Monday, February 26, 2018

Resources for African Americans Coping with Autism

Photograph of Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week, which was eventually expanded into a month-long observance. Photograph courtesy of the National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons.

This month, people in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands will acknowledge important figures and commemorate significant events in the history of people of African descent, as they celebrate African American History Month, Black History Month and Black Achievement Month, respectively. Since, as is the case with many other aspects of life, African Americans coping with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience some unique challenges and disparities, African American History Month is an ideal time to share some information and resources that specifically address how ASD impacts the African American community.  

Some important recent studies provide insight into how autism affects African Americans. In “Autism and the African American Community,”1 Ruby M. Gourdine, Tiffany D. Baffour and Martell Teasley discussed a number of disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of autism among African Americans, including African American children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) an average of 1.5 years later and requiring up to 3 times the number of visits in order to receive a diagnosis than their Caucasian peers. They attribute these disparities to both historical inequalities, such as discrimination, and contemporary social problems that greatly impact the African American community, such as “higher unemployment rates, higher rates of uninsured families and lack of access to services due to geographical region.” 

Gourdine, Baffour and Teasley also underscored the harmful effects racial slights have on African Americans’ perceptions of themselves as capable caregivers. According to the authors, these microinsults can make African American caregivers feel “personally inadequate, incompetent and powerless in the helping process.”

In their 2012 article, “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Quality of Health Care Among Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities,”2 Sandra Magaña, Susan L. Parish, Roderick A. Rose, Maria Timberlake and Jamie G. Swaine, identified significant deficits in healthcare access, utilization and quality of care among African American children with autism as compared to children of other races with autism, as well as African American children who have other developmental disabilities. 

The authors’ analysis shows that families of Black children with autism were 64% more likely to report not having a personal physician and 53% more likely to report having a physician that does not spend enough time interacting with patients and their families than Black children who have other developmental disabilities. Among their major findings was the fact that African American children and adults with autism face “greater challenges securing adequate healthcare.”

They identified a combination of predisposing factors (parent education, family structure, race and ethnicity), enabling factors (family income, whether the child has insurance) and need factors (type of developmental disability, severity of disability) that contribute to disparities in quality of healthcare.
For more insight into how autism impacts African Americans,listen to Michel Martin’s National Public Radio interview , and view the PBS NewsHour report on the isolation and disparities of care African-Americans coping with autism face, featuring Debra Vines, founder of The Answer, Inc.

Information and resources for African-Americans affected by autism can be found by visiting the following Websites:

1Ruby M. Gourdine, Tiffany D. Baffour & Martell Teasley (2011): Autism and the African American Community, Social Work in Public Health, 26:4, 454-470.

2Sandra Magaña, Susan L. Parish, Roderick A. Rose, Maria Timberlake, and Jamie G. Swaine (2012) Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Quality of Health Care Among Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: August 2012, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 287-299.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Variety—the Children’s Charity Provides Resources and Grants for Children with Special Needs

Variety—the Children’s Charity serves children who are affected by illness, disability or disadvantage through its three core programs--the Care Program, the Freedom Program and the Future Program—as well as through grants. Variety provides assistance directly to individual children and through organizations that serve children.

The Care Program delivers critical life-saving medical equipment and services, in addition to healthcare and well-being services. Children with autism may benefit from a number of resources available through the program, such as vision care, dental care, sensory equipment and respite care.

Variety’s Freedom Program makes life-changing equipment and services that promote mobility, independence and social inclusion available to children with special needs. Some of the resources children with autism could benefit from through the program include adaptive bicycles, assistance animals and specialized seating.

The Future Program at Variety provides crucial life-enriching communication equipment and access to opportunities to participate in educational and self-esteem building activities to children with special needs. Children with autism may be able to obtain communication devices or participate in camps, special recreation activities and cultural events through the program.

