Wednesday, February 29, 2012

U.S. Pushes Target for Hiring Disabled

Employers and business groups are trying to stop an Obama administration effort that calls for federal contractors to hire a minimum number of disabled workers and could penalize those who don't by revoking their contracts.

The proposal could reshape hiring at roughly 200,000 companies that generate $700 billion a year in contracts with the federal government. They include defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., aircraft maker Boeing Co. and firms across the health-care, construction and information-technology industries.
Under the Labor Department plan, most firms that contract or subcontract with the federal government would be asked to have disabled people make up 7% of their work force. While the department says it wouldn't be an explicit requirement, companies that don't hit the target could have their contracts canceled or could be barred from winning future contracts until they show they are trying to meet the target.

Sherri Shepherd, YAI Spokesperson, to Compete on "Dancing with the Stars"

We're so excited to have Sherri Shepherd, YAI's National Spokesperson, will be on "Dancing with the Stars" starting on March 19
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Chart-topper Gavin DeGraw, "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd and tennis legend Martina Navratilova tops of the cast of 12 celebrities who will will compete on "Dancing with the Stars" when the series kicks kicks off its new season March 19.
 Also dancing will be a Super Bowl champion, a telenovela star, a Disney star and a music legend. 
The competitors and their professional dance partners were announced Tuesday on "Good Morning America." The reality dance competition will air at 7 p.m. Mondays with the first results show and elimination airing at 8 p.m. March 27 on channel 8.

California Employment Lawyer Challenges Legality of Sheltered Workshops

LOS ANGELES — For many disabled citizens “sheltered workshops” are a way to find mainstream employment, but a class-action lawsuit claims the exact opposite has been occurring. The California employment lawyers at Keller Grover LLP, who advocate for employee rights, including those of disabled workers, report that a class action lawsuit has been filed that alleges these sheltered workshops are in violation of federal law.
The class-action lawsuit, which is believed to be the first of its kind in any state, was filed on behalf of the Oregon chapter of the Cerebral Palsy Association and eight individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Reuters reported.
The workshops, sometimes referred to as “work-activity programs,” provide jobs to disabled people who perform basic unskilled duties like packaging or simple assembly tasks. The programs, which are funded by state and local agencies and nonprofit groups, compensate the workers at below the minimum wage, which is in accordance with U.S. labor standards for piecework.

Study: Adults with Disabilities Targets of Abuse

Adults with disabilities are at a higher risk of getting physically and sexually abused than than non-disabled adults, a new study published by the Lancet concluded.
People with mental illness are about four times more likely -- and people with intellectual impairments are about one-and-half times more likely to get abused than non-disabled adults. The researchers from Liverpool John Moores University in England analyzed existing data from 26 studies regarding adult abuse worldwide.
As to why adults with disabilities are more susceptible to such crimes, experts say that impaired communication is often to blame.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Call for More Regulation of Dental Sedation

Sedation dentistry is that branch of dental medical health, which describes all kinds of procedures through which pain is being relieved during treatments.
The main issue that arouse quite recently is that there are more and more people struggling with dental phobias and physical/developmental disabilities that require sedation during a dental visit.
There is a fierce debate among advocates and opponents of sedation dentistry regarding as to whether the dental professionals administering sedation do have a proper educational background and sufficient training in offering these procedures.

Industry Beginning to Recognize Graduates of Joey Travolta's Inclusion Films Company

Kudos to Michael Starr of the New York Post's Starr Report for writing about this great company!

With the arrogance and self-congratulatory pretension that runs rampant in Hollywood – and in show business, in general – it’s always great to hear about someone doing something genuinely nice for others.
I’m referring here to Joey Travolta’s company, Inclusion Films, which functions as a “practical film workshop” for adults with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.

Op-Ed: Do Liberals Disdain People with Disabilities?

From today's Op-Ed page in The New York Times, by Harold A. Pollack, an adjunct fellow of the Century Foundation, is a professor of social service administration at the University of Chicago.

Earlier this month, I was hanging out with my brother-in-law Vincent. He lives with developmental disabilities caused by an unwanted genetic sequence that deprives his brain of a critical protein. We were sitting in our family room when Rick Santorum — whose 3-year-old daughter has a different chromosomal disorder — appeared on the television.
“One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare,” Mr. Santorum said, is that it requires “free prenatal testing ... Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.” Mr. Santorum’s comment echoed Sarah Palin’s famous charge during the health care reform debate: “My parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.” 
There is no basis whatsoever for Mr. Santorum or Ms. Palin’s comments. Disability advocates across the political spectrum strongly supported the 2010 health care reform. They had obvious reasons to do so. The new law provides protections for people with preexisting conditions, regulations to make sure insurers properly cover care for chronic illnesses and expanded coverage for young adults and low-income families.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Music Therapy Soothes Patients Young and Old

Music therapist Amy Kalas, provides
music therapy at United Cerebral Palsy
in Miami

