Schools are required to prepare "transition plans" for Ohio students with developmental disabilities. But few students are in such top-notch programs - which make them much more likely to be employed after they move into the adult world, advocates and researchers say.

Promoting Jobs vs. Workshops in Ohio


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If he had been born 50 years ago, Ian Baustian might have been institutionalized. Locked away.
No one would have discovered whether he was capable of more.
Back then, Baustian wouldn't have been a laboratory clinical assistant at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, where he works alongside people who don't have disabilities - people who embrace him and his autism.
His kind of story is both triumph and tragedy, as far as advocates are concerned. As far as Ohio has come in employing developmentally disabled adults, the state has much further to go, they say.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Illinois Families Fear Looming Budget Cuts


WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Robert, 50, could lose the place he's called home since 1983, but right now he's more concerned about a bag of pretzels. It’s almost time for lunch, and he’s hungry. He signs the word "please," and his dad opens the bag.
It's not Robert's job to worry. For his entire life, through bouts of seizures and a diagnosis of autism and profound mental retardation — through a series of disastrous placements beginning at age 5 — worry has been the job of his mom, Mary Vargas, and her husband Johnny.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Debating Federal Wage Law: Many Working for Less Than Minimum Wage


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Thousands of adults with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities work in Ohio at jobs that pay less money than a teen-age baby sitter earns.
Some clean hotel rooms for 40 cents an hour. Others sew table linens for 79 cents an hour. Some assemble automotive parts for $2.15 an hour or answer telephones for $3.75 an hour.
The majority don't earn half of the state minimum wage of $7.40.
A little-known provision in the 73-year-old federal wage law allows employers to pay less than minimum wage if adults have disabilities that limit their productivity.

A Trip to Chicago -- Autism Style

Laura Shumaker's blog from SFGate.com. This is part 1.

It was a month before our trip to Chicago, and Matthew sat in front of the family computer Googling "karaoke in Chicago", surrounded by maps of the Great Lakes region.
"I'm thinking that when we land in Illinois, we can drive to Indiana and Michigan. We can get back to Illinois in time for karaoke at Trader Tod's. We'll drive to Wisconsin the next day."
Matthew and I had been discussing this itinerary daily since I booked our trip 3 months earlier, sometimes twice daily. He'd been studying the map and was giddy at the thought of hitting four states that he hadn't been to.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Maryland Alcohol Tax Funds Key Services

In a budget season filled with controversies over taxes, deficits and cuts across the country, Maryland just took a historic step: The General Assembly passed and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the first increase in beer and wine taxes in 38 years, and the first increase in distilled spirits taxes in 55 years.
The case for the new alcohol tax — a 3-percentage-point addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax — was strong. It will save lives, prevent crime and help to avert thousands of cases of alcohol abuse or dependence. It will also raise at least $85 million in revenue a year. In the first year, these funds will be used to restore much-needed services for people with developmental disabilities, shore up school budgets and support school maintenance and repairs. In future years, the funds can be used to support expanded access to health care; services for people with developmental disabilities or mental health needs; alcohol, tobacco and other drug-use prevention and treatment, and health-care worker training.

Defying Odds, Twins Prepare for Graduation


ELK RIVER, Minn. -- It does not take much to weigh out two pounds of grapes at the grocery store. Try it. Just a couple clumps of grapes should do it.
That is how much Karla and Kayla Koppendrayer weighed when they were born.
Actually, the twins, delivered in an emergency caesarean birth at 25 weeks, six days, weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces each. Karla was a whopping 14.5 inches long while Kayla, born a minute later, was 14 inches in length.
In 1992, babies born this early in a pregnancy normally died, and if they did manage to make it, they would suffer severe developmental disabilities.
But these super (micro) preemies, as they are called, overcame many obstacles
and will graduate May 27 from Spectrum High School in Elk River, Karla with a 3.93 grade point average (GPA) and Kayla with a 3.92 GPA.

