Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Private Providers Fight Back Over Service Change in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- For years, the state paid private providers who care for people with disabilities to help the clients decide how many services they need and how intensive they should be.
But an 11th-hour change state lawmakers inserted into the budget last session stripped the private providers of this case management responsibility, giving it instead to local, quasi-governmental Mental Retardation Authorities, who administer publicly funded services to people with disabilities.
The goal, lawmakers said, was to avoid conflicts of interest — to ensure the 19,000 people receiving Medicaid waiver services at home and in the community had case managers who were advocating in their best interests and were not motivated by their employer’s bottom line

Undistinguished Career on the Track, but a Champion for One Family

Amazing story by Bill Dwyre of The LA Times.

In horse racing terms, Grant and Greta Hays have had a rough trip. They have two young children, both severely autistic.
"After we had Jack, we wanted to have another child," Grant Hays says. "We thought the odds of having a second with autism were really low."
Jack is 6, Dylan 2. Neither speaks, except on rare spontaneous occasions. According to their father, they are antisocial kids, which is not unusual with autistic children. Grant says it creates a life of stress and tension, and cites research that says something like 85% of parents with autistic children get divorced.
The marriage of Grant and Greta apparently is going in the other direction. This is the story of how and why. It is also the story of a big, old gelded thoroughbred named Spot the Diplomat, who, through a series of coincidental circumstances, has carried this family to its own winner's circle.

Shopping for Children with Special Needs Can Be Challenging During the Holidays

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Julianna Basi glanced at the pink dress-up gown her mother, Kate, offered her, but she wasn't interested.
The 3-year-old was even less impressed with the jack-in-the-box, pushing the toy off of the bench where her mother had placed it.
Buying gifts for little Julianna come Christmastime is tough, Kate Basi said. Julianna has Down syndrome and isn't quite ready for some of the gifts her peers will unwrap Christmas morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Florida Teen with Down Syndrome Crowned Homecoming Queen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the grand scheme of prayer requests, theirs seemed fairly simple.
Dave and Melanie Stieglitz were asking for friends at their church to pray for the youngest of their three daughters, the one who was born with Down syndrome. Not that they wanted God to change anything about her. To the contrary, they were hoping, praying, to change those around her. Specifically to change her classmates at Fletcher High School. Not all 2,000 of them. Just one.
God, they asked, send a friend to Cara.
One friend.
Someone to sit with her at lunch.
They never imagined that four years later Cara would be standing on a football field, wearing a purple dress that she and her mother picked out for homecoming.

Michigan's Next Lieutenant Governor Appeals for Mandatory Autism Coverage

PORTLAND, Mich. -- The campaign to require Michigan health insurers to cover the cost of treating children with autism is getting an eleventh-hour boost from the man who will assume the office of lieutenant governor Jan. 1 -- state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland.
Calley, whose 3-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with autism, is scheduled to meet with the Republican caucus in the state Senate when members return this week to the state Capitol. He is urging the Senate (where he will be the presiding officer beginning in January) to approve autism legislation adopted by the House in 2009.

Promoting Growth Through the Arts

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Patrick Andrews and Billy Guth have never acted, but both will star in an upcoming production of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.
They enjoy the attention they are receiving from their roles and argue about who has the best part: Andrews as Fred, or Guth as the Ghost of Christmas Past?
For Guth, the narration is the highlight of the play, while Andrews said the characters are what make it a classic.
Andrews and Guth are two of 47 developmentally disabled adults participating in Project Stage Light, a program offered in Cape Girardeau by the Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, or AID, to give those with special needs the opportunity to experience the arts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Standard for Teaching Students with Autism in N.J.

TRENTON — In New Jersey, one in every 94 children has an autism spectrum disorder, the highest incidence rate among the 16 states surveyed by the federal government.
Among New Jersey boys, the rate is one in 70, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The phenomenon is one of the greatest challenges facing New Jersey's special-education system today. Not only because of the sheer number of autistic students — which has more than doubled in the past decade, to nearly 12,000 — but also because of the very nature of autism.
Autism is a complex biological condition that, to varying degrees, affects a child's ability to communicate and develop social relationships skills that are at the very core of the educational process.
That means that students often have to be taught in a completely different way than other children. Yet as many parents soon discover, the way that happens in New Jersey — which has no uniform curriculum standards for autism programs or any special training requirements for teachers who work with autistic students — can be as confounding as autism itself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Special Education in Public and Private Schools and at What Cost?

