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?

NY to Require Insurance Companies to Pay for Autism Treatments

Via a press release issued by Chairman of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee Senator Roy McDonald:

The New York State Senate today approved legislation to enable individuals with autism spectrum disorders to receive insurance coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment. The bill (S.4005A), sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R, Merrick), would save tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses spent by families caring for individuals with autism and address insurance companies’ refusal to cover costs for autism treatments and therapies.

Autism Spectrum Disorders affect individuals of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 110 children, including 1 in 70 boys, are currently affected with autism.

The legislation requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, including behavioral health treatments, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Insurance companies would be prohibited from terminating coverage or refusing to renew, adjust, amend, issue, or execute a policy solely because the individual has been diagnosed with or received treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

Understanding Autism: It’s Not Monkey Business

Teco, a young bonobo chimpanzee, is exhibiting signs of autistic behavior, according to BoingBoing. His famous father, Kanzi, uses symbols to communicate with humans.  Both chimps can be found at The Great Ape Trust, a nonprofit foundation whose tag line is “Insights through Collaborations with Apes.”

Researchers immediately noticed that Teco was not acting like normal baby chimps.  He did not bond with his mother, did not make eye contact and he became agitated when his surroundings weren’t exactly as he wanted them to be.  Sound familiar?  Furthermore, Teco is showing some repetitive movement, another very human sign of autism syndrome.

Here are a few more questions, answered by Teco’s caretakers: Q &A.

Teco

Play Ball! Special Needs Kids on Long Island

A brand new baseball little league has been form on Long Island, welcoming disabled children.  The Little League of the Islips’ Challengers team is comprised of two teams, the Hurricanes and the Cyclones.

As CBS News commented, “the Field of Dreams belongs to everyone.”

The Challengers are the brainchild of Kelly Pipitone and Frank Fritz.  Kelly’s son Jake plays on the team.

There are some special rules too– According to Newsday, each player will be accompanied by a volunteer who will stay by his or her side during the game.  One other special rule?  Everyone wins.

And truly, with dedicated parents and coaches, everyone on Long Island does win.

Early Screening Tool Could Detect Autism by Age 1

A new approach to screening for some autism spectrum disorders may be able to detect autism by the age of 1, a great advance. Earlier detection and treatment can lead to better outcomes, as parents and teachers of children with autism know.

The Journal of Pediatrics has prepared a checklist to be used at baby’s one year checkup. The checklist can be found here.

According to the PBS Newshour, this test can be quickly filled out in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office and is reliable more than half the time.

Light it Up Blue Kicks Off World Awareness Autism Day

I was in Home Depot this morning, shopping for light bulbs, when I noticed a rack of blue light bulbs with a prominent sign “Light it Up Blue—Autism Speaks.”

 

In an effort to raise awareness of autism, Autism Speaks is seeking to “shine a light on autism by raising awareness of autism in communities across the United States and Canada.

 

Even the Empire State Building is turning its lights blue for this event!

 

For more about this event, check out www.lightitupblue.org and participate!

Apple’s iPad Proving to be a Boon to Special Needs Families

Children with speech and communication problems are benefiting from apps designed for the iPad.

“Before she got an iPad at age two, Caleigh Gray couldn’t respond to yes-or-no questions. Now Caleigh, who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, uses a $190 software application that speaks the words associated with pictures she touches on the “tablet” device.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s $599 device threatens to make obsolete specialized speech machines that can cost as much as $15,000: http://online.wsj.com/article

New Long Island Special Needs Radio Show

Monday Evenings at 6:30PM EST

Special Needs Long Island is a weekly radio program dedicated to the special needs community on Long Island.  It is a forum where the latest information involving special needs will be provided.  Featured guests are from special needs organizations, professionals practicing in the field, families and individuals with special needs. The program is hosted by Jeff Silverman, Director of Special Needs Planning for the Center for Wealth Preservation in Syosset, New York. He can be reached by e-mail at SpecialNeedsLI@gmail.com or at (516) 682-3363

Tonight’s Special Guest is Me!

Join “Special Needs Long Island,” the radio program focused on the Special Needs Community, as we interview special needs planning attorney Ellen Victor, Esq., this Monday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m!

Questions can be called into Ellen during the show at (631)888-8811.

Ellen is uniquely qualified to answer your questions, as a special needs attorney (http://www.victorlawfirm.com/), blogger (http://longislandspecialneedslawyer.com/), and mother of a special needs child.

Here’s your chance to ask your special needs question of an attorney who focuses on this area of the law — for free.

Questions like:

• Why do I need a special needs trust?

• How do I choose a trustee for my special needs trust?

•Do I still need an SNT if my child isn’t on public benefits?

So be sure to tune in at 6:30 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 simulcast on the internet at www.am1240wgbb.com