Monday, October 31, 2011

Opinion: Solution to Childhood Obesity Must Include Those with Special Needs

Few public health issues have received more attention in recent years than childhood obesity. Yet the population perhaps most affected by this epidemic has been left out of the national conversation completely: children with special needs and disabilities. These children are 38% more likely than others to be obese and many face behavioral, medication and mobility challenges that defy standard solutions. The statistics are devastating: among some groups, the obesity rate is as high as 86%. Even among Special Olympics athletes, more than one-third are obese. Clearly, we cannot as a nation solve this huge health challenge without including the millions of American families caring for a child with special needs or a disability. This week, with the release of "Finding Balance: Obesity and Children with Special Needs", is closing the gap.

Kids with ASD Learning Halloween Routine

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The routine seems simple enough: don a costume, ring the door bell or knock and say "trick-or-treat."
But for a child with autism, Halloween and the holiday’s spooky decorations, itchy costumes and greeting strangers in exchange for candy can be downright terrifying.

Shopping for Gifts with Heart

CANTON, Ohio — Up until three years ago, many of the items in the Just Imagine gift shop were from outside vendors. Not any more.
Now the handcrafted ceramics and other art pieces are made on site by individuals with developmental disabilities.
"Ninety-five percent of our stock is made right here," said Therese Heitkamp, training coordinator for the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities. "Customers are amazed that our individuals make such high quality things. The ceramics blow them away — they’re all one-of-a-kind pieces."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

State Pays as Beds Stay Empty in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — There's room for two more people in the ranch-style house with the neatly landscaped yard overlooking Mayberry and Manson Streets.
Only four residents have settled into the west Omaha home since it opened to care for people with developmental disabilities and complex medical needs.
But, for more than 18 months, a contract has required the state to pay as if the home were full. That's $2,296 per day, or $1.3 million since the first person moved in on April 7, 2010.

Under the same contract, the state is required to pay for empty spots in 10 other homes created for people leaving the troubled Beatrice State Developmental Center. The Mayberry home was the first of the 11 to open.
Total payments have run into the millions of dollars.

Employees Bring Heart To Workplace

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Todd Erdes clocks in at the Schwabe North America loading and distribution center every weekday, just like the rest of his co-workers.
He works out at the company gym, goes out after work to play darts or bowl and gets dressed up for the company Halloween party.
The main difference between the 31-year-old Green Bay man and the rest of his coworkers is his autism. Erdes' superiors consider his work ethic second-to-none, and he earns more than $11 per hour.
"He brings a different sense of energy to this company. He's an individual that wants to be here 24-7 if he could be," said Isaac Oshefsky, distribution group leader at the manufacturing distributor formerly known as Enzymatic Therapy that produces nutritional supplements.

Editing His Way To a New Life

BURBANK, Calif. -- Ask Michael Bledstein to name a favorite movie and he reels off his top-10 picks — in alphabetical order.
"I just love every decade and genre in cinema," said the 27-year-old Burbank resident.
It is an uncanny ability that has served Bledstein, who has Asperger's syndrome, well as he pursues his dream of becoming a film editor at Video Symphony, a Burbank-based production school that prepares students for careers in media and entertainment.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Opinion: Ignorant Is Just a Word

Once upon a time, back when I first began working with other people's autistic children, I found myself in a family's living room surrounded by people hungry for advice.
It was the moment I excel at: Q & A. When it comes to autism, I just get it. The kids make sense to me so I find creating ways to help them reach desired goals relatively easy.
Someone said something about a neighbor being judgmental. I responded with, "They are just ignorant! It is up to us to teach them. They simply don't know." I was of course using the word as it was originally intended, before society recreated it and made it into slang.

NYS to Close 3 Residential Programs in 2013

The state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities plans to close the three residential programs at the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Services Office campus by the end of 2013. It has started to identify how best to meet the needs of the 125 people who are currently there.
The closure is part of a decades-old plan for the state to reduce the number of institutional beds and provide homelike settings within communities after revelations of horrendous conditions at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, said Travis Proulx, director of communications for the state developmental disabilities office. But the plan languished over the years.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Life on the Spectrum: Long, Cold Autumn

Last year Brian Lafferty lost his mother to breast cancer. This column is the second of a four-part series about loss and grief from an Autistic’s perspective.

SAN DIEGO -- At my alma mater, The Winston School, I was blessed to have a fine P.E. teacher and softball coach. On one of my toughest days he gave me a piece of sage advice. He told me, "If you worry that something bad is going to happen, chances are it's not going to happen."
This advice would prove time and again to be true. Granted it wasn't true all of the time, but when my mind is inclined to worry about something, I remember what my P.E. teacher said. Nine times out of ten, nothing bad happens and life goes on.
This dictum would be put to the ultimate test, however, when I learned Mom had cancer.

Was Man with Autism Really a Marine?

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles native Joshua D. Fry had been diagnosed as autistic and was living in a group home for people with mental disabilities when a Marine Corps recruiter signed him up for service.
Fry's enlistment three years ago helped the recruiter meet his quota. It turned out far worse for Fry, who ended up being court-martialed on child pornography and other charges. Now his fate is posing a mind-boggling question for military judges:
Was Fry never really in the Marine Corps in the first place?

Missing Virginia Boy with Autism Found

DOSWELL, Va. - Police say the Hanover County autistic boy who was missing for six days has been found alive.
Police sources tell The Associated Press that 8-year-old Robert Wood Jr. was found Friday afternoon near the park where he was separated from his family.

Let's Dispel Myths of Intellectual Disabilities

Interesting column by Jim Henry is commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

The ability to shape your own destiny is what sets America apart.
To be able to pursue the American dream while performing your chosen vocation is a privilege that many people take for granted.
The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and our community partners support approximately 8,000 Tennesseans with intellectual disabilities to live, work and to be a part of their communities.
However, for the majority of the people we support, the opportunity to be a part of the workforce still proves elusive. This is not for a lack of talent, but the challenge is found in communication.

Congress Weighs Future of SSI for Children

From Care2 make a difference on health policy.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means subcommittee held a hearing about Supplemental Security Income Benefits for children with disabilities, to consider the program’s future. Currently SSI provides monthly cash assistance to those who are disabled, blind or elderly and who have little income and few assets; the program provides cash for such basic needs as food, clothing and shelter. In September of 2011, 8 million people collected SSI benefits, including 1.3 million children under 18.
That lawmakers should be considering not to continue such benefits is a sad sign of where our country is now. Kathy Ruffing, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explains some things lawmakers, and the general public, should know about the very real benefits of SSI for children with disabilities.