Interesting column by Lisa Belzberg, the Founder and Executive Chairperson of the non-profit organization PENCIL (Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning). She is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU/Steinhardt School of Education.

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- One of my daughters is intelligent, creative, hard-working and highly dyslexic. She attends a private school where class size is often as small as 8 children. My child is truly fortunate because the school has the staff and resources to help her overcome her learning challenges and help her to reach her full potential and work toward her dreams. One thing the administration and parents at this wonderful school bemoan, though, is that our kids won't have nearly enough, diversity among their classmates.
Increasingly, it is the children of affluent parents who can afford to take advantage of non-public special education school options. And while public schools struggle mightily to improve their special-ed programs, private schools, with better student-teacher ratios, technology and greater access to innovation, generally remain the better option to help a child with learning challenges get the help they need. (Not surprising enrollment in special education programs continues to rise dramatically -- nationally there has been a 12.5 percent jump in the last five years.)

N.J. Students with Autism Gain Skills and Experience at High School

It’s the start of another lively lunch period at Brick Township High School.
While many students grab cafeteria trays and get in line for some hot food, others head to the snack bar for lighter fare.
Behind the counter, Tim Doyle and Eric Long, both 16, are taking care of a steady stream of customers, fielding orders and working the cash register.
"Can I have a Yoo-hoo?"
"Can I have the blue Sun Chips?"
"Can I have a red Gatorade?"
The students know to use colors when they’re ordering because Tim and Eric have limited language and reading abilities. Both boys have autism, and working in the store is an important part of their education.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Racial Disparity in N.J.'s Special Ed Classes

The federal law that created the nation's special-education system grew out of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s. But even when districts follow the law, racial disparities can occur.
Nationally, black students are far more likely to be placed in special education than white students.
While 15 percent of U.S. students are black, they represent more than 20 percent of students classified with specific learning disabilities, nearly 30 percent of those in the emotional-disturbance category and 33 percent of those classified with mental retardation, according to 2006 federal education statistics.
In New Jersey, 16 percent of the students in the state are black, yet 20 percent of black students are in special education. In 2007, the latest year available, there were 236,476 total black students and 46,787 were in special ed.

Erasing a Hurtful Label From the Books

Cliff Poetz of Minnesota, now 61 years old, went to Washington 40 years ago and told lawmakers they shouldn't use the term "mentally retarded" to describe him and others with intellectual disabilities.
"It meant we were dumb and stupid," said Mr. Poetz, who is neither. Born with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, he spoke out about what it was like living in institutions and was invited by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy to testify at a hearing on the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act. He now works at the University of Minnesota.

Children with Autism Meet "Sensitive Santa"

MIAMI TWP., Ohio - Meeting Santa is a Christmas tradition, but for some kids with autism it's just not possible to brave the crowds and noise. That's why the Dayton Mall opened early Sunday for a "Sensitive Santa" event.

Challenged? On Quiz Show, He's Not

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. -- Kevin Tanen has an appetite for books, an ability to retain information, and thinks quickly under pressure.
Those qualities make the 16-year-old junior a valued member of the Cold Spring Harbor High School team competing this year in "The Challenge," the television quiz show for Long Island high school students.
Tanen also has Asperger's syndrome.

Advice for Parents of a Child Diagnosed with Autism

From Laura Shumaker at The San Francisco Chronicle's SF Gate blog.

By the time my son Matthew was given the official diagnosis of autism at age 5, I already knew. This was almost 20 years ago, and I had only heard the "A" word to describe what Matthew probably wasn't. Back then, autism was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, and it seemed that nobody wanted to be the messenger. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, it was up to me to figure out who to turn to for help.
What a difference TWO decades make! Specialists are able to detect the symptoms of autism earlier and earlier, and while it is never the diagnosis that parents want to hear, there are so many resources available now from the very beginning. I asked parents of children with autism as well as individuals on the autism spectrum to offer their best advice for families of a newly diagnosed child.