Fla. School District Alters Restraint Policy

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After months of wrangling and impassioned pleas from parents, the Palm Beach County School Board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to approve an update to a policy governing the use of a controversial face-down restraint technique on special-needs children.
With no board discussion, the policy update makes a technique called "prone restraint" a last resort that school staffers can only use if a special needs student is acting out in a manner where they might hurt themselves or others. It's meant to be used only if a long list of verbal techniques and less restrictive holds have failed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parents Battle School District for Supports


In October, after months of anxiety, Caroline Barwick and her husband, Russell Huerta, celebrated the arrival of their son Sebastian’s third birthday.
It was the day the San Francisco Unified School District became legally responsible for addressing Sebastian's severe autism.
Ms. Barwick and Mr. Huerta met with school clinicians to discuss their son;s education and treatment. But the meeting did not go as they had hoped — the district offered Sebastian fewer than half of the therapeutic services recommended by three private doctors and did not offer a choice of schools.

N.J. Student Athelte On Top of World


OLD TAPPAN, N.J. 00 Freshman Chris Sorreta placed fifth in the shot put at the Big North Conference Freshman Tournament May 12, with a toss of 33-2.
In doing so he finished ahead of throwers from big schools like Bergen Catholic, Demarest, Don Bosco, Hackensack and Teaneck.
"It's really great, I made it to the counties," Sorreta said. "This is my best throw of the season so far.
"My dad inspired me and Coach [Peter] Dunn has been working with me since the beginning of the season."
What makes this feat impressive is that Sorreta has Asperger syndrome, which is the mildest and highest functioning end of the Autism Spectrum.

Budget Cuts Hit Special Educators Hard

A medley of current special education headlines paint a grim picture. In a national survey, special educators report that they are carrying a maximum caseload with diminished support and that it is increasingly difficult for them to deliver free and appropriate education as mandated by law.
Compounding the problem is the fact that federal education officials are allowing states to reduce spending on special education on a case-by-case basis. Last month, Alabama and New Jersey were granted waiver requests from the U.S. Department of Education, allowing these states to trim their special education spending to the tune of $9.2 million and $25.6 million, respectively, with South Carolina and Iowa eager to follow suit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Massachusetts Finds Sharp Rise in Autism

More children aged 3 and younger are now being treated for autism in Massachusetts, a new study finds.
One in 129 children in Massachusetts born between 2001 and 2005 was enrolled in early intervention programs for an autism spectrum disorder by their third birthday, according to the study.
Over the five-year period, the proportion of children aged 3 and younger getting treated rose from one in 178 among children born in 2001 to one in 108 for those born in 2005 -- a 66 percent increase.
Much of the increase in diagnosis occurred among boys, which increased by 72 percent from 2001 to 2005, compared to about 39 percent among girls, the investigators found.
The study authors said they aren't sure if the reason for the rise is because greater awareness and better availability of services means kids are getting diagnosed and into treatment sooner, or if autism itself is becoming more common.

Before Angry Crowd, N.J. Health Services Official Says Vineland Center Will Close


VINELAND, N.J. — State Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez defended the proposed closing of the Vineland Developmental Center on Tuesday, testifying before a hostile crowd at a public hearing on the issue.
Velez had to stop her testimony a few times as people in the crowd booed her, made catcalls and sometimes shouted "liar."

Study Finds Autism Takes Toll on Fathers

MADISON, Wis. -- A groundbreaking University of Wisconsin-Madison study reveals some hard truths about the toll autism takes on fathers. According to the researchers:
* More than 30 percent of fathers of grown children with autism experience symptoms of depression so severe that they warrant clinical attention.
* Fathers of adolescents and young adults with autism experience high levels of depression and are pessimistic about what the future holds for their son or daughter, much more so than dads whose kids have other disabilities such as Down syndrome.

Music as Medicine for Child on Spectrum


WESTPORT, Conn. -- Ethan Walmark's dad sang The Beatles' "I Will" to his child every night. It's the gentle type of song that a proud father would sing to his son, with lyrics like, "Love you forever and forever/Love you with all my heart."
When Ethan was four, he played the song by ear. At five years old, he knows The Doors, the tunes from Glee and just about anything else he hears. For Ethan, who has autism, music is medicine, therapy and a rare gift.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Squad to Cheer About


ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- Catie Zimmerman, 13, of O'Fallon, is a member of the Adrenaline Explosion Bomb Squad, a cheerleading squad for children with special needs.
During Saturday practices she is hoisted into the air. And with the help of volunteer "buddies" she flips. She stretches muscles clenched by cerebral palsy. She pushes beyond what her parents and physical and occupational therapists had thought possible because she's having fun. The physical challenge is secondary.
"She has great self esteem and confidence because of the program," Tammy Zimmerman says of her daughter. "You could just see her beaming when she talks about cheerleading and looking at her uniform."