Rough Job Market for Adults with Autism

More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before and now many of these children are graduating from high school and entering, or at least trying to enter, the workforce.
Unfortunately, this critical crossroads is precisely the time that supportive services for this population tend to peter out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Swimmer with Autism Finds Place on Team

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Inclusion.
It's what Celeste Sychterz-Soules has wanted for her son, Ian Soules, since he was diagnosed with autism as a child.
"When he was in elementary school, he wouldn't even get invitations to birthday parties," Sychterz-Soules said. "No one wanted to invite the weird kid to the party."
But that has changed since Soules, a freshman, joined the swim team at Freedom this season

Roll Out the 'Inclusive' Red Carpet

Joey Travolta's camp sounds absolutely amazing! Has anyone actually attended?

MORAGA, Calif. -- Hollywood came to town on Oct. 23, but it was young, local filmmakers who swept across the red carpet to a standing ovation at the Soda Center on Saint Mary's College campus.
The affair was a screening and award ceremony for participants in the 2011 Summer Inclusion Film Camp. The two-week program brings children and young adults with autism together with film professionals who teach them to conceive, plan and execute a complete short film.
There's little doubt that with best-selling books, celebrated national speakers and even a regularly appearing character on a popular television drama, autism has moved into the mainstream.
But that doesn't mean autistic kids receive universal acceptance, or that their lives have become a proverbial walk in the park. I

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Raising Funds for Sensory Home Makeovers

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- It could be the buzz of overhead lights and the crinkling of potato chip bags being torn open. Or rain pelting the classroom window.
Sometimes, it may just be a passing shadow that triggers the sensory overload.
For Ben Borre, a nonverbal fourth-grader with autism who attends Whiting Lane Elementary School, the sights and sounds of everyday life often become too much for him to bear. Ben might use sign language or an iPad to indicate he needs a break. Sometimes, the 10-year-old starts to scream and cry.
At home is where his parents have better control. Wall colors are muted. The lights have dimmers. There is an ocean mural in the basement with an oversized bean bag that hugs Ben's body, and a swing that can calm him with the rhythmic flow.
"I have a job, so if we have to get an indoor swing, I'll get an indoor swing," said Ben's mother, Darlene Borre, a former attorney who now works as a claims adjuster from their West Hartford house.
"But not everyone can afford it," Borre said, "or even know that they need it."
On Saturday, All Seasons Community, a local nonprofit that Borre co-founded with the eventual goal of creating housing for adults with autism, is holding its first Harvest fundraiser in West Hartford to establish a more immediate goal: Free "sensory home makeovers" for children like Ben and their families.

Link Between Airway Anomaly and Autism?

HONOLULU -- Children born with a certain shape in their airways -- the tubes that take air to the lungs -- all have autism or autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study.
The study is one of the few to show a strong link between anatomy and autism and may indicate a genetic cause for the syndrome, says Barbara Stewart, MD. She presented the study today at CHEST 2011, the Annual Meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Unnecessary Measles Outbreak

From Jenny Anderson, who writes The New York Times' Motherlode blog on parenting.

In a typical year, the Centers for Disease Control sees 60 to 70 cases of measles. As of Oct. 14, it had tracked 214 cases — the worst figure in 15 years.
And here’s the part that kills me: in 86 percent of those cases, the person with the disease had not been vaccinated or the vaccination status was unknown.
Research from the late 1980s, which purported a link between the measles vaccine and autism, was found to be fraudulent. The Lancet, the journal where it was first published, retracted the article. The doctor who authored the study had his license revoked. But concern persists.

Insurer to Pay 'Miracle' Joplin Survivor

ST. LOUIS — Mark Lindquist, whose against-the-odds story of survival and heroism in the Joplin tornado touched people around the world, got some good news Monday: The insurance company that initially denied his medical claim agreed to pay.
Lindquist, 51, was hurt while trying to protect group home residents during the May 22 twister. Lindquist and a co-worker placed mattresses on top of three middle-aged men with Down syndrome in an effort to protect them from the tornado, even climbed atop the mattresses for added weight.
The group home residents died and Lindquist was in a coma for nearly two months, broke every rib, lost most of his teeth and suffered other catastrophic injuries.
Lindquist's job paid barely above minimum wage and he couldn't afford medical insurance

Florida's Support System at 'Breaking Point'

The Tampa Tribune features a column by ReneƩ Valletutti, who chairs the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council.

Over the past several years, individuals with developmental disabilities and their families have endured extensive reductions and elimination of needed services due to funding cuts to the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities' Developmental Disabilities Home and Community Based Services Waiver budget. The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council believes that funding for the waiver cannot sustain any further reductions without seriously jeopardizing both the health and safety of individuals with developmental disabilities who rely on these services and the basic infrastructure of the waiver system.
Currently, many individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are not receiving the services they need to find employment and get help with their daily living activities, which allows them to become or remain independent and have a life in the community like their peers without disabilities.

1,000 Attend Hearing on Center's Closing

JACKSONVILLE - Earnest Jones’ 48-year-old son, Carl, has lived at the Jacksonville Developmental Center for eight years.
Carl Jones, who has severe brain damage, is happy at JDC, and it’s hard for him to adjust to new surroundings, the elder Jones told a hearing held in Jacksonville Monday night to discuss JDC’s proposed closure.
"If you close JDC, where would he go?" Jones asked about his son.
Earnest Jones was among roughly 100 people -- elected officials, Jacksonville residents, union leaders, advocates for people with disabilities and tenants of JDC -- who spoke during the three-hour-plus hearing.
About 1,000 people, most of whom opposed the closure, attended the hearing, which was conducted by the legislative Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability.

A Long Wait for Autism Services in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana families of children with autism are facing years-long wait for access to state services, a wide geographic disparity in care, and shrinking resources for those children when they become adults.
That grim assessment was offered Monday to the Indiana Commission on Autism, a legislative study group charged with making recommendations for how to improve care and services for more than 40,000 Hoosiers who have been diagnosed the disorder.
"Our need for services far outstrips the resources that we've devoted to this as a state," said John Dickerson, executive director of The Arc of Indiana advocacy group.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Researchers Find Super-Social Gene May Hold Clues to Autism and Other Disorders

SAN DIEGO -- If they had their way, Tristan and Tyler Waldner would be friends with everybody.
The 7-year-old twins from San Diego, Calif., have Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that makes them unusually social, so outgoing and gregarious that, to them, there's no such thing as a stranger.
At the library, on the playground, and even with surprise guests at dinner, the blond boys are charming and chatty, brimming with questions — “Where do you live? Did you drive here or fly here? Do you have kids?” — but with none of the shyness or social reserve you’d expect from typical second-graders.

Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants Focus of New Autism Research

Rats exposed to antidepressants just before and after birth show brain abnormalities and strange behaviors reminiscent of autism, a new study finds.
Although the research is in animals, the study provides experimental evidence for a previously reported link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism in children. The study in rats found that when the developing animals were exposed to the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram during the critical period around the time they were born, they became excessively fearful when faced with new situations and failed to play normally with peers.

