The State of Learning Disabilities: A New Report

Advocacy report on learning disabilities - awareness

This report, from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, is now available for reading and can be downloaded.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a leading advocacy group, just came out with a report, The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. That figure, one in five, or 20 percent, refers to the number of students who have a learning disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. This population is very much misunderstood; all too often, these children are (mis)labeled as lazy or unmotivated or just not as smart as their peers. More often than not, these labels are untrue. Not only are these students at risk of failing school, but also they all too often struggle finding or keeping employment and are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

Despite one in five students having some sort of learning disability, according to this report, only one in 16 receive proper special-education services with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and only one in 50 receive services under Section 504.  This detailed report covers the following:

  • The neuroscience, stigma, and federal laws concerning these students
  • How to identify struggling students
  • Supporting academic success
  • The social, emotional, and behavioral challenges these students face and pose
  • Issues regarding the transitioning to life after high school
  • Recommended policies.

The report provides summaries for each state, with “key data points and comparisons to national averages in several areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.”

The bibliographic citation for this report is:

Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Voting: Your Right & Your Independence

American flags symbolize the importance of the vote voting for independence & self-advocacy among people with disabilities

“Election Night at Rockefeller Plaza” Photo by: Marco Verch, in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Voting. It’s the right of every American citizen. Voting: It’s your right. Participating in U.S. democracy is also a unique chance to self-advocate and express one’s independence. Both of these are core values at Advancing Opportunities as well; they are at the heart of our mission and credo. All too often, however, people with disabilities find themselves excluded from this critically important process. Fortunately, here in New Jersey, information and resources on voting are available to every individual with a disability.

Voting - Its Your Right

This brochure has information to help New Jersey voters. It was developed by the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – Boggs Center, in collaboration with Disability Rights New Jersey and the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.

 

Although the November general elections receive the greatest press (and social media) coverage, it is the primary election when the two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans nominate their candidates for the general election in November. These individuals represent a wide variety of views on important issues not only at the national level, but also (and sometimes more important) the state, county, and municipal levels. Information on the positions of the gubernatorial (in New Jersey) and other candidates are available on this special page.

 

Disability Rights NJ VotingDisability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities. The organization reminds us that people with a disability have the right to vote independently and in private. In addition, both the polling place and the machines must, by federal and state law, be fully accessible. Poll workers have been trained to offer voters with disabilities the assistance they need, but they cannot enter the voting booth or recommend a candidate. Voters with a disability may also bring a friend, family member, or agency worker to help out.

Although all voters should receive a paper sample ballot, one can also look up this information online at BallotpediaThe Alliance Center for Independence in New Jersey has many other excellent resources on its page should these be needed. General New Jersey voting information is available on the NJ Department of State website.

On Primary Election Day, June 6, 2017, Disability Rights New Jersey will have attorneys available by telephone to answer your questions concerning any disability-related voting problem you might experience. Call 800-922-7233 or e-mail Mciccone@drnj.org between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Disability Rights New Jersey is New Jersey’s designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities pursuant to federal statutes intended to protect the legal, civil, and human rights of people with disabilities.

I Voted Sticker

Oh, yes, the November general election. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), “a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities,” has set up July 17 through 21 as National Disability Voter Registration Week, the focus of its Rev Up! campaign. More information on that and Crip the Vote will be featured in a future article in this space.

April: Fostering an Awareness, Appreciation, and Understanding of Autism

World Autism Awareness Day

Central to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is “respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons… and full and effective participation and inclusion in society” (Article 3). This concept is reflected in this year’s theme for World Autism Awareness Day, “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination.”

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In the U.S. and throughout the world, the rate of autism is high, affecting children and adults of all socioeconomic and ethnic groups. According to the U.N., “Appropriate support, accommodation, and acceptance of this neurological condition allow those on the spectrum to enjoy equal opportunity, and full and effective participation in society.”