Read more here:
MIAMI, Fla. -- Rachel Harrell, tiny and rail-thin at 90 years old, sits in her armchair, staring vacantly ahead. Her niece, Marion Adderly, prompts her to greet the woman who has just entered the house. Harrell doesn’t turn her head while the group around her talks, and someone tunes a guitar in the corner of her room.
But suddenly the guitarist begins to sing Amazing Grace, and everything changes. Harrell, who had just struggled to mumble “hello,” starts to sing along. By the time the song has switched to T his Little Light of Mine, she is sitting upright and clapping in time.
Harrell is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and can communicate very little. But bi-monthly visits from Patricia Chaviano, her music therapist, breathe new life into her.
“It’s bringing her back from the dead and letting her sing,” Adderly said.
Music therapy is a growing field that shows promise at reaching people, such as autistic children or elders suffering from Alzheimer’s, who can’t otherwise be reached. Music therapists typically work with other health-care professionals to treat conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and dementia.

Read more here:

Agency Closing Programs for Adults

No longer providing services

LAKELAND, Fla. -- For years, Florida Baptist Children's Homes has provided services for adults with developmental disabilities.
The organization, known statewide for its programs to house and counsel troubled youth and children caught up in the state's foster care system, operates an adult group home and a day training program at its statewide headquarters in Lakeland.
Yet as legislators grapple with ongoing budget shortfalls that keep as many as 20,000 developmentally disabled people on a waiting list for services, the Baptist organization is bowing out of the picture.

Autism Author's Advice: 'Step Outside the Boundaries of the Absolutely Safe'

Lisa Jo Rudy and her son, Tom
Rudy, whose 15-year-old son is autistic, offers her personal experience and advice for other parents in “Get Out, Explore, and Have Fun: How Families of Children With Autism or Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most Out of Community Activities.”
Rudy and her husband, Peter Cook, moved from a Philadelphia suburb to West Falmouth four and a half years ago with their son, Tom Cook and daughter, Sara, now a sixth-grader at the Morse Pond School.
As a preschooler, Tom was originally diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder later diagnosed as autism. He attended public school through grade four, when the couple decided to home school their son.
“We weren’t happy with the way public schools there approached special needs education,” she said. “My husband and I both have a museum education background and thought we had a pretty good handle on it.”
Rudy, a freelance writer and educational consultant, believes one of the biggest misconceptions about autism is the idea that all symptoms apply to anyone who has been diagnosed.

Parental Training and Medication Prove Effective

Raising a child with autism can be a both a joy and a challenge for parents. For some of these kids, serious behavioral problems may necessitate medication, and according to new research, parental training.
In the study, Yale investigators and their colleagues discover that parental training, in addition to medications, provides an improved approach for children with behavioral problems.

Special Ed Vouchers May Open Doors for Choice

Fati Fuchs, center, walks her son,
Christopher, and daughter, Carly,
home from the bus stop in Gahanna,
Ohio. The family is tapping into Ohio
tuition-voucher programs to pay
for special education services the
children need, but don't get, at
their private school
Meet voucher supporters' new fellow strategists: students with disabilities.
Creating private school vouchers for special education students—programs that are largely unchallenged in court, unlike other publicly financed tuition vouchers—can be the perfect way to clear a path for other students to get school options, according to school choice proponents.
With this approach, "there is more success legislatively," said Malcolm Glenn, a spokesman for the Washington-based American Federation for Children. The group advocates school choice, focusing its efforts on tuition vouchers and scholarship tax-credit programs.

Federal Appeals Court OKs Class Action Suit

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refused a petition from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that would have overturned an earlier ruling allowing families denied certain autism therapy coverage to push forward with a class action lawsuit.
Last November, a judge’s ruling in Potter v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan gave clearance to parents to sue the organization for rejecting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as an insurable treatment, which Blue Cross deemed an “experimental” form of therapy.
The rejection of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s petition gives the go-ahead for two families to press forward with a class action suit, on behalf of all families denied therapy coverage by the organization.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Living with Adult Children with Autism

Going to the UK for those few stories that point out that children with autism grow up to become adults with autism.

The quiet old house begins to tremble from some distant commotion. Thumpings, bangings and a deep, vibrating moan are coming from another room and can mean only one thing. Charlotte Moore begins to clear away all breakable items in the kitchen with practised efficiency, like a stage hand changing a set. She swiftly replaces our ceramic lunch plates and glasses with a single place setting: a melamine plate of biscuits and a plastic beaker of orange juice. “Sam’s back,” she announces.
Her 20-year-old autistic son seems not best pleased to find a stranger invading his territory. He pulls his T-shirt over his nose, rocks in his chair and produces something between a loud humming of disapproval and a warning growl. He is a fine-looking young man with dark, chiselled features but his arms are covered in little wounds and his hands are red and gnawed.
We continue to talk while he decides whether it is safe to emerge from the T-shirt to attack the biscuits. At intervals, he will jump up and stomp around for no particular reason — although his sudden investigation of the scullery, where someone has inadvertently left a bucket of household cleaning stuffs, clearly has a purpose. Charlotte darts over to lock them away, using a bunch of keys she keeps at all times about her person. Sam likes nothing more than to empty unguarded liquids down the sink. He also loves the sound of breaking glass, especially if he is doing the breaking.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Autism Diagnosis Didn't Stop This CEO

CHICAGO -- Before the age of two, a young businessman was diagnosed as severely autistic with other developmental issues. Today at 37, he is the CEO and co-owner of a national communications firm.
Growing up and dealing with several challenges, John Hall wants others to succeed, so he penned his story.
"When I wrote this book I had not really shared my story or the fact that I dealt with this with many people until I decided to write this book," he said. "Everyone was pretty shocked when they heard the story and even folks that are very aware of autism."