Bloomberg Against Making All NYC Cabs Accessible

Requiring all cabs to be wheelchair accessible would be dangerous and uncomfortable and lead to fewer people riding in taxis, the mayor of New York City said.
In a radio interview on Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that forcing all cabs to be accessible poses a number of problems. Specifically, he said the vehicles are more expensive, they don’t ride as smoothly as regular cabs and they include a large, inconvenient gap between the passengers and driver.

How Music Changes Our Brains

Music has never been more accessible. Just a decade ago, we were lugging around clunky portable CD players that weighed as much as a hardcover book and would skip whenever we made any sudden movement. Now our entire record collection (and thanks to new companies like Spotify, almost any other song on the planet) can fit into our phones. We can listen to music nonstop — on our commute, at work, at the gym and everywhere else we might want to. But what is this explosion of sound doing to our brains?
In their new book, "Healing at the Speed of Sound," Don Campbell, an author who has written extensively about music and health, and Alex Doman, a specialist in technology in brain function, take an extensive survey about what the latest neuroscientific findings tell us about music and the brain. Although excessive noise has be harmful in a number of ways, music has been shown to improve children with learning disabilities, help elders feel more connected to the world, and even get people into better shape. It provides children with a "hook" for the brain’s memory centers, allowing them to retain more information, and it can play huge roles in modifying our moods.

More States Limit Medicaid Hospital Stays

A growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital stays under Medicaid to as few as 10 days a year to control rising costs of the health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
Advocates for the needy and hospital executives say the moves will restrict access to care, force hospitals to absorb more costs and lead to higher charges for privately insured patients.
States defend the actions as a way to balance budgets hammered by the economic downturn and the end of billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds this summer that had helped prop up Medicaid, financed jointly by states and the federal government.

App Helps Students Improve Social Skills

TOPEKA, Kans. -- The junior high-aged kids are talking typical teenage smack during lunch when one jokingly tells another to go jump in a lake.
The youngster on the receiving end of the mild putdown looks puzzled.
"Why would I do that?," he responds. "I can't swim."
The group erupts with laughter, and the teen with Asperger's Syndrome — a disorder on the Autism spectrum characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction — walks away hurt, his embarrassment obvious.
Mark Bowers knows of many such encounters through his work as a pediatric psychologist. A University of Kansas and Topeka-trained clinician now practicing in Brighton, Mich., northwest of Detroit, Bowers has spent his career helping children, adolescents and young adults with social anxieties or development disorders deal with everyday situations they struggle to comprehend.

Airway Abnormality, a Marker for Autism?

The presence of extra bronchial passageways in children may be a marker for autism and autism spectrum disorders, results from a novel study demonstrated.
"Autism continues to remain underdiagnosed or missed altogether, unrecognized and undiagnosed because appropriate tools for screening for autism have not been available," lead investigator Dr. Barbara A. Stewart said during an interview in advance of the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, where the study was presented. "Until now, there has been no objective evidence for autism spectrum disorder."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Apps for Autism: Communicating on iPad

Amazing segment from 60 minutes last night.

For severely autistic people, communication is often impossible, leaving them unable to convey what they want or need. But as Lesley Stahl reports, touch-screen apps designed for tablet computers like the iPad are now giving autistic people new ways to express themselves, some for the first time. Teachers and parents are hailing the technology as a breakthrough, one that can reveal the true depth of knowledge and emotion trapped behind a wall of silence.

The following script is from "Apps for Autism" which aired on Oct. 23, 2011.

Bride's Amazing Gifts

EVERETT, Wash. -- Bridesmaids surrounded Kinder Holdaway when she appeared in her wedding gown Saturday afternoon.
One by one, they came up to hug the bride.
They formed quite a line, since there were about 30 of them.
Most of the women belong to Eagle Wings Ministries that serves people with developmental disabilities. After one of them asked to be a bridesmaid, Holdaway, who is Eagle Wings' director, invited all of the women and men served by the ministry to be in her wedding party.

Autism's Lifetime Cost $3.2 Million

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Diagnosing and treating autism and related disorders can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, but a state law has forced private insurers to pay for medically necessary services.
Signed into law on July 9, 2008, the Autism Insurance Act requires certain private health insurance plans to cover the cost of diagnostic assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for children and adolescents under 21, according to state Department of Public Welfare.
"Pennsylvania was one of the first to pass a comprehensive autism insurance act," said Nina Wall-Cote, director of DPW's Bureau of Autism Services. "Prior to this, many insurance companies had an autism exclusion."

Parents of Five Face Multiple Challenges

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Most parents have a hard time imagining the challenges of raising a child with autism. For Nicole Nestorick and her husband, James Orr, it's a reality they face every day, times two: their twins, Bastianna and Sebastian, 6, are both autistic.
Mrs. Nestorick said she knew by the time the twins were 9 months old that her son was having problems.
"He wasn't babbling. At naptime, he'd bang his head," the Scranton resident said, adding that he did begin crawling and walking at the right age. "It's like a light switch. One day, we woke up, and it turned off."
When she approached his pediatrician, the doctor told the first-time mom that it was merely a comfort thing, and possibly the result of the twins having been born two-and-a-half months premature.
Mrs. Nestorick persisted, however, and put Sebastian into a sleep study, which would show his brain activity at rest. At 2-1/2 years old, he was finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

CDC: Autism Diagnosis Grow 10-17 Percent

SCRANTON, Pa. -- The figure is so astounding it appears to be a misprint at first glance.
One in 110.
That's the number of American children living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on the most recently published estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with an ASD. And with a 10 to 17 percent annual growth rate, it is the country's fastest growing developmental disability, according to the Autism Society.
A 2005 census study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare's Bureau of Autism Services estimated about 20,000 Pennsylvanians, children and adults, were living with autism, although the study noted that the number was on the conservative side. The bureau now believes that number has grown to between 25,000 and 30,000 state residents.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Students Learning Job Skills

PALM COAST, Fla. -- Ashleigh Doeing helped volunteer Barbara Cerasa move a supply cart down a hallway in the emergency room at Florida Hospital Flagler on a recent morning.
The two made sure each room had enough bandages, tape, socks and other staples.
Doeing, a student at Flagler Palm Coast High School, said she sees herself working or volunteering at a hospital. The soft-spoken 20-year-old was able to experience that on Wednesday, when close to 20 Flagler County students with disabilities spent an hour with hospital volunteers.
"It's a way to help people and make them feel better," Doeing said about working in a hospital.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Flagler students with disabilities are job-shadowing volunteers and employees this month at several local workplaces. Those sites include Whispering Meadows Ranch, Target, Publix, Outback Steakhouse and the cities of Palm Coast and Flagler Beach.