Friday, November 19, 2010

California Ranks Last in Care for Children with Special Needs

California ranks last in the nation on key measures of a quality health care system for children with special needs, according to a report based on federal data released Thursday.
One in seven children in the state – an estimated 1.4 million – have a special health care need. But only 17.1 percent of them have adequate health insurance, and receive basic preventive care and comprehensive, coordinated medical care, the report found. By comparison, 40.3 percent of children nationwide have health care that meets this minimum quality index.
The report was commissioned by the nonprofit Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health and produced by the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, a research and policy group.

Classmates of Student with Down Syndrome Protest Withdrawal

ASHLAND, Ore. -- About 20 students demonstrated today at Ashland's Southern Oregon University to protest an administrative decision to withdraw a student with Down syndrome.
Twenty-year-old Eliza Schaaf, a graduate of Ashland High School, was auditing a ceramics class as a way to share the college experience with her friends from high school, her parents said.
She had completed two-thirds of the class when she received a letter Nov. 8 notifying her she would be withdrawn from the class because she was not qualified to meet academic standards and disrupted the class.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Study Shows Children with Autism Better in Academics than IQ Scores Suggest

A new research has revealed that many children with autism spectrum disorders are academically more capable than their IQ scores would suggest.
In a study by researchers at the University of Washington, 90 percent of autistic children showed a discrepancy between their IQ score and their performance on reading, spelling and math tests.
"Academic achievement is a potential source of self-worth and source of feeling of mastery that people may not have realized is available to children with autism," said Annette Estes, research assistant professor at the UW's Autism Center.

'D' Grade for New York on Premature Births

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- New York state has taken some baby steps but still gets a poor grade when it comes to preventing premature births.
"Premature birth is a very serious problem for babies," Ann Gordon, of the Institute for Basic Research into Developmental Disabilities, Willowbrook, said at Borough Hall Wednesday.
According to the March of Dimes, 12 percent of births in the state in 2008 came before the 37th week, earning the state a "D."

Dreams Come True on Cheerleading Squad

MIAMISBURG, Ohio -- Let’s hear it for the girls!
A group of young women has seen its dreams come true: They're hearing applause; they're winning trophies; they're making friends. It's something to cheer about.
The Legacy Xtreme Panthers here run a unique program that pairs special-needs girls with other young women in a highly competitive cheerleading group.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cuts to Special Education Programs Angers New York City Parents

NEW YORK – Some parents of children with autism are expressing anger over the elimination of certain special education programs.
The New York State Board of Regents has voted down a long-time rule that mandated speech and language services for autistic kids.

Filling the Gap

WILMETTE, Ill. -- Travis Tassone stood in the center of the room and crooned an Elvis tune for his teenage friends when it happened, again.
"Toenails!" he blurted. He clapped his hands to his mouth. He was trying so hard not to say that word. It's one of those expressions — like "Merry Christmas" — that he says compulsively.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Life is filled with such small struggles at Our Place, a day program in downtown Wilmette for young people with developmental disabilities. The program was started almost two years ago by parents who saw a gap in social services and filled it.
Increasingly, parents frustrated with the state's waiting lists and funding woes are forming nonprofit corporations such as Our Place to keep their children busy and closer to home. Special education services end when students reach 22, leaving few options for young adults with disabilities in Illinois.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mock Flight Prepares Young Travelers

PHILADELPHIA -- At 8 p.m. Saturday, Southwest Airlines Flight 2149 was poised to push back from the gate. Flight attendants gave fasten-seat-belt instructions, and First Officer Peter Hayes announced, "There's 25 minutes of flight time until we touch down in Philadelphia."
Capt. Todd Siems said the Boeing airliner was cruising at 37,000 feet. And after he turned off the seat-belt sign, the young passengers were served complimentary Sprite, cranberry-apple juice, and airplane-shaped crackers.
Flight 2149 never left the gate at Philadelphia International Airport, though. It was no ordinary flight, but rather a practice for children with autism and their families to become familiar with travel at the airport - bags, getting boarding passes, going through security, waiting at the gate, and sitting on the plane to experience the lights and sounds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Handwriting Problems Continue for Children with Autism

Poor handwriting among children with autism tends to persist well into the teen years, a new study finds.
Unlike with younger children, the reason for the poor handwriting among teens seems to have less to do with motor skills issues than with problems in "perceptual reasoning," or the ability to reason through problems with nonverbal material.
The study, by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, is published in the Nov. 16 issue of Neurology.