Variety also has a grant program to cover items and services that children with autism and other special needs may benefit from. To apply for a grant or assistance through one of Variety’s core programs, contact your local chapter or send an e-mail to the national office.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

United Special Sportsman Alliance Provides Dream Outdoor Vacations for Disabled Kids and Veterans

Photo of smiling boy holding freshly caught fish
USAA grants wishes for special outdoor adventures to disabled children and veterans. Photo by Campbell Adam, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA) is a nonprofit wish granting organization that sends critically ill and disabled children, and disabled veterans, on dream outdoor adventures. Young people who have autism and other disabilities are eligible to participate in the program. Click on the link to apply for a wish, refer a potential wish recipient or learn more about the organization.

Tim Tebow Foundation's Night to Shine Celebrates People with Special Needs

The Tim Tebow Foundation lives up to its commitment to celebrate people with special needs with its annual Night to Shine event.

This year’s Night to Shine, which took place on February 9, 2018, gave approximately 90,000 honored guests ages 14 and older an unforgettable prom night experience. The foundation partnered with 537 churches and 175,000 volunteers around the world to help some very special people create memories that will last a lifetime.

Plans are already underway for next year’s festivities, which will take place on February 8, 2019. If you would like to refer a guest with autism or other special needs for an invitation, please contact one of the host churches listed on the on the event’s Web page or contact the foundation directly

Check out the Night to Shine 2018 International Highlight Video.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Parents and Teachers Can Turn Valentine's Day Into ValenKIND Day for Children with Autism and Other Special Needs

This post contains affiliate links. All products mentioned on this page were selected because AARI believes our readers will find them interesting, meaningful and useful. AARI recommends helpful books and other products regardless of whether they are part of an affiliate program the blog participates in. For more information, read our Editorial Policy.

Photo of decorated Valentine's Day cookies

Make inclusion and acceptance a priority this Valentine's Day. Photo by Amanda CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion for parents and educators to teach children with disabilities and their typically developing peers some valuable life lessons about kindness, inclusion and acceptance.

Everyone wants and deserves to feel respected, valued and welcomed. This Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for parents, teachers and other influencers in the lives of children, teens and young adults to positively impact some of the most vulnerable members of our society and to make our world a better place by engaging in a few small but powerful acts that can have a long-lasting positive effect.

Parents, you can start this Valentine’s Day off the right way making sure your child takes enough of whatever special tokens or treats they intend to take to school for their entire class. Explain that exclusion is not nice and that it hurts to feel alienated, excluded or left out. Tell your child you want them to make everyone they encounter feel respected and valued.

Plan ahead to make sure your child is equipped to engage in inclusive interactions with their fellow students. If you aren’t sure about how many classmates your child has (after all, class rosters do change to some extent throughout the school year), ask your child’s teacher for a list of names to include on Valentine’s cards and a count to make sure you provide enough treat bags. Remember, that some of your child’s classmates may spend some part of their school day in special classes. Make sure your child includes all of their classmates in their celebration plans, even those that don’t spend the entire day in a general education classroom. Be sure to familiarize yourself with and fully comply with all classroom and school rules regarding sending edible treats.

Teachers, make the most out of this important opportunity for teachable moments about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, compassion, respect and kindness. Teachers, and their students, encounter all kinds of differences on a daily basis. It is absolutely critical to reinforce the importance of treating every human being with kindness and making everyone feel welcomed at all times. You can do this on Valentine’s Day by bringing extra cards, stickers, treats and supplies for making treat bags for students who may not have included all of their classmates on their distribution lists or who may not be able to afford to bring their own goodies to share.

Teachers can also incorporate books that promote acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and kindness into their curriculum as bibliotherapy, read alouds during literacy instruction or as part of character education. Some great books for teachers (and parents) to read and discuss with children around these topics are:

Accept and Value Each Person by Cheri J. Meiners

A Rainbow of Friends by P.K. Hallinan (available in an English and Spanish Edition)

Be A Friend by Salina Yoon

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming

Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers

Say Hello by Jack Foreman

Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann

You Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders

I highly recommend that teachers who work with students on the autism spectrum in an inclusion setting read Making Inclusion Work for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders:An Evidence-Based Guide by Dr. Tristram Smith. Chapter 11, which is about peer interaction, is particularly useful when developing strategies for creating seamless inclusion in the classroom. 