Autism Is Calhoun's Toughest Opponent

Jim Calhoun and Reese
STORRS, Conn. -- Jim Calhoun, like many coaches, is superstitious. He might have a lucky tie or piece of jewelry he must wear to end a losing streak, or keep a winning streak going.
But one item that remains in good times and bad is the blue puzzle piece he wears on the lapel of his suit jacket. The symbol for Autism Speaks, like the cause itself, remains close to his heart at all times.
"He has never taken it off," Jeff Calhoun said. "I can't tell you how many people who have mentioned it to me — parents, families touched by autism, who tell me how much it means to them. He is very passionate about it. Just by lending his name and reaching out to people, he has done more than we could ever ask."

Report: Officials Fail to Investigate Abue of California's Most Vulnerable Residents

A caregiver feeds a patient at the
Lanterman Developmental Center
in Pomona.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California has assembled a unique police force to protect about 1,800 of its most vulnerable patients – men and women with cerebral palsy, severe autism and other mental disabilities who live in state institutions and require round-the-clock monitoring and protection from abuse.
But an investigation by California Watch has found that detectives and patrol officers at the state's five board-and-care institutions routinely fail to conduct basic police work even when patients die under mysterious circumstances.

Read more here:

With Key Ruling, Man Moves into Group Home

David Cicarelli in his new home
WHEELING, Ill. -- When the moving truck finally arrived, David Cicarelli popped out of his parent's house with a 10-pack of juice boxes, excited that his long wait was over at last.
The movers were behind schedule, but the real delay to leave a Lincolnshire facility began years ago for Cicarelli, 38, who has developmental disabilities and had long been denied his request to live closer to his family in a community-based group home.
On Thursday, though, Cicarelli prepared to end his temporary stay at his parents' home and spend his first night at his new home in Wheeling — the result of a federal lawsuit settled with a landmark consent decree in June. Cicarelli was one of five plaintiffs in the civil rights case, filed against the state of Illinois in 2005 in an effort to bring the state into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Study Suggests Autism Develops in Early Infancy

Dr. Jason Wolff

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Early brain development abnormalities in infants may predict risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a new imaging study suggests.
Investigators assessed 92 infants considered to be at high risk for ASDs and found that those who showed "aberrant development of white matter pathways" starting at the age of 6 months were more likely to develop ASDs by the age of 2 years than those who did not have the early pathway problems.
"We saw less change in the strength of white matter connections, or brain wiring, across multiple pathways. In fact, 12 different pathways were significantly blunted in the children who went on to develop autism," lead investigator Jason J. Wolff, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told Medscape Medical News.

Els' Biggest Challenge? Raising $30 Million

Ernie Els
Saying he wants to be remembered for his battle against autism rather than his victories on the golf course, superstar golfer Ernie Els is rolling out his second annual “Els for Autism Golf Challenge” that hopes to attract more than 2,000 golfers, more than 10,000 donors, and more than $2 million in contributions.
The proceeds will benefit Els’s dream of creating the Autism Center of Excellence, which the golfer’s foundation describes as “a $30 million first-of-its-kind project that will feature a state-of-the-art education and research facility as well as a global digital learning platform to families all over the world with children on the autism spectrum.”

Study Links Immigrant Groups to Autism

A major register study from Karolinska Institutet shows that children born to certain groups of immigrants had an increased risk of developing autism with intellectual disability. The study includes all children in Stockholm County from 2001 to 2007, and brings the question of the heredity of autism to the fore.
"This is an intriguing discovery, in which we can see strong links between a certain kind of autism and the time of the mother's immigration to Sweden," says principal investigator Cecilia Magnusson, Associate Professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet. "The study is important, as it shows that autism isn't governed only by genetic causes but by environmental factors too."
The study, which is published in the scientific periodical The British Journal of Psychiatry shows that children of immigrant parents, particularly from countries of low human development, are disproportionately likely to develop autism with intellectual disability, a connection that appears to be related to the timing of migration rather than complications in childbirth. Children, whose mothers migrated just before or during pregnancy, ran the highest risk of all.

Maryland Advocates Praise Governor for Funding

Kewaun Pittman and Christine Eckman
travel with fellow marchers Tuesday to a rally.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- For years, advocates for the disabled felt all they could do was battle -- for more funding, for more access, for an administration focused on helping the state's disabled population live independent lives. Tuesday the activists found themselves in the unfamiliar situation of thanking Gov. Martin O'Malley and telling him to keep up the good work.
"We spent so much time being angry and feeling like we need to fight, fight, fight," said Laura Carr, a community organizer from Anne Arundel County. "It's a little strange to take a look at the budget and go, 'Wow.' It's not everything that we wanted, but it's so much better than what it was."

