Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking Fear Out of Halloween for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

WALPOLE, Mass. — After ringing the front doorbell, 7-year-old Jack Carfarelli stood by silently, holding a plastic pumpkin while tugging nervously on his skeleton costume. The door opened into a darkened classroom, where a scary-looking witch knelt, candy bowl in hand.
"Happy Halloween," said the witch.
Jack, a child with autism, appeared anxious yet still said nothing. Around his neck hung a small touch-screen computer. He hesitated, then activated the machine's vocalization app to say "Trick or treat!" on his behalf.
Halloween trick-or-treating, a holiday ritual millions of families will partake in this weekend, seems about as simple as such rituals get. A costume or mask, an old pillowcase and flashlight, some well-rehearsed politeness, and presto: a bagful of treats to take home, along with happy memories.
But for students at the League School of Greater Boston, which serves children on the autism spectrum, no ritual is ever quite that simple, no social transaction as straightforward as a giggly boo for a chocolate bar. Each step must be painstakingly choreographed. Each unexpected encounter — Is that scary witch real? Are those barking dogs going to attack me? — needs accounting for.

Home for Young Adults with Disabilities May Close

EVANSTON, Ill. -- The rights for people with severe disabilities to live in a community is a personal choice. But due to age restrictions this may no longer be possible.
Families who have medically fragile young adults with developmental disabilities who are currently living in Chicago-area group homes are worried about their children's futures -- especially when there are not many options.
Located in Evanston, this beautiful house is home for eight young adults. Each of them have their own room with a wide range of activities provided by professional staff.
This is one of two specialized community-based living facilities that the Anixter Center, a not-for-profit organization, operates.
Kevin Limbeck is the president and CEO.
"The state of Illinois asked us to build this facility because they're medically fragile young adults with disabilities," said Limbeck. "They have special needs that other children with disabilities their age don't have."
This summer they received a letter from the state saying funding will be cut due to an individual's age.

Friday, October 29, 2010

N.J. Parents of Adult Children with Autism Searching for Services

Cathy Douma’s autistic son has languished for five years on a state priority list for housing for developmentally disabled adults. She got a status letter recently. Jeffrey, 26, is number 2,395.
"When my husband and I die, what will happen?" worries Douma, of Morris Township, N.J., who is in her late 50s.
Douma's concerns are shared by many New Jersey parents whose adult autistic children are aging out of the public school system in record numbers, but still need help managing day to day.

Phony Autism Therapist Gets 3 Years in Jail

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Convicted autism therapist impersonator Stacy Lore showed no emotion as the parents of some of the special needs children she victimized made impassioned statements to the court Thursday before Lore was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of probation.
Margaret Bustell sobbed uncontrollably and addressed many of her comments directly to Lore. "My son was mute. He couldn't talk. Instead of teaching him signs like eat and tired, she taught him animal signs like cow and dog."
Lore, 34, of Carmel, N.Y., pleaded guilty to larceny, fraud and misrepresenting her credentials in working for the Norwalk schools as an autism counselor via Spectrum Kids LLC. She was paid more than $150,000 for that work. She also faces charges in Weston, where she was paid $300,000 for similar work. She also was employed by the Stamford school system. She has been in custody since March.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kuwait Visits U.S. Seeking Models for Residents with Disabilities

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Hani Qasem watched the workers at Valley Industries in Hazelwood. With a smile, he lifted his cell phone to his eyes, aimed carefully and took a photograph.
For a few minutes, he looked like a typical tourist. However, he wasn't in St. Louis on vacation. He and two colleagues were on a learning mission.
Qasem, Adel F. Deen and Mohammed Khajah are members of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR). They were visiting St. Louis for two days, touring different sheltered workshop centers to find ways to help Kuwait adults with developmental disabilities.

