I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how my dreams and ambitions have really suffered and been stunted, because I’ve felt compelled to pursue them along neurotypical lines. I’ve somehow believed that if I followed “the rules” — of engagement, of customary behavior, of social interactions, of the right job or locale — that […]
Today, Memorial Day, the Advancing Opportunities team remembers and pays respect to our brave men and women lost in battle. We are ever grateful to them and their families for their sacrifice.
However, other veterans do make it home but sustain lifelong disabilities. For them, there are assistive technology solutions; our team of professionals at the Assistive Technology Center is ready to assist, whether the need is for mobility hardware or augmentative communication—and anything in between.
or other needs, state government agencies right here in New Jersey are ready to help. The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJDMVA) is dedicated to “serving those who served.” The agency has produced the handy New Jersey Veterans’ Benefits Guide. The guide lists clinics throughout the state, provides information on health insurance, and lists regional Vet Centers to assist with benefits. Also critically important is information on assistance with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an increasingly common disability. Veterans will find organizations that help with employment (including job training), entrepreneurship, training and education, recreation, and transportation, along with specific disabilities. NJDMVA also offers medals and awards in recognition of distinguished service. “I owe you! Veterans, you may be able to receive benefits you’re not even aware of!”
Also worth consulting is the Disabled American Veterans Department of New Jersey. To all who served, along with their families, we thank you!
Most designers create websites that are compatible with both traditional desktop computers and mobile devices. However, how many website designers have browsed their creation through a screen reader, a device that makes content accessible to users who are blind, vision impaired, dyslexic, or otherwise unable to quickly read text? Back in 2011, a programmer named Joe Devon asked himself that question and proposed a Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Jennison Ascuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto read the proposal and joined forces with Joe. So today, the third Thursday of May, is the sixth Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The purpose of GAAD is “to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital (web, software, mobile) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.”
This issue has gained additional importance in the context of recent issues concerning net neutrality and Internet privacy. In addition to increased independence for people with a disability, the dream and objective of the Internet being a democratic forum, a place where everyone can and should participate with equality is very much at play here.
So, again, what is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, why should you care, and how can you get involved? Jonathan Hassell interviews its co-creator, Jennison Asuncion, at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN 2013) to get the low-down on this annual growing event. Here’s an informative interview with Jennison Asuncion from GAAD 2014:
Please go to the GAAD website to learn more.
Finally, the organization particularly recommends a recent article in PC Magazine,
“Augmented Ability: Assistive Tech Gets Smart.”
It is indeed hard to talk about most disabilities. Talking about mental health is among the hardest. Yet, nearly 44 million Americans—that’s one in five—suffers from some form of mental illness. To foster an understanding of the importance of mental health and reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness, Mental Health America in 1949 named May as Mental Health Month. The theme this year is Risky Business. It addresses the dangers of a number of risky behaviors:
- Drugs (including alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana)
- Compulsive sex
- Impulsive buying
- Internet addiction
- Extremes of exercise.
The New Jersey affiliate, Mental Association of New Jersey, has also published an informative page, “When are behaviors risky business?”
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), an important advocacy group, is also helping spread the message. In addition, NAMI has created a safe space, where it is asking people to share their experiences anonymously.
Mental illnesses include a wide range of conditions, including attention-deficit anxiety disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, and phobias. For us at Advancing Opportunities, it is important to know that some of these conditions occur together. For example, people on the autism spectrum have difficulty in social situations; they may also exhibit depression, anxiety, OCD, or ADHD—or a combination of these conditions. Many children with learning disabilities have ADHD and behavioral disorders. In working with children with autism or a learning disability, it is important to have patience and understanding. It is not uncommon for these children to act out, not out of defiance, but either in frustration because they are unable to express themselves in a more socially appropriate way. Among children with autism, many are unable to communicate in words the frustrations they are experiencing, in addition to having a high degree of difficulty.
Did You Know?
- One in five children ages 13-18 will experience a serious mental illness; 11% have a mood disorder, 10% a behavioral disorder, and 8% anxiety.
- Depression is the leading symptom and cause of disability worldwide.
- More than one-third (37%) of students who drop out of school have a mental illness.
Ending a Serious Discussion with a Laugh
In 2015, comedian John Oliver devoted a segment on mental illness. To quote, “Mentally Ill People are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.” The video is included below, with a warning that John Oliver often uses mature language, so discretion is advised.