Fla.'s Funding Formula Seeks to Close Budget Gap

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The state agency providing care for about 30,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities is implementing a new funding formula to squeeze the most service out of every tax dollar, while giving families more discretion in using their state allocations.
The iBudget Florida program will be implemented across the Panhandle and much of North Florida by April 1. Michael Hansen, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, said Wednesday the new system may mean less money for caregivers of some people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities – but that funding will be tailored to the needs of each client.
That’s what the “I” in iBudget stands for – individual.

Christie Proposes Shift in Services for Children

TRENTON, N.J. -- Governor Christie's 2013 budget calls for a major shift in how the state helps children with intellectual and physical disabilities. It also adds nearly $25 million in spending on community placements for adults with such problems, enough to move 130 people off its burgeoning waiting list.
The moves won praise from advocates for the "developmentally disabled" — who suffer conditions ranging from severe intellectual disabilities to cerebral palsy and autism.
Under Christie's plan, about 16,000 disabled children would no longer receive services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities, which is part of the Department of Human Services. Instead, their care will be overseen by a new Division of Child Integrated System of Care Services within the Department of Children and Families.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

High Court Returns California Medicaid Cuts Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court has thrown out a federal appeals court ruling allowing patients and health care providers to sue over California's cuts in Medicaid payment rates.
The narrow ruling Wednesday is not a total loss for the parties challenging the Medicaid cuts. By a 5-4 vote, the court sent the case back to the federal appeals court in San Francisco to consider whether private parties or only the federal government can object to Medicaid reductions.

An Unexpected Impact Player Inspires All

OK, last sports-related story of the day, I promise. Just couldn't pass this up.

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. -- David Andrews plays for his freshman basketball team at Germantown High School outside of Memphis.
David Andrews with his team.
He wears the number 40. He leads the pregame chant. He swishes threes. And he has Down syndrome.
“Down syndrome people come in wide spectrum of disability,” said Andrews’ father, Charles. “Some are talkers and some are walkers … David is clearly a walker.”

Autism Speaks Releases New Tools for Parents

Autism Speaks, North America's leading autism science and advocacy organization, Wednesday released the Sleep Strategies for Children with Autism: A Parent's Guide and Treating Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Tool Kit for Dental Professionals, both available for free download on Autism Speaks Tools You Can Use webpage.
Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep through the night, so sleep experts in Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) and the companion Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P) have addressed how to help improve sleep for children and teens affected by ASD.

The Angel as a Guardian: Pujols Keeps Commitment to Children with Down Syndrome

Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring training and that means the coming of my favorite season. Who cares if my N.Y. Mets will be dismal, hope is always in the air at this time of year.

Pujols as an Angel
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Baseball is a game of endless numbers and statistics, but here's a line you've probably never seen before: From May 2005 through last May, Albert Pujols hit .527 (39 for 74) in 22 games, with 12 homers and 25 runs batted in, following events in which he interacted with people with Down syndrome.
"It uplifts the kids, but I think it uplifts Albert even more," said Todd Perry, the Pujols Family Foundation chief executive who researched those numbers. "It's amazing how good he plays when he's around these kids."
Pujols, the former St. Louis Cardinals star who signed a 10-year, $240-million deal with the Angels in December, is around one of those youngsters all the time.
The oldest of his four children, Isabella, 14, has Down syndrome. She was a toddler when Pujols adopted her after marrying her mother, the former Deidre Corona, in 2000.
"From the moment he met her," Deidre has said, "she stole his heart."

Santorum Makes Prenatal Testing Campaign Issue

WASHINGTON—First birth control, now prenatal testing? Once again a fact of life for many American women has become a jarring issue in the presidential race.
Republican candidate Rick Santorum is making free screenings for birth defects part of his attack on President Barack Obama's health care law. Santorum charges that the law requiring insurers to cover the tests is a way to encourage more women to have abortions that will "cull the ranks of the disabled in our society."
Obama re-election campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith called Santorum's remarks "misinformed and dangerous." She said the tests help bring about safer deliveries for mothers and babies.

A New Home, Where Acceptance Prevails

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Muriel Crisler moved into a new apartment at the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence three weeks ago and spent the first two weeks “excited,” she said.
It isn’t just that the entire residence is wheelchair-accessible, that the social life is better than what she had while living alone, or that she likes the meals. Her comfort comes from something more intangible.There are more people here like me,” she said Wednesday. “Not necessarily wheelchair-bound, but . . . there is kind of an acceptance of each other.”Twenty-five people with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses are now living in the 52-unit center in the Fort Myer area of Arlington County. All are 55 or older, and that makes this new center unique in the nation.

New Mexico Proposes Medicaid Overhaul

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Gov. Susana Martinez's administration is proposing to overhaul a program that provides health care to a fourth of the state's population, and the changes could require some needy New Mexicans to dig into their pockets to pay a fee if they go to an emergency room for medical care that's not considered an emergency. 

