Friday, August 28, 2009

Suit Drive to Benefit Men With Developmental Disabilities

You might be thinking - why is this news? Just a great example of the importance of corporate partnerships. Bravo to Men's Wearhouse for recognizing how this contribution can make a major difference in the lives of men with developmental disabilities seeking employment.

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Concerned that thousands of men are unable to secure employment because they lack the initial, yet vital, step of looking presentable for a job interview, ARI of Connecticut, Inc. and Men’s Wearhouse are working together to collect thousands of articles of professional attire as part of the 2nd Annual National Suit Drive, September 1-30. The suits will provide these individuals with the necessary work attire that will build their self-esteem and help make a lasting impression during job interviews.
All 1,065 Men’s Wearhouse and Men’s Wearhouse & Tux locations will serve as drop-off sites for gently used suits, dress shirts, sport coats, slacks, ties, belts and shoes that will be used to benefit men in need of these items to transition into the workforce.

Right or Wrong, Autism Billboard Coming Down

There's a fine line between what some people consider shock-value, attention grabbing messaging and what others view as offensive. Either way, you have to admit that this billboard has achieved its goal: People are talking about autism! Share your thoughts.

YORK, Penn. -- Does the message raise awareness or promote damaging stereotypes?
Does it draw in those who do not know someone affected by autism, or will it give people an excuse to exclude and discriminate?
That's the debate over a billboard that Autism York put up over Route 30 in April that quoted autism advocate Jon Shestack: "If 1 in 150 American children were kidnapped we'd have a national emergency. We do. Autism."
The Autism Self Advocacy Network and several autism bloggers from around the country objected to the billboard, saying the quote equated an autism diagnosis with a lifetime prison sentence.
As a result, Autism York will take down the billboard.

$20 Million Gift to University of Miami for Autism Research

MIAMI -- An institute at the University of Miami will receive a $20 million gift to research some common but complex disorders including autism and Parkinson's, university officials announced Thursday.
The gift is being made by the John P. Hussman Foundation. Hussman, a Maryland-based investment fund manage, will spread the gift over a 10-year period.
As a result, the Miami Institute for Human Genomics will be renamed the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, UM officials said.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Florida Court Questions Cuts in Services

DAYTONA BEACH -- A state appellate court has raised concerns about a system put into place last year that cut services to thousands of people statewide with developmental disabilities, including about 230 locally.
The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee issued an opinion last week that the state failed to develop proper rules when it implemented the so-called tier system last October.
One concern dealt with how the state assesses some clients.
The state serves about 31,000 people statewide with developmental disabilities, including about 1,000 adults and children in Volusia and Flagler counties. About 7,500 statewide saw cuts in services under the new system, including about 230 locally.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mourning the Loss of Senator Kennedy

As we mourn the loss of Senator Ted Kennedy this morning, we should remember him as a champion of people with disabilities. He fought, with the Family Opportunity Act In 2001, Senator Kennedy co-sponsored, along with Senator Grassley, an amendment to create a reserve fund for the Family Opportunity Act, to provide states with the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, allowing low- and middle-income families with special needs children the opportunity to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program. For the vast majority of children with disabilities, Medicaid is the only health insurance program offering sufficient benefits to cover the required care, such as physical therapy and medical equipment. The Family Opportunity Act is modeled after the successful Work Incentives Improvement Act sponsored by Kennedy, which allowed adults with disabilities to return to work without the risk of losing health care coverage. Kennedy introduced the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. The bill was designed to prohibit employers from discriminating in job hiring and in the workplace against people who had a disability.