Autsim, Desperation, Alternative Treatments

After her daughter Jodie was diagnosed with autism, Alison Singer went online, searching desperately for anything that looked like it might help her little girl.
She tried gluten-free and casein-free diets and supplements. She sprinkled something called DMG on her daughter's French toast. She even heard from a doctor who suggested buying a giant electromagnet that could reorganize ions in the brain.
"Parents are very vulnerable when their children are diagnosed. They want to do anything and everything to help their children, and they fall prey to these charlatans peddling the 'cure du jour,'" said Singer, who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Official: Virginia-DOJ Agreement Possible

These are human lives we are talking about! How can states put a dollar value on providing a quality life for individuals with disabilities who have been warehoused and isolated? I recognize states are strapped for cash and tax payers are struggling. Hopefully an agreement can be struck.

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia's top health official said Monday he thinks the state can reach an agreement with the Department of Justice over civil rights violations at homes for the mentally and physically disabled by the summer and begin making changes by the fall.
The Department of Justice threatened to sue in February because it said Virginia violates federal law by needlessly warehousing the intellectually and severely disabled and failing to provide adequate treatment in the community.

Art Liberates People with Severe Disabilities

Just a wonderful story and clearly an innovative program for people at Matheny Medical and Education Center.


PEAPACK, N.J. -- Geometric shapes dance within a field of varied textures as vivid slashes of color carom across the canvas. More amazing than this intricate, energized painting is the artist who created it — for he can neither speak nor move his limbs.
The Arts Access Program at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack enables the unfolding of miracles. Highly trained artist-facilitators and sophisticated methods restore hands and voices to severely disabled clients, by which they reclaim the creative potency of their minds and hearts, with magnificent results. A sampling of some of the results can be viewed at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Son's Multiple Diagnoses Pose Challenges


Three years ago, Topeka resident Courtney Davis was completing Kansas Army National Guard basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., when she received a message from her husband, James, that their 7-year-old son Luke was in trouble at school.
Luke, who has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder and Tourette's syndrome, had been prescribed new medication. Davis said an adverse reaction to the drugs caused her son to experience a "psychotic break," during which he assaulted more than a dozen people at Shaner Elementary and ended up beating his body against a concrete wall at the school.
Through the assistance of the American Red Cross, Davis was on a bus within an hour and heading to Topeka to tend to her son, who had been expelled from the school.
"The teacher said she couldn't handle his fidgeting, noises, throwing things," Davis said, adding that she understood the teacher's frustrations. "She had 30 other students in the classroom and Luke. She had no paraprofessional."

Teen with Autism Earns a Summer Job


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Many teenagers are pounding the pavement looking for a summer job right now, but Alex Weiner already has one lined up.
Through an innovative program in the Scottsdale Unified School District, Alex, an 18-year-old student who has autism, has accrued experience in carpentry, landscaping and building maintenance - even working with power tools.
"He's earned that job," said John Muir, the district's director of building services, who launched the Team 7 program and hired Alex to work for the district this summer.
Job training before graduation is crucial. People with autism spectrum disorders have an unemployment rate of 90 percent, according to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.

Big Week in Battle Over N.J. Center's Fate

VINELAND, N.J. -- Sen. Jeff Van Drew says not a day goes by that he isn't trying something to stop the state from shuttering the Vineland Developmental Center.
The Democrat isn't the only politician who represents the facility's residents and the roughly 1,400 people whose jobs would be eliminated if New Jersey's oldest developmental center closes.
But as the deadline approaches for the state to pass a budget proposed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, which includes his plan to shut down the Landis Avenue center by June 30, 2013, Van Drew is at the epicenter of efforts to save the facility.
One of the biggest weeks in that battle has arrived, with a Senate committee convening in Vineland to discuss the issue and a rally planned on the center's grounds.

