Monday, May 31, 2010

Yoga Helping Children on Spectrum

PLAINSBORO, N.J. - Nicole Calvano, smiling serenely and exuding limitless patience, sat the small gathering of children and parents in a circle.
Calvano, 28, of East Brunswick, yoga instructor and passionate advocate for children suffering autism in its seemingly infinite manifestations, waved her hand around the circle and invited everyone to imagine a garden.
The children, each afflicted with some behavioral challenge, and their parents closed their eyes.
"Smell the flowers," Calvano said, drawing in a slow, deep breath. She led the group in drawing eight breaths, exclaiming "ahhhhh" on the exhale. Daniel, 5, who had been antsy and distracted, followed Calvano's lead and sat quietly, focused on his breathing and enjoying the prolonged "ahhh." His sister, Caroline, 14, sat beside him and breathed peacefully.
"He's a boy in typical ways, but other things are not typical," said Daniel's mother, Katerina Bubnovsky of Princeton Township, alluding to her son's abrupt outbursts of anger. "The breathing is very calming to him. We are able to use that every day."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Non-Profits Feeling the Pain

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- As state lawmakers meet this week in attempts to pass a budget, non-profit charitable organizations wait to see if their already decreased funding will take a bigger hit.
St. Coletta’s of Illinois Foundation is among the service-based organizations in this area to suffer as a result of the recession and the state’s growing budget deficit.
St. Coletta’s provides job training, housing, social and other services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and other persons with short-term needs. It is based in Tinley Park, formerly in Palos Park.
"The problem is the inconsistency in payment (from the state,)" said Wayne Kottmeyer, executive director of St. Coletta’s. "For a non-profit, it’s a very difficult hardship."

Oklahoma Center Slated For Closing Stays Open

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. — Southern Oklahoma Resource Center will not be closed this year.
The center for those with severe developmental and physical disabilities was targeted for closure Friday in a bill passed by a special House budget committee.
House Bill 2456 had been on its way to the House for consideration, but now it appears it will not get an audience
State Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell, said House Speaker Chris Benge has assured her the bill will not be heard, allowing it to die this legislative session. She said a legislative study is planned for the fall, when lawmakers can hear both sides before making a decision. She said the study will allow a thorough review of the issue and lay out the pros and cons of the proposal to the families of those living at the center.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Companion Dog Helps Teen With Autism

TUSCUMBIA,Ohio - Lorelai wouldn't allow a little rainfall to ruin Hudson Kendrick's day.
During a recent stormy afternoon, the Bernese Mountain dog hung diligently with Hudson, a 14-year-old who has autism.
Hudson was visibly upset and pointed toward the sky to show his parents, Joel and Lisa Kendrick, that it was raining.
"Storms scare him," Lisa Kendrick said. With a soothing voice, Hudson's mom assured him that he's OK. She then said, "Pet Lorelai."
The dog nudged against Hudson and he stroked her back a few times.
"People ask, 'What can a dog do for Hudson?'" Joel Kendrick said. "It's hard to explain. There's so many little things. They add up to big things."

Prime-Time TV Tackles Autism

(CNN) -- In a scene from NBC's "Parenthood," two parents are attempting to get their 8-year-old son ready for school. The child insists on wearing a pirate costume to class, again. His father asks him to take it off so he won't get teased. His mother says it's OK, mainly so she can get him out the door on time.
It could be a scene from any prime-time comedy. But its context in "Parenthood" is unusual.
The 8-year-old boy, the son of main characters Adam and Kristina Braverman, has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
Perhaps because tackling a sensitive issue such as living with a child with special needs can take a deft touch from the writers, producers and actors, a storyline dealing with autism spectrum disorders isn't something that's been portrayed often in Hollywood.
The most recent regular prime-time character with Asperger's was Jerry Espenson on ABC's "Boston Legal." The character's run lasted from 2005 until the show ended in 2008. Another ABC show, "Grey's Anatomy," introduced a short term character during the 2008-2009 seasons. Dr. Virginia Dixon appeared in a three-episode arc.
"Parenthood" is one of the few shows that have included a regular character with Asperger's from the beginning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Caution Urged As Autism Web Sites Boom