At Advancing Opportunities, we excel in providing residential and respite services to people of with all disabilities, along with advocacy and education services for parents and guardians and assistive technology support. As a leader in the field, we are pleased to share our experience, knowledge, and expertise with the disability community through our social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. In our Disability and Ability Highlights of the Week column, we will select the best of what we found and shared and present them. Please click on the titles with embedded links to find the full article.
Please stop by our website, http://advopps.org/, and find out all we have to offer. In addition, we are specialists in the area of assistive technology and offer a huge array of services; the Assistive Technology Center is New Jersey’s premier source of information and equipment.
Advancing Opportunities job announcement of the week:
Advancing Opportunities has immediate openings for part-time Direct-Support Professionals in residential care programs throughout New Jersey. In April, we will be holding job fairs on the following days, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., as follows:
- Tuesday, April 11. Budd Lake. Advancing Opportunities, 98 U.S. Hwy. 46 W., Budd Lake, NJ
- Thursday, April 20. Parsippany. Family Resource Network, 322 U.S. Hwy. 46 W., Ste. 290, Parsippany, NJ
- Tuesday, April 25. Marlboro. Marlboro Free Public Library, 1 Library Ct., Marlboro, NJ
Advancing Opportunities provides supports to individuals with disabilities and their families, so they can live fully in the community.
Our team includes a diverse collection of men and women committed to treating the people and families we serve with dignity and respect and providing the highest quality services and supports.
Employees of the agency enjoy paid training and an excellent array of benefits, including health care and dental benefits for all eligible full-time staff and a 401(k) retirement plan for all eligible employees.
If you are unable to make it to one of the job fair open houses, you can also visit us online, at: http://advopps.org/careers/
Advancing Opportunities news:
Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 22, 2017! It’s only a month away. Come and plan to join us for the best barn dance this side of the Mississippi! Each year, the agency holds several fundraising events. We consider them “friendraising” events as well. Join us and learn more about how you can help provide vital services and supports to children and adults with all types of disabilities.
Disability in the news (mostly in New Jersey, the population we serve):
New Jersey adds 1,500 beds to community-based programs to accommodate people with mental illness. Advancing Opportunities is a major player in this residential care, allowing for maximum independence for this population.
This mom from Hopewell, NJ, (Mercer County) has worked tirelessly to raise both awareness and appreciation for children with Down syndrome, advocating for local parents.
Quinn, an 18-month-old boy with autism, purposefully stacks cans. Photographer: Andwhatsnext, via Wikimedia Commons.
For parents of a child with a disability (parenting):
A father and disability advocate creates an assistive technology app to assist his son with autism.
Quinn, an 18-month-old boy with autism, purposefully stacks cans. Photographer: Andwhatsnext, via Wikimedia Commons.
Slow processing speed and anxiety: here’s what you need to know.
Advocacy and self-advocacy:
This journal article examines the future of supported decision making for people with autism.
A violinist discusses using music to enact social change.
An exciting new piece of AAC assistive technology enhances accessibility for blind people.
With assistive technology, toddlers get up and go in their own set of wheels independently.
A neuroprosthesis enables a paralyzed man to feed himself independently.
This high-performance software for transcribing audio recordings can be a boon for people with dyslexia.
Employment for people with disabilities:
Revisiting an autism employment success story: The Rising Tide Car Wash.
A recent report on PBS examines the need for more job opportunities for people with disabilities, who often still face discrimination. This is a matter of civil rights, as well as one of dignity and independence for the population we serve.
Informative, positive, noteworthy (or all three!):
Here are ten books that feature positive depictions of characters with a disability.
“Make it Stop.” A brand-new and powerful awareness video to foster understanding of people with autism.
The Arts and People with Disabilities
Six blind professional musicians ranging in age from 17 to 65 come together in a London recording studio to create and record a musical tribute to Louis Braille.
After a debilitating accident, William Heard took up painting and founded an arts center in Mississippi.
People with a disability in the community (disability rights and acceptance; inclusion):
Disability awareness and appreciation:
“Twin Brothers Worlds Apart.” This British documentary, telling the stories of identical twins (except that one had autism), has garnered considerable acclaim.
Medical news – research:
New insight has been gained into the genetic and neuronal circuit mechanisms that may contribute to impaired sociability in some forms of autism spectrum disorder.
Two from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
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.”
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:
- Supported versus substitute decision making
- Individual milestones and legal capacity
– Independent living through early intervention and college
– Managing relationships and parenthood
– Vocational training and employment
- The U.N. 2030 agenda “Commitment to leave nobody behind.”
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:
- 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.