Ohio High School Students Honor Classmates with Special Needs at Prom

LOVELAND, Ohio — Mary Alten remembers being determined, yet afraid, when she enrolled her daughter in preschool.
Toni Alten-Crowe was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes delays in physical and mental development. Alten had ignored recommendations to place Toni in a special school and moved to Loveland after hearing parents say the district tries to include students with disabilities in regular classes and activities.
Even so, she was concerned for her only child.
"I imagined that she would be snubbed and made fun of and not be given opportunities," Alten says.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Self-Compassion Most Important Life Skill, Researcher Finds


A charming animated baby, Kristin Neff's son Rowan retreated into himself as a toddler, losing his few words and becoming prone to inexplicable screaming fits.
There are numerous ways Neff could have reacted to Rowan's 2004 diagnosis of autism. She could have buried her emotions, become despondent or immediately found something to blame.
But Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was in the midst of pioneering psychological research on self-compassion. And her findings suddenly proved invaluable to her personal life. Being sympathetic and kind to herself let her cope constructively and offered insight into how to parent her struggling son.

Autism's Challenges After Graduation

SCARBOROUGH, Maine -- David Bouchard is, without a doubt, looking forward to graduating from high school next month.
He says so with wide eyes and a big smile even before he types Y-E-S on his DynaVox, a hand-held communication device tethered to his belt.
Debbie Bouchard, on the other hand, is starting to dread the end of her son's public school career. After years of special education programs to prepare the Arundel man for work and life in the community, David Bouchard -- and other young adults with autism across the state -- may have nowhere to go but home.
The generation of children who experienced the first wave of an ongoing autism epidemic is now reaching adulthood. Public support programs that used to provide continuing education and care for virtually all adults with development disabilities now have hundreds of Mainers are on waiting lists that are expected to keep growing.

Vacation Dreams Take Flight

BOSTON -- The Littlejohn family's much-anticipated trip together to Walt Disney World last fall never made it past Logan International Airport.
Henry was spooked by the glass elevator. Ambient airport noise — the unexpected beeps, the loudspeaker announcements — almost proved too much for a 6-year-old with autism.
"We thought we had him settled" on the plane, said Erik Littlejohn. "But then a guy behind him opened his window shade."
Henry melted. He cried and kicked, and takeoff was delayed when his parents could not buckle his seat belt. The family made a wrenching decision: Mom and Henry got off the plane and went home to Holliston; Dad and Henry’s 7-year-old brother went on to Disney World.
The Littlejohns knew there had to be a better way

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Autism and Family Life: A Delicate Balance


AVON PARK, Fla. - Boat captain Rick Buell pilots yachts and boats to the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, and his wife, Nanette, is a flight attendant for American Airlines, but they have temporarily relocated to Avon Park where their 7-year-old son, Blake, is receiving treatment for his behavioral problems and autism.
Behavior outbursts in his elementary school led to Blake being suspended for a total of 20 days in kindergarten and first-grade, Rick Buell said.
Before receiving therapy, Blake's excitement would start to build, prompting someone to try to help by touching or grabbing him, Buell said. That intervention would cause Blake to blow up.
He would go underneath tables kicking and throwing books in class, and as he got older, his behavioral outbursts became more intense, but the school system was doing very little therapy and doing little to try to determine what was wrong with their son, he said.
In front of Blake's school in Fort Lauderdale, Rick and Blake ran into a special education advocate who recommended forensic psychologist Susan L. Crum, who has a practice in Avon Park.

U.S. Launches Audit of Medicaid Payments to New York Institutions

Fhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifederal officials in Washington have begun an audit of Medicaid payments to state centers for the developmentally disabled, prompted by Poughkeepsie Journal revelations that every resident yields nearly $1 million a year in federal funds under a reimbursement rate that is four times the actual cost of care.
At the same time, regional federal officials have demanded that New York state justify $2.43 billion in costs claimed under Medicaid for care at nine institutions, including one in Wassaic, the Journal has learned.

Friday, May 13, 2011

'Anything Possible,' Speaker Tells Grads


LITCHFIELD, Ill. -- Alexis Wernsing isn't the type of person who sits around feeling sorry for herself.
The 36-year-old Litchfield resident is in a wheelchair and can't use her hands due to cerebral palsy, but that didn't keep her from earning an associate's degree at Lincoln Land Community College. She will be the speaker at Friday's LLCC commencement ceremonies, and she plans to continue her studies in art history at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. One day, she hopes to return to Lincoln Land to teach.
"If you have a dream, if you are willing to work hard, anything is possible," Wernsing said. "We all have junk in our trunk. Mine is just more visible."

