Munch Into March: It’s National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month and balanced nutritious eating habits are the corner stone of a healthy and happy life. However, according to a 2014 Disability Scoop article people with disabilities may be slipping below the daily nutritional recommendations. It is difficult to know exactly why, but it may be due to a combination of things, such as how different medications a person takes interacts with one another. People with disabilities may also struggle to afford healthy foods.

According to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), even finding accurate information on nutrition and disability can be a real challenge  because each person metabolizes foods differently based upon their genes, medications they take, and any medical conditions they have. So, it is very difficult to make nutritional recommendations that apply to everyone. There are some things that you, as a caregiver, or someone you care for can do to adapt healthy eating habits.

 

  • Familiarize yourself with nutritional risks and signs of poor nutrition and then find ways to deal with them.
  • Check out this resource from NCHPAD to find ways to adapt healthy eating practices, such as focusing on eating different types and quantities of foods in each meal. Healthy eating patterns also include cutting back on foods with excess sugars and saturated fats, as well as eating less salty foods.
  • Visit Self-Advocacy Online’s Healthy Plate This training, which was developed with input from people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD), uses instructional videos and learning exercises to help people with I/DD learn how to eat healthier.
  • Learn about MyPlate. This resource, developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, aims to build healthy eating habits through the lifetime by offering ideas and tips to help you create a healthier eating style that meets your individual needs.
  • Watch two recorded webinars 1) What’s For Dinner? Planning for Success in Healthy Eating and 2) Putting Nutrition on Your Radar for suggestions on how to improve healthy eating habits for people with I/DD.
  • Check out this video series from NCHPAD to learn how to think creatively when trying to stick to nutritional guidelines or special diets.

Remember, eating healthier doesn’t happen all in one day, but making small changes over time can make a big difference in improving overall health.

Chapters Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service and Improve Disability Inclusion Across America

Many of our chapters spent the past two months executing service projects made possible by a grant from The Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that leads national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

Many perceive people with disabilities as the ones in need of service – but in reality, they are often a part of civic engagement at the state, local, and national level. Chapters executed great projects, including food drives and food delivery events. Check out our new Facebook album or each chapter’s Facebook page below for highlights and pictures from each event. Thank you for participating in this wonderful opportunity with us!

  • TARC: Our local chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, kicked off their MLK Day of Service at a University of Tulsa basketball game. Volunteers with developmental disabilities from TARC worked with university students to accept canned food donation and transport food to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. In February, volunteers from the chapter also packaged food at the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma; served meals at the Kendall Whittier Elementary School; and conducted a month-long food drive at the University of Tulsa and at the True Blue Neighbors office.
  • The Arc Big Bend: On February 15th, this Madison, Florida, chapter hosted a “free lunch” for 250 people who experience food insecurity at a local park. Volunteers with and without disabilities from the local Kiwanis club, Aktion Club, local health department, and nursing school hosted a variety of activities, including free health screenings, fire rescue demonstrations, and performances from a local boys choir.
  • The Arc of Greater Twin Cities: Our Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, chapter worked with Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank to deliver emergency food aid to at least 180 people in need. During the weekend before MLK Day, thrift stores operated by The Arc of Greater Twin Cities engaged volunteers to work at their thrift stores to collect canned food and sort clothing to be sold (the proceeds of which supported the work of The Arc of the Greater Twin Cities).
  • The Arc of the Glades: The Arc of The Glades in Belle Glade, Florida, began a joint adventure with The Church of The Harvest and Lighthouse Food Pantry to help provide food to those in need in our local community. As of February 10th, 40 volunteers with and without disabilities have given 385 hours of their time, served 2,468 meals, and distributed 5,686 bags of food to those in need.
  • The Arc of Luzerne County: Our chapter in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, partnered with the Wilkes Barre Kiwanis and Pittston Rotary Club to box food for over 150 low-income seniors at the Commission on Economic Opportunity,  a local community organization that serves people suffering from poverty on MLK Day. Since this initial event, volunteers with disabilities have been serving in the kitchen at the Commission on Economic Opportunity to help prepare 800-1000 lunches daily for low-income children in the area.
  • The Arc Nature Coast: Throughout February, volunteers with and without disabilities in Brooksville, Florida, delivered and distributed fresh fruits and veggies to nearly 300 families at four food banks in the community.
  • The Arc of the Midlands: Working with community partners, this South Carolina chapter fed close to 200 people at an event that included live music, a basketball scrimmage, and special guests including state representative Chip Huggins and Indianapolis Colts football player Kelcy Quarles.
  • The Arc of Virginia: On February 19th, volunteers and chapter staff assembled 230 meals for distribution to people in Richmond who experience food insecurity. This effort was supported by Virginia Delegate Kaye Kory, members of the Virginia General Assembly, and assembly staff.
  • The Arc of Walton County: The Arc of Walton County partnered with their local Anchor Club and The Matrix Community Outreach Center to provide food to those in need in northwest Florida.
  • Genesee Arc: This New York chapter supported volunteers with and without disabilities to conduct food drives throughout the month at twelve different community locations. The food collected was donated to 200 children in need at the United Way of Genesee County’s Backpack Program, which provides food to school-age children who experience food insecurity on the weekends.