Temple Grandin: Understanding Autism

If you're a Temple Grandin fan, you'll love this interview from 60 Minutes Overtime.

In the world of autism and autism research, there is no one of greater stature than Temple Grandin. As Lesley Stahl says in this week's Overtime Correspondent Candid, "She's one of those rare people with autism who can explain autism. She's a sort of interpreter of autism for the rest of us."
For parents of autistic children, for scientists who study autism, for teachers and caregivers who work with autistic children and adults, Grandin's insights have been groundbreaking and immeasurably helpful.
As she told Lesley: "What I've tried to do is combine both my personal experiences with scientific research. I like to cross the divide between the personal world and the scientific world."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Researchers Find Children with Autism Have Distinct Facial Features

We may be a step closer in understanding what causes autism, say University of Missouri researchers after finding differences between the facial characteristics of children who have autism and those who don’t.
Kristina Aldridge, lead author and assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Missouri, began looking at facial characteristics of autistic children after another researcher, Judith Miles, professor emerita in the School of Medicine and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, mentioned, "There is just something about their faces. They are beautiful, but there is just something about them.

Younger Doctors Less Certain of Vaccines

At a time when enthusiasm for vaccination is waning among parents in the United States, a new study shows younger doctors are less likely than their older peers to be staunch believers in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.
The study, presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in Boston, was comprised of survey data from 551 doctors. Recent graduates from medical school were 15% less likely to believe vaccines are effective compared to older doctors.

Study Finds Slower Brain Growth in Autism

Researchers at UCLA have found a possible explanation for why autistic children act and think differently than their peers. For the first time, they've shown that the connections between brain regions that are important for language and social skills grow much more slowly in boys with autism than in non-autistic children.
Reporting in the current online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, senior author Jennifer G. Levitt, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA; first author Xua Hua, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher; and colleagues found aberrant growth rates in areas of the brain implicated in the social impairment, communication deficits and repetitive behaviors that characterize autism.

Federal Court Hears Autism Education Case

OMAHA, Neb. -- A trial in U.S. District Court in Omaha opened Thursday with a video of an autistic boy named Luke McNair.
Two Luke McNairs, really, his attorney says, and the contrast in the boy's behavior shown on the courtroom's computer screens goes to the heart of his parents' lawsuit against Lincoln Public Schools.
The first half of the video shows Luke in spring 2009, when he arrived at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute, a research facility for child and adolescent developmental disabilities associated with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
It shows him crying, hitting and banging his head. The second half shows him five months later: calm, answering questions, doing his schoolwork.
Matt and Chrissy McNair, who were not identified in court but agreed to have their names used in this story, say LPS officials violated federal special education law by not relying on research and evidence from institute experts when implementing a plan for their son at Sheridan Elementary School.

Show Tackles Developmental Disabilities

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Timothy Bond wants to be respectful to everyone in Syracuse Stage's production of "The Boys Next Door." Tom Griffin's comedy/drama tells the story of four men — Arnold, Norman, Lucien and Barry — with developmental disabilities or mental illness who live together in a group home.
"We're excited to celebrate these people who are underrepresented onstage," says Bond, who is directing the play and is Stage’s producing artistic director. "It's been a moving process due in part to an incredible cast and a tender, touching script."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Students with Asperger's Face Challenges

Just came across an interesting item from Whitby College's newspaper -- The Pioneer -- in Washington. (What can I say, I always loved college newspapers.)

WALA WALA, Wash. -- "When people talk about autism . . . they think of the person doing their own thing in the back of the room," said Randall, a first-year. "But you don’t think of the kid who approaches people but doesn't know how to do it."
Randall has Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism characterized by intense interests and by difficulties understanding nonverbal expressions and showing empathy. Individuals with Asperger's are often highly intelligent and, unlike people with certain severe forms of autism, can communicate with verbal language.
There are no official numbers on Whitman students with Asperger's, though Director of Academic Resources Juli Dunn said she works with "a small handful." For Whitman students with Asperger’s, their differences affect their experiences both in the classroom and in Whitman’s broader social sphere. The Pioneer talked with two Whitties with Asperger’s, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not out publicly as individuals with Asperger’s. Both students are identified by pseudonyms of their choice.

People Have Powerful Appeal in Photos

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College students looking at photographs spent more time gazing at the people in the pictures than the surrounding elements, even when those people were quite small or not centrally located, according to Penn State researchers. These findings could help the researchers develop better visual-scene displays (VSDs) — computer-generated images that help people with disabilities learn to communicate.
According to Krista Wilkinson, professor of communication sciences and disorders and the study’s lead author, traditional communication displays show a grid of abstract images to the viewer. Individuals — often children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders — are encouraged to communicate their ideas by pointing to one or more of the images in the grid.
"But," said Wilkinson, "this approach isn't effective because children don't learn their early words in isolation."
"Instead," added Janice Light, distinguished professor of communication sciences and disorders, and the other author of the paper that appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, "people formulate ideas in the context of the events and the people in their lives."

Budget Cuts Threaten Decades of Progress for People with Disabilities

Opinion piece by Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

The federal budget will be cut dramatically in the years ahead and the impact that these cuts will have on people in society who need our help should concern all of us. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are particularly at risk, as public programs have barely kept pace with the needs of this population over the last decade and hard-won progress can easily be erased.
While the level of support varies greatly based on the disability, people with disabilities need some support to share and thrive in the human experience. Sometimes that support is minimal, such as the training and coaching needed for employment, and other times it is a more intense, even round the clock, level of care.

Company Employs Adults with Autism

Just can't get enough of this story. A great company providing jobs for people on the spectrum.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. -- Rick Alexander is a model employee.
He is conscientious and talented, having proven his abilities well enough to be called upon to lead his team on a recent project. He is committed to his craft, even devoting much of his own time at home to maintaining his technical skill set.
So, it may surprise you that when Rick was coming out of college with a degree in computer science, he could not find a job. Dozens of companies turned him down. He was not called back for a second interview even once.
That is because Rick is on the autism spectrum. And like many people with autism, Rick lacked the social skills to do well on job interviews.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Study Links Autism and Diabetes

A review of the genetic and biochemical abnormalities associated with autism reveals a possible link between the widely diagnosed neurological disorder and Type 2 diabetes, another medical disorder on the rise in recent decades.
"It appears that both Type 2 diabetes and autism have a common underlying mechanism -- impaired glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia," said Rice University biochemist Michael Stern, author of the opinion paper, which appears online in this month's issue of Frontiers in Cellular Endocrinology

There's No Place Like Medical Home When It Comes to Developmental Surveillance

From Dr. Lewis R. First on Pediatrics' blog.