N.J. Senator Questions Trust Status


TRENTON — Sen. Richard Codey wants to see the receipts.
The former governor Thursday called for the state’s Department of Community Affairs to account for how it spent $168 million from the Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, which he signed into law in 2005.
The action follows a report in The Star-Ledger last month that found the trust, which was supposed to use $200 million to create 10,000 housing units for disabled and homeless people, is now nearly broke and only expected to create 2,000 units.

Editorial: Virginia's Vulnerable Adults Deserve Better Treatment

Editorial from today's New Richmond News. Sorry for delay in posting, but blogger was down much of the day.

There has to be a better way of doing things.
In this week's edition of the New Richmond News, we run a report on reimbursement cuts aimed at those who provide 24-hour care for area residents with mental and developmental disabilities.
There are varying thoughts about who is at fault for the mess.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aging Adults with Autism Face Challenges

LOS ANGELES -- New research is coming out of a major autism conference. One of the biggest concerns parents who have kids with autism is what will happen to them when they become adults. With so many more kids being diagnosed, scientists are looking to the future and what's in store for these individuals.
At the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Diego, scientists examined what happens to these kids as they age.
Researchers found the older a child with autism gets, they experience fewer behavior problems and they hang on to their functional abilities. But compared to other adults, those with autism were significantly more likely to be in poor health. And they experienced a more rapid decline after age 45.

Elephants Aid Kids with Autism in Thailand


This was just too good to pass up. (Yes, I'm a sucker for a good animal story).

LAMPANG, Thailand — Kuk-kik, a 14-year-old boy, punctuates his few, slurred words with yelps. Kong screams and bites his fingers when he can't figure out how much to pay for bananas. Other children freeze mid-motion, fix their gazes on minute objects and withdraw.
Enter Nua Un and Prathida — two gentle, lively and clever female elephants — and the mood among the autistic teenagers in Thailand changes as they begin their therapy, the world's first using these charismatic animals.
They scrub and soap their bristly hides, play ball games with the well-trained pachyderms and ride them bareback, smiling.

Jacksonville Community Planned for People with Developmental Disabilities

While I can understand that people are thrilled that there will finally be a place for their adult children, I do agree with Lee Henderson that this community is a step backward and promotes segregation, rather than inclusion. I'm all for development for community-based services, but this does seem to be a bit off. Our field has come so far from the days of secluding and warehousing individuals with disabilities in institutions (though yes, some still exist) and The Hodges Community just seems to be headed the wrong way. Thoughts?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After years of discussion and planning, a proposal for a 32-acre community for people with developmental disabilities is moving forward.
An initiative of The Arc Jacksonville, The Hodges Community would include independent and semi-independent living, as well as recreational and transportation opportunities and a community center. It is set to break ground in 2013 and would take five to 10 years to build.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opinion: Perfect Storm for Down Syndrome

From the Burlington FreePress, a column by Eileen Haupt of Jericho, Vt., who is the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome and co-founder of KIDS -- Keep Infants with Down Syndrome.

The problem is not really prenatal testing; it is the legality of abortion.
Their beautiful faces with the recognizable features of Down syndrome often grace fundraising and promo­tional brochures. We see their joyful expressions and sense their gentle souls, and want to help them, to volun­teer, even plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Cham­plain in winter to benefit those with intellectual disa­bilities.
But helping individuals with Down syndrome might soon require us to challenge our values. For, to have them as part of our families, schools and communities, requires that they first be born. And therein lies the rub.
There has never been a better time -- in the history of mankind -- for babies with Down syndrome to be born. There is better recognition of their potential, greater knowledge about this genetic condition, supportive laws, inclusion in schools, exciting new research that may lead to treatments for cognitive challenges, and in general, more understanding. In particular, advanced medical technology has significantly improved the quality and longevity of their lives.
But it seems advanced medical technology is a double-edged sword. For it has also enabled the development of more-accurate methods of prenatal testing to diagnose babies while still in the womb, thereby making them targets for abortion. Dr. Brian Skotko of Children's Hospital in Boston estimates that a shocking 92 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted.

New Study Suggests Vaccine-Autism Link

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Triplets. Two have autism. One does not. Their father Lou Conte helped put together a new study of people who received payment from the vaccine compensation fund created by the U.S. government.
"What we did is we looked at the people who the government said are clearly vaccine injuries and awarded them compensation," said Conte.
The federal government's vaccine compensation fund helps take care of the medical costs of children who have seizure disorders or brain damage that the families say stems of vaccination. The group that put together this study says the government needs to go one step farther.