N.J. Health Care Budget Proposal Reorganizes, Restructures and Reallocates Funds

TRENTON, N.J. -- Gov. Chris Christie's 2013 budget proposal calls for sweeping changes in the organization of state health services, shifting millions of dollars into community, rather than institutional, care, and adding new funding to mental health and developmental disability services.
But despite these changes, the budget proposal represents more of a shift in dollars rather than any new investments.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dentist's Chair Out of Reach for Some

 Doug Fisler, left, holds the hand
of his son, Glenn,  during a trip to the
WEBSTER, N.Y. -- Gloria and Doug Fisler of Webster count their son Glenn among the fortunate ones.
Every four months, the 50-year-old man with developmental disabilities gets his teeth cleaned by a hygienist from the Eastman Institute for Oral Health.

Preparing a Child with Autism for Junior High

My eldest son, Ben, is going into middle school next year. While this would normally be cause for excitement, nerves, and discussions about how to keep organized while having to get from class to class without being late.
It's not.
Now, we're trying to prepare him for people. See, my kid has autism.

A Reason to Speak Up

A simple story -- which needlessly became complex -- because the general public just doesn't understand autism or the families who struggle to keep their children's lives (not to mention their own) as "normal" as possible. It's unfortunate that people can't see beyond the disability or recognize that we are all different. 

PEABODY, Mass. -- A Danvers mom who just wanted her autistic son to be able to do things the other kids can do, is learning that by speaking up, one person can evoke change. 
It all started when Lea Irzyk wanted to sign up her autistic son for "Learn to Skate" group skating lessons at the James McVann-Louis O'Keefe Memorial Rink on Lowell Street in Peabody. 
"We don't want to stick out -- we don't want to make Jack feel different from anybody else," Irzyk told FOX 25's Heather Hegedus.

Delay in Autism Diagnosis Among Black Children

Black children with autism tend to be diagnosed later than white children with the disorder, and this delay can lead to longer and more intensive treatment, researchers say.
Lack of access to quality, affordable and culturally knowledgeable health care is among the reasons for the delay in a diagnosis of autism in black children, said researcher Martell Teasley, an associate professor in the College of Social Work at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Monday, February 20, 2012

As Virginia Prepares to Close Centers, Agencies Await Flood of Need

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia will close its training centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the next 10 years, putting more than 1,000 individuals into community-based programs that already have lengthy waiting lists for their services.
Residents in state institutions will return to their communities and to a system of group homes and day programs by 2021 as part of an agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement ends legal action against the state started by department. The agreement will phase out four of five state institutions, which currently house about 1,000 residents total.
The state has agreed to provide funding for more than 4,000 additional people to be treated by community services agencies by 2021. But officials admit that will not cover all of the need. Thousands of people across the state have qualified for care in community programs but are receiving minimal treatment because no state funding is available.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

N.J. Parents Fear Narrower Autism Definition

TRENTON — Some parents look back at the moment their child was diagnosed with autism and remember it as the worst day of their lives. Not Meredith Blitz-Goldstein.
The Verona mother said she already knew there was something seriously wrong with her 2-year-old son, Matthew. When he spoke, he uttered a word or two. He seldom made eye contact or slept through the night. Until he was diagnosed with a milder form of autism known as "pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified," she didn’t know how to help him.
"I was very happy to have the diagnosis. I knew the monster I was dealing with. The diagnosis was like handing me the ticket to go forward," Blitz-Goldstein said.

The Consequences of Autism's New Rules

Kathryn Wicks is a senior, Western Australia news website and  Herald journalist.

 A year from now, my six-year-old son will no longer have autism. But I have not discovered a miracle cure - nor do I feel like jumping for joy.
The criteria for an autism diagnosis, as defined by the authors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is about to change so dramatically that parents across the world are fearful children classified as having high-functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome or pervasive development disorder are likely to lose their diagnosis - and with it, their therapy and educational entitlements.
It is teachers who should be complaining the loudest. They will be the ones left to manage untreated children with less help from special needs staff because fewer children will be classified as special needs.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Latest TV Trends: Autism

Kiefer Sutherland and David Mazouz
I know plenty about people on the autism spectrum. Communication and social skills present them with considerable challenges. They attach great importance to predictability and routine. They have highly specific tastes and preferences and become intractable when these are not met. They have difficulty understanding and processing human emotion, including their own. All of them are male, and all but one of them are young. And they have the ability to perform superhuman feats of memory and mathematics. I know all this, of course, only from popular culture. So maybe I don’t know as much as I think I do.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Motor Impairments Charteristic of Autism

Autism itself seems to be responsible for the problems children with the disorder have in developing motor skills such as running, throwing a ball and learning to write, according to a new study.
Previously, it wasn't clear whether these motor skill difficulties ran in families or were linked to autism, said the researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Chef Aids Communication and Social Skills

WHITTIER, Calif. - A group of California High School special education students Thursday received a visit from a "Top Chef."
Celebrity chef Antonia Lofaso from Bravo's hit show, "Top Chef" joined special ed students in a fun, food-oriented class developed by United Cerebral Palsy's UCPlay Project as part of an eight-week program to help disabled students gain communication and social skills for the adult phase of their lives.
"I love using food as a way to build bridges with kids," Lofaso said during the event. "When you use food as a way to communicate and connect, build memories and gain new skills, it's fantastic. Food is universal."

