The Hill: Senate panel advances autism research bill

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee quickly approved legislation Wednesday to reauthorize federal autism research and services for five years.

The bipartisan bill, which now advances to the Senate floor, is identical to a measure passed by the House on Tuesday night and has a strong likelihood of becoming law this summer.
The bill’s approval in committee is a victory for autism advocates who pushed Congress to renew programs before lawmakers leave for the August recess. The underlying statute, the Combating Autism Act, is due to expire at the end of September unless it is extended.

The new legislation would require the Health and Human Services secretary to designate a deputy to oversee federal autism research and services. The official would help coordinate activities related to autism across federal agencies to ensure they are not duplicative.

The measure also orders the government to study the needs of autistic children as they transition to adulthood.

The HELP Committee advanced the measure on a voice vote Wednesday with no amendments, according to a committee spokeswoman.

It is called the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act instead of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act. The title change is a nod to individuals with autism who called the old name hurtful.

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WashPost: Spirit moves them: Fitness program is tailored to people with developmental disabilities

Don’t ever challenge Sam Smith to an enthusiasm contest.

The 29-year-old fitness instructor has the booming voice of a radio announcer, the optimistic outlook of a cheerleader and the boundless endurance of a marathon runner. (He’s finished four.) So when he starts a warmup by shouting, “Welcome to Spirit Club! Let’s clap it out,” it’s impossible not to put your hands together.

There’s no question the program Smith is leading deserves the applause. Spirit — which stands for “Social Physical Interactive Respectful Inclusive Teamwork” — offers classes that help clients with developmental disabilities build muscle, increase flexibility and improve their diets. As a population, they have limited opportunities when it comes to health, Smith says. “And a lot need more social interaction,” he adds.

What makes Smith such an expert? He’s a certified personal trainer, and he also has autism.

“Sam gets them engaged more than a typically functioning trainer would be able to,” says Jared Ciner, who launched Spirit in April 2013. Ciner had two jobs at the time: as a personal trainer at Sport & Health, the local gym chain, and as a support counselor with the Jubilee Association of Maryland, which provides residential services to disabled adults.

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BBC: The parish councillor with Down’s syndrome

Stephen Green, 49, is one of just a handful of parish councillors with a learning disability in the United Kingdom.

Elected onto Nuthall Parish Council in Nottinghamshire last year, Green has Down’s syndrome and his dad, Grenville Green, assists him to be an active member of the community.

Parish councillors help organise events, fundraise for local charities and fix problems such as the classic pothole in the road.

Some may be surprised to hear that a man with Down’s syndrome can partake in community activities like this but is this because they fundamentally can’t do it, or because there isn’t enough support and access for equal participation?

Councillor Green says his greatest success has been to save the popular monthly Men’s Breakfasts in his parish by volunteering to gain a food hygiene certificate and so allow the early morning club to continue.

Video journalist: Kate Monaghan

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L’Arche GWDC Hosts Traveling Ark

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Walton Schofield shows off one of the five arks traveling the world in celebration of L’Arche’s 50th anniversary. Photo ©Brian A Taylor

Shortly after Jean Vanier, Philippe Seux, and Rappahël Simi moved in to a small home in Trosly-Breuil, France, Jean asked his friend Jacqueline d’Halluin help him name the house.

“She suggested about a hundred names,” Jean writes in his book An Ark for the Poor. “When she said ‘L’Arche,’ I knew without any hesitation that that was it.”

Only later did Jean realize the symbolism of the word, which means the ark in French. The story of Noah’s ark – a boat of salvation for God’s people – appears in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu scripture as well as they mythology of other early cultures, and aptly symbolizes a place where people can find safety from life’s raging storms.

Today, there are L’Arche 146 communities in 39 countries where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives together. Born in 1964 out of the Roman Catholic tradition, communities today focus their spirituality around Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and inter-faith traditions. While each has its own unique characteristics, they share common core values of dignity, relationship, spirituality, sharing life in community, and solidarity with one another.

This year the International Federation is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of that first small home by passing five wooden arks from community to community. Each ark can be opened to reveal three levels in which pictures, signatures, and inscriptions are being collected.

L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. hosted one of the traveling arks July 1-11. During its stay, the community re-enacted the story of Noah’s ark with founding core member Michael Schaff playing the leading role.

When asked how the L’Arche community is like Noah’s ark, members responded, “It’s a safe place,” “God is with us,” and “We’re a family.”

Once the arks have traveled to the all the communities they will land in France for a final celebration. Each country will also send a pair of representatives, symbolic of the animals going two-by-two into the safety of the ark.”

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Mashable: Imagining a New Way to Read, One 3D-Printed Book at a Time

Blind and visually impaired children will now be able to experience classic picture books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with the help of 3D printing technology.