A Father's Quest to Help His Son

When he was 8 months old, Walker Brown was diagnosed with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome (CFC), a rare disorder that left him with severe cognitive, developmental and physical disabilities. By the time he was 3 years old, his father says, his medical chart was 10 pages long.
Now 15, Walker wears diapers and an apparatus on his wrists that prevents him from hitting and scratching himself. Developmentally, his age is between 1 and 3, and he will require constant care for the rest of his life.
"He can't speak," his father, Ian Brown, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "He can't do a lot of things — he can't swallow, so he's fed through a tube. We don't know how well he sees or hears. We know he sees and we know he hears, and I think it might be getting a bit better, but because he can't talk, he just has no way of rationally communicating — so we spent a long time trying to figure out other ways to connect."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cheers and 'Good Try' Are Name of Game


IRVINE, Calif. -- On a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, the grounds of Marian Bergeson Elementary School are quiet and empty — almost. Little by little, families emerge across the campus. Some carry umbrellas or tents, some have foldable sports chairs and all are ready for a morning of baseball.
This morning, the Angels in red face off against the Mariners in green. As the first "We have No. 12, Michael!"
All the parents in the stands clap and cheer as Michael approaches home plate.

LeBron Apologizes For Using 'R' Word


LeBron James was oblivious that his use of the word “retarded” was offensive. In some ways, that may be more objectionable than the Heat superstar’s use of the word in the first place.
At the postgame press conference after the Heat’s Game 3 loss Saturday, a reporter asked Dwyane Wade to defend himself against charges that his foul that led to Rajon Rondo's dislocated elbow was a dirty play. Sitting next to Wade at a dais, James had his hand over his mouth and muttered, “That’s retarded."

N.J. Plans to Provide Housing for People with Developmental Disabilities

Two state agencies announced Tuesday that they are teaming up in an effort to create affordable and supportive housing within New Jersey neighborhoods for 600 people with developmental disabilities in the next two years.
The initiative is described as part of the Christie administration’s goal to help integrate people with special needs into the community whenever possible.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Colleges Welcome Students with Asperger's

PHILADELPHIA -- When Jon Dorfman was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at 9, his parents weren't thinking about their son's future. They were just trying to get through the next tantrum.
It was 1998. Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, had been listed as a mental illness for only four years. Even as a child - Dorfman could read multisyllabic medical terms at 4, but had violent meltdowns in shopping malls - he knew the diagnosis was not good news. "Whoever heard of anyone successful who had autism?" he recalls thinking.
This month, Dorfman, now 22, will graduate from St. Joseph's University. He's a film major, a former NBC intern, and a paid mentor at the school's Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support.

N.J. Mom Wins Placement for Son

Amazing how many hoops they made this mother jump through.

BRIDGETON, N.J. — It took two hours to determine, but Thomas Smith is not suited for the general student body at Broad Street School.
"They were saying his autism is not the reason. It's because his behavior is real bad," said mother Cathy Smith.
Thomas, who is 5-years-old, has been diagnosed with autistic disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorder.

Nonprofits Turn to Federal Contracts to Put People with Disabilities to Work


The busy government market isn’t just attracting traditional contractors. Nonprofit organizations geared toward helping people with disabilities find employment are bidding for federal work as a way to offer more jobs and different kinds of positions.
Take Melwood, which has carved out a niche providing custodial services and landscaping work at dozens of government buildings. Now, the Upper Marlboro-based nonprofit is trying to broaden the kind of jobs it offers and also attract a larger number of veterans.

S. Korea Study Reveals High Autism Rate

An ambitious six-year effort to gauge the rate of childhood autism in a middle-class South Korean city has yielded a figure that stunned experts and is likely to influence the way the disorder’s prevalence is measured around the world, scientists reported on Monday.
The figure, 2.6 percent of all children aged 7 to 12 in the Ilsan district of the city of Goyang, is more than twice the rate usually reported in the developed world. Even that rate, about 1 percent, has been climbing rapidly in recent years — from 0.6 percent in the United States in 2007, for example.
But experts said the findings did not mean that the actual numbers of children with autism were rising, simply that the study was more comprehensive than previous ones.
"This is a very impressive study," said Lisa Croen, director of the autism research program at Kaiser-Permanente Northern California, who was not connected with the new report. "They did a careful job and in a part of the world where autism has not been well documented in the past."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother, Daughter Shaped State's Approach

Came across this beautiful tribute by Harry Heintz, pastor of Brunswick Church, about Cherie Messier and her mother Henriette who helped shape the way New York State understanding of and approach in working with children and adults with developmental disabilities.

