One woman’s fight to improve mental health care in China

In 1985, Meng Weina set up China’s first private special needs school in the southern city of Guangzhou.

As a single mother she was motivated to help those who are often overlooked by the country’s health care system and stigmatized by society.

From her first center in Guangzhou, Weina now has Hui Ling operations in a dozen cities across China providing a range of services, from kindergartens and primary schools to youth workshops and adult residential homes.

The expansion of the donation-funded NGO shows not just the success of the Weina’s vision but the desperate need for mental health care provision in China.

“We estimate that only 10% of people with intellectual disabilities in China are receiving some kind of care or help,” said Weina.

According to a 2009 study published in British medical journal The Lancet, around 173 million Chinese suffer from a mental disorder. However there are only 20,000 psychiatrists, equaling 1.5 for each 100,000 people, or a tenth of the ratio in the United States.

Mental health legislation

Last year saw the introduction of China’s first mental health legislation, which took a reported 27 years to pass.

Among the changes from the law are new financing initiatives for mental health services and training for primary care-givers. Perhaps the most significant was a new set of rights for patients, including not being hospitalized against their will.

Negative perceptions of those with metal health problems are often portrayed in the media in China; they are either victims or perpetrators of violence.

Weina knows that each individual that comes to a Hui Ling center has their own set of needs and unique personality, and helping bring out their best encourages her to keep working.

“I wanted to do something to make my life worth while,” said Weina.

“When I see the smiles on their faces, when I see that these adults are truly happy to be at Hui Ling, that for me is the happiest moment.”

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The Arc: Conversation Guide and Pathways to Justice™ Video

This easy-to-use tool can be used to inform criminal justice professionals – law enforcement, victim service providers and attorneys – about the need for effective disability-related training in your state or community!

NCCJD’s new “Pathways to Justice™” video highlights challenges faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the criminal justice system. This powerful tool educates criminal justice professionals, including law enforcement, victim advocates, legal professionals and others in the criminal justice system about cracks in the system that can have devastating effects. Only 4 minutes long, it’s a great conversation starter to use with local police departments, victim advocacy agencies, prosecutor’s and public defender’s offices and others to introduce the topic and explain why effective, ongoing training is needed.

Students with Disabilities have Room on the Bench in NY


NEW YORK (JTA) — Standing in the back of an open elementary school classroom at the Luria Academy, a Jewish Montessori school in Brooklyn, Dana Keil asks in a whisper if a visitor can tell which children in the room have special needs.

I guarantee you won’t be able to tell,” she said.

And she’s right.

Yet Keil, 25, estimated that nearly half the children in the room have some type of disability that requires what’s called an “individualized education program,” or IEP.

As the director of special education and support services at the Prospect Heights academy, Keil is a strong advocate of including all types of children, including those with disabilities, into the same classroom.

Last September, she earned a $100,000 fellowship from the Joshua Venture Group, a Jewish nonprofit, to start Room on the Bench. Through the Luria-based initiative, Keil is beginning to council other Jewish community schools in the New York City area on how to implement inclusion models.

“Even though the Jewish community has been progressive for centuries, this is one area where we are honestly very far behind,” Keil said.

Inclusion is standard practice in public schools thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act passed in 1990. The federal statute mandates that a child with a disability cannot be placed in a separate classroom unless the severity of the disability precludes learning in a normal classroom. However, the law does not apply to private schools, and some disability advocates say that the Jewish community has not done enough to make children with disabilities, and their families, feel welcome in its day schools.

Keil said that many Jewish day schools do not accept applicants who have any kind of IEP, even if their disabilities are purely physical and not intellectual. Although an IEP can be prescribed for an incredibly wide range of disabilities, from spina bifida to an autism spectrum disorder, Keil said that most Jewish day school administrators “see an IEP as an IEP instead of looking at the individual child.”

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Disability Scoop: Self-Advocate Gets State Of The Union Invite

Sara Wolff fought hard to help others like her, so U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., offered her a special thanks.

He invited Wolff to sit in the U.S. House gallery next Tuesday to watch President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union speech. Wolff helped Casey get a bill passed that helps those with disabilities.