The Arc Awarded Contribution for New Center for Special Education Advocacy

Washington, DC – The Arc is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a contribution from AT&T to create a new Center for Special Education Advocacy called TheArc@School. The center will support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education and employment by improving the quality and availability of trained lay advocates to support the development and implementation of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

All students who qualify for special education services are legally required to have an IEP to ensure they are receiving the support and guidance necessary to successfully pursue their educational goals. The IEP process requires an annual meeting between teachers, administrators, parents and students. In the meeting, attendees discuss everything from students’ present levels of academic achievement to their future goals and any accommodations or modifications they need in the classroom.

“These discussions can be overwhelming and intimidating for parents – many parents in The Arc’s network have shared that they are hesitant to express their opinions, they feel they do not have the expertise to participate, or that they are not encouraged to participate. As a result, plans often set low expectations or lack personalization, making it difficult for students to stay on track to achieve their full potential. TheArc@School aims to improve the process,”
said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Currently, in order to make the process more manageable, some families choose to work with professional advocates. These advocates can be incredibly knowledgeable and can act as an excellent resource for parents and students, but many receive no formal training; they often become experts through their own personal experience navigating the special education system, usually as parents or teachers.

This contribution will allow The Arc to start by collecting data about current methods and practices, as little information about effective practices exists at this time. After analyzing this data to identify best practices, The Arc will disseminate this information through a comprehensive online resource center, making it easily available to parents, students, advocates, chapters of The Arc, and school administrators. The Arc will use this data on effective practices to inform planning to develop a comprehensive training effort aimed at lay advocates.

“AT&T is thrilled to collaborate with The Arc to provide a more comprehensive support system for students along with the resources they need for success,” said Nicole Anderson, executive director of philanthropy at AT&T. “The Center for Special Education Advocacy will be a key voice in making education accessible to more students.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 665 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

 

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

About Philanthropy and Social Innovation at AT&T

AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its community initiatives, AT&T has a long history of investing in projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; or address community needs. AT&T Aspire is AT&T’s signature philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, employee volunteerism, and mentoring. Through Aspire, we’ve passed the $250 million mark on our plan to invest $350 million in education from 2008-2017.

Focus on Flossing this February : It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month!

toothbrushAlthough February is technically National Children’s Dental Health Month, oral health is important for people of all ages!

Did you know people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are more likely to have dental and oral health problems than the general population? A study conducted by Tufts University indicates that people with disabilities have a higher prevalence of oral disease such as dental cavities, gum disease, and missing teeth.