Despite the emphasis on developmental surveillance as being a critical component of a child health maintenance visit, only half of U.S. parents self-report they are being asked about their infant or child's developmental concerns during pediatric health maintenance visits -- at least based on a concerning study by Guerrero et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0030) being early released online this week. The authors used the National Survey of Children's Health database and found substantive disparities in who is being asked about their child's development based on differences in ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language spoken, and the presence or absence of a medical home. The good news is that when the medical home is in place, the disparities narrow.

Pa. Group Homes Face 6 Percent Cut

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Service providers for the intellectually disabled say they were informed last week by the Department of Public Welfare of 6 percent cuts totaling $100 million to $200 million statewide.
The cuts for group homes, which take care of about 16,000 Pennsylvanians, were outlined by providers in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Bullying Survey on Children with Autism

Abby, a nine year old from Maryland with Asperger Syndrome, was constantly teased by fellow students about her autism-related behavior. To help her cope, teachers set aside a safe place for Abby to go to each week. The bullying and teasing continued as children put up derogatory signs in the space and mimicked Abby’s emotional outbursts. In the end, Abby’s mother resorted to home schooling.
The Interactive Autism Network (IAN Project) has launched a national survey to study the impact of bullying on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Bullying, a pervasive problem among youth, has attracted the national spotlight in recent months because of the lasting, and sometimes tragic, effects on children and teenagers across the country. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)are believed to be especially vulnerable targets due to their social deficits and other challenges.

Opinion: Distrust of Government Prompts Vaccine Rebellion

Tents, signs, protests and chants are all the rage these days for showing our growing distrust of government and big corporations.
Want to know another way that distrust is manifesting in America?
Through whooping cough, measles and diphtheria.
Yup. Stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have gone totally retro, with old-school diseases coming back stronger than pencil skirts. Why?
Our nation’s parents have a growing distrust of vaccinations, one of medicine’s greatest advances. And we’re not just talking about 2 or 3 percent anymore. The fringe who didn’t believe in medicine for religious and other reasons has exploded into a 10 percent, largely yuppie epidemic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Opinion: CLASS Is Dismissed

Ezra Klein is the editor of Wonkblog and a columnist at the Washington Post, as well as a contributor to MSNBC and Bloomberg. His work focuses on domestic and economic policymaking, as well as the political system that's constantly screwing it up.

On Friday, the Obama administration made it official: CLASS is dismissed.
"CLASS" stands — or stood — for "Community Living Assistance Services and Supports." The idea was simple, or seemed to be: a voluntary insurance program that would cover home health-care options for adults who become disabled.
It was the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's brainchild, but the White House was cool to it in public and hostile in private. "Seems like a recipe for disaster to me," wrote one aide in a subsequently released e-mail.
The problem with CLASS was that it front-loaded its savings and back-loaded its costs.

Social Service Groups Improvise as State Funding Falls Behind

CHICAGO -- When the owner of a southern Illinois child care center didn't get the state funding he was promised on time and faced laying off employees and cutting service to low-income children, he borrowed money from family members to get by.
When a suburban Chicago center helping disabled people live independently didn’t get its state money quickly, employees waited three months for a paycheck so clients wouldn't feel the pinch.
And when an Elgin domestic abuse program was left with stacks of unpaid bills and no sign of when the money would come from the state, workers took four weeks of unpaid furlough days, especially difficult for employees earning $25,000 a year.
They are among the thousands of community groups and charities making up Illinois' system for providing human services: the state contracts out the work and agrees to make reimbursements. But as Illinois' budget crisis worsens and the state lags further behind in paying bills, those that serve the state's neediest are forced to make dire decisions and at-times heroic sacrifices to pick up the slack.

'The Light In His Eyes Began to Go Out'

Terrible pain too often accompanies mother-love (and father-love for that matter). I could not let Megan Liberman’s post from Monday on Emily Rapp's Notes From a Dragon Mom inch down the screen without flagging another — admittedly far less hopeless — reflection on maternal loss that I read some days ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
It's called Little Boy Lost, and in it Amy Leal, a Syracuse University Romantic scholar, writes unforgettably of the horror of having watched her now-nonverbal 2-year-old son, Julian, lose his just-acquired language skills to autism.
Julian had, she relates, been receiving early-intervention services for three months when he suddenly had a "frightening regression" and "the light in his eyes began to go out."

Team Supports Kicker with Autism

The video for this story is amazing. What a team. Go Tommies!

MINNEAPOLIS - Football players can take and deliver some hard hits, but one of the Edison Tommies is tackling autism, trust, forgiveness and friendship in his senior year.
FOX 9 News first introduced Aaron Jones there years ago when he began playing football for the team. After moving away for a few years, Jones returned to Edison -- and his role as the Tommies' kicker.
Until a couple of students taught him a gang sign, that is. Jones repeated the sign on the street and was chased by a group of teenagers. His mother then told him she didn't want him to play on the team anymore, and he stopped.

Students with Learning Disabilities Get a Firm Grip on College

PUTNEY, Vt. – They have developed strategies to stay focused when lectures get boring, picked up tips for staying on top of homework and brushed up on their rights as college students with documented learning disabilities.
Now, they are working on their handshakes.
"No wet dishrags. Look me right in the eye," Landmark College professor Roxanne Hamilton coaches her students, who would soon scatter to campuses across the nation to start their freshman year. She tells them that a firm grip will project confidence when they ask for what they need to succeed — be it extra time on tests, access to an instructor's notes or a distraction-free place to study.

Autism at Work: Learning to Think Socially

Laura Shumaker at -- the San Francisco Chronicle -- does it again! This time Michele Garcia Winner who presented in NYC last week on social thinking at the YAI Network's Autism Conference, gets the assist.

Matthew, who is very interesting in garden work, decided to go around the neighborhood and offer his services over the summer. With the help of a mentor/helper, he put together a flyer circulated it to "only the houses that looked bad." His helper encouraged him to simply slip the flyers in mail boxes, which Matthew did cheerfully. Everything went well until came upon a house with an overgrown lawn and no visible mail box just as an elderly woman was coming through her front door.
"Your lawn looks horrible," he said forcefully. "I want to mow it."
She did not hire him

Monday, October 17, 2011

Funding Cuts Jeopardize Autism Services

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Jim Watkins first started teaching his son, Liam, to use a swing when he was two years old. But Liam, who is autistic, just couldn't get the hang of it -- until a summer day this June, more than a decade later, when Watkins noticed Liam, now 14, out in the backyard.
"There he is, swinging to beat the band," Watkins said. "It took 10 years, but he got it. He got it."
That was just one of the success stories told at Borough President James P. Molinaro's second annual Stand Together for Autism Services on Staten Island event yesterday at the Petrides Educational Complex, Sunnyside. But Island organizations that provide services to help autistic people say funding cuts are making it hard just to sustain their services -- and make it impossible to expand to help all of those children diagnosed with autism as the rate continues to rise each year.

