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Archive for the ‘obits’ Category

Obit: Paul Steven Miller, law professor and disability advocate

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

From the New York Times:

After graduating at the top of his class at Harvard Law School in the 1980s, Paul Steven Miller was rejected by more than 40 law firms before he was able to find work. The reason: Miller was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. One hiring partner told him that clients would think the firm was running a “circus freak show” if they took him on.

Miller, who went on to become a law professor, advisor to presidents and leader in the disability rights movement, died Tuesday of cancer. He was 49, and was widely recognized as an expert on the intersection of disability law, employment discrimination and genetic science.

An excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

Drew Hansen, an adjunct lecturer who taught with Mr. Miller, said his colleague had long been concerned about the carrying out of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. “He believed that judicial interpretations of the A.D.A. were more restrictive than they had been of civil rights laws because there was not a similarly visible mass social movement,” Mr. Hansen said.

In recent years, Mr. Miller focused on tensions between disability rights and genetic science. In a paper titled “Avoiding Genetic Genocide,” Mr. Miller criticized scientists for what he saw as their eagerness to use genetics to produce “perfect” humans.

“Good health is not the absence of a disability,” he wrote. “Scientists caught up in the excitement of genetic discovery can forget that life with a disability can still be a rich and fulfilling life.”

Earlier posts here.

See also: Miller presentation at Georgia State University College of Law: “Good Intentions and Eugenics: Avoiding Genetic Genocide.” With audio.


See also:

Psychologist did pioneering work in autism

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

From the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times:

Ole Ivar Lovaas, a UCLA psychologist who developed one of the most widely used therapies for children with autism, has died at the age of 83.  Dr. Lovaas was the first researcher to suggest that autism can be treated. He is credited with helping to change the treatment and public perception of people with the condition.

“His work first of all showed that the kids were teachable,” said Tristram Smith, a psychologist at the University of Rochester. “It was also very important in deinstitutionalization, showing that you could teach the kinds of skills that the kids needed to succeed at home and in the community.”

Dr. Lovaas proposed that the symptoms of autism could be addressed through a rigorous program of behavior modification, centered around a system of rewards and punishments. His early work was criticized as abusive because it involved researchers slapping children and using electric shocks, sometimes delivered with a cattle prod. These practices were later eliminated. The Lovaas model today relies on positive reinforcements.

See also: 1965 Life Magazine article about Lovaas’s work at UCLA. “Screams, Slaps & Love; A surprising, shocking treatment helps far-gone mental cripples”

Longmore helped establish disability study as academic field

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In an obituary, the Los Angeles Times, describes Paul K. Longmore as a major founder of the field of disability studies, and says he helped establish it as a field of academic research and teaching. Longmore died August 9 at the age of 64.

“He devoted his life to making this a better and more just world,” Robert A. Corrigan, [San Francisco State's] president, said in a statement. “Legendary, inspirational, pioneering, irreverent … many words are needed to sum up this remarkable man.”

… Last month, Longmore spoke at a San Francisco celebration of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act and reminded the crowd of a perspective he had long espoused: Disability rights activists had brought about change by redefining what it means to be disabled.

The movement recast “disability” as “a problem located mainly out there in society” that had to be dealt with, Longmore had said, whether it meant improving access by placing wheelchair-accessible ramps on curbs or elevators in buildings.

Read the full obituary here.

Earlier post here.

Clara Claiborne Park, 86; Author raised awareness of autism

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

From the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Berkshire [MA] Eagle:

Clara Claiborne Park, a college English instructor who wrote deeply personal and poetic books about her quest to understand her daughter’s autism, has died at the age of 86. She was regarded as an international leader in advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and in changing the prevailing wisdom about autism.

Published in 1968, Park’s first book, “The Siege,” chronicled the life of her young daughter, Jessica Park. At the time, autism was barely understood and professionals defined it as a symptom of family pathology or a “refrigerator mother.” Park’s second book about her daughter, “Exiting Nirvana”  in 2001, documented Jessica’s progress.