'If Autism Makes Me Me, I Wouldn't Trade it for Anything'

Came across this on an Albany Times Union blog it really resonated. We as a field, need to stop recognizing people as having autism or a developmental disability, for that matter. Why can't they just be people and accept the fact that everyone is different?

Hi, I’m Zack Kilmer, and I have Autism.
More specifically, I have PDD-NOS which stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. There are 3 major classifications on the Autism spectrum: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD-NOS.
You can look up details if you want, but PDD-NOS is basically the name doctors stick on kids when they don’t meet all of the criteria of Aspergers or classic Autism, but still exhibit obvious deficiencies in social interaction, motor skills, and/or communication.
Those who know me are always shocked when I tell them. “I never would have guessed” is something I get a lot. This is understandable, as I’ve exceeded the wildest expectations of when I was young, and have become mostly normal at this point. You might just think I was a little awkward or quirky.

MRI Sees Brain Changes in Infants with ASD

Autism may be detectable in infants as young as 6 months old, according to a study released Friday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggesting the condition has a stronger genetic and biological root.
The study, which tracked MRI images of 92 infants from 6 to 24 months, found that infants who went on to develop autism may have had brain abnormalities visible on MRI at 6 months of age, before the development of clinical symptoms.

12 Years and Waiting for Autism Waiver

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Matthew Gibson is a 22-year-old with Severe Autism. He also has obsessive compulsive behavior and has shown signs of Tourette Syndrome. Everything seemed normal with him until he was suddenly diagnosed at two years old. Since then he's not been able to speak and needs 24-hour care.
"The older he gets the more frustrated he is that he can't talk, he's smarter than people realize, he's just trapped in his own body",said Matthew's Mother, Annie Gibson.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2,000 Rally in Atlanta to Protest Cuts

-- About 2,000 people rallied in front of the State Capitol Thursday to call on the state to increase the amount of money it spends on the disabled. Advocates used the annual gathering to talk to the disabled and to lawmakers.
"We just want the community to know that we're paying attention to what the issues are that they're faced with," said Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities deputy director Patricia Nobbie. "We want legislators to know that there's a community out there that's active and paying attention to what they're doing up here at the Capitol."

Grandin: Don't Give Up on Children with Autism

CHICO, Colo. — When a young child is diagnosed as autistic, parents must move into high gear, Temple Grandin said in Chico Wednesday.
"The worst thing you can do is nothing," she said.
Grandin, who is autistic herself, is famous as an animal-behavior expert and as an advocate for people with autism.
An author and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin spoke twice, to large audiences, in Chico State University's Bell Memorial Union Auditorium Wednesday morning. She also was to be the keynote speaker at the Butte County Farm Bureau's annual banquet Wednesday evening.

Study Rules Out Mercury-Autism Link

Mercury does not cause autism, another study now concludes.
The levels of mercury in the urine of children with autism were no higher than urine mercury levels of children without the condition, the study from England found.

Study Examines Medication Use Among Children

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Many children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can benefit from medication for related disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“Unfortunately, there is very poor understanding of overall medication use for kids with autism,” says Paul T. Shattuck, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
As a step toward improving the situation, Shattuck and colleagues studied psychotropic medication use compared across individuals with an ASD, ADHD and both an ASD with ADHD.
They found that children and young adults with both an ASD and ADHD had the highest rates of medicine use (58.2 percent) followed by youths with ADHD-only (49 percent) and youths with ASD-only (34.3 percent).

Doctors 'Fire' Families who Refuse Vaccinations

Dr. Allan LaReau in Michigan
Pediatricians fed up with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children out of concern it can cause autism or other problems increasingly are "firing" such families from their practices, raising questions about a doctor's responsibility to these patients.
Medical associations don't recommend such patient bans, but the practice appears to be growing, according to vaccine researchers.

Advocates Get Face Time with the President

Two women who work with the intellectually and developmentally disabled on a daily basis in Luzerne County not only received updates on advocacy issues during their day at the White House on Friday, they also were paid a visit from the president himself.
click image to enlarge
Pamela Zotynia and Lynn Ahmad, from The Arc of Luzerne County, attended a Community Leaders Briefing Series along with about 150 other representatives of The Arc – a national advocacy organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Hospital Apologizes for Handling of Kidney Transplant Denial for Child with Disabilities

Amelia Rivera with her mother, Chrissy,
and brother Nathan.
PHILADELPHIA -- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia apologized Wednesday for the way it had communicated with the parents of Amelia Rivera, the 3-year-old disabled girl whose parents want her to have a kidney transplant.
In a statement released with the approval of the Riveras, the hospital expressed regret for how it had handled the situation.
Joe and Chrissy Rivera gained national attention in January when they said a hospital physician had recommended against such a transplant because of her mental disability.

Documentary Explores Artist's Role as Caregiver

Beverly McIver, above, and her sister
Renee are the subjects of an HBO
DURHAM, N.C. -- When she left North Carolina 23 years ago, Beverly McIver never imagined returning. Feisty, talented and ambitious, Ms. McIver was more than eager to shake off the warm clinches of her family and the chilly, intractable racism of the South.
And in her lush, narrative paintings — for which she has gathered, at midcareer, an impressive array of fellowships, residencies, solo shows and awards — she has never stopped exploring those themes. Portraits of herself in blackface and a clown’s wig show her kinship with artists like Cindy Sherman; in her “laundry” paintings, her mother and her mentally disabled older sister, Renee, hang wash on a clothesline, lyrical compositions that recall the work of Millet and other 19th-century realists.
But in 2007, Ms. McIver, now 49, was lured from a tenured position at Arizona State University by North Carolina Central University, the historically black university where she had learned to paint. By then, her mother had died of cancer and left Ms. McIver with the care of Renee, a responsibility she assumed just as her career was taking off.
“Raising Renee,” a documentary that will be shown on Feb. 22 on HBO, follows the sisters for six years, from Ms. McIver’s first New York City solo gallery show in 2003 to the day Renee, now 52, wakes up in her own apartment, a rather miraculous turn of events.

Bolstering Care for People with Disabilities

Playing catchup - sorry was unable to post yesterday. So let's get started.

Wednesday was the fifth anniversary of the death of Jonathan Carey, an autistic child who was under state care and whose demise prompted an overhaul of the laws governing care of the disabled. The case also sparked ongoing changes at the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and the Commission on Quality of Care, which acts as a watchdog agency.
Carey’s father Michael Carey, along with several lawmakers took the occasion to highlight several measures they are pursuing to strengthen oversight of the disabled including removal of what they view as a gag order that is placed on records of disabled people.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love and Autism

In honor of Valentines Day, thought this would be appropriate from Kim Stagliano at Age of Autism.

There's (a love) life beyond little boxes of Valentines and a sack full of red dye laden candy arriving from school with a child today. Many of our kids are growing into teens and adults. Some are already there. And that means teen and adult topics. Two of my girls are teenagers. One of them is very vocal about her crush on Taylor Lautner. We celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday.

Halle Berry's Daughter Seen at Autism Clinic

Halle Berry and her father
LOS ANGELES -- Halle Berry and Nahla are the sweetest mother and daughter duo despite the custody battle with Gabriel Aubry. However, some people have noticed that Nahla is showing signs of autism, just based on her movements in photos.
What is it that made eyebrows raise? Well, apparently, in the majority of photos Nahla seems to be touching her mother's or father's face and feeling their features, much like an autistic child would do.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kate Winslet's Passion Project

Kate Winslet
At first, Kate Winslet thought it would be just another job. Cherie Blair, the wife of the former prime minister of England, Tony Blair, had sent the Oscar-winning actress a documentary from Iceland that needed an English-language narrator. Called A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism, it was about Margret Ericsdottir's journey to discover whether her severely autistic 11-year-old son, Keli, would ever be able to speak. What Ericsdottir learns -- not only about her own son but also about so many kids who are nonverbal -- is astounding.
Winslet watched the tape. "To say I was moved sounds so very basic. I couldn't stop thinking about it," she says. "I was being asked, as an actress, to use my voice for children who have no voice." Winslet flew to England, where she was introduced to Ericsdottir, to record the narration. "I knew as soon as I met her that we would be friends. I also knew I couldn't just lend my voice to this documentary and go home."

Son Inspires Doctor to Open Autism Center

Inside the new autism center.
WARREN, N.J. -- Dr. Paul Abend knows the difficulties faced by parents of autistic children. The father of a 13-year-old autistic son, he has experienced the lack of services firsthand.
Instead of accepting what was available, Abend decided to do something; he built the Comprehensive Autism Medical Assessment & Treatment Center, which opened recently in Warren.

Music Therapist Helps Children with Autism Find Their Voice

Hayoung Lim, a music therapist
HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- It is almost serendipitous the way that SHSU assistant professor and coordinator of the graduate program in music therapy Hayoung Lim found her calling in her field.
As an undergraduate, Lim was studying cello performance at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, when a community service assignment that was part of the university’s sophomore curriculum placed her in a facility that cared for people with visual impairments and severe developmental delays.
Lim and her music peers were supposed to work in the kitchen, but when a sociology major asked to change roles because she was having difficulty coping with the severity of the boy with whom she was working, Lim volunteered to sit with the child.
“I went to a room and there was a 10-year-old boy with autism, and he was blind,” Lim said. “The teacher told me he could not do anything, but if you didn’t hold his hand, he would bang his head with his hand. He was physically fine but cognitively couldn’t do anything.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

'My Baby is Turning 10 . . . Halfway to Becoming a Man'

From Jo Ashline of The Orange County Register.