On March 31, 2017, the U.N. held conference on multiple aspects of autism, Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination, which included the following:

In welcoming everyone, Cristina Gallach, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said “We come together to renew our commitment to raising awareness of the rights of persons with autism – to equal opportunity and full participation in society, on an equal basis, with other citizens. To achieve this inclusive society that we aspire to, we must… ensure that the fundamental rights enshrined in the CRPD are respected.” This is a right that has been recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared in 1948. Continued Ms. Gallach, “When [people with autism] enjoy equal opportunity for self-determination and autonomy, persons with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could not be present, but he prepared a statement: “On this World Autism Awareness Day, let us play a part in changing attitudes toward persons with autism and in recognizing their rights as citizens who, like everyone else, are entitled to claim those rights and make decisions for their lives in accordance with their own will and preferences. Let us also renew our promise engraved in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, and ensure that all people can contribute as active members to a peaceful and prosperous society.”

The keynote speaker, Simon Baron-Cohen, Director, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, was gave an overview of the autism spectrum.

In regard to the “commitment to leave no one behind,” Jackie Pilgrim, a noted disability advocate spoke about dignity. In her work with NAMI Durham she spoke of her organization’s new 8-hour course for police and first-responders to replace the inadequate 1.5 hour course used previously, one for which they have shown “passion” to learn.

Barry Prizant, author of the landmark book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, summarized his philosophy:

Uniquely Human

  • De-pathologize autistic behavior (echolalia, stimming). It’s the way we deal with stress and self-regulate. They should not be repressed or otherwise “managed.”
  • Autism is not a tragedy, it can become one
  • Self-determination begins in early childhood. Children at an early age
  • Let’s look at ourselves.

Added Micheal John Carley. The best way to help is to examine ourselves and change the way we view people with autism.

An autism research and education organization, Autism Speaks, initiated the worldwide Light It Up Blue, campaign in its effort to raise autism awareness.    Among many in the autism community, both advocates and self-advocates, Autism Speaks is highly controversial, because that organization is seeking a cure, whereas many people prefer to see autism as simply another way of being, “different, not broken.”

 

National Autism Awareness Month

A ribbon made of multicolored puzzle pieces.  It has become one the most recognizable symbols of autism in the world.  The various colors reflect the many “faces” of autism, a condition often referred to as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because no two people with autism are alike.  (The cognitive abilities of people with ASD range from “nonverbal” to intellectually brilliant.)  The ribbon symbolizes solidarity and hope of a happy, fulfilling life for people with autism.  The puzzle pieces remind us that the condition and the people with it are still very much a mystery.

Autism Awareness Month first came to be some 25 years ago, when the Autism Society of America undertook an effort to promote autism awareness.  The primary objective was to “promote … inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with autism  is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest quality of life.”

 

Three short films that treat autism awareness and appreciation are worth noting:

  • “Make it Stop.” This is a brand-new awareness video to foster understanding of people with autism.
  •  “Talking in Pictures.”  This documentary dispels myths and stereotypes… at least as they apply to everyone with autism. “It’s not that we’re doing it wrong, it’s not that we’re autistic enough to fit in with the world’s idea of autism, it’s that the world’s idea of autism isn’t big enough to fit us all in!”
  • “Perfectly Normal,” is a film about Jordan, a man with Asperger’s, who discusses his everyday life, of which the New York Times publicized an important excerpt.

Furthermore, Sesame Street will debut Julia, a character with autism. This event will be covered in a later article.

 

And some noteworthy facts on autism:

  • In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease for Disease Control estimated the prevalence of autism as being 1 in 68 births.
  • Autism comes from the Greek autos” meaning “self.” Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1910 used the New Latin term autismus to describe schizophrenic symptoms of children; US psychiatrist Leo Kanner first used the term autism in 1943.
  • Asperger’s syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who in 1944 first described the symptoms in children he was observing.

With a sincere effort of autism awareness, we will be able to treat this population with the dignity they deserve.

A Brief Look at the Intersection of Women’s History, Black History, and Disability

The International Women's Day logo - Be bold for change

International Women’s Day 2017: #BeBoldForChange https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

 

 

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month: In the US and most countries around the world, women with disabilities have faced multiple hardships in the form of reduced access and sometimes outright discrimination in education, housing, and employment – both as women and as people with a disability. In addition, women of color often face a third challenge. A blog writer took a look back on 14 remarkable women of color of the past who have made powerful differences for the present and the future.