“I was very surprised and excited at the same time,” Wolff, 31, of Moscow, Pa. said Monday. “This is my first time. I’m very excited. A little bit nervous, but very excited.”

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, ABLE Act for short, allows people with disabilities to save money in untaxed accounts similar to tax-advantaged accounts used by families who save for college. The act also allows Americans with disabilities to save money for education, housing, transportation and health care without losing eligibility for government programs.

The bill passed the House on Dec. 3 by a vote of 404-17. In the Senate, the provision was part of a larger tax bill that passed 76 to 16.

Obama signed the bill into law Dec. 19.

“I call it history in the making,” Wolff, who has Down syndrome, said. “It’s very important for people with disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, etc. Now, they can save money for their future.”

Casey said he wanted to honor Wolff because of her advocacy. She kept him focused on getting the bill passed with a catchphrase, “Stay pumped,” he said. Wolff testified for the bill at a Senate hearing in July.

“If she wasn’t the leading, she was one of the leading voices in the country for passage of the ABLE Act,” he said. “I wanted to acknowledge her contribution, which was substantial. She was a personal witness, which was very compelling.”

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NYT: An Oasis of Care for People With Intellectual Disabilities

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A mother needs to get her son out the door. Thick white socks cover his contorted feet, a coat drapes his twisted shoulders, a water bottle with a straw nestles in the concave of his chest, and black straps on his wheelchair secure his wrists. He is 33 years old, and she has to get him to an appointment.

“I always forget something,” the mother, Mimi Kramer, says, looking about her small, immaculate house. “Oh. A change of pants, just in case.”

Her son, Trey, has intellectual disability, autism and cerebral palsy. He was a joy as a child, she says, but with puberty came violent acts of frustration: biting himself until he bleeds, raging against sounds as faint as a fork scrape on a plate, lashing out with his muscular right arm. He nearly bit her finger off one Kentucky Derby Day when she tried to swipe away foam that he had gnawed from his wheelchair’s armrest.

“But he’ll also definitely make you smile when he’s happy,” says Ms. Kramer, 52, a slight, divorced woman who has raised her son mostly alone. “His smile will light up the room.”

For years, parents like Ms. Kramer have struggled to find compassionate health care for their adult children with profound disability, among the most medically underserved populations in the country. They are told their children are not welcome: too disruptive in the waiting room, too long in the examining room — beyond the abilities of doctors who have no experience with intellectual disability.

“It’s been really hard to find anyone to even take him,” Ms. Kramer says. “Much less the experience when you go into a waiting room with someone as challenging as Trey.”

Now, though, Ms. Kramer has a place to go. A motorized lift raises her son into her customized Ford Econoline van, where a home care aide named David Stodghill keeps some fudge cookies nearby as positive reinforcement for Mr. Kramer. Continue reading NYT: An Oasis of Care for People With Intellectual Disabilities

NYT: Separated From Brother, Left to Toil Far From Home

NEWBERRY, S.C. — A shabby bunkhouse sits just beyond the shadows of this small city’s colossal Kraft meatpacking plant. Inside live a few older men with nowhere else to go, and several younger men who pay to throw down a mattress.

There is also Leon Jones.

Mr. Jones, 64, has an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist.

And yet he is more than just another anonymous grunt in a meat factory. Mr. Jones may be the last working member of the so-called Henry’s Boys — men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights.

That seemed to be the end to an outrageous but isolated Iowa story: men abused, rescued and reintegrated into the community. But a few lingering clues suggested that at least one other Henry’s “boy” was out there: a Leon Jones, living beside a South Carolina turkey plant.

So, on a recent autumn morning, I knocked on the door of this bunkhouse, sitting beside a mobile home with its door open in abandonment, not welcome.

“Hi,” said Leon Jones.

Tall and with an easy smile, Mr. Jones has been working turkey ever since he left a state institution in 1969. For decades, he hung live birds from shackles; now he works an evening shift, sweeping up and disposing of turkeys that arrive by truck already dead. D.O.A.s., they are called. Continue reading NYT: Separated From Brother, Left to Toil Far From Home

ABC: Pope Meets With Autistic Children

Pope Francis tenderly embraced children with autism spectrum disorders, some of whom avoided meeting his gaze, during an audience Saturday aimed at offering solidarity to people living with the condition.

