There are two new developments in quality of life offerings for people with intellectual disabilities and those on the autism spectrum as well, that I wanted to share. The first is a website and the second is an initiative.
1) “Interacting with Autism:” A Wealth of Information
The website is Interacting with Autism. Here is how they summarize their resource. The very last sentence of this paragraph is what drew my attention in particular, but read it all and click on the link, please!
The site presents the most current, evidence-based treatment information to parents, educators, health care workers, and those on the spectrum. It was developed collaboratively by Academy award-winning filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris, USC university professor Marsha Kinder, and multimedia designer Scott Mahoy, working with the nation’s leading autism experts as consultants. Based on an exhaustive review of the last decade’s scientific and treatment research, it uses case histories, animation, and documentary vignettes to provide information about autism and insight into how different families cope with it. You may have seen our Sensory Overload video, which was featured on everything from NPR to Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish. The site’s unique format provides a dynamic environment for exploration, more so than a typical text-based, didactic site. It also presents a searchable video database with over 10 hours of interviews and a section showing how autism is being represented in popular culture. The 30 full-screen videos examine a range of topics, including causes, diagnosis, treatment, education and advocacy and present a variety of perspectives–people on the spectrum, parents, and leading researchers and therapists in the field. It welcomes comments and discussion, and allows for users to post videos. Information on local insurance, Medicaid and educational resources are also linked through an interactive map.
2) Higher Education for People Post 22 with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism
The second news is an initiative about to begin in Massachusetts. A few months ago Massachusetts’ Chair of Higher Education Committee in the State House (Representative Tom Sannicandro) put together a Task Force on Higher Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Task Force consisted of educators, administrators from colleges around the state of Massachusetts, advocates, government agency officials, and two parents — I was one of them. Here is an abstract from the final recommendations, which can be found here.
Findings & Recommendations
The Task Force sought ways to expand opportunities for students 18-22 as well as students older than 22 with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. The Task Force recorded seven findings from the hearing and made 15 recommendations based on those findings. Some of those findings and recommendations include the following:
|Finding 1: Higher education is an important pathway to employment in the community|
Recommendation 1a: The Executive Office of Education (EOE), in consultation with the Department of Higher Education (DHE), the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) shall develop strategies and procedures to assist students in accessing inclusive higher education, integrated competitive employment, and independent living opportunities.
|Finding 2: Students with ID/ASD ages 18-22 experience barriers in their transition from high school to adult life, including lack of access to Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment opportunities. MCAS requirements bar many students. Students with ID/ASD who reach the age of 22 have even more limited access to inclusive higher education because they are not able to participate in Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment opportunities after they turn 22.|
Recommendation 2a: Allow students who have not passed MCAS to enroll in inclusive credit and non-credit courses. Prioritize enactment of H.1080, An Act Securing Access to Higher Education for People with Disabilities. (Rep, Tom Sannicandro has filed portions of H. 1088 as Amendment No. 692 to the House budget set to begin debate on Monday April 28.)
Recommendation 2b: Expand the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative for students with ID/ASD throughout the state, with full participation of the Commonwealth’s 29 public institutions of higher education by 2019.
|Finding 3: Students with ID/ASD must attend an approved Comprehensive Transition Program (CTP) in order to be eligible for federal financial aid (i.e., Pell Grants, Federal Work Study Program, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants). Massachusetts currently does not have any approved CTPs.|
Recommendations 3a: EOE, in consultation with DHE and DESE, shall create training materials instructing state institutes of higher education and providing technical assistance on how to apply to become an approved CTP so that students with ID/ASD who have exited high school are eligible for Federal financial aid.
|Finding 4: Initial data reported by DESE demonstrate the value of the ICE initiative. To date, resources have not been available to conduct a more comprehensive evaluation in order to further identify student outcomes and evidence-based practice, including practices, policies, and structures that are correlated with improved student outcomes in areas such as integrated competitive employment, self-determination, independent living, and community membership.|
Recommendation 4a: Allocate funds for comprehensive evaluation and research of the ICE initiative.