Caregivers play a key support role in helping people with I/DD make sure they have good oral hygiene practices like brushing teeth twice a day flossing regularly. However, only 6.4% of family caregivers have received any formal training to help their loved one keep his or her teeth clean

Fortunately, there are several resources out there for caregivers who want to learn how to help their family member improve his or her oral health. Here are a few that you may find interesting:

Reflections on the State of the Union Address

By: T.J. Sutcliffe, Director of Income and Housing Policy for The Arc

Last night, Americans across the nation, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families, tuned in for President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.

The Arc live Tweeted, and I had the honor of representing The Arc at the White House for the State of the Union Social live-viewing.

Here are five highlights that people with I/DD and their families will want to know about:

  • Remembering San Bernardino — One of President Obama’s guests at ‪SOTU was Ryan Reese, partner to Larry “Daniel” Kaufman who was one of the 14 victims of the December 2 attack at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA. Daniel was a job coach for people with disabilities who lost his life after saving four people. As we tuned in to SOTU, our hearts were with Ryan, Daniel, and all of the victims in San Bernardino, their families, loved ones, and community.
  • Disability affects us all, and we are stronger together — At the White House, Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the SOTU watch party. In his remarks, the Vice President shared an inspiring story about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) highlighting the need for us all to work together. After now-deceased Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) rejected a precursor of the ADA, then-Senator Biden was very angry with Senator Helms and thought the worst of him. But then he learned that Senator Helms and his wife had adopted a child with a disability. The Vice President summed up, “It’s always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment, but it’s never appropriate to question their motive,” because you just don’t know.
  • Our lifeline: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and SSI — We couldn’t agree more with President Obama about this: “That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
  • Lois Curtis, a disability rights champion — One of the “voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far” highlighted on video as President Obama spoke was Lois Curtis, one of two named plaintiffs in the landmark ADA case Olmstead v. L.C. It was amazing to see Lois, a fierce advocate for people with disabilities, featured along with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Alice Paul, and Cesar Chavez.
  • A SOTU for everyone — We thank the White House for making this the most accessible SOTU ever for people with disabilities.

What were your thoughts about the State of the Union? Share them with us on social media (Twitter & Facebook).

Get the Year Started Off Right with National Healthy Weight Awareness Month

HealthyEatingMaintaining a healthy weight is hard all year round, but can be especially hard during the winter holiday season. According to the CDC, maintaining healthy weight happens when a person keeps his or her weight at the right amount based upon a person’s height, the amount of food/drink he or she eats, and his or her activity level.

Maintaining a healthy weight can be hard, but people with disabilities tend to have more difficulty maintaining a healthy weight than people without disabilities. This occurs for many reasons, including the use of various prescription drugs that cause weight gain, less opportunity or education about exercising, fewer trainers who know how to work with people with disabilities, and less education about how or why it is important to eat healthily.

Fortunately for all of us who need to be better at watching our weight, January is National Healthy Weight Awareness Month! This month encourages people of all ages, weights, dress/pant sizes, and ability levels to improve their health and well-being by being more active and eating healthier. Here are some things that you and your family can do to improve your health and start your year right:

Reaching your healthy weight goals takes time. While you may not get to your ideal weight overnight, we hope these links will provide you inspiration and opportunities to get active and have a happy and healthier 2016!

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Grant Supports Specialisterne Program

By Katherine Murphy, Business Development Assistant for The Arc@Work. The Arc@Work provides companies with employment support services to assist them to find, hire and retain employees with I/DD.

In 2015, The Arc received a 3 year grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) to support the replication of its Specialisterne project. The Specialisterne program empowers individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) both by providing individual participants the foothold they need to start their careers in IT and by supporting major employers in the field who want to hire more individuals with disabilities. For these individuals, the application and interview process presents social and information-sharing challenges, often leading employers to misinterpret the individuals’ true strengths and abilities. Through the Specialisterne program participants are given the opportunity to go through an interview process that is tailored to highlight their abilities, giving employers the opportunity to see how capable they truly are.