A selection of articles:

Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies

Ted Kennedy Dies at 77 After Cancer Battle

Ted Kennedy: A Lifetime of Public Service

The Death of Ted Kennedy: The Brother Who Mattered Most

Military Wife Fights Her Own Special Battle

Part of an occasional series from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

PHILADELPHIA -- Any day now, Lisa Mathews' husband will be on American soil after a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq.
When his week of deployment-ending activities at Fort Dix is over, Staff Sgt. Joseph Mathews II, an Army National Guardsman in the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, will walk through the front door of his Northeast Philadelphia rowhouse. He will be back into the daily, chaotic lives of his wife and children.
Only then, when the family is reunited, will Lisa be done with her contribution to the military - serving as the lone caretaker of their five children, three of whom have special needs.
The Mathewses are among thousands of U.S. military families whose children have medical conditions requiring special services and care. The Pentagon estimates that 115,000 to 175,000 out of about two million children of service members have special needs, a percentage that generally mirrors the nation at-large.

New Competencies to Help Teachers of Students on the Spectrum

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), in conjunction with the Autism Society of America (ASA), has announced the publication of professional competencies for teaching students with autism spectrum disorders.
These competencies, the result of a three-year grant funded by the Autism Society of America, will be incorporated into the CEC's resource on highly qualified teachers titled What Every Special Educator Needs to Know and endorsed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Parents Hail New Jersey's Autism Coverage Law

New Jersey residents who have children with autism and who must pay a significant amount of money for the cost of therapy will remember Aug. 13, 2009, for a long time.
"Aug. 13 was an emotional and victorious day for families that have children with autism," said Sharon Dey of Jackson, who is the parent of an autistic child. "If this law helps one child, the long road was worth it. But we all know it will help thousands more. The rate of autism in New Jersey is now 1 in 94 children."
Dey, who is the vice president of the Jackson Board of Education, said the new state law should benefit many families in the area.
She said coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is, in her opinion, the key element of the law.

Dog Accompanies Student With Autism to Class; Battle Looms

CHICAGO — Kaleb Drew went to first grade on Tuesday tethered to his Labrador retriever, over the school's objections, but his family is optimistic they'll win a court battle to keep the dog in class.
Chewey the Lab, trained to help the autistic boy deal with his disabilities, did "just as he's supposed to" in keeping Kaleb safe and calm during his first full day back at school, said the boy's mom, Nichelle Drew.
A Douglas County judge allowed the dog to accompany Kaleb until the family's lawsuit against Villa Grove Elementary School in east-central Illinois goes to trial in November.
Kaleb's case and a separate lawsuit involving an autistic boy near St. Louis are the first challenges to an Illinois law allowing service animals in schools, according to an attorney for the Villa Grove school and a spokeswoman for the Illinois Board of Education.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Opinion: Autism Experts Only Seem to Know What Doesn't Work

From our friends at the Age of Autism

Many of us in the autism community marvel at the fact that medical experts can tell us nothing of significance about autism. They spend most of their time in denial. They don't know if the rate is really increasing. They don't know what causes it. They aren't sure how to effectively treat it. They admit there is no known cure. And no one has an idea how to prevent it. I can't think of any other serious health problem affecting as many children as autism does about which so little is known. The fact that hundreds of thousands of children now have this once rare disorder should make autism a national health care emergency. We should be scrambling for answers, but we're not.

From a $29 Million Gift, Treatment for Adults With Autism

Interesting item on a Wall Street Journal Health Blog by Jacob Goldstein.

We think of autism as a childhood syndrome, and treatment for the disorder is largely centered in pediatrics. But kids with autism grow up to be adults with autism, which raises a complex set of issues.
So we were interested to learn that Mass. General, one of the nation’s most famous hospitals, is about to launch a new comprehensive program aimed at treating adults. The program will be funded by a $29 million gift from a family foundation in Massachusetts that often funds autism research, the Boston Globe reports.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Autism Speaks Softens Message on Vaccines

From an interesting Web site -

Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy group, recently made its clearest public statement yet that minimizes the link between vaccines and autism.
Mark Roth discussed a recent statement from the Autism Speaks website by Dr. Gerri Dawson, Autism Speaks’ chief science officer. He quoted Dr. Dawson as stating:
“So … given what the scientific literature tells us today,” she says, “there is no evidence that thimerosal or the MMR vaccine cause autism” and “evidence does not support the theory that vaccines are causing an autism epidemic.”

