Friday, November 30, 2012

U.S. Senate Passes Gillibrand Amendment to Cover Care for Military Kids with Autism and Other Disabilities

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that the Senate voted for her amendment that would cover behavioral treatment for military children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. 
Based on the USA Heroes Act that Senator Gillibrand authored and introduced in 2009, this bipartisan amendment under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill would help reduce the burden of military families and their children living with autism and other disabilities by requiring the military health insurance program to lift restrictions on behavioral care and expand proven treatment by meeting the national recommended standards.

Severity of Autism Linked to Rigid Fearfulness

New research shows that children with autism have a hard time letting go of old, outdated fears.
Furthermore, this rigid fearfulness is linked to the severity of classic symptoms of autism, such as repetitive movements and resistance to change.
“People with autism likely don’t experience or understand their world in the same way we do,” said Mikle South, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Brigham Young University and lead author of the study.

S. Fla. Troupe Giving Disabled The Gift Of Dance

John Beauregard suffered a spinal cord injury in a fall many years ago. Bonnie Malcolm has brittle bones. James Salter has Down Syndrome. Guillermo Acosta has intellectual disabilities while Adam Eckstat was born with Spina Bifida. What do they have in common?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Program Helps First Responders Learn How to Help People with Special Needs

Disabilities affect millions of New York residents. When first responders are called to help those in need, they are obligated to help regardless of the cause. That's why one university created a program to help those who help us.
Whether it's law enforcement, firefighters or EMS, thousands of Monroe County's first responders are thoroughly trained at the Public Safety Training Facility. Today about a dozen responders got a very different kind of training that officials believe will end up saving lives not just here, but across the state.

Opinion: Nursing Home No Place for Children

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As the executive director of Victory Living Programs, a non-profit organization that provides services to individuals with disabilities in Broward County, I was troubled to learn that the state of Florida is accused by the United States Department of Justice of warehousing hundreds of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in nursing homes.
Some of these children have been in nursing homes for as long as 10 years. Children and nursing homes should only be mentioned in the same sentence when discussing a child visiting or volunteering at a nursing home. Certainly not in describing a child's place of residence. This practice is in total conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Police Ignored, Mishandled Abuse of Disabled

Patients at California’s board-and-care centers for the developmentally disabled have accused caretakers of molestation and rape 36 times during the past four years, but police assigned to protect them did not complete even the simplest tasks associated with investigating the alleged crimes, records and interviews show.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can a Baby's Cry Provide Clue to Autism Risk?

Researchers have analyzed brain scans and eye movements as harbingers of autism. Now they’re listening to babies’ cries. Scientists at Brown University think it’s possible that infants’ early cries might provide a clue to whether they’re at risk of developing autism, based on a small study they conducted on about 40 babies. They compared the cries of one group, considered at risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder, to a second low-risk group. When the babies were six months old, they were videotaped in order to collect a vocal sampling. At some point during the 45-minute filming, the infants cried.
Researchers have analyzed brain scans and eye movements as harbingers of autism. Now they’re listening to babies’ cries. Scientists at Brown University think it’s possible that infants’ early cries might provide a clue to whether they’re at risk of developing autism, based on a small study they conducted on about 40 babies. They compared the cries of one group, considered at risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder, to a second low-risk group. When the babies were six months old, they were videotaped in order to collect a vocal sampling. At some point during the 45-minute filming, the infants cried.

Read more:

Congress to Weigh Federal Response to Autism

A congressional hearing on autism planned for later this week is being hailed as a once-in-a-decade milestone but it’s not without controversy.
The hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers plan to address the “federal response to the recent rise in autism spectrum disorders diagnoses,” according to materials provided by committee staffers.

Music and Art Classes Create Social Opportunities

Kyle Sofman, right, accompanies
Molly in a music class.
MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif. -- Jangling musical shakers and smacking mallets on marimbas, students act out a love for rhythm and noise in the Artistic Intelligence Program at the Community School of Music and Arts. The racket they raise, though, has special meaning. For many of the autistic and developmentally disabled participants, sensory experience brings special challenges – and opportunities for success.
“A lot of them come here with issues about being out in the world and the kind of input they have to deal with,” said Linda Covello, director of CSMA’s art school, who explained that the music classroom in Mountain View is “a safe environment where they can react to crazy sounds and different materials.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Berlin Fire Kills 14 at Workshop Employing Disabled

BERLIN — A fire broke out Monday in a workshop that employed dozens of mentally and physically disabled people in southwestern Germany, killing 14 and seriously injuring seven others, officials said.
The police were not able to immediately confirm a report by the local news media that an explosion in a storeroom on the top floor of the facility in Titisee-Neustadt in the Black Forest region had caused the fire. There was also no information on whether chemicals kept in the storage area had been involved.