Bakery Puts People with Disabilities to Work

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- Adam Robbins is eating a fresh-out-of-the-oven brownie when I call him at his job at the Sweet Comfort Bakery & Café in Port Washington, New York. It's one of the perks of working for the bakery, which was created to give jobs to people like him, who live with developmental disabilities.
"I like my job," says Robbins. "I like helping the customers out. It's very exciting for me."
Right now, unemployment for people with developmental disabilities is at an historic high, according to the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy. While the national unemployment level is around nine percent, unemployment for people with mental retardation, autism, Down syndrome and other conditions is more than 14 percent.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indiana Parents Told to Leave Children with Severe Disabilities at Homeless Shelter

This echoes what happened in New York State about 12 years ago when people were leaving children and adults with developmental disabilities at an airport shelter in Westchester County.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's budget crunch has become so severe that some state workers have suggested leaving severely disabled people at homeless shelters if they can't be cared for at home, parents and advocates said.
They said workers at Indiana's Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services have told parents that's one option they have when families can no longer care for children at home and haven't received Medicaid waivers that pay for services that support disabled people living independently.
Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Family and Social Services Administration, the umbrella agency that includes the bureau, said suggesting homeless shelters is not the agency's policy and workers who did so would be disciplined.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dance Without Limits

DES MOINES -- Isabella Bebout followed the directions like a pro.
Jump over the stuffed frog. Twirl. Jump over the bunny, then over the penguin. March in a line, curtsy and take a seat near the wall.
The 5-year-old from Ankeny finished her routine and plopped down on the floor in her pink leotard, unaware that her parents were beaming from behind an observation window into the studio. The past few years have been a struggle, but in this moment, at least, life was good.
Isabella is one of a half dozen students in the younger section of Dance Without Limits, a class Ballet Des Moines designed for 4- to 9-year-old children with physical and mental disabilities.

Report: Medicaid Autism Treatment 22k per Child

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The total health care expenditure per child with autism spectrum disorders was $22,079 in 2000 and rose to $22,772 in 2003, researchers say.
Drs. Li Wang and Douglas Leslie of Pennsylvania State College of Medicine used Medicaid data from 42 states from 2000 to 2003 to evaluate costs for patients of autism spectrum disorders age 17 and under who were continuously enrolled in fee-for-service Medicaid

Monday, October 25, 2010

Homecoming Extra Special for Teen with Autism

OK, it's Monday. If you need a little inspiration to kick off the week, check this out.

SWANSBORO, N.C. -- The crowd erupted in cheers during Swansboro High School’s homecoming game, but it wasn’t over a great play on the field. It was over the newly crowned homecoming king and queen.
Junior Jordan Rogers and Senior Brittney McGee, both 17, walked across the football field to accept their new royal roles as Pirate fans applauded the school’s pick.
The queen had won their loyalty; the king had won their hearts.
When Brittney won the nomination for homecoming court, she wasn’t sure who to pick for an escort. Her mom suggested using the opportunity to do something special for someone else.
Brittney knew that out of every guy in the school, there was only one perfect choice.
"I thought of Jordan," she said.
Diagnosed with autism and cerebral palsy at age 2, Jordan’s mom Jenny Rogers, said doctor’s told her his future was limited.

Premature Birth Puzzle

Every year approximately 12.9 million babies—roughly 10 percent of all newborns around the world—are born too early, which is to say, before 37 weeks in utero. Despite a heroic, costly, and decades-long effort by doctors and scientists to understand and prevent preterm birth, that number has climbed steadily for the past three decades. In the U.S. alone, premature births are up 40 percent since 1980. Meanwhile, as modern medicine helps more and more of those babies survive, doctors and scientists have found themselves confronted with a new dilemma: how to prevent the string of neurological problems and developmental disabilities that plague many premature babies as they grow into children and adults.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Young New Yorker with Autism Shines at Opera

Larry Oliveri, 18, of Staten Island has been sharing his passion for opera for the past four years.
"I just love to sing and share my passion of music," says Oliveri. "When I started singing I got into Andrea Bocelli, I got into [Luciano] Pavarotti, Juan Diego Florez, Roberto Alagna," says Larry.
"When I hear Larry sing, it's just simply beautiful because we never expected it from him given his diagnosis of autism, and it brings tears and joy to a lot of people," says Paul Oliveri, Larry's father.
Larry was diagnosed with autism when he was three years ago. His father says the Seton Foundation for Learning helped Larry find his passion.

