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Archive for April, 2010

Virginia high school uses sports to foster inclusion

Friday, April 30th, 2010

From WUSA9-TV, Washington, DC:

At Pope Paul VI High School in Fairfax, VA, students with intellectual disabilities are included in activities throughout the school, participating on such athletic teams as wrestling and basketball.

It’s all part of the school’s Options program, which started a little over ten years ago. The program brings trained professionals and student volunteers together to work with the kids with disabilities.

“Everyone learns to be comfortable with and foster friendships with those with disabilities,” said Chris Desmarais, who oversees Options. One mother said about her son, “”He’s no different in anyone else’s eyes. He’s a part of this school.”

See the video here.

Asner, parents lash pending special ed cutbacks in LA

Friday, April 30th, 2010

From the Los Angeles Times:

Actor Ed Asner was among a group of 200 parents and advocates who turned out at Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters this week to criticize expected cuts to special education programs. The cuts will reverse progress for students with disabilities, they said.

Asner, whose grandchild receives special education services in Los Angeles, said

students were at risk of being relegated to “a barebones education that essentially dooms their future.” He added: “Moving down this dangerous path will doom many of these children to prisons and homes costing much more money than the education that we have promised them.”

Parents raised concerns about a consolidation plan that could lead to larger class sizes, and the possible channeling of students away from inclusive classrooms to more segregated settings.

‘Monica & David’ takes Tribeca’s top documentary honors

Friday, April 30th, 2010

From the BBC, Washington Post, Miami Herald:

Monica & David, a documentary about the romance and marriage of two young adults with Down syndrome, has won the top documentary prize at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.

The film was directed by the female subject’s cousin, Miami’s Alexandra Codina, and was chosen from among 30 documentaries to receive a $25,000 prize.  It is scheduled to premiere on HBO in October.

From the jury’s statement:

Monica & David takes an incredibly intimate situation and beautifully translates it in a way that makes you think about your own life. It’s a clear and observant look at a family and the purity of love, fueled by an organic sense of the sadness, joy and everyday humor that fill this epic journey that is life.”

An excerpt from the festival’s program notes:

… an intimate, year-in-the-life portrait of two childlike spirits with adult desires as they prepare for their fairy tale wedding and face the realities of married life afterward. Taking immense pride in their new roles as husband and wife, David wants to bring home the bacon, and Monica wants to fry it in the pan. They want babies of their own. But their unique circumstances still have them living with Monica’s mother and husband. How will this unique family face its challenges and move forward?

… along with their story is one of two different mothers who sacrificed and struggled against an intolerant world to provide for their children.

The official trailer is here.

Novartis: Drug may ease Fragile X

Friday, April 30th, 2010

From the New York Times:

Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, disclosed in an interview this week that an experimental drug has brought about substantial improvements in the behaviors of people with Fragile X syndrome in a small clinical trial.

The research involved only a few dozen subjects and has not been published or peer reviewed.

The company refused to reveal many details, citing commercial interests, but a Novartis official cautioned against too much optimism. Dr. Mark C. Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, said the drug is likely to be years from commercial development and could fail further clinical trials.

If authenticated in further, larger trials, the results could also become a landmark in the field of autism research, since scientists speculated that the drug may help some patients with autism not caused by fragile X, perhaps becoming the first medicine to address autism’s core symptoms.

… “This is perhaps the most promising therapeutic discovery ever for a gene-based behavioral disease,” said Dr. Edward M. Scolnick, former research chief at Merck and now director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

‘Glee’ offers wry view of bulimia, Down syndrome

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

In this week’s episode of Fox’s ‘Glee’, cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch)  instructs her Cheerios squad on the preferred method for losing weight: Bulimia. Here’s the dialogue from her scene with Cheerio Becky Jackson (played by actress Lauren Potter, who has Down syndrome).

Becky (standing on a scale): I lost two pounds, coach.

Sue: Well, Becky, you are assimilating beautifully. Instead of being different and an outcast, you’re just like every other teenage girl in America: sadly obsessed with vanity. Hey, before you know it, you’ll be leaving little baggies of upchuck in your parents’ linen closet.  Congrats. I’m proud of you, kid.

Becky: Thanks, coach.

NYC plan: Shift kids with disabilities to mainstream schools

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

From the New York Times:

New York City’s Bloomberg administration has announced plans to overhaul the city’s special education system, seeking to include more students with disabilities in neighborhood schools. The city has traditionally concentrated students with disabilities in schools that have specific special education programs.

Starting this fall, more than 250 schools will be asked to accept more students with disabilities. It is anticipated that all of the system’s 1,500 schools will be expected to enroll all but the most severely disabled students by Sept. 2011.

Officials say the intent of the shift is to improve results for students with disabilities, as well as bringing the city into line with the national trend toward inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. But some disability advocates and educators worry that students will be harmed if changes are introduced too quickly, or without adequate preparation.

“This is fundamentally looking to change the way kids with special needs are treated in the city – they’re talking about changing the culture of all the schools in the city so that they can serve students that many of them were previously shipping out,” said Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which helps parents navigate the special education system. “This could easily fall flat if it’s not done right.

“If kids are stuck in schools that don’t have the capacity to serve them and are denied requests to move elsewhere, that would be falling worse than flat.”

Special education enrollment in New York amounts to 177,000 students, or 17 percent of the system’s total, up from about 13 percent seven years ago. The city’s annual pricetag for special education is about $4.8 billion annually, with $1.2 billion of that going to send students to private schools.

First degree murder verdict in case of student with Asperger’s

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Odgren faces life in prison

From the Boston Globe, WHDH-TV

A jury has found 19-year-old John Odgren guilty of first degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a fellow student three years ago in their suburban Massachusetts high school, rejecting arguments that Odgren was legally insane at the time of the crime. He now faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

Odgren’s lawyers had argued that his behavior was affected by Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and mood disorders that include symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression. They said he had experienced a lifetime of bullying and harassment, causing him to lose touch with reality and act out violent fantasies. Prosecutors argued that Odgren was trying to act out the “perfect murder.”

Odgren was a student at the Great Opportunities Program at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, which was designed to integrate students with disabilities into the school. He brought a kitchen knife from home and attacked James F. Alenson, a freshman student whom he’d never met, in a bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in January of 2007.

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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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