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- When Connie Anderson's son was diagnosed with autism a decade ago, she scoured the Internet looking for treatments.
"I tried all sorts of things I now consider bananas," said Anderson, now community scientific liaison at Kennedy Krieger Institute's Interactive Autism Network. "At the time it didn't feel like nonsense. It was hope. People will try all sorts of things to help their child, sometimes even against their better judgment."
Since Anderson's son was diagnosed, the number of Web sites devoted to autism and autism treatments has multiplied. While a 1999 study counted about 100,000 autism Web sites, entering the term "autism" into the three major search engines today yields more than 17.4 million results, according to new research.
In a study presented recently at the International Meeting for Autism Research, experts analyzed about 160 of the most visited autism Web sites to determine how often they met measures of quality and accountability, including whether or not the site was selling something; if citations about research supposedly showing the efficacy of a treatment included author identification and references; if the information was current; and if the site asked visitors for personal information (a red flag).
Most sites did not meet all of the criteria for quality, said lead study author Brian Reichow, a post-doctoral associate at Yale University Child Study Center. And about 17 percent of the sites offered or sold treatments that had little or no scientific support.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Controversial Autism Doctor Vows He's 'Not Going Away'

The doctor who suggested a possible link between childhood vaccines and autism stands by his theory and said on Monday that he will continue his research despite having his medical license revoked Monday.
In a TODAY exclusive, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the most famous face behind the movement of those who believe autism is linked to the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), remains convinced that he is on the right side of the facts, and says he will not be silenced — even after England’s General Medical Council yanked his license to practice medicine.

Scanning Babies Brains for Autism

By taking scans of sleeping children, researchers are discovering what occurs in the brains of babies and young children with autism.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to peer at images of the children's brains, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that autistic children as young as 14 months use different brain regions than youngsters with more typical development when hearing bedtime stories.
The findings suggest that even very early on, the brains of those with autism work differently than typical babies. They also help explain why failure of language comprehension is a "red flag" for babies with autism, according to the study's author, Eric Courchesne, director of the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence.

Bill Would Close Oklahoma Institution

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In a tearful plea, Sen. Susan Paddack urged members of a Senate budget panel to reconsider legislation that allows the closing of a Pauls Valley facility for people who have severe mental and physical disabilities.
"We have to be morally responsible,” said Paddack, D-Ada. "These people rely on us to make good public policy. This isn’t good policy. These are some of our most fragile citizens. This requires much more study.”
House Bill 2456 gives the Department of Human Services the authority to close the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley. The bill does not give a closing date.

Monday, May 24, 2010

U.K. Bans Doctor Who Linked Vaccine to Autism

LONDON (AP)— Britain's top medical group ruled Monday that a doctor who claimed autism was linked to a childhood vaccine can no longer practice in the U.K.
The General Medical Council also found Dr. Andrew Wakefield guilty of "serious professional misconduct" as it struck him from the country's medical register. The council was investigating how Wakefield and colleagues carried out their research, not the science behind it.

Research Points to New Causes of Autism

Could delayed childbearing, infertility treatment, and premature birth contribute to autism?
Research presented last week in Philadelphia suggests the answer is yes
The International Meeting for Autism Research, attended by more than 1,700 scientists and advocates at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, offered provocative findings from studies of large population groups. Such epidemiological research can uncover risk factors that are too subtle to detect in small groups or individuals.
At this point, experts can only guess at the biological basis for the links they're finding. And those clues are not enough to recommend changes in, for example, infertility treatment.
Still, knowing who may be at risk of autism could improve diagnosis, which might enable earlier intervention.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Special-Needs Ministry Is a Two-Way Street

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (ABP) — Churches that do a good job of including members with special needs like autism often reap side benefits of a positive witness to their community and sometimes even numerical growth, says an expert in disability ministries.
"I’m beginning to hear more and more stories of congregations who are saying, 'Out of our inclusive work with people with autism and their families, it’s changing us as well and for the better,'" said Bill Gaventa, director of community and congregational supports at the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities in New Brunswick, N.J.
"Spiritually," he explained, "but also people are talking about that in terms of numbers and church growth, because of people who have felt welcome and are coming and the word has gotten out that this is a welcoming place and congregation."
Special-needs ministry is a two-way street, he stressed.
"Part of this is about helping people and children with autism to learn how to be members of different faith communities, but it’s also about helping that whole faith community to realize what it means for anybody to be a member of that community," he said. "It’s a dual process of helping somebody to learn the culture but also helping a community to look at its own culture."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Facing Hard Health Choices

Clare Ansberry of The Wall Street Journal once again shows how budget cuts are impacting not only people with developmetnal disabilities but their families. These are people's lives we are talking about! Thank you Clare.