Struggling with Unemployment

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Steve Barela can't wait to get to work in the morning. Sure he has to clean and he's only on the job for several hours a day. But the 42-year-old Las Crucen with a developmental disability is happy the PetCo store in town has given him an opportunity.
"I've been here a long time," Barela said. "I clean everything. I like to come here."
According to the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the national unemployment rate in September was 9 percent, the rate for people with a disability jumps to nearly 15 percent.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the people who work with the disabled want potential employers to know that, just because someone has a disability, does not mean they cannot be a good worker.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sources: School District Continues Suit Against Family of Child with Special Needs

HOUSTON - It appears the Alief School District's three-and-a-half year legal campaign against the parents of a disabled student will continue even though the entire school board claims the battle has been waged behind their back.
Four years ago the parents of autistic student Chuka Chibuogwu challenged the way Alief was educating their special needs son. The fight was heated and the family ultimately gave up. Instead of letting the case die, Alief and its lawyers have been suing the family in federal court for legal fees.
If the District wins the Chibuogwu family will be bankrupted

Staten Island Steps Up Fight Against Autism

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Autism is a serious issue on Staten Island. More than 5,000 adults and children here have the disorder, not to mention the thousands more beleaguered family members who are directly affected through their loved ones.
But services here are severely lacking — a fact prompting borough autism advocates, parents and others to speak out.

Georgia Agreement Serves as Notice to Rest of U.S.

ATLANTA – A sweeping agreement this week between the Justice Department and the state of Georgia highlights an aggressive new campaign by the Obama administration to ensure that people with mental illness and developmental disabilities can get services in their communities — and not be forced to live in institutions.
As part of the accord, Georgia agreed to specific targets for creating housing aid and community treatment for people with disabilities. Those with disabilities have often cycled in and out of the state's long-troubled psychiatric hospitals in the past. The state said it will set aside $15 million in the current fiscal year and $62 million next year to make the improvements.
The settlement, announced Tuesday, will be used "as a template for our enforcement efforts across the country," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at Justice, in a statement announcing the accord.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Paterson Vetoes Autism Insurance Coverage

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. David A. Paterson Thursday vetoed a bill that would have expanded autism treatments paid for by health insurers and which had passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly.
Supporters of the bill lambasted Paterson, while a health insurance trade group said the move was wise.
Calling Paterson's decision "callous," Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) said "it is unconscionable to deny our most vulnerable population affordable treatment programs that will improve their lives and ease the financial burdens that are placed on their families."
Paterson said while he supports efforts to expand treatment of autism, the fiscal environment is tight and the Legislature had failed to budget money for the measure. The state already faces a deficit in excess of $8 billion for 2011-2012.

Exploring a Career

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. -- About two dozen Ventura County adults with developmental disabilities took a tour of the LA County Animal Shelter here on Wednesday as part of Disability Mentoring Day, a national event designed to promote career exploration and hands-on workplace experience for those with special needs.
Helen Hartel, a retired educator who volunteers at the shelter, took the group on a guided tour, showing them the dogs and cats waiting for new homes and explaining how volunteers help to care for them.
"Cleaning cages is something they could do, also washing the food dishes and water dishes, hosing down a yard, that kind of thing," she said. "Everybody deserves employment and this work training program is an avenue towards giving them something productive to do for the rest of their lives."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Student with Special Needs Teaches Team an Unexpected Lesson

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — The beginning of class ... it's probably the least favorite part of any student's day. But for Jerry Fowler, the best part of his day comes after school.
The 15-year-old is an eighth grader at Willoughby Middle School. He's also a student with special needs with a new passion: football.
"Jerry came out for football the second week of practice," said Greg Turchan, special education teacher and eighth grade football coach. "At first we were a little leery. We weren't sure what he was able to do."