The Arc and its chapters now run the program in 4 locations: Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and Columbia, SC. At these locations, The Arc has already partnered with a number of national corporations, including SAP, CAI, Towers Watson, Microsoft and Ernst and Young, and trained more than 40 individuals with ASD. The Arc of DC successfully completed its second training in September for potential Microsoft jobs in Redmond, WA.  The Arc of Philadelphia is currently partnering with SAP for a second round of hiring, and Ernst and Young to train 20 plus individuals for analyst and administrator positions at both corporations. The Arc of Camden County in New Jersey has stepped in to help train and place individuals in Ernst and Young’s Mount Laurel location.

Thanks to the support of MEAF, The Arc has plans to replicate the Specialisterne program at an additional 2-3 sites in 2016 and we are currently looking in the following locations: New Jersey, North Carolina and Massachusetts. The Arc is excited about the progress that has been made with our Specialisterne program in 2015 and is looking forward to continuing the expansion of the program in 2016.

Autism Now On the Road – Talking about Bullying

By: Amy Goodman, Director Autism Now

The launch of my newest feature on Autism Now: Public Speaking has gone well. I have presented two times. I presented on Marriage, Dating, and Relationships at The Arc of Alabama’s conference in October, and I just presented in New York about Adult Bullying. This presentation focused on what to do after the bullying incident and what to include in an anti-bullying program at The Family Service League of New York in North Hampton Beach, Long Island.

This experience gave me insight into what teachers, professionals, and service personnel need in terms of helping children, adolescence, and adults on the spectrum to overcome this challenge and move on with their life. I learned about different anti-bullying techniques or programs that were being implemented in New York Schools. One such program was a buddy system where an individual with an ASD was paired with a pal or mentor and they had to have lunch with them two or three times a week to work on social skills. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t as one teacher reported that yes, the two met, but one was eating and one was reading a book and not conversing at all. The point of the meeting was supposed to be getting individuals with ASD to be open and talking and not always passive and avoiding, not just reading, to show them that it is okay to talk too.

I was able to use my personal story to show what the long term effects of bullying are and what kinds of things I think need to be addressed to help individuals on the spectrum to cope with the aftermath. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true at all – words do hurt and it is a taunt that can haunt an individual forever. Words can traumatize this vulnerable population in unspeakable ways.

My motto is this: Stand up to the bullies, be brave, and be a buddy not a bully. I know that this is a tall order and it is easier said than done but the more you talk about it and the more you advocate for the bully to do the right thing the better off you will be. Bullies can be mean and nasty but you can be better than them by being yourself, standing up for what you believe in, and doing the right thing by reporting incidents of bullying to the proper authorities. Life can and will get better, just open your eyes and see all the possibilities out there. Above all else believe in yourself and remember the more you know the more empowered you will be.

If you would like to find out more about my services, please contact me at info@autismnow.org or 1-200-600-3489

Transferring Guardianship Across State Lines

By Scott C. Suzuki, Esq., Special Needs Alliance

Many individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are capable of making their own decisions, with or without support, and do not need a guardian. If, however, a person with disabilities has a guardian, there are likely to be complications that should be considered before one or both of them relocate to a different state. It may, in fact, be a good time to consider whether a more limited guardianship, power of attorney or supported decision-making might suffice.

Laws governing guardianship sometimes differ significantly from one state to the next, and depending on the jurisdiction, you could find yourself bogged down in red tape for months. The definition of “capacity” varies, as do limits on a guardian’s authority and numerous other factors. Sorting through the details is sufficiently complicated that it would be a good idea to consult with special needs attorneys from each state involved to make the transfer as smooth as possible.