The pope urged governments and institutions to respond to the needs of people with autism to help break “the isolation and, in many cases also the stigma” associated with the disorders, which are characterized by varying levels of social impairment and communication difficulties.

“It is necessary the commitment of everyone, in order to promote encounters and solidarity, in a concrete action of support and renewed promotion of hope,” the pontiff said.

After offering a prayer, Francis greeting the young children and teens with autism and their families, kissing the children and cupping their faces in his hands as he circulated the auditorium at the Vatican. Some appeared to avoid the pope’s eyes, while one teen whom the pope had greeted followed the pontiff and gave him another hug from behind.

Families of children affected with autism were touched by the pope’s words.

“It was an explosion of emotions,” said Maria Cristina Fiordi, a mother of a child with autism. “For us, we are parents of a child affected with autism, this meeting was very important. It was as an outstretched hand through a problem that is very often not considered in the right way.”

Franco Di Vincenzo, another parent of a child with autism, said he took strength from the pope’s call not to hide, “that we should live with this problem in serenity.”

The audience was attended by some 7,000 people, including health care workers who had international conference on autism hosted by the Vatican’s health care office this week.

While autism is increasingly being diagnosed in places like the United States, where about 1 in 68 children are said to be on the spectrum, it is still largely unknown and undiagnosed elsewhere, including in the Vatican’s own backyard of Italy, according to Dr. Stefano Vicari, head of pediatric neuropsychiatry at the Vatican-owned Bambin Gesu hospital in Rome.

News-Post: Judge criticizes use of force in Saylor case

A U.S. District Court judge’s opinion this week — which allowed a lawsuit filed by the family of Ethan Saylor to go forward — dwelled on issues of state police training and excessive use of force, topics brought to the state and national spotlight after Saylor’s death in 2013.

In a decision released Thursday, Judge William M. Nickerson wrote that he would not dismiss all claims against three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies or the state of Maryland because there was evidence the deputies violated Saylor’s constitutional rights and the state could be held responsible for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for improperly training them.

Nickerson indicated that his position was based on the allegations in the family’s initial complaint and could change as the case carries forward and more evidence is introduced.

In a lawsuit filed last October, Saylor’s estate alleged violations of his civil rights and of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the state, county sheriff’s deputies, and the companies where the men were moonlighting as security guards at the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16 theater.

Saylor, 26, of New Market, had Down syndrome and died Jan. 12, 2013, from a lack of oxygen while being forcibly removed by the deputies after he tried to stay for a second showing of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Saylor died of asphyxia with a fractured larynx, according to the state medical examiner’s office, which ruled the death a homicide. A Frederick County grand jury declined to indict the deputies.

In separate motions, attorneys for the deputies, Regal and the state of Maryland all asked the judge to dismiss all claims against them.

In dismissing each of the claims against Regal Cinemas, Nickerson wrote that the actions of the manager in calling for help from security were too far removed from the actual action taken by the sheriff’s deputies. Continue reading News-Post: Judge criticizes use of force in Saylor case

Think College

Think College is a national organization dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability.  With a commitment to equity and excellence, Think College supports evidence-based and student centered research and practice by generating and sharing knowledge, guiding institutional change, informing public policy, and engaging with students, professionals and families.

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The Arc of Southern Maryland presents the 2014 Sprout Film Festival

The annual film festival, co-sponsored by the College of Southern Maryland, will be held Oct. 10, 2014 at 6 p.m. on the Prince Frederick Campus, Building 2, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick.

The family-friendly films include artistic short films, documentaries and features designed to inspire,and raise awareness about people with developmental disabilities using the medium of film. The evening includes a reception, with light refreshments provided. $20 at ticket.

Sponsorship opportunities available. For information on sponsorship or about the film festival contact 410-535-2413, Ext. 113 or development@arcsomd.org. click here for details