As February was Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, we’ll examine the intersection of the two through the lens of disability. Many notable African American women made lasting contributions despite their disabilities. It is important, however, to “see the person, not the disability.” The late Australian comedienne and disability advocate coined the term inspiration porn in protest that people with disabilities should be objects of inspiration to make non-disabled people feel good.

Social worker and disability advocate Vilissa Thompson in her excellent blog “Ramp Your Voice” has compiled a list of important works and other resources of these individuals.

 

Harriet Tubman black woman disabled disability

Harriet Tubman (1822–1913)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet Tubman (1822–1913), abolitionist known for her work on the Underground Railroad, suffered epileptic seizures. Because of her short stature, she was seen among slave owners as disabled, a low risk of escape.

 

 

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977), Civil Rights Activist black woman disabled with a disability from polio

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977), Civil Rights Activist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977), was a civil rights activist who suffered physical disabilities from childhood polio.

 

 

Maya Angelou (1928–2014), laureate poet

Maya Angelou (1928–2014), was laureate poet and wrote a series of memoirs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maya Angelou (1928–2014), laureate poet, found a voice in her memoirs and poetry. As a child, she developed selective mutism after a sexual assault.

 

 

Wilma Rudolph (1940–1994) track Olympian with physical disability

Wilma Rudolph (1940–1994), track and field Olympian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilma Rudolph (1940–1994) overcame childhood paralysis from the polio virus to become a track and field Olympian, the fastest woman in the world.

Honorable mention goes to Johnnie Lacy (1937-2010), an African American woman who from her wheelchair tirelessly advocated for the disability community. She has been recognized by the United African-Asian Abilities Club and the Temple University Disability Studies newspaper. (No copyright free photo of Ms. Lacy is available.)

Honoring Great Leadership

mount-rushmore

Mount Rushmore honors presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

We, at Advancing Opportunities, would like to take the time to reflect on the deeds of George Washington and other great presidential leaders.

Leadership takes many forms. Most important, it starts with a vision of what should be and can be. In other words, leadership involves advocacy, standing up for what is right and what will benefit people, especially those who need a voice or assistance expressing it. Fundamental to leadership, what presidents such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln possessed, is a vision, a compass to guide them – and the people they represent – to righteousness.

Honoring Service with a Day of Service… Every Day

 

martin_luther_king_jr_nywts

Martin Luther King Jr., in 1964, upon being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize

“Life’s most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ederal holiday falls on the Monday closest to Dr. King’s actual birthday of January 15, which was signed into law
in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. Much more than a day off or a day of sales and shopping, the holiday is an observance of everything this great man did and stood
for. In an effort to honor Dr. King and keep his spirit alive, Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wolford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis in 1994 coauthored the King Holiday and Service Act. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, and Congress charging the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal government agency, with coordinating efforts to move the country
closer to Dr. King’s “Beloved Community.” This important day offers our Family Support and Residential Support team members valuable opportunities for engaging consumers in the community for the benefit of the community… something we proudly do every day.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities & “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want

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Although most awareness months and days are on a national scale, this December will feature a global undertaking to raise awareness and promote advocacy.  December 3 is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  This is an effort to “promote action and raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.”  Observed since 1992, this day focuses on a different theme around the world each year.  For 2016, the theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want.”

The objective of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to raise awareness of all types of disabilities and dispel archaic ideas and stereotypes and stigma, as these are often “the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others.”  Moreover, over the course of our lives, most of us will become disabled to some degree.

Nearly 1 in 7 people worldwide live with a disability.  Of great concern are the barriers they face, which prevent them from being fully included in important parts of daily life, in such areas as transportation, employment, and education.  In addition, many people with disabilities are not fully able to participate politically, a key to maintaining active citizenship in a democracy and being self-advocates for needed changes.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognizes not only physical disabilities, but also mental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities.  Already a vulnerable group, these people, often face discrimination in employment and other areas of daily living or, at the very least, confront considerable hurdles to accomplishing these tasks effectively.

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Addressing Inclusion

Last year, the theme was “Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Disabilities.”  As a result, the UN earlier this year adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to provide a greater degree of inclusion for all people with disabilities.  The UN efforts address the current status of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international treaty comprising eight principles:

  • Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
  • Non-discrimination
  • Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  • Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Accessibility
  • Equality between men and women;
  • Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

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And, did you know: