Disability news, Accessibility Issues, Disability Issues, Accessiblity News

Archive for July, 2007

Special education’s Hager steps down

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

John H. Hager, the assistant secretary who headed the office of special education and rehabilitative services at the federal Department of Education, has resigned to become chairman of the Virginia Republican State Central Committee, writes Education Week. Hager, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia, had occupied the position since 2004.

From the in-box

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

20070731_john-roberts-swe.gif

John and Jane Roberts at his swearing-in ceremony in 2005. (AP Photo)

– Doctors have started using the word “epilepsy” in connection with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. , who stayed overnight in a hospital in Maine after experiencing a seizure on Monday. The seizure was similar to one he experienced 14 years ago, according to a court press release.

– Parents of children with disabilities send a few choice words in response to a recent Wall Street Journal story on special ed – words like “union thugs” and “overpaid fat-cat administrators.”

– Researchers find a link between pesticide exposure and autism, but caution that it’s too early to draw conclusions.

– Reviewing the new reality series “Flipping Out,” Ginia Bellafonte says the show at last sets the record straight on obsessive compulsive disorder.

“For years now, the comic detective series “Monk” has equated O.C.D. with intuitive brilliance. We’ve long required a corrective interpretation, and “Flipping Out” is it. Mr. Lewis isn’t a genius of anything. He’s just a delusional jerk.”

– A growing number of professionals are prescribing a new treatment to patients with depression and anxiety. They call it “bibliotherapy.” In lay language, that means: read a self-help book.

MS discovery sparks predictable treatment hopes

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Scientists reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine report that three genes will offer new understanding to multiple sclerosis and may lead to new treatments. Skeptics among us will be forgiven for remembering that scientists had the same idea half a century ago, after French geneticist Jerome Lejeune identified the triple 21st chromosome in Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). And have new treatments for Down syndrome materialized? Nope. There are, however, lots of very profitable prenatal screens and tests that are widely used to prevent the births of infants with Down syndrome.

Autism: Random? Or mom?

Monday, July 30th, 2007

So does autism occur randomly? Or can it be traced to mom? Two publications report two different views of an autism study from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Scientific American reports the scientists came up with a new genetic model for autism that divides families into two groups: those with a low likelihood of children with autism, and those with a higher likelihood.

“The team determined that most cases of autism arise from novel, spontaneous mutations passed down from one or both parents, resulting in large gaps in a person’s genome often encompassing several genes, which are then disrupted or inactivated.”

[Why those spontaneous mutations might be occurring at an estimated rate of one in every 150 children was not discussed.]

Newsday pointed instead at mom’s role in conveying autism.

“What Wigler and his team found is a previously unrecognized pattern: Mothers, they say, acquire genetic mutations spontaneously that are specific to autism, which can be passed to their children. The mothers do not themselves exhibit traits of the disorder, but they have a 50 percent chance of transmitting the trait.”

Once again, those refrigerator moms can’t win.

Vouchers for kids with disabilities? Proceed with caution.

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Yet another gee-whiz story today about the new law in Georgia that will provide vouchers to students with disabilities. The law has been promoted as a ticket out for families who want to escape their local schools, but little has been written about the law’s weaknesses. Among them: private schools that aren’t obligated to provide adequate curriculum or teaching for kids; stipends that won’t cover the cost of private schools; and a real possibility that kids will be disconnected from their communities in segregated “special” schools. For some more realistic talk on the subject, see this earlier piece that cautions: let the buyer beware.

A little housekeeping

Monday, July 30th, 2007

When the National Down Syndrome Congress meets in Kansas City this weekend for its annual confab, I’ll be there. Look for me on Sunday, when I’ll be giving a keynote address and a workshop on disability coverage in the media.

‘My lovely son, the Hollywood star’

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Max Lewis and his mother, Sandy.
Max was featured in the recent film “Notes on a Scandal.”

Here’s a refreshing first-person article by Sandy Lewis in the (UK) Daily Mail. Sandy’s 13-year-old son Max played opposite Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal,” recently released on DVD. Sandy documents her personal journey, starting with the emotional story of her son’s Down syndrome diagnosis and ending with his successful star turn in Hollywood. Along the way, Sandy learns to ignore the negative predictions of “professionals” and instead to focus on the many strengths of her son, a gifted performer whose smile can light up a room. She has harsh words for the nurse who counseled her to institutionalize her baby, and for the parents who complained when they found their children shared a classroom with Max. She’s looking forward to a bright acting future for Max, who is eagerly seeking roles that are written for “a boy with lots of talent.”

Thisislondon.co.uk has another story on Max. Key quote: he likes acting “because I’m brilliant at it.” For more information about actors with Down syndrome, go to www.dsiam.org, an online service based in Los Angeles.

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More than 50 million people in the United States have disabilities, a number that is growing rapidly as the population ages. Experts say disability will soon affect the lives of most Americans. This website attempts to aggregate news and commentary about disability, and to document the efforts of people who are seeking new ways to address familiar challenges.

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