FLORENCE, S.C. — Home health care — funded largely by Medicaid — generally costs less money than institutionalizing people with developmental disabilities. But the political reality is that it's easier to cut back home services than to close a 24-hour facility, which can leave people with nowhere to go. Thus, some of the biggest cuts around the country are happening in the basic services that help the disabled cope at home.
But many in-home services, though critical to those receiving them, are optional. Furthermore, there aren't many minimum standards set for in-home services, so it's easier to cut them without violating funding requirements. There are fewer immediate consequences for the state when it cuts those services because families won't generally abandoned disabled relatives and leave states on the hook for housing.
Cutting home care could ultimately prove penny-wise and pound-foolish, however. It could push more people into institutions or large group homes because that is where services are guaranteed, even though institutional care is more expensive.

What Happens To Young Adults With Autism

Powerful story from WCSH6 in Portland, Maine that highlights a story that has been ignored long enough by the media. What happens when children with autism and grow up and become adults? It's a whole new ballgame. Kudos to WCSH6 for this story. Be sure to watch the video.

GARDINER, Maine (WSCH6 NEWS CENTER) -- Since kindergarten, Kevin Stevens of Gardiner has received school based services to help him with his developmental problems. But those programs which helped make huge strides in learning social skills end when stevens graduates next month. His father says who is going provide support for his son well into adulthood -- is always on his mind.
"There is always those times when you feel it's your darkest hour. Where you're thinking about i'm getting older, kevin's getting older, you do think about that a lot actually." said Dan Stevens, Kevin's Father.

Censured Doctor Confident He Will Resume Autism Research In Austin

AUSTIN, Tex. -- Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who came to Austin after fueling a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism, said Wednesday that he expects to have his British medical license yanked next week in a final effort by the mainstream medical establishment to silence him and stop his research.
It won't work, said Wakefield, who insisted he is more convinced than ever that he was right 12 years ago when he suggested a link between vaccines, gastrointestinal illness and autism, despite scientific studies contradicting such a link. He said he will get back to his research in Austin soon, working with Dr. Arthur Krigsman, who was with him at the Thoughtful House Center for Children, where Wakefield was executive director before resigning in February.
In January, the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the United Kingdom, found Wakefield, 53, guilty of acting dishonestly and irresponsibly in researching children with autism in England.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Autism's Effect on Siblings

TENAFLY, N.J. -- When Gabby Abramowitz was younger, she was cautious about inviting new friends to the house. She wasn't sure how they would react to her younger brother, Ben, who is autistic.
And she didn't want a repeat of the Simpsons incident. That was the time she had a friend over for dinner, and Ben sat at the table reciting the entire "Treehouse of Horror" Simpsons Halloween special.
Gabby pleaded with him to stop, but he persisted.
"My friend was like, 'What's going on?' and then started laughing," she said.
At that time, she was in elementary school and lacked the words and understanding to explain her brother's condition. But with the help of her parents and through her own study, Gabby, now 16 and a sophomore at Tenafly High School, has grown to understand the nuances of autism and often speaks out to teach her peers while growing closer to Ben, 14.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Prom Where Actions Speak Louder Than Words

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The music went silent and students crowded the stage for the big announcement.
Prom King and Queen of the Spring Social, an annual prom for students with autism, were about to be named.
``These two have been dancing from the moment we got here,'' said Natalie Sanz, a teacher for students with autism at North Miami Beach High School.
Students jostled around the stage in a St. Thomas University ballroom, growing impatient and pointing to themselves.
``Me! Me! I want to be king,'' they yelled.
Finally, Sanz called out the names of this year's prom court: Justin Marrero, 15, a student at American High; and Brittany Oliver, 17, a student at North Miami Beach High.
They grinned and were led to the stage, where a plastic-and-rhinestone crown was placed on the queen's head. The king was crowned with a red velvet hat.
Neither said a word. But standing on stage with their crowns on their heads, Justin and Brittany didn't need to say anything to show how they felt. They smiled big for flashing cameras and jumped off the stage.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sam Champion of GMA Inspired By Sister's Drive For Autism Cure

Check out this piece by ABC-TV's Good Morning America Anchor Sam Champion.

Since I was a young boy, I've always looked up to my big sister Teresa.
Most Likely to Succeed, she aced law school, married a naval aviator -- John Quigley -- and next became a mom.
It seemed there was nothing she couldn't do.
Her first child was a girl, my beautiful niece Sydney.
Then, two years later, more family joy when the boy in the family, my nephew James, was born.
But when James was about 1 ½ years old, my sister noticed a sudden change.
"He would just stare. And there would be no response," Teresa Champion told "Good Morning America." "And he stopped responding to his name. It's like somebody flicked the light switch."'
She sometimes felt as through James' condition was her fault.
James was 2 years old when Teresa finally heard the diagnosis that would have crushed any parent.
The doctor said James had moderate to severe autism

Saturday Night Is Party Time at Church

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — "Hello!" "How are you today?" "Glad you could make it!"
These greetings are often offered as throwaway salutations, but not at this party. Those extending the greetings mean them, every word. And, because this is not your typical party, many are happy just to have an opportunity to extend the greeting at all.
For the past three years, The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on the corner of Mathistown Road and Route 9 has hosted "Saturday Night Social" — an event that gives adults with developmental disabilities or brain injuries an opportunity to break from routine and have some fun.

Study Links Pesticide and ADHD

Studies linking environmental substances to disease are coming fast and furious. Chemicals in plastics and common household goods have been associated with serious developmental problems, while a long inventory of other hazards are contributing to rising rates of modern ills: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autism.
Add attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the list. A new study in the journal Pediatrics associates exposure to pesticides to cases of ADHD in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen 3% a year between 1997 and 2006. Increasingly, research suggests that chemical influences, perhaps in combination with other environmental factors — like video gaming, hyperkinetically edited TV shows and flashing images in educational DVDs aimed at infants — may be contributing to the increase in attention problems.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Artists With Disabilities Display Vision

A one-of-a-kind art gallery in Manhattan is showcasing the work of artists with developmental disabilities. Check out Cheryl Wills report from New York 1 News.

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- With every stroke of the paint brush, Leon McCutcheon is perfecting his latest masterpiece. The 51-year-old Manhattan man has a mild developmental disability, but he has major talent. And it's all on display at the Pure Vision Arts Gallery in Chelsea.
"I'm really excited. Incredible. I never realized I did so much work," McCutcheon said.
Pure Vision Arts is the first and only studio and exhibition space in the city exclusively for artists with neuro-developmental challenges. During the day, artists paint, draw and sculpt. On some nights, their art tables are cleared out to make way for a swank exhibit.

Autism: Helping Our Children Figure Out the "Social" World

From Laura Schumaker's autism blog from The San Francisco Chronicle.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Since I have promised my 23 year old son Matthew, who has autism, that I'll help him meet some "nice girls," I thought I'd check in with the bay area's Michelle Garcia Winner, an internationally recognized expert in the field of social relationships for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Wherever your child is on the autism spectrum, chances are that they will need help deciphering the rules of social relationships lifelong.
Today, Michelle tells a story that shows how the concept of "Social Thinking" works, and why the concept is changing the way parents and professionals think about treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Finding her Niche

SPRING HILL, Fla. - Starla Sansom places another peeled eggplant into the slicing machine and smiles.
Sansom, who has developmental disabilities, has finally found a place where she can shine, where she can show her skills, where she fits in. At Mr. G's Foods, Sansom works on the assembly line making eggplant parmesan, which will be delivered to restaurants all over the country.

Friday, May 14, 2010

With Intervention, Wisconsin Student Thrives in School and Music

MADISON, Wis. -- When Christopher Xu turned 2, his mother’s worst fears were confirmed. The other babies at her son’s birthday party babbled, gestured and used simple words as they played and interacted with their parents and each other. But Christopher was different.
“He was locked in his own world,” Sophia Sun recalls. “No eye contact. No pointing. No laughing at cartoons or looking at me when I talk to him.”
Now Christopher is 11, and he will soon graduate from the fifth grade at Madison’s John Muir Elementary to head off to middle school. Thanks to the love and persistence of his family, powerful early training, insightful teachers and accepting classmates, his story has changed dramatically, and his remarkable abilities are increasingly apparent.
He is among Wisconsin’s most gifted math students, recently earning top state honors among 1,477 students in the American Mathematics Competition for grades 8 and under. In another math competition, he placed third against high school students. He is his school’s chess champion. He is an excellent musician with perfect pitch who’s composing his own work with the help of a UW music school doctoral candidate. And he’s a top city speller.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Study Challenges One View of Autism

There is something obviously different in the brains of people with autism, and one of the chief symptoms of that is the difficulty they have in understanding other people's emotions and intentions.
But exactly what causes that is still being debated among neuroscientists -- and the debate only got sharper on Wednesday.
That's when scientists from New York and Pittsburgh published a study in the journal Neuron that concludes that one of the most prominent theories for what causes social problems in autism is flatly wrong.
The theory involves brain cells known as mirror neurons, which were first discovered in monkeys' brains about 15 years ago, and have since been identified in the human brain.
Mirror neurons are active not only when someone performs an action, like grabbing a cup, but when he sees someone else do the same thing.
That led to the idea that mirror neurons might be the basis of empathy -- understanding someone else's motives and goals -- and that notion was strengthened by some studies that seemed to show less activity in mirror neurons in people with autism.
The Neuron study, however, found just the opposite.

Missouri Lawmakers Send Autism Bill to Governor

JEFFERSON CITY -- Lawmakers sent to the governor Wednesday a bill requiring Missouri health insurers to cover therapies and treatments for autism.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has long supported the mandate and called its passage "a dramatic and positive step forward." If he signs the bill, it will go into effect Jan. 1.
Passage of the autism insurance bill is the culmination of years of legislative efforts and lengthy discussions over the last four months.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Opinion: Balancing Decision Making and Independence

Interesting column by Tara Kiene,director of case management with Community Connections Inc.

DURANGO, Colo. -- Sometimes the freedom to make choices means having the opportunity to choose poorly.
For many years, people with developmental disabilities were not supported or allowed to make choices. They were locked into institutions in sterile, controlled environments, to assure their safety and the safety of the community.
Today, individuals with developmental disabilities live and work in our communities and have many more opportunities to seek independence and lead fulfilling lives. Part of living independently is making choices for yourself. There is an innate risk in making a choice. Sometimes, you choose the wrong thing. Sometimes, that wrong choice can affect your health or safety. But if someone takes away all chances of making a wrong choice, are you really getting to choose? So, how does a person with disabilities and her caregivers balance her right to make decisions in her own life with the need to assure that those decisions do not negatively affect her health and safety? How does an individual with developmental disabilities exercise his right to make decisions without the risk of someone taking that right away if all his decisions aren't perfect?
This is the balancing act faced every day by people with disabilities and their service providers.

D.C. To Name New Head of Agency

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Post's Henri Cauvin reports that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is installing a new leader at the city's long troubled developmental disabilities agency, which has been the subject of a class action lawsuit for more than three decades.
The appointment of Deputy Director Laura Nuss to head the Department on Disability Services is expected to be announced this morning, a few hours before District officials are to appear in federal court for a hearing in the class action case.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Health Care Reform May Reduce Costs for Autism Therapies

PLANO, Texas -- The health insurance overhaul passed this spring came as a relief to parents of autistic children, many of whom spend thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatments that no one else will cover.
Plano mother MariAnn Gattelaro has waged a long fight for coverage of behavioral therapy for her son Sam, 7, who has autism. Insurers say the therapy is educational, she says, while 'the school district is telling us that it's medical.' The new federal regulations will prohibit spending caps, prevent insurers from excluding pre-existing conditions and behavioral health care, and extend dependent care to age 26. The rules are potentially good news for families struggling with costly treatments that can blur the line between medical and educational expenses and don't end with childhood.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Debating Expected Closing of 5 Insitutions in N.J.

TRENTON — Anticipating action soon on a controversial bill that calls for closing five of the seven institutions for people with developmental disabilities, hundreds of families, disabled people and state and private workers Friday appeared before a special legislative panel to debate the future without these facilities.
Some who used to live in these institutions, also known as developmental centers, pleaded with legislators to allow more people to leave and lead more independent lives.
But there was equally emotional testimony from parents who argue their disabled children are safer and better cared for at the developmental centers, where employees are better compensated and trained and have established relationships with their clients.

Students Learn Job Interview Skills

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — They looked like they were being wheeled into an operating room for open-heart surgery.
One by one, they were led from a waiting area in Atrium Medical Center’s Professional Building into conference rooms where they were greeted by two strangers.
Not for surgery.
For an interview.

Feds Sue Arkansas Over Treatment of People with Disabilities

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The federal government has accused Arkansas in a lawsuit of leaving people with severe mental or physical disabilities with no choice but to go into state institutions.
The Justice Department lawsuit accused Arkansas of a "systemic failure" that places people in institutions when the state should pursue less restrictive avenues for their care.
The federal government accused the state of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees people with developmental disabilities the right to live in the most appropriate setting for their needs.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Willowbrook Survivors Recall Dark Days

One of the many highlights of the YAI Network's recent 31st Annual International Conference was when three former Willowbrook residents, who now receive residential services from YAI, thanked Geraldo Rivera for his efforts in exposing the horrors of of Willowbrook. Barbara, who today is 72, thanked Geraldo for "saving my life."

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Building 32 was bad. But Building 5 was undeniably worse.
If you were a patient in Building 5, you risked burning to death in the shower. Or being tossed from your cold, metal bed onto the even colder floor in the middle of the night.
Three former patients from the long-shuttered Willowbrook State School recalled moments of horror during a reunion of sorts on April 26 at the Hilton New York, where they presented journalist Geraldo Rivera with a plaque for helping to uncover the deplorable conditions at the facility. Rivera's 1972 piece garnered national attention and led to reforms at Willowbrook, which was shut down in 1987.
The Advance began uncovering questionable practices at the institution, which was meant to treat children and adults with mental disabilities, in the mid-1960s.
"It was like a badly run kennel for humans," he said during a speech at an event sponsored by the YAI Network, a nonprofit that aids people with disabilities. "It was something that shook me to my core. It was something that affected me more deeply than anything has."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Restaurant Day Focuses on Sensory Issues for Preschoolers With Special Needs

On Tuesday, Lynette Raheb, a reporter from the New York Daily News, tagged along with a class from the YAI Network's Harry H. Gordon Preschool in the Bronx. The 10 youngsters, who all have developmental disabilities, explored the old New York offerings on the famed Arthur Avenue, and learned how to make mozzarella, pasta, pizza and cookies. Every year, local businesses open their doors to their young neighbors for a day of fun, community and learning. Watch the video below and be sure to read the full Daily News article.

Making Strides For Inclusion

TRENTON - A Hamilton man with cerebral palsy walked straight into a controversy Monday when he embarked on a trek to the White House to support the closure of New Jersey developmental centers in favor of community placements for residents there.
Under a pair of identical bills being considered by New Jersey's Legislature, five of the state's seven developmental centers would close over the next five years, and most residents would move into group homes. By redistributing funds, the bills would aim to house more people and avoid institutionalization.
And while some families of center residents are against the change, 24-year-old Wayne Baker says he's all for it.

Parenting Teens With Autism

From the Boston Globe's In the Parenthood blog

One of the hardest things about parenting older kids who are on the autism spectrum is recognizing that the issues they're dealing with as teens are very different from the ones they dealt with in elementary school. It's so much easier -- and more comfortable -- for us to think about birthday parties and playground friendships than it is to tackle the prom and dating, isn't it?
"Suddenly, the question is not simply, 'How do I teach my child this or that?' but a much more complicated 'How do I teach my child not to need me to teach him anymore?'" writes Claire Scovell LaZebnik, who has an 18-year-son on the spectrum, in Growing Up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Child With Autism Interviews Mom About Raising Him

Interesting video on Huffington Post this morning.

In Dave Isay's new book, "MOM," he collects the best pieces of mom-related stories from StoryCorps. Over six years, the organization put up booths where normal people could interview each other about anything they wanted. This one, just animated by StoryCorps, is a 12-year-old autistic boy interviewing his mom about what it's like to raise him. We were struck by his perceptiveness, his mom's honesty, and the amazing relationship that comes through in just four minutes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Autism and the Media

Just a brilliant piece by Neil S. Greenspan, immunologist and clinical pathologist in Cleveland, on Huffington Post. Realize that journalists are looking for stories that will get hits on the Web, sell papers and attract viewers, but sometimes these stories may not reflect the real struggles and challenges.