Eagle Scout With Autism Forges Forward

ALLEGAN, MIch. -- Jeremy Combs has autism but he hasn't let that prevent him from earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
The rigorous requirements to become an Eagle Scout include tough tests, and the majority of scouts do not make the grade.
"It's the hugest thing he's done in his life so far," said his mother, Marie Combs, a substitute teacher in Otsego, Allegan and Hopkins.
His autism symptoms include anger outbursts, problems socializing and loud speaking. Not only do these prove to be challenges in everyday life, they also added an extra degree of difficulty as Jeremy made the 10-year trek to Eagle Scout.
"Sometimes I get upset, and sometimes I get real mad," he said. "I try to control it, but it gets pretty hard."
Jeremy realizes there is something different about him. He spends a lot of time by himself. He has never been invited to a birthday party. He understands he doesn't quite fit in, according to his mother, but he forges ahead.

Arizona State Adding Master's Program for Teaching Students Autism

When Suzanne Painter mentions that Arizona State University is launching a master's program this fall to train educators and service providers to teach students with autism, the response is almost always the same: "I have a relative or friend with autism."
Painter, department chairwoman in ASU's College of Teacher Education and Leadership, can relate. She also knows someone with autism - her nephew. That experience helped persuade her and other academics building the program that the courses should be taught entirely online and open to anyone: teachers, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, parents.
A lack of special-education teachers with expertise with autism is causing problems in schools across the country.

Link Between Epilepsy and Childhood Brain Development

A form of partial epilepsy associated with auditory and other sensory hallucinations has been linked to the disruption of brain development during early childhood, according to a study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).
Described in the August 23 Advance Online issue of Nature Medicine, these new findings provide the first genetic link between childhood brain development and a seizure disorder that lasts throughout adulthood, and also identify a new pathway that controls how neuron circuits are "pruned" and matured.

Brother With Autism Inspires Student's Winning Essay

As a child, Carol Kim would help her autistic brother on the playground because of his walking disability. When she was 8, she once punched a boy in the face who called him stupid.
But her brother Charles is only a year younger than she is. So not only has she served as his protector, but he in turn has been her friend and inspiration.
So when Kim, 17, read the open-ended prompt for a Kaplan/Newsweek essay contest, she said she knew immediately what to write about. Her brother is a topic she has touched on in several other writing assignments, including an elementary school essay, her eighth-grade convocation speech and another essay contest. This time around, she scored second place and won $2,000 in scholarship money.

Earning Pride and a Paycheck

MIAMI -- Of all the big plays former Miami Dolphin Dan Marino has made in his Hall of Fame career, few have packed the same meaning as this event -- recognizing more than 100 young adults with developmental disabilities. They had all taken part in the Dan Marino Foundation's Summer STEPS 2009 program.
It was the second year for the Summer STEPS program, also known as the Summer Supported Training & Employment Program for Special Needs. Run by the Dan Marino Foundation, and funded by the Children's Services Council of Broward County, the program gives young adults ages 16-21 with developmental disabilities summer work experience.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Teens With Autism Master Social Cues, Find Friends

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thirteen-year-old Andrea Levy ticked off a mental list of rules to follow when her guest arrived: Greet her at the door. Introduce her to the family. Offer a cold drink.
Above all, make her feel welcome by letting her choose what to do.
''Do you want to make pizza now or do you want to make it later?'' the lanky, raven-haired teen rehearsed in the kitchen, as her mother spread out dough and toppings.
This was a pivotal moment for Andrea, a girl who invited just one acquaintance to her bat mitzvah.
Andrea has autism, and socializing doesn't come naturally. For the past several weeks, she's gone to classes that teach the delicate ins and outs of making friends -- an Emily Post rules of etiquette for autistic teens.
''A lot of our kids need a tune-up. They need new skills to help them survive in their new social world,'' said clinical psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson of the University of California, Los Angeles, who runs a 3 1/2-month friendship program for high-functioning autistic teens like Andrea.