There is hole in the heart of this region this season. On April 18, Monday of Holy Week, Cherie Messier died. It has been my high privilege to know Cherie and her parents, Ernie and Henrietta, for some years. They have been world changers, starting in Green Island, their hometown, and going well beyond.
When Ernie returned from World War II, he married Henrietta. Both hailed from small households. They wanted to raise a large family, perhaps with as many as seven children. The fulfillment of that dream began in 1948 with the birth of Cherie, a beautiful 5-pound girl, small of frame like her parents.
In Cherie's first two months with them, her pediatrician called Henrietta regularly to see how the baby was doing. That seemed odd to Henrietta's new mother friends, whose pediatricians didn't call them.
There was a reason. The doctor had suspicions that Cherie was what we now call a child with Down syndrome. Ernie and Henrietta suspected no such thing and didn't know what that meant. Their doctor urged them to see a specialist at Albany Medical Center Hospital. It turned out to be the worst experience in their lives.
What that specialist told them was brutal. "She's Mongoloid. She'll never live long. If she does she'll be a vegetable. You have an idiot. Give her up now. Separate from her now. Forget you ever had her."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Two Mothers United By a Little Girl


A tribute to all mothers -- especially those with special needs. Happy Mothers Day to the most important people in the world. Yes, that includes you mom! (She won't see this, at 88 with failing vision, she doesn't have a computer).

"I need help."
It's posted on the wall, about eye-level for a 7-year-old girl whose ability to walk and talk is compromised by autism, cerebral palsy and developmental delays.
When necessary, Bridget's mother, Cathy Collins, will point to the handwritten sign. So will Bridget's caregiver, Letty Gaucin.
They celebrate achievements most people take for granted in a child Bridget's age, such as the steady progress made over two years in getting her potty trained.
They are two moms with backgrounds that couldn't be more different, bound by a common purpose: To see children like Bridget live as full a life as possible.

Turning 22 and Facing the Next Step


YORKVILLE, Ill. -- Seth Harbin, who has Down syndrome, turned 22 last month. Because the Illinois public school system provides special education for those with developmental disabilities only until their 22nd birthdays, that means Seth is no longer able to attend Yorkville High School, where he has been a student for seven years.
"Seth is very social," said his mom, Patty Harbin. "There's no way I'd want him sitting at home watching TV all day."
Because Seth's daily routine will no longer include going to school, according to Patty, having either paid employment or a volunteer position is crucial so that he will have a purpose each day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Data Shows Utah Autism Rate Doubled


SALT LAKE CITY — It was the "mother of all meltdowns" and Laura Anderson has the bruises to prove it. But it is anyone's guess as to what caused her 14-year-old autistic son to throw a fit earlier this week.
She thinks it could have been the chicken nuggets. They weren't his favorite brand. Then again, it could have been a slight change in his normal routine or even the recent changes in the weather.
"It's our life," Anderson said. "It's what I'm used to and I have nothing else to compare it to."
She is not alone in her struggle, as nearly 10,000 children in the state of Utah have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes autism, Asperger's and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
With the newly implemented Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disorders, researchers have found that autism numbers in Utah are on the rise — in fact, they doubled between 2002 and 2008, making it a one in 77 chance that an 8-year-old child in Utah is autistic.

Op-Ed: Shifting to Community-Based Homes in New Jersey Is Right Thing to Do

Franklin Riesenburger, Esq., has practiced law for nearly 40 years. He is a shareholder of Flaster/Greenberg, Attorneys at Law, and chairman of the firm's environmental law practice group. He served on the board of directors of Elwyn New Jersey Inc. for 12 years and now serves on Elwyn's national board.