Developmental Center Closing Case

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- A Montgomery circuit judge heard arguments Monday in the W.D. Partlow Developmental Center closing lawsuit and gave parties until Monday to file more briefs on a motion to dismiss the case.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese told the lawyers for plaintiff Louise McRae to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss her lawsuit by Thursday. The state has until Monday to enter its reaction to McRae’s brief.
McRae filed a lawsuit against the Department of Mental Health over plans to close the Partlow Center no later than Nov. 30 and move eligible residents into community homes.
Partlow, the state’s sole center for the intellectually disabled, has been home for McRae’s 61-year-old son, Mike, since 1973. She said she doesn’t want to move her son into a community-based facility as the department is urging her to prior to Nov. 30, the target date for Partlow’s closing.

Program Aids College Students with Autism

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- As the number of people diagnosed with Asperger’s and Autism continues to grow, Kirkwood Community College is beginning a program specifically designed to help students with this diagnosis be successful as college students.
The Focused Skill Training program (FST) has been developed by staff in the Kirkwood Learning Services department over the past year and it was launched at the start of fall semester.
College bound students with the Asperger’s or Autism diagnosis who choose to participate in the FST program will work with Kirkwood staff to build an individual plan which may include learning how to navigate the social aspects of college, self-advocacy training and organizational strategies.

Diagnosing ADHD as Early as Age 4

The American Academy of Pediatrics changed the treatment guidelines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to include children between the ages of 4 and 18 years old to be diagnosed with ADHD. They emphasize the importance of first treatment options to be behavioral management techniques and a last resort to be medication.

From Devastation to Undying Love

It was in the recovery room at Akron City Hospital in Ohio that Meghan and Matt Wilkinson learned the news. Doctors suspected their newborn identical twins had Down syndrome.
Meghan needed some time alone. After several attempts, she finally convinced her family to go get a bite to eat. That's when she broke down. She prayed that the diagnosis was wrong. But she quickly discovered that it really didn't matter; she had already fallen deeply in love with her boys. Besides, she reasoned, Down syndrome was just a small part of what defined them - her "miracle men."

Family Lost In Shuffle

MISSOULA, Mont. -- As of this month, state aid that helps 81-year-old Helen Orendain care for her mentally disabled daughter is being cut off, in the name of balancing Montana’s budget.
Orendain, of Missoula, is contesting the decision on behalf of her family and others, saying they weren’t given adequate notice of formal steps that led to the cut-off.

Researchers Tie Low Birth Weight to Autism

PHILADELPHIA -- Autism is far more common in low-birth-weight babies than the general population, researchers are reporting Monday, a significant finding that nevertheless raises more questions than it answers and illustrates how little is known about a group of disorders that affect nearly 1 percent of American children.
The study found that 5 percent of newborns weighing less than 4 pounds, 7 ounces were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, as were nearly 11 percent of a subgroup born below 3 pounds, 5 ounces.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Website Launched for People for Disabilities

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Arc of Mecklenburg County , led by Executive Director Lauren Borchert, has launched a new website -- separate from the agency's main website -- called SCHOOL2Life to assist young people with disabilities in transitioning from school to college or employment.
The organization, located on Park Road, is a United Way agency for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The site, parts of which are still under construction, grew from discussions on best practices with other groups working with the developmentally disabled and an identified gap in transition services.
Funding for the project came from a school-to-community-transition grant through The Arc of the United States

Dancing for Those with Autism

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- He spends his nights reading bedtime stories to his daughter. She curls up next to him in her pajamas listening about far away lands and princesses who require a single kiss to awaken.
Ariana Angel, a 5-year-old high-functioning autistic child, has memorized a book she's only heard once before. She recited each line flawlessly back to her father, Joshua Angel, a 32-year-old single father and Gainesville resident.
Angel, a former West Coast swing dance instructor, is the event planner for the "Angels & Devils Autism Fundraiser Dance & Costume Party," to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Gainesville Dance Association hall at 308 West University Ave.
"She is also a computer wizard, can run our Wii like a long-time gamer and is quite adept with my smart phone," Angel said of Ariana, a student at Norton Elementary. "And she's way better than me at Angry Birds."
On the off time when he's not getting beat at launching birds at little green pigs, he's busy planning the Friday night autism fundraiser.
Angel began teaching West Coast swing, his favorite dance, at the Sunshine Eagles Club in Gainesville two years ago but realized there were no opportunities to put the moves his students learned onto the social dance floor.

Missing Gene Cluster Linked to Autism

A cluster of genes is missing in children with autism, scientists at New York's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have discovered, a finding they say moved them a significant step toward unmasking the genetic underpinnings of the condition.
The subject of autism-related genes remains controversial in some quarters where parent groups still insist factors such as vaccines and toxins are at the core of the developmental disorder. But scientists at the lab have been on the trail of a suspect gene cluster since 2007, when geneticist Dr. Michael Wigler first proposed it may play a major role. Wigler suggested the missing cluster is a 27-gene grouping on chromosome 16.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Police: Cattle Prod Complaint Was Fake

GREENWICH, N.Y. -- A Greenwich woman was arrested Friday for allegedly lying to police about her claims that a co-worker at a group home used an electric cattle prod on a developmentally disabled resident of the home, officials said.
Allison Baranski, 23, was charged with making a punishable false written statement, a misdemeanor, after an investigation by the Washington County Sheriff's Office, State Police and state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.
Baranski and the woman she accused worked together at a home on Bowen Hill Road run by the OPDD in Jackson known as the Arlington House.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Life On the Spectrum: Life with Mom

Brian Lafferty is a young adult with High-Functioning Autism currently living in Escondido. He graduated cum laude from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Radio/TV/Film and is also the film critic for East County Magazine. He can be reached at You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.

SAN DIEGO -- When I was little I would have an occasional paralyzing fear that my mom and dad were going to die too soon. I don’t know why I had this fear. All I know is it would keep me up at night and it made me cry.
Every time this fear would envelop me – usually at bedtime – I’d come downstairs in tears. Mom always had a way of saying things in a way that made me feel better. She assured me that by the time she would die I wouldn’t be dependent on her. She’d hug me, kiss me, then send me up to bed and things would be much better.
The years passed and by the time I was in high school the fears stopped. But in the end, these fears would prove to not be unfounded. On November 26 of last year she succumbed to an aggressive and invasive form of breast cancer. I was devastated. I’m still grieving and I likely always will. She won’t be around for my wedding, she won’t be able to hold my grandchildren, and despite having 160 friends on Facebook, I miss her commenting on and liking my status updates.
The purpose of this column is to tell you about life from an Autistic person’s point of view. In addition, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Starting today and through November I want to share with you my personal experience of losing my mother from my Autistic perspective.