Teen with Autism Says Football Helped

Just a wonderful story that should help get the week off to a great start. Be sure to watch the video.

SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- A teenager in Gwinnett County says his love for football and his faith helped him overcome his autism. Cortland Hale was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. After following his brother’s footsteps into the game of football, Cortland says the comradery of the game is what helped him overcome his communication problems and his shyness.

New York Considers Reducing Speech Therapy for Students with Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The New York State Regents, an appointed board that sets policy for the state's schools will be voting Monday on new regulations that will reduce speech therapy requirements for students with autism in New York to the federally mandated minimum and increase the maximum number of students in specified classrooms for students with autism. A coalition of New York autism organizations has come together to oppose these unnecessary cuts in education for some of New York's most vulnerable students. The Regents claim this is a cost saving measure but have not bothered to determine what the purported savings would be.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student with Down Syndrome Becomes JROTC Cadet

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — When enrolling her son Stephen at Leavenworth High School, Cindy Bartko has noticed a table for the Junior ROTC program. But she never pursued having her son join the program.
Stephen has Down syndrome.
But he was among the many JROTC cadets to appear in Thursday’s Veterans Day parade in downtown Leavenworth.

Child with Autism Connects with Game

John Yan reviews games for a site called Gaming Nexus, so despite his initial lack of enthusiasm in the Xbox 360 Kinect motion controller, he knew he'd have to buy one when they came out. After all, it wouldn't be fair to dump all the Kinect reviews on his fellow writer, Chuck.
So last weekend, John and his four-year-old son Kyle went to Target to pick one up. Kyle is autistic, and has had trouble with video games, but his dad says that he always wants to try, and to keep practicing despite the potential for frustration. The controller is a barrier for Kyle. It's hard for him to master the complicated (and seemingly unrelated) button combinations required by traditional game consoles.
So when the Kinect was set up and the included title, Kinect Adventures, was loaded up, Kyle asked to give it a try. "What proceeded to happen was pretty amazing," John wrote on his site.
Playing a ball game, Kyle "jumped around and flailed his arms and legs in trying to punch the balls back to the blocks." When the game ended, John got an additional surprise: with just a little initial instruction, Kyle could navigate the game's menus like it was second nature.

Seeking a Chance in the Workplace

LAUREL, Miss. — Finding a job can be difficult anytime and the tough economic situation our state and nation currently face certainly doesn’t make the task any easier. For people with a disability finding employment can be even more challenging. Not so much because of the disability but because of the stigma they sometimes face from individuals and employers who may not realize their abilities and their potential to be good, dependable employees.

Childhood ADHD on Rise in U.S.

A steep rise has been reported in the cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children during the past decade, researchers from the agency's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and from the National Center for Health Statistics revealed.
Kids in the nation are being diagnosed with the disorder at some point in their lives at an alarming rate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grandin Offers Food for Thought

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Animal behaviorist and autism activist Temple Grandin ranged Tuesday into Flint Hills cattle country to delve into her personal experience with disability, academia and notoriety.
Grandin, who didn't speak until she was 3 1/2 years old and went on to become an animal science professor at Colorado State University, spoke to an overflow crowd at Kansas State University about her life with a developmental disability viewed as an achievement death sentence in the 1950s. Instead, she credits autism with propelling her into an academic career as a livestock-handling equipment designer featured in an award-winning HBO movie.
"Handling was something I could see I could fix," she said. "I feel very strongly you've got to give it a decent life."