Honoring Employers Who Recognize Ability

APTOS, Calif. — Her eyes barely visible above the podium, Audrey Bright’s voice quivered lightly as she spoke about her new job at the Whole Foods in Santa Cruz, saying that her supervisors "help me to be the best I can be."
"Thank you, Whole Foods, for helping me make my dreams come true," she said.
Moments later, she broke down into tears as she thanked her mother for her support — especially for driving her to work each day.
Bright, a 23-year-old woman with autism, found employment through the help of Community Life in Balance, a Soquel-based organization that helps people with developmental disabilities find work.
It was one of nine organizations that sponsored the 3rd annual Employer Recognition Program held Tuesday afternoon at Seacliff Inn in Aptos.

Settlement with Justice Promotes Community-Based Services in Georgia

ATLANTA -- Georgia officials committed Tuesday to spend millions of dollars to help mentally ill and developmentally disabled people move out of state mental hospitals and receive services in their communities -- but where that money will come from remains to be seen.
In reaching the landmark settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the state will need to come up with $15 million in the amended annual budget and an additional $62 million in the 2012 budget for mental health services, said Tom Wilson, spokesman for the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Other state officials acknowledged that finding the additional money will present significant challenges.
Justice Department officials said the settlement, which still needs approval from a federal judge, will transform the state's mental health system, reducing reliance on mental hospitals while it adds community services.
"It addresses the needs of people who are currently institutionalized who don't need to be there, and it also addresses the needs of people who are in danger of institutionalization," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

U.S. Settles with Georgia in ADA Suit

ATLANTA -- The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday it has settled a suit against Georgia alleging unlawful segregation of the disabled.
In a statement, the department said the agreement will transform the state's mental health and developmental disabilities, and resolves alleged segregation of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the state's psychiatric hospitals in violation of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court's landmark 1999 decision in Olmstead vs. L.C

Students with Down Syndrome Wear Homecoming Crowns

DACULA, Ga. -- There's something really special about Mr. Rogers class at Dacula High School in Gwinnett County. Rogers taught a king and a queen in his classroom Monday.
Rachel Wilson was crowned this year's homecoming queen and Jeffery Meyer was named king. Both students have Down syndrome, but that has never held them back.

Walgreens Breaking Barriers for Workers with Special Needs

WINDSOR, Conn. -- Aaron Rudolph's drive to work from his home in West Hartford to the Walgreen's Distribution Center in Windsor is usually uneventful. Having special needs and landing a meaningful job often poses more of a challenge.
Rudolph is one of the lucky ones. A story in the Hartford Courant five years ago about a yet-to-be-built Walgreens facility, a meeting with a job counselor at the Bureau of Rehab Services in Hartford, and a drop of good fortune were all part of the young man's journey toward meaningful employment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hairdresser Dedicated to Autism Awarenss

ONTARIO, Calif. -- The Jefferson Awards recognize the extraordinary achievements of people who volunteer and make their communities a better place. This month's award winner is Edith Naranjo, a hairdresser by trade, but in her spare time she is helping families and teachers understand the nuances of a very complicated condition called autism.
"One of the things that I feel they really need and we all do in the beginning is sometimes just a hug and I say, 'You know what? I know what you're going through, I've been there, I'm there," said Edith Naranjo, this month's Jefferson Award recipient.
Her own son, Eric, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning type of autism, when he was just 6 years old.