An Open Letter to President Obama

Maryse Hille, the mother of a teenage son with high-functioning autism challenges the administration to better prepare society and youngsters with developmental disabilities for jobs. Seems to be a theme this week. Here is her letter which appears in northern California's Times-Standard.

It will require truly transformative leadership to ensure that everyone who is able has the chance to earn a decent living as our economy rebounds and adapts itself to the exigencies of the 21st century. Without it, though, the momentum of decades of success in special education and social integration will crash into the reality of a streamlined, rarefied job market with resoundingly harsh consequences for adults with disabilities, those caring for them, and a country seeking to show others, finally, how to do the right thing.

Workers With Disabilities Feel Job Squeeze

A dose of reality on the job market for people with developmental disabilities. Granted, this economy and the job loss is taking its toll on everyone. Bravo to programs t hat continue to train and help people with disabilities find jobs. And, the quote of t he day: "Our people don't want to be dependent on public assistance," said Danielle Frazier, employment director at Community Options. "They want to work. They want to pay bills. They want to live on their own, just like you and me. They just need a chance."

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It can be even tougher to get a job when you have a disability.
Community Options, a nonprofit agency on State Street, helps people with disabilities secure jobs. But not just any jobs. Jobs that pay minimum wage or better in a variety of workplaces - not just in warehouses and "sheltered workshops," where many of the other employees also have disabilities.
Not only do people with disabilities often battle stereotypes about what they can and cannot do on the job, but layoffs at a number of area businesses are adding to their already challenging job searches.
But while the nation's unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in July, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 15.1 percent for the same month, according to the state Labor Department and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both agencies said they did not have state or regional unemployment figures related to people with disabilities.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Danish IT Firm Hires Individuals with Autism

Check out this amazing story of a Danish businessman who has hired individuals on the spectrum. He was in Australia recently for an autism conference. And his quote of the day: "The term disability often overshadows the abilities that are typically there, somewhere. You just have to find them."

A Danish businessman who runs a successful IT firm staffed only by people with autism says it's time to recognise the special skills of people with disabilities.
Thorkil Sonne founded Specialisterne (English translation: Specialists) five years ago, and his team of consultants now make light work of some of the most detailed, time consuming and repetitive jobs in computer programming.
"I have 43 employees now with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and we serve customers like Cisco and CSC, and big Danish companies, for services like software testing, data entry and quality control," Mr Sonne told AAP.
"It's all the tasks where you have to be very structural, you have to have very high precision ... These tasks are very well suited to our staff but not so motivating for people that are generalists."

Click here for more coverage of this incredible story.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life Is Tough When Sibling Has a Disability

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Even when 7-year-old Fanny Gunn gets mad at her twin brother, Lennon, for playing too rough, she’s expected to keep her cool. When her friends come over, she’s expected to let them know they can’t shut him out of their play.
Lennon has autism, and his behavior may alternate between long bouts of contentedly holding a spoon and constant screaming, so it’s not easy. But Fanny gets a lot of practice.
When a friend doesn’t understand Lennon’s autism, she will explain: “He has a different brain.”Life can be a little tougher for siblings of children with disabilities. Their brother or sister often gets the lion’s share of parents' attention, and the siblings often must pitch in more than most. They may find themselves thrust into the jobs of translator and protector.

Quality of Life for People With Autism

Twenty years after first being assessed in a long-term autism study, 41 Utahns with the disorder had a higher social outcome than those in similar studies, University of Utah psychiatry researchers have reported [Autism Research, 2(2): 109-118].
Although the researchers can't yet explain why the follow-up study showed the Utah group fared better overall in living independently, developing social relationships, and in some cases even showing higher IQs than 20 years ago, the results offer hope for many with a childhood diagnosis of autism, according to Megan A. Farley, PhD, the study's first author and a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
"This is an amazing group of people who, in many cases, did a lot more than their parents were told they would ever do," Dr. Farley commented of those who participated in the follow-up study. "This gives a lot of hope for younger people with autism and average-range IQs."