Gov. Christie has said his plan to transition residents from the Vineland Developmental Center to community-based living is based on medical and fiscal evidence that "tells us this is the right thing to do." As a board member of Elwyn New Jersey Inc., a provider of services to people with special needs, I have seen the success of these transitions firsthand, in New Jersey and in other parts of the country, as states align their models and budgets to implement the landmark Olmstead decision, a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case that continues to shape the way we care for people with significant disabilities.

Study Links Risk to Season of Conception

Researchers have found a clear correlation between the month a child was conceived and their risk of being diagnosed with autism.
The team from the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis, reviewed the birth records of more than 7 million children born in the 1990s and early 2000s.
They found those children in the study who were conceived in winter had a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with autism.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Maryland Suspends Autism Doctor's Licence

A doctor nationally known for treating autism with a drug sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders has been suspended from practicing medicine in his home state of Maryland after state officials determined that he is putting children at risk.
Dr. Mark Geier allegedly misrepresented his credentials, misdiagnosed children and urged parents to approve risky treatments without fully informing them of the potential dangers, according to the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

U.K. Study Challenges Autism Prevalence

Is autism a growing epidemic or not? Recent reports have suggested that autism is on the rise, but a new study from the U.K. finds that the prevalence of this developmental disorder has remained stable. It may be that doctors are diagnosing it more often in young people -- not that it's actually happening more.
Researchers performed clinical assessments of 618 adults and found that nearly 1 percent of Britons over age 16 suffered from autism -- meaning the adult rate is no higher than that seen among children in the U.K.

Autism Tied to Premature Brain Growth

The journey toward determining ways to detect autism earlier on shows development. Outcome of a long-term magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has validated that early overgrowth of the brain of autistic children before reaching the age of two.
the year 2005, Heather Cody Hazlett, Ph.D., from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, together with her colleagues, did a comparison of the brains of 59 children diagnosed with autism to 38 other children who serve as control group or those without autism.

Opinion: Christie Administration Misinterprets High Court Ruling

Column by Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a disability policy specialist and civil rights advocate in New Jersey.

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey lawmakers are expressing doubts about the intentions of the Christie Administration to meet the needs of citizens with unique medical and vocational treatment issues. State Senator Loretta Weinberg has expressed concerns that the Department of Health and Senior Services has proposed plans that do not meet the needs of the State's most vulnerable citizens.
Senator Weinberg said, "I am gravely concerned that Governor Christie's proposed FY 2011 State Budget fails New Jersey's most vulnerable populations, including women seeking access to basic health services, senior citizens in residential care settings and New Jersey residents living with disabilities who may not receive the level of individualized, medically-appropriate care they need."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Democrats Challenge Plan to Close Center

TRENTON, N.J. — Closing a state institution in Cumberland County would cost the region hundreds of jobs, but economic concerns do not outweigh the rights of 400 people with developmental disabilities to live more independently, Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez state told a budget panel Monday.
Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee pressed Velez to consider both the economic pain and the disruption for families should Gov. Chris Christie close Vineland Developmental Center as planned by June 2013.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Study Suggest Brain Enlargement in Children on the Autism Spectrum

The brains of 4- and 5-year-old children with autism are larger than the brains of normally developing children, and the difference probably occurs several years earlier, a new study suggests.
The finding is a follow-up to earlier research that found the brains of 2-year-olds with autism are larger than those of similarly aged normally developing kids, researchers said.

Parents Oppose Closing of N.J. Center


VINELAND, N.J. — When the parents of 55-year-old Vineland Developmental Center (VDC)resident Karen Lee Coletti take her for car rides, she uses her limited speaking ability to ask to return to "school," what she calls her home for the past 29 years.
Vito and Mary Coletti make trips 100 miles each way from their home in Middlesex County to the VDC twice a month to see their daughter, who has low-functioning autism, and they hope she will be able to continue living there despite proposed closure of the developmental center.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Focusing on Abilities and Getting to Work


Sometimes the prefix overshadows the word. Take "disability," for example. Those who advocate for people with physical and intellectual challenges often have to take extra steps to spotlight the can-do base of the term.
"There's so much that these kids can do," said Margie Sillery, whose son Adam has autism and is a primary reason she took on the task of co-coordinating NapervilleWorks a year ago.
Composed of school districts, businesses and families in Naperville and Aurora, the organization is turning up the wattage on its clients' abilities, striving to put into the workplace capable young adults who happen to have developmental disabilities.