For Autistic Children, Therapy on Four Legs

Shadow, a black Labrador retriever, knows how to interact with people without overreacting to them — a necessity for a well-trained therapy dog, said her owner and handler, Ani Shaker.
Considered "bombproof," meaning she will remain calm in nearly any situation, Shadow, and Ms. Shaker, volunteer at the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
"As soon as I get her working vest out, she jumps up and her little tail starts wagging," Ms. Shaker said. "She loves the work. That's what she lives for, and I can tell she knows she is helping someone else feel good."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Study: War Taking Its Toll on Children of Deployed Soldiers

Mental and behavioral problems cause children of U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones to need considerably more outpatient medical visits than those with non-deployed parents, a new study suggests.
Researchers examined the medical records of more than 640,000 military children between the ages of 3 and 8, and found that those separated from deployed parents sought treatment 11 percent more often for cases of mood, anxiety and adjustment disorders. Visits for conditions such as autism and attention-deficit disorder, whose causes are not linked to deployment, also increased.
The study, reported online Nov. 8 and in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, also revealed larger increases in mental and behavioral visits among older children, children with military fathers and children of married military parents.

A Stage for Children with Autism

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- In 1996, Elaine Hall traveled to an orphanage in Siberia to adopt her son Neal. Soon after, the boy was diagnosed with autism, and she began a difficult but determined course to reach her nonverbal child, now 16. A children’s acting coach, she founded the Miracle Project in Los Angeles, a theater and film program for children of all abilities, and other advocacy efforts, and is the subject of an Emmy Award-winning documentary, "Autism: The Musical." She was in New York last month on a speaking tour in connection with her memoir, "Now I See the Moon: A Mother, a Son, a Miracle" (Harper).

Worker: Indiana Considers Shelters Option for People with Disabilities

INDIANAPOLIS -- A state employee is backing up some parents' claims that state workers were told that suggesting families leave severely disabled people at homeless shelters was a viable option.
The controversy first erupted last month when Becky Holladay, of Battle Ground, said a worker with the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services told her she could leave her 22-year-old son with epilepsy, autism and other conditions at a homeless shelter.
A concerned state employee, who spoke to 6News on a condition of anonymity, said they had been told by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services that homeless shelters are an option for families.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book Details Mother's Journey with Autism

LOGAN, Utah -- The average 2-year-old can speak more than 100 words. By 3, that number jumps to anywhere from 200 to 1,000. Michael Swaner never hit those milestones. In 32 years he has never spoken a word.
As an infant, Michael was diagnosed with severe low-functioning autism, a neurological disorder that impedes brain development. More than one million people in the United States are affected by autism, though only a small percentage of those cases are as severe as Michael's.
"If there's one thing you don't get enough of with autism, it's affection," said Michael's mother Ruth Swaner, USU graduate and author of the book "Words Born of Silence."
The book, Swaner's third, is about her personal journey in dealing with the anger, denial, acceptance and what she likes to call "over-dedication" of autism.

Historic home ready to house disabled

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) - A historic home in Warwick's Apponaug Village is getting a new lease on life - as residences for low-income Rhode Islanders who have developmental, physical or mental disabilities.

The Thomas Wilbur Homestead dates back to 1744, originally built as a Baptist meeting house. Monday morning, a host of local and federal officials -- including Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. James Langevin -- held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the building on Post Road. The complex will soon give five families permanent homes, as well as supportive services to others.

Several local agencies have a hand in the project, including Rhode Island Housing, the House of Hope, the Housing Resources Commission, and the Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (formerly known as the Dept. of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Special-ed grads to get new path at UA

The first generation of special-education students with individualized learning plans that allowed them to be included in high school classrooms is graduating. Now they have a new option: college.

Beginning next summer, Tucson students with intellectual disabilities can attend a University of Arizona certificate program.

This new effort is called Project FOCUS (Focusing Opportunities with Community and University Support). It's about academic learning, the campus social experience and skills for independent work and living.