School leaders and educators can collaborate to make inclusion a core value for their entire learning community by having students participate in activities that will give them opportunities to act with peers. For example, students in general education and specialized classrooms can work together to create theme bulletin boards, create greeting cards and exchange them with students they do not typically interact with, create a peer ambassadorship program wherein exemplary general education students would “adopt” a friend with special needs and help them to navigate the social landscape and develop friendships with typically developing peers, and encourage general education students to spend time with students with special needs during lunch and recess. The idea here is to create a school culture, climate and environment where inclusion and acceptance is the norm.

School and district level leaders can learn some valuable lessons about creating integrated, socially just schools and districts in Meeting the Needs of Students of ALL Abilities: How Leaders Go Beyond Inclusion 2nd Edition by Colleen Capper and Elise Frattura. This practical resource contains specific strategies for creating environments wherein students of all abilities can thrive.

If everyone works together and does their part, Valentine’s Day can easily become ValenKIND’s Day. Even better, it could become the catalyst for creating an ongoing culture of kindness.

Toolkit Provides Resources to Prepare Young Adults with Autism and LD for Independence

This post contains affiliate links. All products mentioned on this page were selected because AARI believes our readers will find them interesting, meaningful and useful. AARI recommends helpful books and other products regardless of whether they are part of an affiliate program the blog participates in. For more information, read our Editorial Policy.

Authored by Dr. Michael P. McManmon, with contributions from an impressive team of educators, advocates, coaches and consultants who, collectively, have extensive personal and professional experience with people on the autism spectrum, the Autism and Learning Differences Toolkit is designed to teach essential life, school, work and independent skills to individuals living with autism and learning differences.

The toolkit focuses adolescents and young adults, ages 16 -26, who are transitioning to greater independence. It is intended to help them acquire and master the skills necessary to succeed in higher education, careers, relationships and community integration, and it includes sections on peer-mentoring, safety and inclusion.

Although the toolkit is designed as a complete curriculum for educators, clinicians and other professionals who work with young adults with ASD or learning differences, it easily lends itself to use by parents and individuals with ASD or LSD who desire to engage in self-study. The toolkit’s contents consists of materials, handouts, activities, strategies, practical examples and opportunities for active/participatory learning. A free sample of the toolkit is available for downloading.

Expert contributors who collaborated on the project include Dr. Brenda Smith Myles, Dr. Stephen M. Shore, Jennifer Cook O’Toole, Michael John Carley, Barbara Bissonnette, Dr. Valerie Paradiz, Dr. Liane Holliday Willey, Debra Muzikar, Joanne Lara, Jill Hudson, J. Richardson Collins, Dan McManmon, Francine Britton and Sharona Sommer.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aunt Bertha Search Engine Connects People with Social Service Programs

The Aunt Bertha search engine helps individuals and families meet social needs by connecting them with resources and programs in their communities. With a frequently updated database that covers every zip code in the United States, helps those who are seeking services to access them and the social service professionals who support them to find and make referrals to appropriate programs.

The Aunt Bertha search engine allows people to search by zip code, key word or program name for free and reduced cost services in the categories of food, housing, goods, transit, health, money, care, education, work and legal services. People with autism and other disabilities can use Aunt Bertha to search for resources to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, work and financial assistance, or to meet specific disability-related needs for services like autism treatment, speech therapy or special recreation programs.

Friday, February 9, 2018

FODAC Programs Help People with Disabilities Access Necessary Equipment and Modifications

Friends of Disabled Adults & Children (FODAC) helps people with disabilities and their families access vital equipment and environmental modifications. FODAC provides durable medical equipment (DME), such as hospital beds and wheelchairs, to individuals of all ages who have a temporary or permanent disability. They also provide free and low cost home and vehicle modifications. While FODAC allocates a lot of its resources towards assisting individuals with physical disabilities, they also provide a wide range of assistive technology devices that people who have autism and other disabilities could find beneficial.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

AIM Offers Free Autism Training for Family Members, Caregivers, Educators and Service Providers