Colorado School Becomes a State Model for Teaching Children on the Spectrum

LITTLETON, Colo. -- Several years ago when Sarah Handy began teaching students with autism at Mortensen Elementary in Littleton, she found her students were rarely allowed to mix with other pupils in the Jefferson County school.
That has changed
Now most of the 18 students with autism are integrated, and the work of the staff has caught the eye of the Colorado Department of Education.
Mortensen last week was named to be a model site for the Denver metro area in how to teach students with autism — providing the school with a $1,000 grant, training for teachers and an on-site coach.
The school has good inclusion practices, an anti-bullying program and an effective "Response to Intervention" model to give early assistance to children having difficulty learning.

Golf Helps Teen Cope with Autism

STILLWATER, Minn. ― Charlie Bristow is working on his golf game on a beautiful fall afternoon. The 13-year-old started swinging the clubs last July after taking a golf class at Courage Center in Stillwater and has been driven to succeed on the course ever since.
"It has improved my lessons and stuff -- going to the driving range and practicing hitting balls there," said Charlie.
Charlie has autism and his father has seen firsthand how the game has helped his son overcome struggles.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Students with Intellectual Disabilities Go to College

WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- Zach Neff is all high-fives as he walks through his college campus in western Missouri. The 27-year-old with Down syndrome hugs most everybody, repeatedly. He tells teachers he loves them.
"I told Zach we are putting him on a hug diet — one to say hello and one to say goodbye," said Joyce Downing, who helped start a new program at the University of Central Missouri that serves students with disabilities.
The hope is that polishing up on social skills, like cutting back on the hugs, living in residence halls and going to classes with non-disabled classmates will help students like Neff be more independent and get better jobs.

Customer Told He's Too Disabled to Fly

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A motivational speaker with cerebral palsy said he was humiliated when he was kicked off a U.S. Airways flight after being told he was too disabled to fly alone.
"I was raised to believe I could grow up doing what I wanted to do and it didn't lead me to any entitlement," Johnnie Tuitel, 47, told The Grand Rapids Press for a story Saturday. "By them denying me the ability to fly, I couldn't do my job."

Siblings with Disabilities Helping One Another Become Independent

MEDFORD, N.J. - Daniel Maloney just got a promotion, his third in 11 years.
He’s an assistant cook at a retirement community, where he serves up daily dishes such as marinated flank steak and butternut squash bisque for more than 200 residents.
He and his older sister, Jessica, both have Fragile X Syndrome, the most-common inherited cause of intellectual impairment. They share an apartment and help keep each other independent.
Their younger sister, Kate, is the only Maloney sibling who did not inherit the syndrome. But Fragile X and other developmental disabilities are part of the fiber of her daily life as a special education teacher.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

FDA Cracks Down on Experimental Autism Therapy

Federal health officials are cracking down on a controversial therapy that has been promoted as an alternative for a variety of conditions, including autism, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
The Food and Drug Administration warned eight companies Thursday that their over-the-counter products used for a procedure known as "chelation" are "unapproved drugs and devices" and so are in "violation of federal law."

Landing First Job, a Dream Come True

PINEVILLE, N.C. -- Cleaning bathrooms and wiping down mirrors at Old Navy might not seem like the most glamourous job to have but for Pineville resident Steven Struble, it's a dream come true.
"I love this job so much that if I had to scratch my paycheck, I would still work here," he said.
The 20-year-old has autism, a disorder that gives him excess energy and difficulty comprehending too many instructions at once.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

N.J. Teens Helps Children with Autism Get in the Game

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — About five years ago, Morristown’s Matthew Certner set out to create a welcoming environment for children with special needs, particularly those affected by autism, on the town’s ball fields, courts and diamonds.
Inspired by family friends who have an autistic child, Certner cultivated a non-competitive setting and emphasized fun.
The initial session drew about 10 kids, and the Special Needs Athletic Programs were born.
Within a few years, Certner, now 19 and a sophomore at Duke, and his younger brother, Zachary, had expanded the initiative to nearby towns. This year, the programs have drawn 100 families in Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains. Now part of a non-profit corporation, the programs have also taken root in Warren, Lodi and Wayne.