Jessica Park is now 51 and has worked in the mailroom of Williams College in Williamstown, MA, for 30 years. She is an accomplished artist. Clara Park was a lecturer in English studies at Williams from 1975 to 1994.

From the New York Times account:

["The Siege"] was credited with assuaging the guilt that so many parents of autistic children had assumed, and came to be regarded as an important source of insight for psychiatrists, psychologists, educators and advocates.

“She was one of the first parents who had the courage to share their story at a time when autism was poorly understood,” Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale University Child Study Center, said of Mrs. Park. “Since she first published her book, wider recognition of autism and early diagnosis have led to new treatments and improved outcomes.”

Bridget A. Taylor, co-founder and director of the Alpine Learning Group in Paramus, N.J., a school for autistic children, agreed. “The book really set the stage for families to search for answers; to no longer accept ‘no’ from the establishment, to have higher expectations for their children,” she said. “In many ways it decreased the isolation that families felt, and for many young professionals in the field, the book was an invaluable reading assignment to learn what the experience is like.”

Vicky Solomonson, 49; Humphrey’s grandchild had DS

Friday, May 14th, 2010

From the [Minneapolis-St. Paul] Star Tribune:

Vicky Solomonson, a young woman whose family rejected doctors’ recommendations that she be institutionalized following a diagnosis of Down syndrome, has died. She was credited with advancing disability rights through the work of her grandfather, Minnesota senator and then Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Solomonson, 49, had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. Her parents, Bruce and Nancy Solomonson, raised her at home with the help of her grandparents.

“We refused to hide Vicky out of sight in the attic,” grandmother Muriel Humphrey told “This Week” magazine in 1968.

(Star Tribune photo)

Obit: Stanley I. Greenspan, creator of ‘Floortime’ method

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

An excerpt from the Washington Post‘s obituary, by Emma Brown:

Stanley I. Greenspan, 68, a child psychiatrist who wrote more than a dozen parenting books and developed the popular “floor time” method for reaching children with autism and other developmental disorders, died April 27 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda of complications from a stroke.

In a career spanning 40 years, Dr. Greenspan drew praise for his early research on infant development and later found a wide following as an author and public speaker. At the time of his death, he was a professor at George Washington University’s medical school.

… Trademarked as “D.I.R./Floortime,” Dr. Greenspan’s method focused on developing children’s underlying ability to form relationships and react to new situations. It received widespread attention as an alternative to more traditional methods that use rewards and punishments to shape specific behaviors.

“What he did was give us a way to begin to reach these children early and give them a chance to develop to their potential,” said T. Berry Brazelton, a noted pediatrician, author and Harvard professor who wrote “The Irreducible Needs of Children” with Dr. Greenspan in 2000.

Judi Chamberlin, advocated for people with mental illnesses

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

By Joe Shapiro, National Public Radio:

Judi Chamberlin, an outspoken advocate for the rights and dignity of people with mental illness, died of lung disease over the weekend at her home in Arlington, Mass. She was 65.

Shapiro calls her “a civil rights hero from a civil rights movement you may never have heard of.”

Chamberlin’s road to advocacy began when she was hospitalized against her will for depression in 1966, and was shocked by the way she was treated. She wrote a book, On Our Own, that became a manifesto for patients and influenced the mental health establishment.

She called her movement “Mad Pride,” and argued that people with mental illness need to have a say in their own treatment. An excerpt:

Chamberlin told people with mental illness that they were, like everyone else, people with quirks and differences, but with strengths and abilities, too. She wanted people to reclaim the description “mad” as something that was OK.

“She changed it from a word that was a pejorative word,” says [Robert] Whitaker [author of Mad in America, a history of the treatment of people with mental illness in the United States]. “That was saying to the world at large: We are worthy individuals, and our minds our worthy, and they’re to be respected.”

See also:

Facing death, a plea for the dignity of psychiatric patients — Boston Globe

Bibliography from the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy

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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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