A Whole Lott More

A fascinating look at how people with developmental disabilities are competing in a struggling US work force.

In a tough economy, the entire country worries about jobs, homes, and children’s futures. Yet how often do we think of the most vulnerable members of our society? Around eight million people in the US have a developmental disability but the vast majority – around 80 percent – remain unemployed.

They live in the shadows of society – all too separate from the non-disabled world. Many Americans in the US with development disabilities who do work have historically found refuge in “workplaces” – coalitions of industry and social service that provide manufacturing jobs. Most states in the US have facilities such as these – in Toledo, Ohio, there is Lott Industries.

Over the years, Lott has employed up to 1,200 workers at a time. For decades the company excelled in building car parts, competing successfully with the non-disabled and achieving the highest quality ratings. However, with the decline of the car industry in neighbouring Detroit, Lott is faced with a crisis.

For Lott to move into the modern age, it must overcome the odds to create a new, dynamic model for working environments for people with disabilities. This model must also be inclusive, allowing people with disabilities to work in the wider community. It must be self-sustaining and should provide people with disabilities a decent wage.

But for some whose lives are affected by disabilities, they are not sure that a workplace can evolve at all.

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ZamDance: Solving The Puzzle Through Dance

ZamDance is a fitness class for children and adults with disabilities. The class introduces a structured environment while allowing the students to be able to move at their own pace. The students are entertained by the music and dance movements. This class also keeps the students happily engaged while learning different dance steps such as MERENGUE, JAZZ and HIP-HOP! (Ages 8+)


Equipment Connections for Children

Founded in 2009 as a resource for families of children with disabilities who need adaptive equipment and have no other means to obtain the equipment. Equipment Connections for Children connects costly adaptive equipment from one child with a disability who outgrows the equipment to another child who needs it. Our vision is for a world in which all available adaptive equipment is in use by the children with disabilities who need it.

Equipment Connections for Children is based in Montgomery County, Maryland and serves children in metropolitan DC area and beyond.

A child with adaptive equipment can …

  • Do more for themselves, be more independent
  • Play with their friends and siblings
  • Participate in meals and bath times
  • Change position with more ease and comfort
  • Move more often to be more healthy


“Mamie’s Mile Gets Us Walking on Mass Ave”

Mamie’s Mile is a one mile walk in the Spring Valley neighborhood of town for anyone who wants to support the National Down Syndrome Society.  Mamie’s Mile was founded by husband and wife Teddy Eynon and Elizabeth Manresa who lost their daughter Mamie Grace, who had Down Syndrome, due to complications during heart surgery when she was just a baby.  But life is about recognizing the worst and most devastating situations and turning them into good, as this couple courageously did. 


WPOST: Bullied autistic boy says girlfriend accused of assaulting him wanted relationship secret

The teen who’d been bullied and assaulted didn’t want to talk at first.

It was late March, and I had just interviewed the autistic 16-year-old’s mother at a Southern Maryland pizzeria. She brought me back to her home in St. Mary’s County to see whether her high-functioning son, whose alleged abuse by two girls from his high school has generated outrage, would want to recount what had happened.

According to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department charging documents, the older of the two girls allegedly held a large kitchen knife to the boy’s throat — twice. Another time, both girls coerced him into walking over a frozen pond, into which he fell numerous times while they stood by and videotaped on a cellphone.

The parents, who want the girls jailed for a long time, hoped that since he wasn’t talking much about the case to them, maybe he’d open up to me. He listened to my pitch, emphatically said no, and then retreated to his bedroom.

But two weeks later, the boy changed his mind. The boy, who wants to be identified by his middle name, Michael, decided it was time for him to offer his perspective. Surprisingly, Michael wanted to publicly advocate for the two Chopticon High School students charged: Lauren A. Bush, 17, who has been charged as an adult, and his 15-year-old girlfriend, who was charged as a juvenile and whose cellphone contained footage of the assaults that led to their arrest in early March. (The Washington Post generally does not identify juveniles.)

Continue reading WPOST: Bullied autistic boy says girlfriend accused of assaulting him wanted relationship secret

WPOST: Mother testifies before Senate panel about son’s death at Frederick deputies’ hands

Patti Saylor appeared before members of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday and told them about her son, who loved law enforcement, who would sing in the voice mails he left his family and who, if he hadn’t died after being forced from a movie theater by three off-duty Frederick County deputies, would want to sit with the members of the committee, “because that’s where all the important people sit.”

More than a year after the death of Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome, his mother continues to fight for him and others like him.

Her testimony came at a hearing chaired by Sen. Richard J. (D-Ill.) titled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety.”

“I want to tell you firsthand that today’s hearing will save future lives,” Saylor said.

Continue reading WPOST: Mother testifies before Senate panel about son’s death at Frederick deputies’ hands

NYT: Voice of the Voiceless ‘The Reason I Jump,’ by Naoki Higashida

Autism is an endless mystery, largely unknowable by its nature, yet there are dozens of books by or about autistic people determined to explain the lives of those affected. The newest is “The Reason I Jump,” popular in Japan since it was published in 2007. The author, Naoki Higashida, was 13 years old at the time he wrote the memoir, and nonverbal. He wrote by spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet letter board.

The slim volume consists of short chapters beginning with questions like “Why do you speak in that peculiar way?” and “Why do you like spinning?” Describing why, exactly, he likes to jump, Higashida tells us: “The motion makes me want to change into a bird and fly off to some faraway place. But constrained by ourselves and by the people around us, all we can do is tweet-tweet, flap our wings and hop around in a cage.”

Higashida is bright and thoughtful. He maintains a blog and has written other books. His American publisher describes Higashida, who can also type on a computer and is able to read aloud what he has written, as a “motivational speaker.” As the parent of an autistic adult, I know autism has hidden depths, but they are hidden under real impairment. The author tells us that he gets lost and panics. He can’t remember rules, sit still or make sense of time. Continue reading NYT: Voice of the Voiceless ‘The Reason I Jump,’ by Naoki Higashida