Campaign Seeks to Improve Job Outlook for People with Disabilities

Maddie Hansen, left, chops onion,
while Sue Weber, a job coach,
looks on.
MANITOWOC, Wis. — Unemployment is a problem for people from all walks of life, but that’s especially true for those with disabilities. A new campaign in Manitowoc County called Jobs First! is seeking to close that employment gap.
The idea is to change employers’ perceptions of hiring people with disabilities “and at the same time raising the expectation on our students,” said David Koenig, Next Step UW and transition coordinator for the Manitowoc Public School District. Next Step UW is a program for 18- to 21-year-olds with developmental disabilities that is housed at the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc.
“We’re trying to provide more training opportunities for these students that are tied directly into employers’ expectations,” Koenig said.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Autism & Early Exposure to Traffic Polution Linked

In a finding that points to a link between environmental toxins and autism, a new study shows that children who were exposed to the highest levels of traffic-related air pollution during gestation and in early infancy were three times more likely to be diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder than were those whose early exposure to such pollutants was very low.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that early exposure to high levels of air pollution in general was linked to an increased likelihood of autism in a group of more than 500 children followed for several years from birth. The researchers gathered regional air quality data and used detailed calculations to estimate the air quality around the residence in which a child's mother spent her pregnancy and the resulting child spent his or her first year.

Effective Autism Care Requries Attention to Comorbidities, Research Indicates

Caring for youths with autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelming for some primary care physicians because of the multiple comorbid conditions that often accompany ASD, said Boston pediatrician James M. Perrin, MD. Such conditions commonly include constipation, insomnia and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
But treating these associated health issues often helps children with ASD feel better and can improve their behavior and performance in school, said Dr. Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston and president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also is editor of a special supplement on ASD that was published online Nov. 1 in Pediatrics.

Students Learning Real-Life Lessons on the Job

Dylan Parkkila at work.
PINCKNEY, Mich. -- A minute into his shift, Dylan Parkkila is already busy dusting shelves at the hardware store where he works. Next, he'll cart trash, carry items down from storage and generally do whatever is needed to keep things humming.
"It's the everyday work stuff," said his boss, Pinckney True Value Hardware co-owner Wendy Robertson.
For Parkkila and others like him, the four-hour-a-week job is hardly everyday work stuff.

New York City Inclusive School Expands

NEW YORK — The Ideal School of Manhattan, which began in 2006 as an experiment in fully integrating special-needs students with typical learners, is expanding rapidly — thanks to a group of parents and educators with the goal of creating a new way of learning for students of all abilities.
Students recently moved from their original West 76th Street location to a six-floor building twice as large on West 91st Street at West End Avenue this fall. The Head of School, Angela Bergeson, said she thinks they'll "outgrow [the new] space more quickly than we thought" as it transitions from K-5 to K-8.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Words Do Hurt, So Stop the Bullying

Words do hurt.
Ann Coulter a conservative author and columnist, tweeted during the presidential campaign, “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the ‘retard’,” referring to GOP candidate Mitt Romney and President Obama.
She has refused to acknowledge her actions are hurtful even as people with disabilities have told her so or to apologize.
Say what? Even an elementary school student knows better.

Disabled Adults Helping Others in Need

Michelle Johnson
works on tie-dye

DEMOREST, Ga. -- A group of developmentally disabled adults in Demorest is using its members’ creativity to help others in their community overcome life’s challenges.
The Dream Weavers meet twice a week at Avita Community Partners, a community service board serving North Georgians with mental illness, addictive disease and developmental disabilities.
Each week, they look for people to help and come up with ideas to accomplish those goals.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Autistic Man Thrives at Cafe Job

Jon Sonneveldt on the job.
But Sonneveldt, 47, of Phoenix, is especially grateful. He works as a barista at the Beneficial Beans Cafe in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. The cafe, which opened in July, is run by the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, where he is a client.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Place to Call Home

Isabel Reid and Dora Fernandes.
CAMBRIDGE, Ontario — Meeting Dora Fernandes, a funny and joyful woman, it’s hard to imagine she was ever known for never having a smile on her face.
But before she moved in with Cambridge resident Isabel Reid in December 2010, Fernandes was not social and often isolated herself.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Don LeRoux, front, and Jenny Hansen
carve turkeys for the Thanksgiving feast.
CLINTON, Iowa — While the meaning and significance of Thanksgiving is widely known, to some students it is simply a fantasy.
Clinton High School teachers are making sure special education and at-risk students understand and appreciate the annual fall feast.

Report: NYS Defies Charter School Trend of Under-Enrolling Special-Needs Students

A fresh examination of special education enrollment patterns in New York State suggests that charter schools may be doing better at enrolling students with special needs than many believe.
These findings are relevant for Washington state as policy makers consider how to best implement Initiative 1240 to allow charter schools, which appears to have been approved by voters in the most recent election.
The issue of charter schools and special-needs students arises in part from a federal report that said, at the national level, charter schools enroll fewer students than schools run by districts.

Adutls with Autism Need Help, Too

From the Toronto Star's recent series "The Autism Project."