Autism Internet Modules (AIM) provides a wide range of free training courses for anyone who supports, instructs, works with or lives with someone with autism. Courses are currently being offered on the following topics:

·         Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI)
·         ASD-4-EI: What Early Interventionists Should Know
·         Assessment for Identification
·         Autism and Medication
·         Autism and the Biopsychosocial Model: Body, Mind, and Community
·         Cognitive Differences
·         Comprehensive Program Planning for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorders
·         Computer-Aided Instruction
·         Customized Employment
·         Differential Reinforcement
·         Discrete Trial Training
·         Extinction
·         Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)
·         Functional Communication Training
·         Home Base
·         Language and Communication
·         Naturalistic Intervention
·         Overview of Social Skills Functioning and Programming
·         Parent-Implemented Intervention
·         Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII)
·         Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
·         Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
·         Preparing Individuals for Employment
·         Prompting
·         Reinforcement
·         Response Interruption/Redirection
·         Restricted Patterns of Behavior, Interests, and Activities
·         Rules and Routines
·         Screening Across the Lifespan for Autism Spectrum Disorders
·         Self-Management
·         Sensory Differences
·         Social Narratives
·         Social Skills Groups
·         Social Supports for Transition-Aged Individuals
·         Speech Generating Devices (SGD)
·         Structured Teaching
·         Structured Work Systems and Activity Organization
·         Supporting Successful Completion of Homework
·         Task Analysis
·         The Employee with Autism
·         The Incredible 5-Point Scale
·         Time Delay
·         Transitioning Between Activities
·         Video Modeling
·         Visual Supports

While the training is available at no cost to anyone for enrichment , tokens for professional development certificates are available for purchase for a small fee, and college credit through Ashland University is available at a minimal tuition charge. AIM intends to begin offering continuing education credits in the near future.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CRA/DD Grants Fund Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled

The Coalition for Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled (CRA/DD) funds recreational opportunities for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Grants of up to $250 are available to pay for swimming lessons, horseback riding, camp tuition and other recreational activities.

For more information, contact:
Fredda Smith
98 Brandy Ave.
Salem, NH 03079
(603) 893-8597

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How to Get Your Child's School Records for Free Fast

This post contains affiliate links. All products mentioned on this page were selected because AARI believes our readers will find them interesting, meaningful and useful. AARI recommends helpful books and other products regardless of whether they are part of an affiliate program the blog participates in. For more information, read our Editorial Policy.

Photo of a wooden file cabinet with an open drawer and visible file folders
Get your child's school records for free. Photo by Pptudela at the English language Wikipedia under CC BY-SA  3.0 

Whether planning for an IEP, applying for services or preparing for a transition, there are many reasons why parents of students with autism and other disabilities may need copies of their children’s school records. Fortunately, the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as state laws such as the Illinois School Students Records Act, give parents the right to inspect, review and request corrections to their children’s school records.
Although FERPA does not require educational agencies or institutions to provide copies of student records to parents or students, most schools will make copies available for a fee. While state laws and district policies generally require that the fee be reasonable, some parents may not be able to afford to pay the fee.

Requesting a fee waiver on the grounds that “the imposition of a fee effectively prevents a parent or eligible student from exercising the right to inspect and review the student’s education records” may be successful but it also may cause delays that prevent you from accessing the records when you need them.
Fortunately, there is a way around the run around. Follow these steps to get copies of the records you need for almost nothing.
1. Make a written request to review the records.

2. Show up for your appointment prepared. Take a notebook and pen with you and make plans to spend as much time as you need perusing the records as it can take quite a bit of time, especially if your child has received services under an IEP or 504 Plan. 

3. Use a portable wand scanner to instantly make PDF copies of the records you need. Portable scanners are inexpensive and lightweight, and they make it easy to quickly make copies of all of the records you need without the hassle of transporting a huge volume of papers. As an alternative, you can snap photos of the records with your smart phone and send them to your email account, but I find the PDFs much easier to manage.
FERPA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) overlap to provide additional privacy protections for students who receive special education and related services. Familiarize yourself with your rights under these laws so you can advocate for your child as effectively as possible.