Breaking Out of Autism Through Technology

In this amazing video, Carly, lost in an autistic world, unable to speak or express herself,comes out of her shell at age 11 when she gained access to a computer.

 

After 11 years of constant therapy, after a diagnosis of moderate retardation, no one believed that she could write, or think at such a high level at the age of ten.

Through tough love, it took months to get Carly to communicate regularly through the written word, but once she did, she fluently expressed what it was like to engage in ritual behavior such as head-banging and rocking, and how she felt about being trapped inside her autistic brain.

I urge you, if you do nothing else today, to watch this video.

Will New Autism Definition Affect Your Child’s Services?

Although the American Psychiatric Association has been working on its revision of the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for several years, a new study by world-renowned expert on childhood mental disorders, Dr. Fred Volkmar, has brought the concerns expressed by the autism community back to the forefront of discussion.

At issue are proposed changes to the definition of autism.  According to the New York Times, many experts expect that the criteria for a diagnosis of autism will be narrower, but it is an open question as to how sharply.

Dr. Volkmar, the director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine, believes the definition is going to narrow the diagnosis  so much that it will adversely impact many high-functioning autistic persons.  This in turn, may very well affect the ability of many highly functioning autistic people to get the services needed in schools and other settings.

Differing Viewpoints

According to many news source, including Long Island’s own Newsday, the panel of experts charged with revising the guidelines strongly disagree with Dr. Volkmar’s analysis. Additionally, two other field trials, one at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and one at Stanford University in California, also found that the new definition won’t greatly change the volume of autism diagnoses.

The Washington Post interviewed Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, a national advocacy organization.  While you can read the full interview here, she recommends waiting until the full DSM changes are released, and even then, she advises that we will be unable to see how these changes will affect those seeking diagnosis until it has been in effect for a while.

I believe this is the best approach.  As Dawson states, the DSM needs amending.  There are far too many distinctions among different autism types, with very little difference in treatments.  All will now fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders.

 

Long Island Advocacy Center featured on Special Needs Long Island Radio

Please join “Special Needs Long Island,” the radio show focused on the special needs community, as we feature Laura Adler Greene, Esq.  Ms. Greene is an attorney with the Long Island Advocacy Center, a not for profit organization  dedicated to protecting the legal rights of students with disabilities.  She represents students in PINS diversion programs as well as school meetings, administrative hearings, suspension and impartial hearings, and in administrative and appellate proceedings. She also lectures to school administrators and bar groups on special education law and the rights of students with disabilities.

Laura Adler Greene will be interviewed on January 9th, 2012 between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Long Island’s WGBB 1240 AM.  For those out of the local broadcast range, or wanting the best clarity, the program is also simulcast on the internet at www.am1240wgbb.com .

Long Island Bus Meets Keystone Cops

In the latest Long Island Bus takeover news, Newsday reports that the parent company of the private bus company that is scheduled to take over for the MTA on January 1st, has declared that it intends to put the transportation arm of its company up for sale, and get out of the transportation business.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is scrambling to figure out what to do before the January 1st takeover.  The MTA has said it would be willing to continue (for a fee) and previous bidders for the privatization are again offering bids.

 

And for your viewing pleasure:

Congrats to Nassau Knights, Special Needs Football Team

The Nassau Knights, Nassau County Police Activity League’s (PAL) flag football special needs team, played and won against a group of Kappa Sigma fraternity members from Adelphi University.

 

According to Newsday, the team of 14-28 year olds with varying disabilities, played its only game against another team this season.  One of the team’s coaches, Harvey Pollack,  stated they usually divide into two teams and play each other, as there are no other special needs teams to play against.

 

The Nassau County Police Activity League is the only PAL in the country to have a Special Needs Unit.

 

Way to go! Congrats to both the Nassau Knights, and the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

 

 

“It’s Not as Bad as it Looks”

 

Right, Judge. If it was possible to somehow put the frosting on the cake of this horrifying story about a judge caught on videotape beating his daughter, a life-long sufferer of cerebral palsy, that quote from the perpetrator did it.

 

According to the article, Texas Family Court Judge William Adams was secretly taped by his daughter in 2004, and after subsequent abuse, she finally decided to release the almost ten minute video  of her father and mother cursing and beating her with a belt.

 

Many of our children with special needs use the Internet as their lifeline to the world.  Then-16-year-old Hilary Adams’s crime was illegally downloading a video without paying for it. The resulting punishment, doled out by a judge who frequently saw the horrific results of child abuse in his courtroom is both incomprehensible and enraging.

Contrast the judge’s efforts to minimize the incident with his daughter’s love and generosity. “It is my wish that people stop threatening my father and start offering professional help. That is what he really needs,” she wrote.

 

Watching the video made me ill.  I struggled with whether I should post a link to it.  But abuse needs to be exposed, and the likelihood that special needs children, who often struggle with behavioral issues, will be abused is much higher than for other children.  And so I’ve posted it.

 

Warning: if you have a weak stomach, do not watch this video.


Broadway Roars: Autism Friendly Performance at Lion King

Broadway is becoming autism friendly!  The Theater Development Fund (TDF) has started a new program known as the Autism Theater Initiative  to make theater more accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.

 

The Lion King has been chosen as the first ever Broadway autism-friendly play with a special performance and reduced prices for its October 2 matinee.  The show sold out quickly, but we can expect if the results are good, that it will be repeated.  You can sign up for information on future performances here.

 

According to the NY Times, some of the modifications made for this special performance include less strobe lighting and softening of the sound in some places.  Many autistic persons are sensitive to light and sound.

 

The entire theater has been bought out for this performance.  Although many Broadway productions have the ability to modify shows for hearing and sight impaired people, those modifications are made during regular performances.  According to Lisa Carling, T.D.F.’s director of accessibility programs:

 

“We wanted to create an environment that was welcoming to children and their parents so they could come in and not be afraid of judgment from other theatergoers who might not understand why a child is doing repetitive movements, or rocking back and forth, or why a child might need to wear headphones or get up in the middle of a song and take a time out in the lobby.”

 

What a wonderful idea.  Let’s hope that more shows follow, and that The Lion King has much success.

Desperate Parents Try Desperate Measures

The Judge Rotenberg Center, a special needs school in Massachusetts that receives much of its funding from New York State, is back in the center of controversy again.

 

The Center is the only school in the nation that uses aversive therapy such as skin shocks as behavioral modification on its students.  Many of the students at the Center are New York residents, with New York courts approving the skin shock therapy.

The Canton Patch is doing a series of articles on the controversy, reporting both on the boycott of radio ads by the Center led by a Long Island parent and also reporting on the parents and supporters of the Center and the controversial treatments.

 

According to the Associated Press and Boston.com, public hearings are being held this week in the Massachusetts legislature to ban the practice for those students that do not have court approval.  The Center’s attorney, Michael Flammia, is calling that discrimination.

 

What do you think?  Is skin shock therapy barbaric, or is it a necessary measure to help out of control students?

The R Word: Tracy Morgan: Oops!…I Did it Again

In the latest incident of a celebrity using the “R” word, Tracy Morgan, fresh from his apologies over making anti-gay remarks, made “jokes” about “young retarded males” during a recent comedy appearance. It was reminiscent of Jenifer Aniston’s description of herself as “retarded” on the David Letterman show.

The New York Times reported Morgan’s gaffe without condemning it, in a story titled “Comedian, Chastened, Gets Back to Laughs.”

Really, New York Times? Laughs?  The disabled community does not find Tracy Morgan any funnier than the gay community did.