They are called the lost generation, adults with autism who are heading inevitably toward the uncharted territory of old age.
It is a perilous destination. When they were children, no one knew how to treat autistic brains and now that they’re getting old, no one knows how autism and aging interact. Mostly abandoned by science, they are now being left behind by elderly parents who are dying or can no longer care for them.

That Annoying Autism Question

From blogger Laura Shumaker.

I believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are questions that rub people the wrong way, and in an informal poll on Facebook, I have uncovered  one that might irritate individuals and families living with autism most.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vancouver Dad's Fantasy Novel Inspired by Teen Son with Asperger's Syndrome

The just-released 2012 USA Best Book Awards, handed out by the trade publication USA Book News, include a local author in the category of fantasy fiction: Vancouver's Brian Tashima, whose debut novel "Secret of the Songshell" was inspired by his 14-year-son, who has Asperger's syndrome.
Asperger's syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that's part of the autism spectrum; its primary effects are social impairment and communication difficulties.
I chatted with Tashima last week about the book, which is available as a paperback and an e-book, and about his tips for parents regarding Asperger's.

Growing Up Different

When Andrew Solomon began researching deaf culture for an article in the ’90s, he had a shock of recognition: How some deaf people formed their identities reminded him of what he went through as a gay man. Most deaf people are born to hearing parents and most gay people born to straight ones—since they’re traits that aren’t directly inherited—and neither typically finds their community until adolescence or older. “Then a friend of mine had a child who was a dwarf, and listening to her experience, it was the same thing all over again,” Solomon said. “And I thought, if it’s happening in three places, I wonder where else is it happening?”
The answer lies in the award-winning author’s new book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Researching the tome took more than a decade and over 300 interviews, and in it, Solomon reveals how families who have children with everything from autism to schizophrenia to prodigious talent make sense of their new identities.

Genetics Identify Prenatal Predictions

The ability to find genetic problems before birth is undergoing a revolution that could expand prenatal testing while reducing the number of babies born with serious defects.
But it is also increasing the ranks of expectant parents who are left in limbo, their joy turning to dread, because their offspring has a DNA variant that is not yet understood.
"I started getting really panicky that the child I was carrying was going to be severely autistic with seizures and schizophrenia," said one such parent, interviewed for a University of Pennsylvania study of reactions to abnormal results. "I would look online and I met with a geneticist and talked to an autism specialist. And frankly, nobody could really tell me" how the child would be affected.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Autistic: On the Outside Looking In

From Tim Villegas' Think Inclusive blog, which is so on target!

Do you know how it feels to be treated like an outsider? I do. I am Autistic. Some people seem to think that as a result of being Autistic, I am in my own little world and that I won’t notice if they leave me out or ignore me. They are wrong. I do notice it and I don’t like being treated as an outcast or outsider.
Do you know how it feels to be excluded? I do.

Classroom Eases Transition from School to Life

Emily Heller, 16, works on a puzzle
duringan open house in the new
apartment space at Gahanna Lincoln
High School.
GAHANNA, Ohio -- In a classroom that feels like it was yanked from a model apartment, Kayla Tull practices opening jars and pouring a pitcher with only her right hand. They’re skills she’ll need to live onher own.
Matching appliances frame one side of the granite kitchen counter, only a few steps from the dining table and the den area, with its leather sofa and carefully placed decor –– all in a room where students once sat at desks and learned biology.

N.J. Assembly Panel OKs Bill to Curb Police Violence Against People with Disabilities

TRENTON, N.J. -- An Assembly panel Monday advanced legislation that would allow residents with mental or developmental disabilities to voluntarily register with the state Attorney General’s Office in order to prevent violent encounters with police.
The bill (A3403), approved 5-1 with one abstention by the Assembly Human Services Committee, was drafted by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora in response to a Star-Ledger story in June about the 2009 beating of a mentally disabled man by the State Police.
A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

'Swanky' Movie Shows Artistic Adults with Autism in Action

David Blose, left, and Brandon Smith
show a piece of art Wednesday at
Will Rogers Theatre in Oklahoma City.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- They call it “Swanky: The Most Awesome Art Show Movie Ever Made By Everybody.”
A group of artistic adults with autism who featured their work in an art show last summer now are planning to walk down the red carpet at a premiere event at an artsy Oklahoma City theater.
David Blose, 23, said he plans to wear a “James Bond tuxedo.”

No Place for 'R Word' in Conversation

RIVERTON, Wy. -- Central Wyoming College students and community members have taken a public pledge to support the elimination of the "r-word."
Student Seth Finley spearheaded the campaign and campus rally, where he spoke about his experience with words like "retard" and "retarded."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

N.J. Football Squad Rallies Around Autistic Player

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Not many football players have the support of the opposing team, but not many football players are like 14-year-old Dylan Acree.
Dylan suffers from pervasive developmental disorder, an autism-spectrum disorder which causes delays in socialization and communication, but it hasn't stopped him from participating in activities enjoyed by many typically-developing teens.

Sibling Ponders Autistic Brother's Future

 From London's Daily Mail

Rachel Reilly next to her autistic
brother Alex, who is now 26.
Watching the new Marks & Spencer Christmas advert,  I felt my heart skip a little. In the middle of the screen in a red bow tie is an utterly gorgeous little boy with bright blue eyes, an angelic round face and a very cheeky grin. 
The four-year-old actor, Seb White, has Down’s syndrome and is the first child with learning difficulties  ever to be used in a major television advertisement. Since the commercial hit our screens earlier this month, viewers have taken to the internet to express their joy at the little boy, with many moved to tears. 
For me,the delight at his inclusion is also tinged with sadness. I too have a brother with severe learning difficulties who, just like Seb, was  a chubby-cheeked blonde boy who passers-by cooed over. 
Watching the new Marks & Spencer Christmas advert,  I felt my heart skip a little. In the middle of the screen in a red bow tie is an utterly gorgeous little boy with bright blue eyes, an angelic round face and a very cheeky grin. 
The four-year-old actor, Seb White, has Down’s syndrome and is the first child with learning difficulties  ever to be used in a major television advertisement. Since the commercial hit our screens earlier this month, viewers have taken to the internet to express their joy at the little boy, with many moved to tears. 
For me, the delight at his inclusion is also tinged with sadness. I too have a brother with severe learning difficulties who, just like Seb, was  a chubby-cheeked blonde boy who passers-by cooed over. 

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Watching the new Marks & Spencer Christmas advert,  I felt my heart skip a little. In the middle of the screen in a red bow tie is an utterly gorgeous little boy with bright blue eyes, an angelic round face and a very cheeky grin. 
The four-year-old actor, Seb White, has Down’s syndrome and is the first child with learning difficulties  ever to be used in a major television advertisement. Since the commercial hit our screens earlier this month, viewers have taken to the internet to express their joy at the little boy, with many moved to tears. 
For me, the delight at his inclusion is also tinged with sadness. I too have a brother with severe learning difficulties who, just like Seb, was  a chubby-cheeked blonde boy who passers-by cooed over. 

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Study Questions Effectiveness of Popular Autism Treatment

A popular treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders might not be effective, according to new findings from a group of 12 researchers, including professors from the University of Texas and Texas State University.
The review examined 25 studies of sensory integration therapy, which involve activities that stimulate the senses and are believed to improve defects of the nervous system.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Disabled Workers an Asset When Given Chance

Aaron McKinney on the job.
CLEVELAND -- Aaron McKinney stacked big birthday buttons on a shelf at the Just-A-Buck store at Maymore Plaza in South Euclid.
"I've got a great job," he said, opening a box of merchandise.

When You Can't Score an Autism Diagnosis

Interesting post from The League of Ordinary Gentlemen blog.

A couple of months ago, a mother of a child with the same rare genetic syndrome as my middle son made an interesting post on Facebook. (Many of the syndrome parents are Facebook friends). She was asking for prayers. Not at all uncommon for the syndrome parent crowd, usually because a child is getting surgery or has fallen ill. This was a little different. She was asking for prayers that her visit to the doctor yield a diagnosis of autism. Later that day, she gave us all a status update: God was listening. Autism diagnosis.

Opinion: Illinois Center's Closing Is By the Book

Post by Kevin Casey, director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Illinois Department of Human Services, from The State Journal-Register.

When Gov. Pat Quinn took office in 2009, the state of Illinois operated nine state-operated developmental centers/large institutions, for individuals with developmental disabilities. Never mind that 14 other reform-minded states have already moved forward to close institutions and invest in community care, which numerous studies show provide a higher quality of life.
Fortunately for all citizens, that time is now behind us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Autistic Kids Lean to STEM Majors in College – If They Go

A new study confirms a popularly held belief that kids with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gravitate toward STEM majors in college. STEM refers to majors in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. But the study also found that young adults with autism have one of the lowest college enrollment rates.

“STEM careers are touted as being important for increasing both national economic competitiveness and individual career earning power,” said Paul Shattuck, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, who co-authored the study, which was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
“If popular stereotypes are accurate and college-bound youth with autism gravitate toward STEM majors, then this has the potential to be a silver lining story for a group where gloomy predictions about outcomes in adulthood are more the norm.”

Colin Farrell Talks About His Disabled Son

Actor Colin Farrell opened up about life raising a child with disabilities.

Farrell’s oldest son, James, 9, was born with Angelman Syndrome, which is a “neuro-genetic disorder with symptoms including intellectual and developmental disability, seizures, jerky movements and sleep disturbances,” the Daily Mail reported.

The proud father told In Touch magazine, in an interview that will appear in its December issue, that he and James’ mother model, Kim Bordenave, especially appreciate his milestones.

Barnes & Noble to Sell Montana-based Magazine on Developmental Disabilities

Apostrophe, a Montana-based quarterly for, by and about people with developmental disabilities, will be on magazine racks at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide beginning Friday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wisconsin Puts Family Care In Difficult Position

APPLETON, Wis. -- Disability advocates count the 2011-2013 state budget the most dismal in recent history and anticipate dire consequences for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
Even worse, huge budget cuts in Medicaid will be developed behind closed doors at the Department of Health Services. Some savings measures will override state statute. No hearings are required when these changes are made. The Legislature gave away its authority to provide input on these changes, except through passive review.
Although Family Care, the state’s long-term care program for the elderly and disabled, is emblematic of what has always been a problem for this state — long waiting lists and underfunding — we see that those waiting lists are being eliminated at any cost to clients and providers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kaiser Is 1st Oregon Insurer to Voluntarily Cover Autism Therapy

Advocates scored a major victory when Kaiser Permanente announced it would provide coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for autism and neurodevelopmental disorders.
“What we see is Kaiser actively issuing approvals under a new policy,” said Paul Terdal, the father of two autistic boys. “I can’t overstress my appreciation for Kaiser.”

Gamers with Autism Find Fear and Attraction in the Virtual World

You might think you know World of Warcraft, but you don’t know it the way Ian Bates does.
Ian Bates
Like many of the millions of players of the massively multiplayer online game, the Florida teen obsessed over WoW’s fantasy world. He devoured all the non-fiction books written about Warcraft, and tried his hand at writing fan fiction set in the land of Azeroth.
One day in 2010, when he was 17, Bates was reading another Warcraft novel and noticed that something was out of whack. There was a character described in the plot of the novel, Falstad Wildhammer, that should have appeared within the game’s world, but he was nowhere to be found.
So when Bates went to this year’s Blizzcon, the annual weekend event where developer Blizzard meets its fans, he had one mission. During a Q&A session, he stepped up to the microphone to demand an explanation of the discrepancy from the lead writers of Warcraft lore. Clearly amused but grateful, Blizzard’s story leads promised to fix the plot hole.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Friendship Comes Full Circle

Friendship Circle volunteer
Backman with Kalea.
ALBANY — For Esti Backman, the best part of volunteering with the Friendship Circle is making her 4-year-old buddy, Kalea, smile.
Backman, 13, an eighth-grader at Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany, spends an hour a week with Kalea, who has Down syndrome. They read books, play instruments and sing songs together as part of the Friendship Circle's Friends at Home program. The program allows boys and girls with developmental disabilities like autism, Asperger's syndrome, cerebral palsy and emotional challenges to socialize with teenage volunteers.

Study: Kids with Down Syndrome Prone to Obesity

New research on a group of Dutch children with Down syndrome is calling attention to the staggering number of kids with the disorder who are overweight.
In a study of nearly 1,600 children with Down syndrome in the Netherlands, researchers found that those with the chromosomal disorder were on average twice as likely as their typically developing peers to be overweight or obese.

Florida State Coach Apologizes for Using 'R' Word

Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher.
TALAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher issued an apology Monday afternoon for using the word "retarded" in reference to the BCS college football rankings.
Fisher's Seminoles are 9-1 but ranked behind three teams with two losses apiece. During his weekly press conference Monday, Fisher was told that some computer rankings, which are factored into the BCS standings, have FSU slotted behind teams with as many as four or five losses.

Monday, November 12, 2012

2,000 Could Be Evicted from Group Homes in North Carolina Under Change in Medicaid Rules

About 2,000 people with mental disabilities are in danger of losing their lodging in group homes on Jan. 1, their evictions triggered by changing Medicaid rules.
State officials and advocates for the disabled have been talking about the problem for months but have not come to a resolution. The new regulations have group home operators and state health administrators talking about strategies that could keep group homes open when a vital source of income is threatened.

Read more here:

'Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity'

For Megan and Michael, a Los Angeles couple, the crucial turn of parenthood came not in the delivery room but eight months later, when they started to worry that something had gone wrong with their son. The baby, Jacob, didn’t respond to the surrounding world the way his older sister had; when Megan started banging on pots, one night, he did not even flinch. At the hospital, a test confirmed their fears: Jacob was deaf, and most of the assumptions that they had about his future would change. At first, Megan and Michael took the difference in stride, seeking programs that would help Jacob acquire language and find a place in the hearing world. But the offerings were, almost without exception, rather grim, and few promised a life at anything near standard speed. The instructor at one celebrated clinic boasted that Jacob would be saying “apple” by the age of two. Megan protested that her daughter, at that point, could talk in sentences. “Your expectations are too high,” the instructor said. Megan knew they’d need to take another path.

A Child's Sad Death in Florida Nursing Home

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- For 14 years, Doris Freyre cared for her profoundly disabled daughter in her modest Tampa home, pureeing fresh fruit, yams and vegetables and surrounding the girl with family photos and pictures of angels.
Marie Freyre died in the care of a $506-per-day nursing home — sobbing, shaking and screaming for her real home.
She never saw her Minnie Mouse plush toy, her Winnie the Pooh or her Cabbage Patch Kids again. She never again saw her Mami or her Abuela.