iPad Helps Children with Special Needs Communicate

The rise of mainstream tablet computers is proving to have unforeseen benefits for children with speech and communication problems — and such use has the potential to disrupt a business where specialized devices can cost thousands of dollars.
Before she got an iPad at age two, Caleigh Gray couldn't respond to yes-or-no questions. Now Caleigh, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, uses a $190 software application that speaks the words associated with pictures she touches on Apple Inc.'s device.
"We're not having to fight to prove to people that she is a smart little girl anymore, because it's there once they see her using the iPad," said Caleigh's mother, Holly Gray, who said her daughter can use the tablet to identify colors or ask to go outside.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Supreme Court Hears Case on Vaccines

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the justices heard arguments in a case that drug manufacturers say could open the floodgates to thousands of lawsuits — mainly from parents who contend that vaccinations caused their children's autism. At issue is how far a federal law reaches in barring state lawsuits over vaccines.
In 1986, Congress created a special no-fault compensation system for injuries that result from vaccines. The payments are awarded by a special vaccine court. The question presented by Tuesday's case is whether that court is the end of the line for most claims, or whether Congress intended to give victims an additional chance to prove their case and win damages in state court.

Program Provides Step Toward Independence

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Oliver Moore held a list of four questions suitable to ask a friend: What did you do last night? Who did you go with? What did you have for dinner? Who did you eat with?
The questions are basic points of conversation, but such basic communication can be difficult for him.
Oliver has autism, a developmental disability that causes social impairments as well as communication and behavioral challenges.
At 19 years old, Oliver has already made his way through the public school system in his hometown of Weston. He even walked with his classmates at graduation. But there's still much for him to learn before he can become independent, which is why he was sitting in a classroom at the University of Connecticut's Stamford campus Thursday morning.

Supreme Court to Consider Vaccine Case

The safety of vaccines is at the heart of a case expected to be heard on Tuesday by the United States Supreme Court, one that could have implications for hundreds of lawsuits that contend there is a link between vaccines and autism.
At issue is whether a no-fault system established by Congress about 25 years ago to compensate children and others injured by commonly used vaccines should protect manufacturers from virtually all product liability lawsuits. The law was an effort to strike a balance between the need to provide care for those injured by vaccines, some of them severely, and the need to protect manufacturers from undue litigation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Autism Challenge: Give Up Social Networking for a Day

Couldn't resist this from the Toronto Globe and Mail. This is the first I've heard about this worldwide initiative and not sure if many people could actually survive the day without social networking.

The task, if you choose to accept it, could prove virtually impossible for the addicted and a challenge for even the casual user – give up Facebook and Twitter for one day.
It’s the latest campaign, however unusual, to raise awareness and dollars for a cause in an era in which people are checking their online accounts at all times of the day.
Autism charities around the world have joined forces to ask online users to give up social networking websites on Nov. 1 as a way to experience how difficult it is for those with the disorder to communicate socially.

New York Ignores Students With Autism in 'Race to the Top'

Interesting item from the Age of Autism:

Several weeks ago New York received the good news that our state was one of the ten winners of federal "Race to the Top" education grants. More than $700 million federal dollars will be made available to our schools. It is doubtful, though, that any of that will be spent on special education, and especially not on student with autism. While New York schools are supposedly "racing to the top," the state Board of Regents recently voted to gut basic minimum standards of education for students with autism with the expressed goal of rolling back state educational standards to the minimums allowed under federal law. In other words for students with autism the goal is a "race to the bottom."
Describing their efforts to cut education for students with autism as "mandate relief" the New York Regents voted to do the following:
• Eliminate the minimum required amount of speech therapy specified for students with autism
• Eliminate maximum class sizes for students with autism
• Expand public school speech therapists’ work load to 65 sessions per week
• Eliminate the requirement that a student’s teacher have access to a copy of a student’s individual education plan (IEP)