The UA has long had special resources for disabled students on campus, "but now we're talking about students with more significant types of intellectual disabilities to have the same opportunities, to be on campus, to enroll in a class, and to be part of the University of Arizona community," said Dan Perino, who leads the Tucson Unified School District's Community Transition Programs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

K-State Students Plan 'Dream' Facility for Children on the Autism Spectrum

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Brandy Porter's son Will was developing as any other toddler would. However, before he reached the age of 3, Will's development began to slow, even regress. He no longer responded to his name, he stopped using words from his everyday vocabulary and did not find enjoyment in playing ball — an activity he used to love.
In 2006, doctors diagnosed Will with autism, an enveloping term for a wide spectrum of brain development disorders.
Now the 6-year-old spends three hours each morning doing in-home Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy working on math, fine motor, speech and reading skills. During the rest of the day he attends kindergarten, where he often disengages because the pace of class is either too fast or too slow for him.
What if Will had a facility he could go to right here in Manhattan that was specifically designed for his needs as an autistic child?
That is what professor Susanne Siepl-Coates' fifth-year architecture graduate studio has been working on since August

Son and Father Pierce Autism's Veil

Neighbors, friends and teachers were dropping hints — some subtle, others pointed, even cruel — that something was not right with Timothy Archibald's first child, Elijah.
The little boy seemed hypnotized for hours by certain objects: doors, mechanical gears, the vacuum cleaner hose. He mimicked electrical sounds, knew the time schedule of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system by heart and had epic tantrums. Mr. Archibald, 43, an editorial and advertising photographer whose commercial clients include a maker of artificial limbs and Skittles candy, remembers thinking, "I can't raise this kid; I can't relate to him at all."
The tension at home was all but unbearable. Every waking hour had to do with Eli, who was 5 at the time. Why was he this way? Why was he that way? Was he mentally ill? Should he be medicated? In retrospect, the evidence seems so unambiguous, particularly once there was a second child, Wilson, to compare Eli to. But nobody in the household had yet spoken aloud the word "autism."
That was the moment when Mr. Archibald decided to look for his son, in the most literal sense of the word — through the lens of his camera.

Amid Autism Fears, Vaccination Rate Falls Among Wealthy Children

If there's one great truth of political debate, it's this: when noise trumps knowledge, someone's going to get hurt. That's been proven anew with Wednesday's report that vaccination rates for children with health insurance have been falling — due mostly to fears about the widely disproven link between vaccines and autism. If there was a glimmer of good — and surprising — news in the report it's that vaccination rates for kids on Medicaid are on the rise.

Study Reveals Disparities for Adults with Disabilities and their Families

OK, we don't usually like to run organization's press release - but Easter Seals' study is too important to ignore. While media tends to focus on cute children with autism and other developmental disabilities, no one looks at the adults (who once were cute children).

CHICAGO -- Parents of adult children with developmental disabilities are struggling with extreme concerns that impact every aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to their financial well-being. They are particularly fearful about what will happen to their son or daughter with a disability after they die, yet have done little to prepare for that time, according to a new study released today by Easter Seals via a webcast featuring actor Joe Mantegna, who is also the father of a young adult daughter with autism. The study was made possible by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and conducted online by Harris Interactive.*

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Report: Children with Special Needs Prone to Toothaches

CHICAGO -- Poor, minority and special needs children are more likely to be affected by toothache, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
"Toothache is a source of chronic and often severe pain that interferes with a child's ability to play, eat and pay attention in school," the authors write as background information in the study. The authors also note that "the most common cause of toothache is dental decay" and the "process of dental decay is one that optimally would be prevented or, at the very least, identified early and then arrested through provision of regular professional dental care. However, for some U.S. children, including those who are Medicaid-insured, access to preventive and restorative dental care is more difficult."

