PBS: Shedding a limiting label to embrace a new identity as artist

If you attend an art show at Arc of the Arts, a studio in Austin, Texas, you’ll find paintings and drawings, jewelry and flash animation. The studio houses over 60 artists a week, all of whom are adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I think there is this misunderstanding that people with disabilities can’t create art that is just as good as any of the art out there and so I think highlighting that at a lot of the shows is eye-opening,” said Andrew Grimes, lead art instructor at Arc of the Arts.

Each artist that passes weekly through their doors receives comprehensive, individualized instruction.

“We really don’t focus in on the disability too much, it’s more about their interests in the art,” said Ann Alva Wieding, the program manager at the studio. “The lessons are really what you’d find in a college level art course. We’ve just slowed down the pace a little bit and we do some repetition with it.”

The artists sell their pieces, oftentimes learning the marketing skills to help promote the work that they create. Wieding says that having a final product really boosts self-esteem.

“For a lot of people with disabilities, they’ve had a label most of their life. Now, suddenly, they become an artist and they’re not carrying around that label anymore.”

People with developmental disabilities can struggle to find educational opportunities or a professional outlet, but Arc of the Arts believes the “bridge” they’ve created to the community can help fill that void.

“It’s a great way of self-expression, especially for some people who have communication disabilities,” said Wieding. “They may not have a very strong voice with which to share their story, but they have now a medium that they can display what they are really interested in to the world.”

The Spirit Club

Their mission  is to create socially inclusive and integrated opportunities for those who may need extra guidance and encouragement to learn to maintain and appreciate a healthy & active lifestyle.

From the Spirit Club website:  “The S.P.I.R.I.T. Club (acronym for Social, Physical, Interactive, Respectful, Inclusive & Teamwork) is an 8-week health and fitness program for teens and adults with developmental disabilities. Since April 2013, our weekly class of 6 people has grown to 6 weekly classes of over 60 people!

Physically, the S.P.I.R.I.T. Club focuses on improving its member’s balance, stability, flexibility, agility, strength, cardiovascular endurance and nutritional habits. Mentally and emotionally, the program is designed to encourage high levels of social interaction and integration to ensure that every member feels comfortable and excited about the healthy and active choices that they are making. Each class meets once per week and lasts for one hour.”

The Maryland Assistive Technology Network

The Maryland Assistive Technology Network (MATN) is a premier professional learning network which connects educators, families, and educational leaders engaged in improving learning and teaching through the effective use of assistive and universally accessible technologies in education. MATN is a service of the Johns Hopkins University, Center for Technology in Education (JHU CTE). MATN membership is free and open to all.

By becoming a member of their online community, you exchange ideas, questions and recommendations with educators, families, researchers, leaders and policy makers around assistive technology tools, services, and processes. This vibrant network strives to help support individuals’ learning and independence.

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NYT: The Kids Who Beat Autism

At first, everything about L.’s baby boy seemed normal. He met every developmental milestone and delighted in every discovery. But at around 12 months, B. seemed to regress, and by age 2, he had fully retreated into his own world. He no longer made eye contact, no longer seemed to hear, no longer seemed to understand the random words he sometimes spoke. His easygoing manner gave way to tantrums and head-banging. “He had been this happy, happy little guy,” L. said. “All of a sudden, he was just fading away, falling apart. I can’t even describe my sadness. It was unbearable.” More than anything in the world, L. wanted her warm and exuberant boy back.

A few months later, B. received a diagnosis of autism. His parents were devastated. Soon after, L. attended a conference in Newport, R.I., filled with autism clinicians, researchers and a few desperate parents. At lunch, L. (who asked me to use initials to protect her son’s privacy) sat across from a woman named Jackie, who recounted the disappearance of her own boy. She said the speech therapist had waved it off, blaming ear infections and predicting that Jackie’s son, Matthew, would be fine. She was wrong. Within months, Matthew acknowledged no one, not even his parents. The last word he had was “Mama,” and by the time Jackie met L., even that was gone.

In the months and years that followed, the two women spent hours on the phone and at each other’s homes on the East Coast, sharing their fears and frustrations and swapping treatment ideas, comforted to be going through each step with someone who experienced the same terror and confusion. When I met with them in February, they told me about all the treatments they had tried in the 1990s: sensory integration, megadose vitamins, therapeutic horseback riding, a vile-tasting powder from a psychologist who claimed that supplements treated autism. None of it helped either boy.

Together the women considered applied behavior analysis, or A.B.A. — a therapy, much debated at the time, that broke down every quotidian action into tiny, learnable steps, acquired through memorization and endless repetition; they rejected it, afraid it would turn their sons into robots. But just before B. turned 3, L. and her husband read a new book by a mother claiming that she used A.B.A. on her two children and that they “recovered” from autism. The day after L. finished it, she tried the exercises in the book’s appendix: Give an instruction, prompt the child to follow it, reward him when he does. “Clap your hands,” she’d say to B. and then take his hands in hers and clap them. Then she would tickle him or give him an M&M and cheer, “Good boy!” Though she barely knew what she was doing, she said, “he still made amazing progress compared with anything he’d gotten before.”

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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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L’Arche GWDC Hosts Traveling Ark

from their site: ”

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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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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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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