Parents Protest Privatization of Group Homes

Staff turnover can be extremely difficult on people with developmental disabilities and their families. Starting from scratch and establishing trust takes time. Surprised we haven't heard more of this going on. Unfortunately, it probably is just the beginning of things to come.

TRUMBULL, Conn. -- Since 1997, Marge Keane's stepson, Brian, has lived at a state-run group home for people with developmental disabilities. Time was, she said, when the 47-year-old's behavioral issues meant that he often had to be restrained.
But with the same staff of caregivers regularly on duty at the home, that's no longer the case, Keane said. She fears, however, that her stepson's behavior will regress when the group home's management is turned over to a private firm.
According to Joan C. Barnish, a spokesman for the state Department of Developmental Services, 17 state-run group homes will be turned over to private management because of the recent retirement-incentive program offered to state employees. She said 395 DDS employees took advantage of the program and of that number, 162 workers provided direct support and service in group homes. Those 162 jobs will not be permanently filled, Barnish said, so the department feels the privatization is the best option to provide care.

Paying a Price for Mistrust and Misinformation

NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) is unfortunately alive and well. Bravo to Minnesota Disability Law Center for looking into whether there is a violation of federal or state fair housing law.

CENTERVILLE, MINN. -- The tidy foreclosed house on Hunters Trail in Centerville will remain vacant for now. Someday in the not-too-distant future, a family will likely snap it up, welcomed no doubt with cookies and smiles by grateful neighbors. Such a better scenario than the four sexual predators who almost lived there.
Except that sexual predators were never coming.
The villains of this piece were not the four teenagers, none of whom is a sex offender. Instead, they are the same shadowy figures who seem to be showing up with frustrating regularity at most public debates now: Small-mindedness, mistrust and misinformation.
And, as usual, the biggest losers are the most vulnerable. In this case, the four teenaged boys with developmental disabilities who craved, and deserved, a chance to move into adulthood nearer to their families.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Age-Old Problem, Perpetually Absent Solution: Fitting Special Education to Students' Needs

As we gear up for the start of the school year, here is an interesting piece from Jay Mathews, an education reporter for The Washington Post. His assessment of the entire special education experience seems totally on target. Why do schools insist that a child fits into their program? Shouldn't the program be altered to fit the child's unique needs?

Miguel Landeros is a lanky, well-spoken 12-year-old about to begin seventh grade in Stafford County. He is severely learning disabled, with reading, writing and math skill levels at least two years below his peers, and needs special teaching, according to a licensed clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and other specialists.
Last February, Stafford officials refused to accept that evaluation and left him in regular classes. He performed poorly, failing all core subjects. Recently, they promised to give him more specialized services, but not the ones the experts who examined him say he needs.

University Awarded Grant to Study Coming of Age With Autism

The transition from teen to young adult involves many highly anticipated rites of passage. However, for youths with developmental disorders, coming of age may signal the sudden end of coverage for education and training programs, health insurance, and youth-oriented services. For teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families, this transition may be especially difficult. To better understand this issue and how best to address it, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded a five-year grant to Paul T. Shattuck, Ph.D., assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis

Monday, August 17, 2009

Program Provides Job Opportunities for People with Autism

GUILFORD, Conn. - Cliff Carter lost his job of 16 years last fall when Pinchbeck's Rose Farm, the last rose farm in Connecticut, went out of business. Owner Tom Pinchbeck shut down the family's 80-year-old enterprise because he could no longer compete with operations overseas.
Given the economy, prospects were far from encouraging. But now Carter is back on the farm, which has reopened thanks to a unique vocational program involving people with autism.
"It's nice to be back at work," said Carter, as he sorted Pinchbeck-grown roses on a recent afternoon. "There's not many places since the recession that have reopened."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Job Skills Blossom at Florida Nursery

PALM BAY, Fla. -- Bernard Fogle has found his own little piece of Eden, watering plants and watching them grow to their fullest potential.
I like roses because they remind me of my wife, Debbie," the 44-year-old disabled Melbourne man says as he readies for work at the Hearts And Hands plant nursery filled with rows of trees, herbs and plants. "I also like helping out and learning new stuff, how to do plantings."