Study: Brain Wiring Linked to Autism

Too many tight connections in frontal-lobe circuits and too few long-distance links between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain may cause some of the language, social problems and repetitive behavior seen in autism spectrum disorders, according to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine. The research links a variant of the CNTNAP2 gene to this particular type of rewiring in the brain.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

'I Couldn't Have Asked for a Better Team to Be Part of'

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Leslie Sieleni told the coach her son, Sean, didn't need to take the field.
"As long as Sean could sit on the bench and be a part of the team, he'd be happy," Leslie said.
But coach Tom Sohrweide wouldn't let the 10-year-old, who has Down syndrome, stay on the sideline.
"No, Sean will play," Sohrweide insisted.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tennis Enhancing Children's Social and Motor Skills

LOS ANGELES -- Nischal Jeste Spurling, 3, stepped directly on his mark and gripped a tennis racket firmly in his little fist. He modeled for the children watching how to hit tennis balls exactly on cue from the instructor.
When 4-year-old Diego Herrera stepped up to a tee, he bounced distractedly on the balls of his feet and looked off into the distance, and a volunteer helped the child with autism hold the racket that was slipping through his grip.
He hit the ball, and it earned him a high five from Nischal.
"I like tennis," Diego said softly in Spanish.
The difference between the two children's approaches seemed vast, but it was nothing compared to when Diego first began playing the sport, said Harvey Rubin, a volunteer instructor and a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association.
In collaboration with the nonprofit group ACEing Autism, UCLA Recreation provides the L.A. community with Adaptive Tennis, a 10-week program designed for youths ages 4 to 18 with autism spectrum disorder.

Autism Therapy Beginning at 6 Months

SACRAMENTO — In the three years since her son Diego was given a diagnosis of autism at age 2, Carmen Aguilar has made countless contributions to research on this perplexing disorder.
She has donated all manner of biological samples and agreed to keep journals of everything she’s eaten, inhaled or rubbed on her skin. Researchers attended the birth of her second son, Emilio, looking on as she pushed, leaving with Tupperware containers full of tissue samples, the placenta and the baby’s first stool.
Now the family is in yet another study, part of an effort by a network of scientists across North America to look for signs of autism as early as 6 months. (Now, the condition cannot be diagnosed reliably before age 2.) And here at the MIND Institute at the University of California Davis Medical Center, researchers are watching babies like Emilio in a pioneering effort to determine whether they can benefit from specific treatments.

A Little Break for Families of Children with Special Needs

QUEENS, N.Y. -- Thursday, for Jennifer Choi, is the day of rest, a much-anticipated Sabbath that comes and goes all too soon.
On Thursdays, Ms. Choi can feel reliably confident that her husband will not come home to find her tense and exhausted. By bedtime, both of her children will have eaten dinner and been bathed. The 3-year-old, Spencer, who has a speech delay and a developmental disorder, will not have walked around the living room in self-soothing circles the moment she turned her attention elsewhere. Her 6-year-old, Logan, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, will have finished his homework.
Thursday is the best day because that is the day Catalina Lopez — cheerful, well trained and all of 17 years old — comes to watch Spencer and Logan, each for an hour, separately, and peace descends on the family’s two-bedroom apartment in western Queens.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dog Connects with Children on Spectrum

BERGENFIELD, N.J. -- The Rhodesian Ridgeback stands patiently as Jack Seidler, 9, whose mother says "never interacts with anybody," first pats, then hugs, then drapes himself across the dog’s broad back. The mother catches her breath in surprise. The dog’s trainer smiles.
Wyatt has worked his magic again.
Dogs have been helping the disabled for centuries, but only recently has there been a concerted movement to provide dogs as therapy for autistic children. A decade ago, there were few organizations offering trained companion or service dogs to autistic people. Now there are dozens.

New York State Defends High Cost of Care

New York state's highest-in-the-nation Medicaid reimbursement rate for the mentally disabled is legal and justified, officials argue in papers submitted to the federal government — and, moreover, they told the Poughkeepsie Journal, it should be even higher.
The federal government had asked the state to justify its $4,556 per-person daily rate at nine state institutions as "reasonable" in response to revelations in June in the Journal. The rate, paid half each by the state and federal governments, is four times higher than any other nationwide and about four times the actual cost of care.

Study: More Funding Needed for Dental Care

Research on dental health suggests that poor oral health is linked to increased risks for chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. This problem is even more pronounced among individuals with disabilities because of their notoriously limited access to dental care.
A survey conducted with individuals with disabilities in Delaware on their health status showed that almost a quarter (24.3 percent) of adults surveyed did not receive regular dental care, and adults who depend on state health insurance do not have dental care coverage through Medicaid.