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.

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Rutgers University Offers an Inclusive Setting for Autistic Students

The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services offers autistic adults inclusion in a community setting

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney was on hand this week to meet with the first adult with autism at the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) day center. That program was launched late 2015.

“The Center for Adult Autism Services is working to accomplish something that I think everyone agrees should be our top priority,” said Senator Sweeney in a statement on his website. “It allows adults with autism to live as fulfilling a life as possible. We want everyone, no matter what challenges they face, to reach their fullest potential. This support can make a real difference in their lives.”

Rutgers Center Autism

When the first phase of the program is in full operation, the center will offer up to 60 adults with autism (living off campus) fulfilling university jobs. The effort will supported by Rutgers clinical staff and graduate students. The following (second) phase calls for a residential program for 20 adults with autism. These individuals will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an apartment-style residence. These inclusive settings will offer individuals with autism the satisfaction and learning that come from employment. As such, the program will present Rutgers students with important educational opportunities as well.

 

The University’s Douglass campus is already host to the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. This on-site program for children and teens on the autism spectrum is accessible to graduate and undergraduate students in education and psychology.

Advancing Opportunities applauds efforts in New Jersey to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities settings for full participation in society.

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.

World Down Syndrome Day: Finding My Voice in My Community

Web page - March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21 in recognition of Trisomy 21

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21 in recognition of Trisomy 21.

March 21. That’s Three twenty-one. These numbers are symbolic of the medical name for Down syndrome: trisomy 21. In humans, each cell normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes, which contain the person’s genetic makeup. In people with Down syndrome, the 21st chromosome has three rather than the usual two copies. The condition of there being three copies is known as trisomy; Down syndrome is the most common trisomy condition (please see our earlier blog post on Trisomy Awareness Month). Such seemingly tiny genetic variations can have a tremendous impact on a person. A prime example is the 23rd chromosome: females have two copies of the X chromosome and males have one X and one Y.

The theme for World Down Syndrome Day this year is #MyVoiceMyCommunity, “enabling people with Down syndrome to speak up, be heard, and influence government policy and action, to be fully included in the community.” In addition, Down Syndrome International will hold a conference on March 21 at the United Nations World Headquarters, New York. The conference and campaign will address four questions:

  • Why it is important for people with Down syndrome and their advocates to speak up and influence policy makers at all levels?
  • What key policies affect the lives of people with Down syndrome? How can these policies ensure full inclusion in society?
  • How can advocates become involved?
  • How can we empower people with Down syndrome, along with those supporting them, to advocate for themselves?

These are important questions we should ask of ourselves in serving our consumers with Down syndrome.

For those interested in following the World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the U.N., the event is being streamed. Information on the speakers, along with important background knowledge, is available on March 21.

Some portraits in Down syndrome

Book Lucky Few - A mom finds joy in adopting a daughter with Down syndrome

Heather Avis is a mom who, with her husband, adopted a little girl with Down Syndrome. In this book, released on WDSD, she tells of the joy she has found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A German man with Down syndrome who survived the Holocaust is independentWalter, now 63, survived the Nazi genocide against persons with disabilities. Instead, he has found dignity in his independence in the community.

ZEIT Magazine, Nr. 37, 6. September 1996

 

 

 

Screen shot of photo essay documenting the beauty of Down syndrome

The Huffington Post recently featured a photographer who compiled a photo essay depicting the beauty of children with Down syndrome.

 

 

 

 

Charles de Gaulle adores his daughter, Anne with Down syndrome

Former Prime Minister took the time to enjoy a precious moment with his daughter, Anne, who had Down syndrome.

Forthcoming New Jersey Conference: Facing the Future with Employment for People with Disabilites

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Early bird registration is open for the March 24, 2017, “Facing the Future: To Employment and Beyond” conference hosted by the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities and NJ ASPE, the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst.

Advancing Opportunities will be presenting on how assistive technology can play a role in employment for people with all disabilities.

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

idpd-logo-rev-4-300

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.

idpd-infographic-final

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:

#CripTheVote: Advocating for the Needs of People with Disabilities This Election

Crip the Vote - Logo

During the primaries, and with the general election fast approaching, political candidates are appealing to many groups.  However, there has been increasing concern about whether people running for office are considering the needs of the nation’s largest minority: people with disabilities.  Three disability advocates, Alice Wong, Andrew Pulrang, and Gregg Beratan have launched a campaign to address this shortcoming: Crip the Vote.  These disability advocates are the forces behind DisabilityVisibility and Disability Thinking.  The first is “a nonpartisan campaign to engage both voters and politicians in a productive discussion about disability issues in the United States, with the hope that disability takes on greater prominence within the American political landscape.”  DisabilityVisibility started as an extension of the StoryCorps project, to give a voice to people with a meaningful life story that might not otherwise be heard or told.  The latter is a blog on various disability issues.  It offers a one-stop reference to learn how to register to vote and the positions of the candidates, so they can make an informed choice. Moreover, people with disabilities are urged to question and petition the candidates on issues affecting them.  The Rev Up Campaign is coordinating a National Disability Registration Week, July 11-15.  And, most important, this advocacy work must continue beyond the election, as Congress is responsible for enacting laws that protect the rights of people with a disability.

Crip the Vote - REV UP

 

A Word About That Word: “Crip”
The casual observer may question the use of the word crip.  After all, it is a shortened version of the derogatory term cripple.  The organizers of the Sex and Disability Conference, held November 2015, reclaimed the word as an inclusive term to represent people with all disabilities.

Alice Walker Power Meme