Read more here:

Study Suggests Flu in Pregnancy Link to Autism

Kids whose mothers had the flu while pregnant were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with "infantile autism" before age three in a new Danish study. But the children's overall risk for the developmental disorder was not higher than that of other kids.
Researchers said it's possible that activation of a mother's immune system - such as by infection with the influenza virus - could affect a fetus's developing brain. But they urged caution with the new findings, especially because of statistical limitations in their number-crunching.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Autism and Competition; She Just Won't Compete

From Donna Williams of

I got a letter from a lovely parent about her teenage daughter, a wonderful long distance runner. Yet the coach was stumped. Why wouldn’t she compete? She’d just let the others pass her, retaining her same rhythmic pace.
Non-autistic people have a consistent capacity to simultaneously process sense of self and other. This is necessary to many things… to imagining what another person might think, to gaining insight about one’s effect on others, to having that insight AND being able to then apply that in altering one’s own behavior, to being fluent in social game playing, to remembering why to say hello, and to holding onto the point of a game, a race, a competition.
But whilst many people with Asperger’s get enough simultaneous processing of sense of self and other to gain some entry to these things, even they may find this cognitively waxes and wanes.

Behavior Issues a Challenge in Student Integration

ALTOONA, Pa. -- For four decades, federal law has enabled children with disabilities to be integrated with regular education students at school, but even today that integration is a puzzle in progress.
She represented an Altoona student in court who was criminally charged for striking a teacher during an aggressive "meltdown," a characteristic of his Asperger's syndrome. He currently attends cyber school because of the charges.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Early Treatment Sparks Brain Changes in Autism

The human brain is similar to a sponge, the earlier it begins to absorb, the earlier the knowledge will begin to accumulate. Whether the knowledge is behavioral or communicable, it possesses the ability to project remarkable and significant changes and increased overall functionality of the human brain.
Researchers have shown through many enlightening and influential studies of the brain, the significant importance of this research. Many new studies on autism spark a revelation of new treatments, in order to change the world of autism as we know it.

A Mother's View: Need to Help Autistic and Others with Special Needs During Storm

From The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism blog.

Hurricane Sandy disrupted so many lives and displaced so many people in our autism, disability, and special ed communities. Many of those affected are still struggling to bring routine, safety, and necessities back into their lives -- and not all who need assistance are getting the support they need.
Here are two personal accounts about what's not working right now in Sandy's aftermath, what needs to change

Connecticut Families Endure Long Wait for Care

Connecticut is fast running out of money for a residential program that many families with intellectually disabled children have relied on for years.  Families are concerned about where their children will live and who will take care of them as they grow older.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Editorial: The Writing Is On the Wall

Of all the unpopular changes originating in Topeka these days, one strikes particularly close to home. On January 1, 2013, KanCare will replace the current Medicaid system in Kansas and the services for Kansas’ elderly and disabled populations will be administered by three for-profit insurance companies. Over the past year, budget cuts initiated by the governor’s office have decimated staff levels at the former Kansas Department on Aging, which has been recast as the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. It is safe to say that these days any entity which receives funding, directly or indirectly, from state government has its head on the chopping block. Stay tuned in 2013 to see what happens as tax cuts initiated by the governor and his loyalists take effect.  

Evaluating Teachers on Student Test Scores Hurts Children the Most

In this guest editorial from The Washington Times, teacher Eileen Riley-Hall, author of Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum, writes about how evaluating teachers based on students' test scores hurts children.

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- My daughter Caroline is a bright, sweet, inquisitive thirteen year-old. She also has autism. Over the past seven years of school, Caroline has made amazing progress because she always been included in the general education classroom with the help of a 1:1 aide. In fifth grade she won the spelling bee for her grade. In seventh grade she won a science award. Now, in eighth grade she is learning algebra. For the past three years, she has participated in the school band, playing her very own purple trumpet. Caroline has also made friends, discovered her talents, and found a way to belong. Her work ethic is stellar, and her attitude towards school is unfailingly positive.
However, according to the New York State Education department, Caroline has learned nothing and shown no growth over the course of her entire school career.

State Agrees to Cover Therapy for Autistic Children on Medicaid

Derek Collins and his mother
at their home.
SPOKANE, Wash. -- After three children, Jennifer Collins thought she had it down.
But it became clear early on that her youngest son was struggling. Derek began talking late. He struggled with focus, cried more than usual and shunned affection. At age 2 came a diagnosis of autism.
“We were tearful, emotional all the time,” Collins said. “It’s heartbreaking to see your child locked in their own head and so unhappy and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Study Finds Early Intervention Effective for Premature Infants' Development

Premature infants are born into a world their tiny bodies often are not ready for. Developmental differences between those babies and full-term infants often are apparent prior to a preemie’s discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have documented.
Their study points to opportunities for therapeutic interventions — even in the first few weeks of life — to improve premature babies’ long-term outcomes.
The research, which focused on infants born at least 10 weeks early, is available online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Facts Autism Families Want Obama to Know

President Obama,
Congratulations on your reelection! I was one of the millions who voted for you, and as the mother of a teenage boy with autism, I am grateful that you did so much in your first term to help families coping with autism. When you signed the Combating Autism Act legislation on September 30, 2011, which assured continued federal support for autism research, services and treatment for another three years, many parents of children with autism cheered. Declaring World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 was another important step.
People with autism and their families look forward to the hope and change that you spoke of in your acceptance speech today. Here are a few facts about us that I hope you will keep in mind during the next four years.

Obamacare Won the Election -- Now Medicare and Medicaid Must Win the Fiscal Showdown

After two years of raging debate about health care and the most expensive and polarizing presidential election campaign in our nation's history, Obamacare won on Nov. 6, and it's here to stay.
This election secures the guarantee of high quality, affordable health care for every American, without insurance company abuses and hassle.
President Obama has won a second term that guarantees a bright future for the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate has turned more progressive. This strengthens the hand of supporters of the middle class. Lawmakers should not even consider beneficiary cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. People depend on the protections in these programs, and they are the backbone of the American dream. We need to defend them, not cut them.

Grant to Help Children with Diet and Exercise

Jan Morson and her son Daniel.
Daniel Morson, 14, loves some chicken fingers. Spinach? Not so much.
Sounds like a lot of teenagers, right? But Morson has Down syndrome and his eating habits may provide clues to help other families supporting a Down syndrome adolescent.
"Persons with Down syndrome have the highest obesity rates of any intellectual disability group," said Laura Vogtle, a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Word to Your Mom (or Dad)

When we hear the word communication, we most often think of speaking. This is fair and quite logical, as most of us use words to convey messages each and every day with a variety of people. We talk about our weekends and the tastes of the foods we eat and how we feel about Hurricane Sandy, Argo or the upcoming election.
But many children with special needs are often unable to effectively express even their most basic needs and desires. They do not have the words to say, " I absolutely despise broccoli," or "I'd rather watch SpongeBob," or "I need help in the bathroom."

Sandy Disrupts Life of Those with Special Needs

Sorry for late postings -- we're preparing for a Nor'easter in NY metro area.

Hurricane Sandy was a trial for all parents, but it was a particular burden for those whose children have special needs.
“By definition, kids on the spectrum are not usually go-with-the-flow kinds of kids,” said Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. “So having a lack of routine and structure can be difficult.”
Those parents took to the internet during the storm and its aftermath, sharing lists of organizations that specifically provide support for parents of children with disabilities, and posts with advice on how to calm kids feeling distraught or frightened.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Expect More Autistic Students in Higher Education

Over the next decade, more students with autism spectrum disorders are expected to enroll in America’s universities than ever before. And according to several experts, their success in higher education largely hinges on how institutions accommodate the needs of the ever-increasing population.

Autism: Cyber-Bullying with a New Twist

U are a loser, u have no friends,” read the text that prompted Matthew to call 911.
He called me as I was driving to meet a friend for lunch and told me about the text.
“I feel a bit sad and a bit scared,” he said quietly.
Matthew, as many of you know, is 26 years old and has autism.

Influencing the Vulnerable Vote

AUSTIN, Minn. -- On Monday, with the elections just a day away, people on both sides are trying to get those last-minute votes. That leaves some people worried about vulnerable adults.
Nathan Sorenson has a job, enjoys video games, and likes playing sports.
"I play softball in the summer," said Nathan.
Like many Americans, he is tired of politics.
"Very tired. I just want it to be done, so hopefully tomorrow is the last day," said Nathan.
Nathan also happens to have an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. He says so many people have tried to convince him who he should be voting for.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mentor Program Proves It Has Merit

Senior Brian Balberchak, left, helps
sophomore Willie Williams with his
, Calif. — A pained expression crossed Elizabeth Covarrubias’ face. The 16-year-old Eastlake High junior had just turned to a chapter in her geometry textbook titled “Indirect Proof and Inequality in One Triangle.”
“I’m having trouble with geometry,” Elizabeth said. “My mom said I had to come here.”
“Here” is Eastlake High’s cafeteria, which, for an hour after school every Thursday, is transformed into a giant study hall for the Titan Academic Assistance Program or TAAP. The peer program pairs underclassmen — specifically, English learners, the socioeconomically disadvantaged and students with disabilities who need coursework help — with other students, typically upperclassmen, who are eager to mentor.

Expert Calls for Finding Cause of Autism Before Focusing on Diagnosis

Despite moves to use brain imaging scans to diagnose autism, one expert urges that the biological basis for the disorder must be understood before technology can be trusted with the diagnosis.
In the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Nicholas Lange believes scientists should focus on conducting large, long-term multicenter studies to identify the biological basis of the disorder.

Future of Sheltered Workshops Debated

Patrick Biscoe, a worker at the
sheltered workshop, sorts through
old x-rays that will be recycled.
ELWYN, Del. -- Nobody working in the sheltered workshop at Elwyn Delaware gets a cut in pay if their Paratransit bus is an hour late. Nobody raises an eyebrow if they wear a helmet to work or answer questions by pressing a button on an electronic voice device.
The passageways are wide enough on floor A and floor B for anyone in a power wheelchair to move easily. And those who walk without difficulty can scoot quickly between work tables to distribute supplies needed to keep the work line on schedule.
Some of the 154 employees at Elwyn have worked at its tables for 30 years. They are among about 500 Delaware residents with intellectual and physical disabilities who work in such jobs with state and federal support.

Person-First Language: Noble Intentent But to What Effect

Interesting post from the Canadian Medical Association.

Kenneth St. Louis grew up with a moderate stutter that he eventually got under control in college. His struggle with stuttering led to an interest in speech-language pathology, which he now teaches at West Virginia University in Morgantown. St. Louis is an expert in fluency disorders, including cluttering, a condition characterized by rapid speech with an erratic rhythm. Once, after a journal sent him the edited version of a paper he had submitted on cluttering, St. Louis noticed something curious.
"They changed 'clutterer' to 'person who clutters' all the way through," says St. Louis.
The changes to St. Louis' prose stem from the person-first (or people-first) language movement, which began some 20 years ago to promote the concept that a person shouldn't be defined by a diagnosis. By literally putting "person" first in language, what was once a label becomes a mere characteristic. No longer are there "disabled people." Instead, there are "people with disabilities." 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

'The World Is Missing Out on a Whole Lot'

As a woman with disabilities -- she has cerebral palsy and requires the assistance of personal care attendants to live an independent life -- Ashley Volion is no stranger to isolation and discrimination. But as she wrote on Bridge The Gulf this week, nothing hurt this 28-year-old academic from Lafitte, Louisiana as much as having to defer pursuing a Ph.D. in Disability Studies in Chicago because Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals denied her request to provide care there.

California Grandma Claims $23 Million Lottery Ticket Just in Time

A lighter piece to start the day that has no political or storm-related connection.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – For more than five months – while Julie Cervera struggled to pay a $600 electrical bill, feed her family and keep the cable company from shutting off her service because she couldn’t pay – she was a millionaire without knowing it.
Meanwhile, her $23 million lottery ticket languished forgotten in the glove compartment of her car.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weathering Sandy

Busy day at YAI, our CEO Stephen Freeman joined NYS Commissioner Courtney Burke of the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities on CBS This Morning on a story about how this week's storm impacted people with disabilities and the staff who have worked around the clock to ensure these individuals are safe and secure.

Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in the Northeast this week, and while many residents faced hardship, New York and New Jersey's disabled community faced the storm as one of the most vulnerable segments of society.
Thousands of developmentally disabled people faced power outages and food shortages and their caregivers sacrifices their own needs in order to see the disabled through the storm.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In Sandy's Wake, Impact on Those with Disabilities Unclear

As communities up and down the East Coast deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, several disability advocacy groups are stepping up to help those affected.
National organizations including The Arc, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society are reaching out to families of those with developmental disabilities to help them access assistance and in some cases offering financial support.

Autism Stigma: Father Opens Up About How Schools Can Better Serve Students On Spectrum

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. And though autism awareness is improving, the public perception of these disorders still holds a certain amount of stigma. Nancy Redd hosted a segment on HuffPost Live exploring autism today and how we can better educate the public as well as educators on issues surrounding autism.
Redd spoke with Stuart Chalfetz, a father and autism activist in Cherry Hill, NJ, about how schools can better serve autistic children. After seeing his autistic son's behavior begin to change, Chalfetz taped a recording device to him to find out how he was being treated at school. What he found out was astounding.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Do Autistic People Want From Science?

Today is Autistics Speaking Day, developed in response to an ill-conceived fundraising campaign from 2010 asking people to stop communicating so they could experience being autistic (!). On any day, you get a daily dose of stories about autism-related scientific findings, but how many of these articles include autistic voices? Equally as important, how much autism research focuses on – or even asks – what autistic people themselves, the ultimate consumers of the science, would like to see scientists emphasize?

Autistic Student Thrives at University of N. Florida

Chris Regan
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In many ways Chris Regan is a typical college student.
The 19-year-old sophomore shares a suite in the Osprey Fountains dorm at the University of North Florida with three roommates. He carries a 3.35 grade point average and is a member of Delta Alpha Phi, an honor society, and of the Greenpeace Club. On weekends, he goes to his family’s Palm Valley home so he can work at the nearby Publix.
But Regan isn’t typical. He has a form of autism spectrum disorder.