Researchers at the University of Colorado have created a new project that can convert standard picture books into 3D-printed pages, letting children with visual impairments follow the raised illustrations by touch as the stories are read aloud.

Tom Yeh, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Computer Science who directed the project, said the goal of The Tactile Picture Books Project is to use computer science to better people’s lives.

“I realized we could do something meaningful by interpreting pictures from these children’s books using mathematical diagrams,” he said. “This project is much more difficult than I envisioned, but it also is much more rewarding.”

Fitness for Health: a non-intimidating environment where your child can feel comfortable

We offer a non-intimidating, relaxed environment where you and your child can feel comfortable.

The first step is to arrange a time to tour our fitness facility during a complimentary 30-minute visit. During the guided tour with Marc Sickel, owner of Fitness for Health, your family can try the equipment, ask questions and meet our staff.

We feel that it is vitally important for children to be part of the decision process. If you decide that your family would like to proceed, we will schedule a time for your child to receive a Fitness for Health assessment to evaluate balance, kinesthetic awareness, locomotor skills/coordination, strength, cardiovascular endurance, sports skills and self-esteem.

At the time of the assessment, parents are asked to complete a health history questionnaire and provide reports from specialists concerning any previous injuries.

Within 48 hours of the assessment, Marc Sickel will call parents to discuss the evaluation results, and your family and the Fitness for Health staff will work together as a team to develop a personalized fitness program to match the unique needs of your individual child.

Call us at 301-231-7138 to schedule your Fitness for Health tour or assessment today!

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WashPost: Bringing more wheelchair-accessible cabs to D.C. streets and saving the city millions

He was referring to a program that could begin on a relatively modest scale in the fall, designed to save millions of dollars for the District while increasing the number of wheelchair-accessible taxi-vans on the streets of the nation’s capital.

In its early phase — a pilot program, possibly starting in October — kidney-dialysis patients (in wheelchairs or not) who live in the District and use Metro’s paratransit service would have the option of riding in any of 33 accessible taxi-vans that would be added to the city’s cab fleet.

The fares generally would be lower than on Metro’s service, called MetroAccess, officials said, and riders would be able to book trips on shorter notice. If the program works, Linton and others said, it could be expanded in coming years.

The transit agency likes the idea. The Taxicab Commission voted Wednesday to move ahead with it. And Patrick Sheehan, chairman of citizens committee that advises Metro on accessibility issues, called the plan “a win-win situation for all.”

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Lollipop Kids Foundation: Summer Accessible Sailing

Although 18% of US children are living with some type of disability, accessible sports and recreational programs are limited. Most often, children with severe physical disabilities are excluded from these programs completely. The Lollipop Kids Foundation, in collaboration with the Downtown Sailing Center, has developed a summer accessible sailing program which proves that “sailing is for everyone”, regardless of ability.

Accessible sailing, when used as a form of therapeutic recreation, provides a unique setting in which multiple therapeutic modalities are addressed and employed simultaneously. Accessible sailing enhances coordination, balance, communication, comprehension and visual stimulation. Children with limited ability to sit still or concentrate are visibly calmer, relaxed and focused while sailing. Accessible sailing also builds confidence and self-esteem, prevents social isolation, increases muscular strength and flexibility, improves cardiovascular functioning and enhances the child’s overall well-being.

This program uniquely incorporates modifications needed to welcome children with disabilities, even children with the most profound physical limitations.

June 23, 5-7 pm
July 7. 5-7 pm
July 21. 5-7 pm
August 4. 5-7 pm
August 18. 5-7 pm

For more information or to register, email info@lollipopkidsfoundation.org.

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NPR: Faith Strengthens Aging Parents As They Care For Their Son

A good night’s sleep is rare for Judy and James Lee. They are on parenting duty 24/7 for their son, Justin.

Justin, who has cerebral palsy and was born missing parts of his brain, also has a seizure disorder, which has gotten worse lately. He’s often silent during his seizures, which means he has to sleep with his parents so they can tell when he needs help. Judy says caring for Justin is a lot like taking care of a newborn.

Rick and Marianne wash dishes together. She no longer remembers that he is her husband.
Loretta Jackson gently stretches the hands of her sister, Shirlene English, to aid physical rehabilitation after Shirlene’s brain aneurysm and stroke.

“You’re in that kind of survival mode those first few months, where your baby’s schedule is your schedule. And you sleep when they sleep and you eat when they eat. And all your focus and attention is on them,” she says.

Except Justin is not a baby. He just turned 16 and weighs 100 pounds. He can’t talk, he can’t walk and he’ll always require around-the-clock care. Like the estimated 17 million people in the U.S. taking care of their special-needs kids, Judy’s days largely consist of making sure Justin’s needs are met.

He receives music therapy, occupational therapy and tutoring. He also gets physical therapy, and though some may question what effect it may have, James and Judy believe it’s about giving Justin the best life they possibly can.

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