In the United States, April was National Autism Awareness month. Whether or not media coverage of autism increased over the past few weeks, there was already a great deal of coverage. Unfortunately, much of that coverage has been focused more on raising awareness than advancing understanding. A recent interview on National Public Radio (NPR) illustrates some of the recurring weaknesses of many of these articles, radio segments, and television features.
There is a tendency for groups that serve or advocate on behalf of those with disabilities to focus on individual success stories, even if rare, to fend off the prejudice and even hostility that sometimes arise in the general public and are directed towards those with various diagnostic labels. I saw this first hand with elements of the learning disabilities (LD) community that, at least in some instances, were reluctant to acknowledge that some kids with LD are below average in standard measures of intelligence. The most vulnerable members of this population actually had even fewer options than the individuals who could be presented to the broader public as pretty much "regular" kids, with their "learning differences" minimized.
A human interest story about an individual's struggles with a disability that is tied up in a pretty metaphorical bow at the end of the piece will undoubtedly attract more reader/listener/viewer attention than a more demanding discursive, analytical discussion, especially if the conclusions are not upbeat. Perhaps, it would be counterproductive to completely eliminate the uplifting narratives focused on one individual at a time, but if understanding, not just awareness, of autism is to be advanced, a bit more of the sort of journalism focused on conveying information and not just eliciting emotion will be needed.

Ousted State Senator Takes To Boxing Ring for Autism

NEW YORK -- This time, his fighting skills are going to good use.
Disgraced ex-state Sen. Hiram Monserrate has agreed to climb into the ring to raise money for kids with autism.
It's a subject that hits home: His teen son is autistic.
"I hope to become a leaner and nicer Hiram because of this," said the Queens pol, who was booted from Albany in February by fellow pols after he was found guilty of beating girlfriend Karla Giraldo.

TV Academy To Honor Shows 'With a Conscience'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" episode about prejudice and a documentary, "Unlocking Autism," about efforts to understand the causes of autism and to find therapies to treat the developmental disability, are among eight programs to be honored Wednesday for demonstrating the power of TV.
The third annual Television Academy Honors spotlighting shows found to exemplify "television with a conscience" will be hosted by Dana Delany. Presenters are scheduled to include former Vice President Al Gore, Joel Grey and Maria Shriver, the first lady of California and former NBC News correspondent.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Opinion: Safety Must Be Ensured in N.J.

From the Star Ledger's Editorial Page.

NEWARK, N.J. -- Tara O’Leary was just 28 when she died in the care of the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Doctors say she starved to death. She weighed 48 pounds.
Authorities say O’Leary was kept in a room that reeked of urine, neglected by caretaker Debra Sloan in a state-licensed foster home in Bloomsbury. And while O’Leary crawled in her own feces, caseworker Bridget Grimes wrote sunny reports that described her happily playing with puzzles and longing for piano lessons.
When O’Leary finally was rushed to the hospital after months of neglect, it was too late to save her; she died in November 2008.
Sloan and Grimes have been indicted on 17 counts, including aggravated assault, official misconduct and neglect. The Division of Developmental Disabilities insisted this was an isolated case. But a lawsuit said another woman who had been in Sloan’s care passed away from an untreated intestinal infection after moving to another home.
On Friday, the governor signed legislation that will create a registry of paid caregivers and volunteers who have abused, neglected or exploited individuals with developmental disabilities.
There are 41,000 developmentally disabled persons under the state’s care. Are they safe? Are they fed? Are they healthy? Are caseworkers doing their jobs? Is anyone watching them? We need definitive answers.

Study: Gender Dictates Autism Symptoms

Nice job by the students at the University of Oregon's student newspaper.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Recent studies have found that males and females with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience different symptoms according to gender. Educators and students in the education field still have a lot to learn about ASD.
"We don’t get it like we thought we did," said Mary Ann Winter-Messiers, coordinator of Project Preparing Autism Specialists for Schools.
A lecture and training session Friday, titled "Understanding Girls on the Autism Spectrum: We Have a Lot to Learn," welcomed students, professors, professionals and the parents of children with ASD. The speakers focused on new information that shows females with autism have different symptoms than males with autism.
Historically, little research attention has been paid to females.