Navigating Cerebral Palsy: Swimming in the Dark

From Lisa Belkin's Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting Blog at The New York Times:

David Sexton is a software development manager who lives in Hoboken, N.J., with his wife, their 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. When his son was found to have cerebral palsy a few months back, he turned to writing as a way to sort out his thoughts. His first post for Motherlode touched many of you, and he has started a blog with updates on how his family is navigating CP (and life in general) together. Some days, he writes in a guest blog today, are easier than others.

Father and Son to Speak at Down Syndrome World Congress Meeting

CHANDLER, Arizona -- Those with a narrow conception of people with Down Syndrome might feel a little uncomfortable when they first meet Bryan Lambke.
The 27-year-old resident actively participates in sports and has worked at the local bowling alley for five years. Oh, and then there's his left ear piercing and Aerosmith tattoo on his right arm.
Tom Lambke, Bryan's father, is quick to tell you that his son is anything but typical.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

N.J. Expands Coverage for Autism, Developmental Disability Therapies

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- New Jersey became the 15th state Thursay to enact a law requiring insurance companies to cover the screening and therapeutic treatment for children up to age 21 who are diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities.
The legislation overcame the opposition of business associations and insurance companies, who've predicted the measure will make health coverage unaffordable. Insurers have denied coverage for speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapies because they deemed it "educational," not medical in nature, or because the therapy would not restore a child's ability to speak if the child never could speak at all.

Help for Military Families With a Child on the Spectrum

When the Hollopeters, a Coast Guard family now living on the base in Fort Wadsworth, moved here from California last year, they thought their autistic son would be able to receive the same level of subsidized health care.
They were wrong.
Not only was Taylor, 7, deemed ineligible by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) because of the progress he had made, but the eight-month delay while the family appealed the ruling and then established subsequent care set him back socially, said his mother, Amy.
Now, an amendment being offered by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would help military families like Taylor's, who move every few years and must re-establish critical medical and social services in their new communities -- and are often faced with footing the bill to fill in the blanks.

Boy with Autism Fights to Keep Therapeutic Pet Pg

Lisa Pia says her autistic 8-year-old son, Anthony, was transformed last year at the sight of a potbellied pig.
"It was, 'Oh, Mommy!' ‘Look, Mommy!’ He went wild," remembers Pia, who was so struck by her little boy's reaction to the pig during a visit to a ranch 45 minutes from the family's home in Fayetteville, N.C., that they adopted her. But for the past month, the pig — christened Loopey — has been back at the ranch while the family fights an ordinance that prohibits keeping pigs in the city.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Autism Rate Now at 1 Percent of All Children?

From David Kirby of The Huffington Post
A pair of federally funded studies on autism rates is about to make news -- big news -- and it isn't good: It would appear that somewhere around one percent of all US children currently have an autism spectrum disorder. The rate is even higher among six to 11 year olds and among boys, according to data from at least one of the new studies.
If you are an expectant parent, or planning to have a child soon, you might want to sit down before absorbing these staggering statistics, recently released by the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
According to data from the 2007 telephone survey of parents of nearly 82,000 US children, the odds of a child receiving an ASD diagnosis are one in 63. If it is a boy, the chances climb to a science fiction-like level of one in 38, or 2.6% of all male children in America.