Arc Calif. to Host 5K as Litigation Looms

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A marathon of litigation lies ahead in Arc California’s emerging legal battle with the State of California – but for now, they’ll look to start things off with a 5K.
"As California taxpayers, we fully appreciate the State's need to reduce costs, but we cannot allow the State to endanger its citizens and risk their basic civil rights," Arc California executive director Tony Anderson said in a statement released on the Sacramento-based organization's website.

Placement Dispute Keeps Man with Down Syndrome in Hospital for Months

A story from Canada that is just too horrible to ignore.

A 46-year-old man with Down syndrome and dementia has now spent more than five months confined to an acute care ward in Vancouver General Hospital because the B.C. government refuses to move him into a group home, his sister said Thursday.
Mo Gaffney said her brother, John, needs the kind of 24-hour supervision provided at a staffed residential home. She said one agency has offered to place her brother in a group home, but the government wants a home-sharing arrangement, where he would live with an individual or a family.

Appeals Court to Hear Funding Challenge

SAN DIEGO -- The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Thursday in Pasadena in a lawsuit that has sweeping implications for the state budget and thousands of low-income, disabled Californians and their families.
The Developmental Services Network and other nonprofit associations filed suit to challenge a 2009 freeze in Medi-Cal funding that will harm California’s most vulnerable residents – the developmentally disabled with medical needs who live in intermediate care facilities.
A federal judge enjoined the State from implementing the freeze in May but a government appeal has permitted the State to ignore the judge's order and has forced treatment facilities in several California cities to consider closing their doors, advocates for the disabled indicate.

An Easier Transition to College

COSTA MESA, Fla. — The transition to college can be a rough one.
It's a crash course in how to live within a budget — and without Mom and Dad's help with chores and meals.
For students with developmental disabilities, being away from their support networks can be too much.
But aid is available through a Florida-based private company.

Illinois Seeks to Discipline Doctor

CHICAGO -- Dr. Anjum Usman, who has been a star in the world of alternative treatments for autism for years, is facing professional discipline for her approach to the disorder.
In prescribing chelation, a hormone modulator and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Usman subjected a young Chicago boy to unproven treatments and demonstrated "extreme departure from rational medical judgment," according to a complaint filed this week by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Acceptance Parents Could Only Dream Of

NEVADA, Calif. -- Colin Peirce's parents didn't think it was possible that their son could be elected Nevada Union High School's homecoming king.
Denis and Nancy Peirce were just thankful when their son, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome, was named one of the three finalists.
To see him riding in a convertible and waving in a parade-like procession at the Sept. 23 homecoming game, in front of the whole school and thousands more on hand, was something the couple never dreamed they would see.

Racism and Sexism in Diagnosing A.D.H.D.

Opinion piece from The New York Times by Donna Ford, a professor of special education at Vanderbilt University.

More than any other group, black males are identified (and misidentified) as having A.D.H.D. Frankly, black males in special education are as common as apple pie and ice cream. Professionals, lay people and parents have become very comfortable and complacent with concluding that children who are vervistic -- physically demonstrative, tactile and kinesthetic -- and easily distracted require a label, medication and speci

High Price of Wall Street's Mess

Wall Street's excesses blew up the economy. Now the question is who pays to clean up the mess. Across the country, our children are already paying part of the bill -- as their schools are hit with deep budget cuts. A new report -- Starving America's Public Schools: How Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates are Hurting our Nation's Students -- released today by the Campaign for America's Future and the National Education Association, looks at five states to detail what this means to kids in our public elementary and secondary schools. (Full disclosure: I co-direct the Campaign.) The findings are sobering.
Every study shows the importance of early childhood education. Analysts at the Federal Reserve discovered that investments in childhood development have, in the words of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, such "high public as well as private returns" that the Fed has championed such investments to noting they save states money by reducing costs of drop outs, special education, and crime prevention. Yet across the country, states are slashing funding for per-kindergarten and even rolling back all day kindergarten. Now pre-K programs serve only about one-fourth of 4-year-olds. Ten states have eliminated funding for pre-K altogether, including Arizona. Ohio eliminated funding for all day kindergarten.

Seeking a Chance to Succeed on the Job

Jamie Lazaroff is the Self Advocate Coordinator for The Arc of Quinebaug Valley, a Board of Directors Member at The Arc Connecticut, and a Transition Team Member for Commissioner Macy, CT Department of Developmental Services.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I am employed as a self-advocate coordinator at The Arc of Quinebaug Valley and I love working with my peers in The Arc movement to raise awareness about, and increase opportunity for, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Autism Therapy Coverage for Now in Calif.

Parents of children with autism lauded the California Governor Jerry Brown's decision to sign into law a bill that requires health insurers to cover behavioral health treatments for their kids, but questions linger about the therapy and whether the coverage will continue after the main provisions of the federal health law go into effect in 2014.
The law, Senate Bill 946, will be in effect only from July 1, 2012, through July 1, 2014. After that, either the requirement will be covered under the federal law or the state will have to decide what to do next.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs and Autism Community: Square Pegs in Round Holes

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- There is a poster that hangs on the wall of a room in my house. The poster features the face of a young Bob Dylan with a harmonica around his neck. It is a striking image, but over the past few days, that isn't what has drawn my attention.
What has drawn my attention is the small rainbow-striped apple in the top left-hand corner, above the words "Think different."
I tracked down and bought that poster a long time ago. I bought it long before iPods and iPads. I bought it long before the iPhone. I bought it long before I had kids, and I bought it long before I had a child with autism.

Boosting School Pride and Opportunity

LINGANORE, Md. -- Linganore High School students showcased their Lancer pride on Monday by wearing their school sports jerseys to school.
One group of students in the sea of red and white were also able to wear their own athletic uniforms for Spirit Week, a feat not possible just a few years ago before the Unified Sports Tennis Team was founded.
It was a big deal for Sarah Webber, a 15-year-old freshman in the Learning for Life special education program at the school, but also a school athlete in her first year as a tennis player.
New Market resident Monique Webber, Sarah's mom said she was excited to be on the team.
"It makes her feel really good and part of the school, you know?" Webber said, adding that participation in the school's Spirit Week activity on Monday was important. "...she had a jersey to wear."

Over 3,500 Protest Rhode Island Cuts

PROVIDENCE — More than 3,500 protesters encircled the State House Tuesday night, waving glow sticks in a "Circle of Hope" to protest $24 million in state cuts that threaten the homes, care, jobs and transportation for people with developmental disabilities.
People in matching neon-green T-shirts started arriving around 4 p.m. They included people with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, along with family, friends and caregivers. The backs of the T-shirts said "Keep the Promise" or "Stop the Cuts.”"

“The promise,” said Thomas Campbell, pushing the wheelchair of William Kwiatkoski, both 44 and both of Providence, “was that we would have community living.”

