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More colleges welcome students with intellectual disabilities

Monday, October 18th, 2010

From AP/Boston Herald:

While college programs for students with intellectual disabilities were almost nonexistent as recently as a decade ago, there are now more than 250 of them spread across campuses in more than three dozen states and two Canadian provinces.

Experts say the change has come about in response to demand from the first generation of students with disabilities who got full access to education in their local school districts, a right guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

New federal funding rules, which will allow students with intellectual disabilities to receive grants and work-study money, are expected to prompt the creation of even more programs.

Disability advocates say the programs will help students get better jobs, even if they do not earn degrees. Critics call the programs a waste of tax dollars, and charge that they devalue the college experience of students without disabilities.

For more information, see Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

iPad seen as great tool for kids with disabilities

Monday, April 12th, 2010

From the [Toronto] Globe and Mail:

Parents and educators of kids with developmental disabilities offer high praise for the new Apple iPad. They say it can serve as an assisted communication device, can help kids focus on routine tasks, and is a great help at easing student anxiety.

“It’s just a game changer,” says Samuel Sennott, co-creator of the popular Proloquo2Go software. “It’s … [a] portable, table-top solution for people with physical impairments, people with visual impairments.”

Sennott’s speech-generating software, currently ranked at number 34 in the United States among more than 185,000 available apps, is available in an iPad version.

Advice for parents who wonder: Is it a learning disability?

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Lesley Alderman, writing in the New York Times, offers a roadmap for parents who suspect their child might have a learning disability. While schools are legally obligated to assess children for learning disabilities, Alderman says, “what the law promises and what the schools can realistically provide are sometimes at odds.”

“The law was created with the idea that parents and schools would collaborate on their child’s education,” says Neal Rosenberg, an education lawyer in Manhattan who worked for the New York City Board of Education when the law was first drafted. “But the relationship can sometimes turn adversarial.”

Alderman suggests that parents press for an assessment as early as possible, document their requests, be knowledgeable about their legal rights, and consider talking with a lawyer.

Bypassing the school assessment process can be effective but expensive, Alderman says, as private assessments can cost up to $5,000.

Temple Grandin explains it all

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

In a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal, Temple Grandin shares some of the insights she’s gained as “easily the most famous autistic woman in the world.” Among the nuggets:

– Parents should not stop vaccinating kids because of autism fears, although they might space out the vaccinations.

– She’s not convinced that autism’s on the increase. “You know the geeks have always been here,” she says.

– She’s seen some “very big improvements”  with special diets, but she doesn’t think there’s a “magic cure” for the disorder.

– Kids with autism need 20 to 30 hours weekly of intense, one-on-one learning time, coupled with high expectations.

– People with autistic traits make important advancements, particularly in engineering, science and technology.

Holiday gifts can jeopardize benefits for people with disabilities

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Thomas Michael Sr. and wife Linda with their daughter, Sarah, 20, and son, Thomas, Post-Gazette photoFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Giving gifts to a people with developmental disabilities, like Sarah Michael (left, with her family), during the holiday season can put their government benefits in jeopardy if not done properly.

If the gifts or benefits exceed $2,000 in total assets, the government can freeze critical benefits such as Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security income or Social Security income.

“We see a lot of holiday celebrations, birthdays, communions and bar mitzvahs where people make several small monetary donations to special needs children, and if those compile over $2,000, their benefits are in jeopardy,” said Helen Sims, a special care planner with the Downtown financial planning group Guyaux Mandler Mah, which is affiliated with MassMutual Group.

… Families with disabled children can provide more security for them without disqualifying the child from government benefits by creating a special needs trust.

(Post-Gazette photo)

CA schools struggling for creative solutions to autism needs

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From the [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise:

Squeezed between the rising needs of students with autism and declining state and federal funds, California educators say they are seeking creative solutions.

Among the ideas they’re trying: Setting up foundations to raise funds; writing grants; and forging partnerships with other districts, parents, and organizations to use successful programs as models rather than developing new programs.

In Riverside County, the school district is paying about $36,000 per student to educate children with severe autism in small classes, compared with about $8,600 for typical students.

Tips for students with disabilities applying to college

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Theo Emery writes in the New York Times: The Choice Blog that applying to college can pose more hurdles for students with learning disabilities than for their nondisabled peers.

After attending a workshop titled, “Supporting the Transition to College for Students with Learning Disabilities,” at a conference of 5,000 admissions officers and counselors in Baltimore, Emery offers some suggestions for applicants with disabilities including dyslexia, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

  • Decide whether you want to disclose your disability and take advantage of campus disability services. While it is illegal for admissions officers to ask, applicants may benefit if their disability status is known.
  • Assess a college based on accommodations it is willing to make, services it will provide, and availability of programs for people with disabilities.
  • Be aware of the contents of your transcript and psychoeducational evaluation, and let that information help guide your choice of where to apply.

About the Site

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.

Join journalist Patricia E. Bauer as she seeks to bring you the best information about what's happening now and what it may mean for you and your loved ones.

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