Newborn Jaundice Linked to Autism

A new study suggests jaundiced newborns have a higher risk of autism than other babies.
Babies with jaundice — a condition in which skin turns yellow because of high levels of a substance called bilirubin — were 67% more likely than other babies to be diagnosed with autism, according to a Danish study of nearly 734,000 children born between 1994 and 2004. The risk was even higher for babies born between October and March.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Son with Autism Helps Mother Fight Cancer

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif. – When every fiber of Susan Younkin's body hurt from chemotherapy, her autistic son told her he'd trade his health for hers, if he could.
"Sometimes she was feeling so sick and she felt like giving up," said Connor Younkin, 18. "I often concentrate on things happening at the time and put thoughts of what could happen out of my head. I encouraged her and comforted her and told her not to think bad thoughts."
Susan Younkin, 50, this month celebrates one year of being breast cancer free. She endured two surgeries, 18 weeks of chemotherapy, radiation and six months of intravenous cancer-fighting drugs. She credits her recovery to strong family support, to her friends but most importantly to Connor, who taught her to live for the moment.

On-the-Job Training

MEDFORD, N.J. — At Pride Paws, Alec Ritzel and Greg Wineland bake dog biscuits, stock shelves and sweep the floor.
"I ring up the cash register," Wineland says. "Not my favorite part."
The young men, both autistic, are part of an elite group of people with developmental disabilities.
They have jobs.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Businessman Completes Successful First Season

PORTLAND, Maine -- In July, WCSH6 introduced you to Eric Hughes, a young man with a developmental disability who started his own business.
Eric's Pizza Express closed for the season Friday, but Hughes says he has had a very successful season. He's made enough money to pay all his expenses, as well as his insurance and license costs for next year. And he has some money left over for himself.
Eric not only operated the business, but continued with his school work at Strive U, a post-secondary education program for students with developmental disabilities. Eric has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes developmental delays and other health problems. He graduates from Strive in June.

The Night Belonged to Homecoming King

Sometimes seeing is believing, so here's a link to video of Ryan.

HARRISON CITY, Pa. -- Ryan Lynch's classmates say "excited" isn't enough to describe how they -- or Lynch -- felt when he was crowned Penn-Trafford's homecoming king Friday night.
For Lynch, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, having his classmates pick him to wear the crown was especially meaningful.
"I am happy, joyful and excited that I am king," said Lynch, who escorted homecoming queen Hannah Astley onto the field.
Astley said she was proud to walk with him.
"We all really love Ryan," Astley said. "He's a person everyone wants to be friends with."

Friday, October 8, 2010

'Monica & David' Explores Marriage with Down Syndrome

When Monica and David Martinez got married five years ago, they were not your average bride and groom — both have Down syndrome. Deeply in love and committed to each other, their union nonetheless put the couple among a minority of people with developmental disabilities walking down the aisle.
Filmmaker Alexandra Codina — who is Monica’s cousin — followed the couple through their wedding and first year of marriage. The resulting documentary “Monica & David” captures the couple as they adjust to life together and struggle to define their own independence. Ahead of the premiere of "Monica & David" on HBO Oct. 14, Codina spoke with Disability Scoop.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

High tech help for autism

Interaction may be a better option than speaking, especially for kids with autism.

The "Scout" program in Spain relies on special video gaming systems like this Nintendo D-S. Kids can learn basic tasks, as well as telling teachers what they want to do, all by touching this screen. A study in 16 spanish schools found the program decreased outbursts and improved overall behavior.

Emily Kissa has a form of sensory processing disorder, one brain hemisphere is weaker than the other.
Doctor Mark Goldenberg of the Brain Balance Center uses these goggles and exercise to stimulate her vision, balance and hearing. The goal: To strengthen that weakness through therapy three times a week and better nutrition.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jamie Foxx on Caring for Sister with Down Syndrome

We've seen Jamie Foxx with his sister DeOndra Dixon on the red carpet but now he's putting her in the spotlight and opening up about caring for a sibling with down syndrome.
"This little lady right here lives with me along with my other sister, along with my father and my mother. So, we're one big happy family," Foxx said while seated next to DeOndra.
On Saturday night, DeOndra and her peers participated in the Be Beautiful, Be Yourself Jet Set Fashion Show where music great Quincy Jones and "Survivor" host Jeff Probst were both in attendance. The event went to benefit Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Foxx said of the evening, "This is just so amazing that she gets to do her thing where the spotlight is on her. The focus is on her. It means a lot."