One month from today, my son Andrew will celebrate his 10th birthday.
He’ll have a bounce house, a giant cake, and plenty of friends on hand to help him blow out the candles and mark his first decade here on planet earth. And while I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea that my baby is turning 10 (is it really possible?) there’s an even more frightening reality that keeps gnawing at me as I make party preparations: He’s halfway to 20, and less than halfway to becoming a man; a man with autism.

Young Adults Fear Medicaid Overaul

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Thousands of young New Yorkers struggling with chronic illnesses are facing a new battle — they fear an overhaul of Medicaid will jeopardize their health care services when they turn 21.
These patients, some of whom were not expected to survive into adulthood, are living longer because of medical advancements.
But that means they will be affected by a new Medicaid cost-cutting plan to transfer physically impaired adults into managed long-term care programs.

Romance and Disabilities

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, which is hard to miss this time of year, thought this would be appropriate. Regardless of your religion or where you reside, hope you'll consider signing this inclusion pledge from the story, as it will send an important message of support and inclusion to all individuals with disabilities, their families and the Direct Service Professionals who support them.

With chocolate hearts and annoying radio ads for pajama-grams (can’t think of a worse present) vying for our attention this week, it’s easy to forget about what love is really all about, and that all of us humans have a strong drive to find love, even when we might least expect it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Harlem Community Board Rejects Plan to Buy Two Luxury Condos for Group Home

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A central Harlem community board has shot down plans to transform a pair of luxury condos into residences for developmentally disabled men.
The effort to purchase two multi-bedroom apartments at 555 Lenox Ave. for $500,000 each is spearheaded by Community Options, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing and work for the developmentally disabled.

Love Story Sheds Light on How Society Treats People with Disabilities

Rachel Simon, author of "The Story of Beautiful Girl," was interviewed Thursday evening on the PBS Newshour. Check it out! Confession: I have read the book and felt it was quite powerful. Couldn't help but notice the underlying references to a Willowbrook-like facility.

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: a love story that sheds light on how society deals with the disabled.
Judy Woodruff has our book conversation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There are more than 50 million Americans who have some sort of disability, according to the Census Bureau. They range from profound, needing a wheelchair or other assistance with daily activity, to less restrictive, and from physical disabilities to cognitive and emotional.
Rachel Simon has given a lot of thought to their lives, how the rest of society sees them, since her sister is intellectually impaired. She wrote a memoir in 2002 called "Riding the Bus With My Sister." Her most recent book is a novel, "The Story of Beautiful Girl." It's about the lives of two people who meet living in an institution, and it follows them for four decades.

Help and Hope for People with Autism

JAMAICA, N.Y. -- A father takes his autistic son on a shopping trip to a mall. While there, the child wants to go into a toy store, but the father is in a hurry, so he refuses. The child, knowing no other way to express his frustration, throws himself to the ground and begins screaming “Somebody help me. Help me please.”
Shortly thereafter, with other shoppers looking on, three mall security officer appeared on the scene to try and figure out what was going on. Before he knew it, the dad found himself in handcuffs and sitting in the back of a police car. After about 45 minutes of explaining and the cops getting nowhere by asking the boy what his father had done to hurt him, he is released.
That actually happened to Andrew Baumann, CEO of New YorkFamilies for Autistic Children, and his son, Anthony, who was diagnosed with autism at three and a half years of age. Baumann shared the story during a presentation he gave about the disability at York College on Monday, hosted by City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans).

Parents of Twins with Autism Wonder Why

Twins Skyler, left, and Drew Russert
LOS ALTOS, Calif. -- Drew and Skyler Russert are 16-year-old identical twin brothers from Los Altos, Calif. who share the same blue eyes, straight hair and love for football.
Looking at them now, on the football field or in their high school classes, it would be hard to tell the boys were diagnosed with autism when they were nearly 4. Drew had a moderate form of the disorder, while Skyler’s case was severe.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Workers with Autism Have Much to Offer

Column by Samantha J. Herrick, PhD, CRC, NCC, is assistant professor for the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Autism. In recent years, the word has attracted considerable attention, often relating to children with autism. What about adolescents and adults who have been diagnosed with a condition on the autism spectrum, which includes Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, and Asperger’s Disorder? Can they be productive, successful employees?
Yes, and in fact they are often valuable and loyal employees if their strengths are recognized and they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Very often, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are honest, dedicated, and detail oriented. They may have a unique sense of humor, thrive on routine, are able to persevere on challenges, possess a creative perspective, and are often experts in their area of interest. On the right job, with the right support, people on the spectrum have the potential to be successful at work.

2 More Autism-Friendly Broadway Musicals

NEW YORK – Two more autism-friendly performances of Broadway musicals will be offered this spring and fall following the success last year of the first showing of a Broadway show specially altered for those diagnosed with the disorder.
The Theatre Development Fund, a nonprofit organization focused on providing access to live theater, said Tuesday it plans to offer specially designed matinee showings of "Mary Poppins" on April 29 and "The Lion King" on Sept. 30.