The Mother of the Special Olympics

To Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Tuesday, people with intellectual disabilities were “our special friends.”
Her friends, now in the millions, became the world’s friends, through the Special Olympics. They became messengers in her campaign to alter the attitudes of skeptical, often callous people about the limits of their capabilities. She understood that mentally retarded children could excel at sports and life.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Faithful Service

Washington Post journalist and author, Sally Quinn founded and co-moderates On Faith, a Washington Post and Newsweek blog about religion and its impact on global life.
Thirty-five years ago, a friend of mine gave birth to a girl with Down Syndrome and immediately put her in an institution. Everyone sympathized. My friend did the right thing, we all believed, not exposing her family to the shame of a damaged child. It was the proper way to deal with the situation.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Tuesday at age 88, changed all of our minds about that.

Special Farewell to Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Hundreds of Special Olympics athletes, families and organizers gathered to pay their respects Tuesday to the woman who gave them the chance to excel - their founder and greatest champion, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
“She has given me a chance to turn my challenges into opportunities,” said Special Olympian Colin Davidson, 26, of Shrewsbury. “You have changed the world. You have allowed us to live our lives with our head held high.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vermont Tops 50-State Ranking of Medicaid Services for People with Developmental Disabilities

Vermont provides the highest quality Medicaid services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while Mississippi provides the worst, according to a United Cerebral Palsy analysis released Wednesday.
The states with the best services are Vermont, Arizona and Alaska. Meanwhile Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi round out the bottom of the list of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Find out where your state stands >>)
The full report titled “The Case for Inclusion 2009″ can be found by clicking here.

Teen with Autism Finds Inner Voice

ABC's 20/20 revisited a teen with autism recently. Through typing, she is able to reveal her thoughts and let people know what it's like to have autism.

Alternative Treatment for Children with Autism

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Michael Giordano laid on the bed, put on headphones and pulled the covers over his shoulders. He looked into a colored light directly overhead and listened to sounds as the bed gently began to move.
The 15-year-old Tottenville resident has pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, which is along the autism spectrum. Through the years, his family has tried different treatments -- some which helped, other that didn't -- to aid his learning disabilities, limited language, eye contact and concentration.
Last summer, Gina Giordano decided to enroll her son in the Sensory Learning Program after Sensory Solutions opened in Grasmere. The alternative treatment integrates the vestibular (balance), visual (sight) and auditory (hearing) sensory systems to help those along the autism spectrum and others with sensory challenges function in everyday tasks.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Surfers Helping Children with Autism

Clair Arnold, 10, rode the long, slow wave into Tourmaline Beach and waved to family and friends cheering on the sand. She had stood up; she may appear on TV news; and she had spent the whole day boogie boarding with her sister. Clair had had a good day. Clair was one of around 50 children with autism who spent a recent afternoon surfing at Tourmaline Surf Park as part of the annual Surfers Healing event.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alabama Lawsuit Settled on Wait List for Disability Services

While this is great news for people with disabilities in Alabama, it doesn't seem to me that without increased funding it will have a tremendous impact on lessening the waiting time for services. Just look at New York State and how its NYS CARES initiatives helped address the wait list.

MONTGOMERY. Ala -- The state government has settled a 9-year-old lawsuit over the lengthy waiting list to get services for adults with mental disabilities.
The settlement does not force the state to spend more money on services, but a copy of the settlement provided by Attorney General Troy King says it will:
- provide a centralized telephone number for people to contact about receiving services.
- let applicants know within 90 days if they have been deemed eligible for services.
- provide an appeals process to families seeking services.
'This is going to be a much more open system for all people who are interested,' said James Tucker, an attorney for Alabama Disability Advocacy Program, which represented disabled adults in the litigation.

College for Students with Autism

The California State University East Bay campus in the Hayward hills is the site of an unusual experiment in higher education for people with autism. Starting in the fall quarter, college-age students with autism will be encouraged to attend and build an educational community; one that draws on their unusual academic strengths. The experiment will test the possibilities for these students in a university setting, and more generally the possibilities for a range of students with disabilities.
Read more:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hikers with Disabilities Mark Trail with Memorable Moments

Just a wonderful read from David Whiting, a columnist with The Orange County Register.