Aging Parents Wonder Who Will Care for Their Adult Child Once They Are Gone?

This story illustrates a problem that so many aging parents of adult children with disabilities are facing every day. Who will be there to take care of their child once they are gone? Families need to plan now. But the other issue is with state budgets getting tighter, will there be sufficient homes for individuals with disabilities?

BRIDGETOWN, Ohio -- Best friends Julia Ricke and Michelle Dunford enjoy being together, whether to eat out, see a movie or shop.
"We grew up together," says Julia, 27, who like her 26-year-old friend, has Down syndrome.
Together, they hope one day to gain more independence by moving out of their parents' homes and into a place called BeauVita, which combines the French word "beau" and Latin word "vita" to mean "beautiful life."
"That's what we want for our sons and daughters," says Julia's father, Mike Ricke of Bridgetown. He and his wife, Barb, both 54, are one of five West Side couples leading the effort to build BeauVita, a supervised residential community with support services for up to 50 people with developmental disabilities.
The parents who are involved "all realized we had a common concern and a common goal," Ricke says. "We're all getting older. We're realizing there's going to come the day when we can no longer take care of our family members (with disabilities). We need something in place that we know ultimately will be there for them."
The issue of where adults with developmental disabilities will live and who will care for them looms large locally and across the country. About 16 million people in the U.S. have developmental delays that interfere with daily activities, the Census Bureau says.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Parent of Special Needs Student Clashes With School

ATLANTA -- A flurry of e-mails, phone calls and surprise visits to check on her child’s progress at school got a special needs parent banned from Mason Elementary in Gwinnett County, Ga.
Cynthia Branch of Lawrenceville, like many other metro Atlanta parents of special needs students, had back-to-school anxiety over how her kid would adjust to a new teacher unfamiliar with his disabilities or educational plan. But her methods for keeping track of her son's progress ran afoul of school administrators.
Gwinnett Schools police issued a criminal trespass notice warning Branch not to set foot inside Mason Elementary without the principal's permission.

High School Football Team Gives Opponent With Autism a Thrilling Touchdown

MENOMONIE, Wis. -- Menomonie High School senior Sam Kolden has been a member of the Indians football team since the 8th grade.
He also has autism.
So when Menomonie's coach asked Superior to let Kolden catch a pass in a game that the Spartans were trailing 46-14, the answer was clear.
"There was no indecision whatsoever," Superior head coach Bob DeMeyer said. "The guys in the huddle with me just chimed in and said, 'Let's do it, Coach.'"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kansan With Disability Crowned Homecoming King

Owen Phariss on Friday night became the latest special-needs student to be crowned homecoming king, prompting an outpouring of cheers — and a few tears — in the stands and on the football field of his high school in Lawrence, Kan.
"It was probably one of the best moments of my life along with his, too," classmate Bailey Knowlton, 18, said. "I know he's going to remember this for the rest of his life."
Across the USA, students with special needs have been named homecoming kings and queens this fall after being integrated into classrooms and activities with other students in recent years.

A Touchdown to Remember

SNOHOMISH, Wash. - By most accounts, Ike Ditzenberger is different.
The 17-year-old junior at Snohomish High School has Down Syndrome. He takes special classes during the day, but after school Ike is just like one of the guys.
He's a varsity football player.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago Company Hires People with autism

CHICAGO -- A local business that started as a hobby is now providing employment for adults with autism.
Harry's Buttons is a small company with a lot of potential. They specialize in manufacturing high quality custom pin buttons made by people with autism.