Serving Up Life Skills From the Kitchen

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tony Sandifur is a stickler for time. Rest assured, there will be no charred pizza crusts on his watch.
Wednesday afternoons are special around the Greater Richmond ARCenter, a facility in North Richmond that provides services and programs for children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities.
That's when the staff and students gather in the kitchen to cook. If you happen to be there, you might get a whiff — or if you're really lucky, a taste — of something wonderful, like buttermilk biscuits or creamy cheesecake.

Hotel Job is Perfect Fit

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — After having had a variety of professional positions over the past few years, Eric Jawitz has found a job he plans to remain in for the long term.
Jawitz was hired early this year as a pool attendant for the luxurious Loew's Miami Beach Hotel.
Jawitz has developmental disabilities and receives services from Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time when APD is highlighting the contributions of people with disabilities to the workforce.

Adults with Disabilities Work it Out

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - His friends say Richard Williams is getting better at soccer.
Now he can practice right next door.
Williams, 58, lives at Spring Glen, a retirement community run by Residential Services Inc., which provides housing for a growing group of aging adults with developmental disabilities in Orange County.
This fall he gets to play soccer at the neighboring Weiss Activity Center, which opened last month on Mount Herman Church Road in eastern Orange County, north of Chapel Hill.
"I'll be able to play soccer more, probably," said Williams, who competes in the Special Olympics in soccer, basketball, track and swimming. "Plus I can practice here."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Protesting Rhode Island Budget Cuts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- More than 2,000 protesters Tuesday evening were surrounding the State House in a protest called "Circle of Hope." They are holding glow sticks to protest $24 million in cuts that might leave people with development disabilities homeless or without rides to their programs.
Organizers had expected 3,000 in an event that was to last until 8 p.m., and as of early evening people were still pouring in.

No Child Left Behind Waivers Prompt Fear

The Obama administration wants states to focus more of their attention on the lowest-performing schools, where large numbers of students are failing state tests year after year.
So the Department of Education is inviting all states to apply for waivers from the No Child Left Behind law.
The waivers could win relief for schools where a small number of students are falling short of federal requirements.
But advocates for minority and special education students worry their students will be ignored.

Temple Grandim Teams Up with ABC-TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition travels to Medford, Oregon to surprise the McPhail family with the door knock that can change lives, in the episode that airs on Friday, October 28, 2011 (8:00-9:00 & 9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network, according to an October 10, 2011 press release from ABC. The McPhail family needed help with their home, which did not meet the safety needs of their Autistic children. Dr. Temple Grandin, who is Autistic, helped the design team.

Study Links Bicycle Riding and Improved Health in Children with Down Syndrome

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Children with Down syndrome who learned to ride a two-wheel bike were less sedentary overall and had less body fat one year after learning to ride compared to those who did not participate, a University of Michigan study shows.
The first results from a two-year study of the feasibility and benefits of teaching children with Down syndrome to ride bikes appear in the October issue of the Physical Therapy Journal.

Pinpointing ASD's Social Challenges

PASADENA, Calif. -- People with autism process information in unusual ways and often have difficulties in their social interactions in everyday life. While this can be especially striking in those who are otherwise high functioning, characterizing this difficulty in detail has been challenging. Now, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have isolated a very specific difference in how high-functioning people with autism think about other people, finding that—in actuality -— they don't tend to think about what others think of them at all.
This finding, described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on what researchers call "theory of mind" abilities—our intuitive skill for figuring out what other people think, intend, and believe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Opinion: Autism Treatment Law Shows Insurers' Need for Therapy

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill requiring health insurers to include coverage for treatments associated with autism.
When I read that Monday, my first thought was: Why aren't such treatments already covered?
But my question was quickly answered by a statement from the California Assn. of Health Plans, an industry group, which warned that the new law will "drive up healthcare costs for families and businesses by nearly $850 million a year."
In other words, it's all about the money.

Misinformation on TV Gains Credibility

Our beliefs about the world are shaped by many factors. The courses we took in college. The lessons we learned from our families.
And, of course, the prime-time courtroom drama we watched a couple of weeks back.
Newly published research suggests nuggets of misinformation embedded in a fictional television program can seep into our brains and lodge there as perceived facts. What’s more, this troubling dynamic seems to occur even when our initial response is skepticism.
That’s the conclusion of a study published in the journal Human Communication Research. It asserts that, immediately after watching a show containing a questionable piece of information, we’re aware of where the assertion came from, and take it with an appropriate grain of salt. But this all-important skepticism diminishes over time, as our memory of where we heard the fact or falsehood in question dims.

Program Provides Respite to Families

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Celeste Pegram and her husband, Kemal, played tennis this summer for the first time in a long time.
They used to play tennis all the time when they were in college 16 years ago. Then came marriage and kids.
The Pegrams knew their oldest son, Cassius, was different from when he was 18 months old. At 7, Cassius was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum.

Tips for Extended Hospital Stays

By Jo Ashline, a columnist for The Orange County Register.

This Monday, our special needs son Andrew will be admitted to our local children’s hospital, CHOC, for approximately one week to undergo extensive seizure testing. The tests themselves will not be invasive (thank goodness!) but our active, non-verbal 9-year-old will be forced to stay in bed for a minimum of 5 days while his head is covered in dozens of electrodes and bandaged in such a way that he looks like a victim in a soap opera script. Trying to keep him occupied, comfortable, and as little annoyed as possible guarantees good times for all, and by good times I of course mean HELP!

Brown Signs Autism Bill

SACRAMENTO --On his final day to act on more than 140 bills, Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday waded into sensitive areas of health care and law enforcement, signing a bill requiring health plans to cover a key autism treatment.

Going to the Hospital with Autism

From Laura Shumaker's blog at the San Francisco Chronicle. Frightening but shows a real gap in health care services for people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

It had been a week since I had taken Matthew to the emergency room, (click here to see how that went,) where the staff were very kind and competent, but many were unsure of how to communicate with Matthew, and who could blame them?
"When I was in med school," says Lucy Crain, co-director of the annual Continuing Medical Education Course Developmental Disabilities: Update for Medical Professionals presented by the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF School of Nursing, "maybe a total of 4 hours was devoted to developmental disabilities, mostly cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mental retardation (before we began using the term 'intellectual disability') and Down Syndrome. Autism was once briefly mentioned as a differential diagnosis in a patient in clinic."

Puting His Personality to Work at Hardee's

NEWBERRY, Fla. — David Teeters is quite a character.
His life has had many twists and turns, and he has interesting stories to tell about all of it. He is proud of the fact that he has worked at Hardee's Restaurant in Newberry for more than 16 years.
Teeters has developmental disabilities and receives services from Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the agency is highlighting the contributions of people with disabilities to the workforce.