When transferring a guardianship between states, it is important to determine whether the states have adopted the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA). To date, 42 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. have enacted the statute (click here for an up-to-date tally). Jurisdictions that have adopted this act will generally recognize the legal findings and guardianship orders issued by other states that have adopted UAGPPJA. The act includes a number of safeguards to ensure that when a person under guardianship moves between states, the move is made for appropriate reasons. In relevant part, the UAGPPJA requires that:

  • the relocation is in the best interests of the person under guardianship;
  • plans to support the person under guardianship in the new home are “reasonable and sufficient”;
  • no parties oppose the move; and
  • the relocation is permanent.

Under UAGPPJA, the guardian requests permission from courts in both the originating and new home states to begin proceedings, and the back-and-forth process becomes largely clerical, streamlining the process. There are exceptions, though. The use of different legal terms by the states involved can slow operations, but veteran attorneys can usually plow through the semantics. And sometimes, jurisdictions retain the right to add steps. When my home state of Hawaii adopted UAGPPJA, the legislature gave courts the discretion to hold evidentiary hearings.

In instances where both states have not approved reciprocity, complications can multiply. Guardians may need to petition the court in the originating state to allow the transfer to take place and may have to start guardianship proceedings from scratch in the new state. Fees could mount for attorneys, medical experts, and others, and the new court may ultimately disagree with previous findings. In the meantime, guardians must continue submitting reports and accountings to the first state. I know of a situation in which the process took two years and involved considerable expense.

The Special Needs Alliance (SNA), with highly experienced member attorneys in most states, is an excellent resource if you’re considering a relocation. SNA attorneys can advise you concerning not only the requirements for transferring guardianship, but also regarding differences in public programs and the availability of local services. If you’re thinking of moving across state lines, it’s best to begin planning as early as possible.

The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national non-profit comprised of attorneys who assist individuals with special needs, their families and the professionals who serve them. SNA is partnering with The Arc to provide educational resources, build public awareness, and advocate for policies on behalf of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families. The views expressed in the blog are those of the author.

ESEA Rewrite Enacted, Giving States and Districts More Say

By Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy, The Arc

On December 10, President Obama enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  This law replaces the unpopular No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  NCLB was perhaps most disliked for its unrealistic goals and punitive approaches towards schools that failed to reach them.  This resulted in 45 states seeking flexibility (“waivers”) from the laws various requirements in exchange for state developed plans.  Despite its many problems, however, NCLB did include major advances for student with disabilities, and preserving them was The Arc’s top priority in the legislative process.

NCLB reinforced that students with disabilities are general education students first and should be held to the same high expectations as all other students.  To do so, the law required, among other things, that students with disabilities participate in state and district-wide assessments and to have their progress measured and reported. This increased accountability for students with disabilities has resulted in dramatic increases in graduation rates, from 48% in 2001 to 64% in 2013.

What Does The Arc Think About the ESSA?

This new law is very important to us since it governs the general education classroom where most students with disabilities spend most of their instructional time.  While The Arc had advocated for a stronger federal role in the accountability system, we ultimately lent the bill our support as we believe it is stronger than NCLB and the waivers that are in effect today.

ESSA includes our main priority that students with disabilities continue to be included in state accountability systems and have access to the general education curriculum and challenging academic content standards.  Fortunately, it also added a number of key provisions for students with disabilities, such as limiting the number of students who take alternate assessments, requiring that parents be informed of potential consequences of taking such exams, intervening in schools were students with disabilities consistently underperform, and requiring states to explain how they will improve conditions for learning, such as reducing bullying and aversive behavioral interventions.

What Next?

Federal and state regulations will be developed to implement the new law.  It is critical that the I/DD community participate actively throughout this process.  The Arc’s chapter network can be instrumental in ensuring that states act in the best interests of students with I/DD.  The bottom line is there is much work ahead – we must be at the table discussing critical questions such as the design of tests, the number of tests, and what their academic standards ought to be.  By working together, we can help to fulfill the law’s purpose to “provide all children significant opportunity to receive fair, equitable, and high quality education and to close achievement gaps.”