Hiking 800 feet above the azure sea off South Laguna, Louis Wallace turns around at the sound of his name and stops.
"Hey Louis, wait up," leader Anthony Palmeri shouts.
"You're a strong hiker," I yell ahead while standing next to Palmeri, a 25-year-old Mission Viejo resident and graduate of the University of California, Irvine.
Wallace grins.
"Yes I am," he hollers back, raising clenched fists in the air and striking a pose that would make a body builder proud.
It's an honest and beautiful moment in a hike filled with honest, beautiful moments. It's Saturday morning, and Palmeri has invited me along one of his weekly hikes with three young men he has come to know through his job as a special education aide at Tesoro High School in South Orange County.

Mayo Study Finds Anesthesia Not Harmful to Babies During Birth

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic researchers have found that children exposed to anesthesia during Cesarean section are not at any higher risk for learning disabilities later in life than children not delivered by C-section. These findings are reported in the current issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

Autism Affects Ability to Read Body Language

Problems processing visual information may stop those with autism from interpreting body language, harming their ability to gauge others' emotions, a study says.
Researchers from the University of Durham in England say people with autism have problems recognising physical displays of emotion, but also general difficulty perceiving certain sorts of motion.
With around half a million people in the UK affected by autism, the study suggests visual processing problems could be contributing to their day-to-day difficulties with social interaction.
The team studied 13 adults with autism and found the patients had difficulty identifying emotions such as anger or happiness when shown short animated video clips.

You can also learn more about the study from the University of Durham Web site

Monday, August 3, 2009

Asperger's Syndrome, on Screen and in Life

The three new movies would seem to have little in common: a romantic comedy about Upper West Side singles, a biopic about a noted animal science professor, and an animated film about an extended pen-pal relationship.
But all three revolve around Asperger’s syndrome, the complex and mysterious neurological disorder linked to autism. Their nearly simultaneous appearance — two open this summer, and the third is planned for next year — underscores how much Asperger’s and high-functioning autism have expanded in the public consciousness since Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic savant in “Rain Man” 21 years ago.

Pennsylvania School Districts Keeping Students with Autism Closer to Home

For Tammy Barton, a special education teacher in the Kiski Area School District, each autistic student is a puzzle to be solved.
"I love to try to figure out a way to reach them," she said. "You have to make it interesting for them. I have an autistic boy who is fascinated by the color green, so we make sure his pencils are green, his erasers are green. It helps him focus."
With the diagnosis of autism in the United States on the rise, teachers such as Barton are required to solve this kind of puzzle more and more. Over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of public school students diagnosed with autism has risen six-fold.
While many of these students do well in regular classes, children with the most severe forms of autism have historically been placed in special schools.
But changing interpretations of education law are pushing public schools to educate every student closer to home.
So over the past few years, more and more area districts have set up classrooms designed specifically for autistic students.

Colorado School District Turns to Private School to Teach Children with Autism

Interesting story from The Denver Post. Perhaps this is a glimpse of things to come?

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- "Are you ready?" Joshua School teacher Katharine Barnes asked the 11-year-old boy hiding behind shopping carts at the entrance to a SuperTarget store.
The boy has autism, and public settings make him freeze in fear. This shopping trip is part of his therapy at the Joshua School in Englewood, the only private school for children with autism in Colorado that is cleared by the Colorado Department of Education to receive state and district education funds.
"He has so much anxiety," Barnes said. "He's never come to a place this big. You can just see that inner battle."
As shoppers passed unaware, the boy crawled to a rack and then to another aisle and waited. Eventually, he stood and gingerly took a few steps. Before long, he was walking deep into the store with a smile on his face.
"That just makes you feel so good," Barnes said.
This year, 18 school-age kids and two preschoolers are enrolled in the 4-year-old Joshua School.