Survey seeks answers about autism spectrum disorder

February 27, 2009 by JoLynne Lyon

Doctors’ offices in northern Utah will be surveyed about autism screening in March, as part of a larger effort to implement Utah’s State Plan for Improving Outcomes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and other Developmental Disabilities.

Autism spectrum disorder continues to be the fastest-growing developmental disability in Utah. The survey of doctors’ offices in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties will seek to further understand ASD diagnoses by asking how and when northern Utah physicians screen for autism. A featured story about the survey and early detection underscores the benefits of early intervention after an ASD diagnosis is made.

For additional background on ASDs, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ autism page and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Learn the Signs, Act Early campaign.

From the CPD Director: Get Involved!

February 26, 2009 by Bryce

Dr. Bryce Fifield is the director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Dr. Bryce Fifield is the director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities.

I get the chance to talk with lots of different people as part of my job.  I’m always interested when somebody I’m talking with expresses frustration about how different disability service programs are not meeting their needs or how the government just doesn’t get it.  They often say something like, “It’s just so political” to explain their frustration.

Well, it is political.  But that should not be an excuse for not understanding how things work.  A good deal of politics is about describing a position on a topic and then defending it.  It’s something that many people in the disability community are not really very good at.  Consequently, we are left to opinion shapers elsewhere in the community to describe our situation for us.

We all need to get involved in creating public opinion.  That’s one of the reasons we have re-designed the CPD web site.  For example, the CPD blog is one place where you can express your opinions and engage in discussion.  Please feel free to comment on the blog entries.  If you have an idea for a blog entry, please drop editor JoLynne Lyon an email.

There are other places on our web site where you can participate.  For example, you can register your opinion on our survey questions.  You can make suggestions for feature articles, you can post events on our calendar, and you can volunteer to make a difference with the CPD’s programs.

You can make a difference.  Each voice is important, but only those voices that are heard can influence others.  Exercise your voice and get involved.  Your opinion and contribution are key to helping us create the community where we all want to live.

Screen reader survey nets an overwhelming response

February 25, 2009 by JoLynne Lyon

When a team of WebAIM specialists asked screen reader users what they liked, they would have been happy with 100 responses. They received 1100. Nearly 90 percent of the respondents were people with disabilities, and they made several hundred pages of open-ended comments that will keep the team busy analyzing for a long time.

The overwhelming response underscores a theme that comes up often in accessibility:  the people who need accessible features should be the ones who decide whether they work. In this case, the survey targeted people who use  assistive technology to read computer screens. The Center for Persons with Disabilities’ WebAIM team  wanted to know the habits and preferences of that group, in order to advise Web designers on how to make their pages accessible.

They also wanted to know if the screen reader users who responded used the technology because of a disability. The distinction is important because some users are technology evaluators who do not need a reader to access the Internet.

The researchers expected some of the survey’s findings, and they were surprised by others. They discuss it in more depth in this featured story. The survey’s preliminary results are also available.

Legislative update on Clay’s Law

February 19, 2009 by Skylor

Skylor Pond is a recent Utah State University graduate who comes to the CPD though a partnership with Deseret Industries. He researches and writes on disability issues.

Skylor Pond is a recent Utah State University graduate who comes to the CPD though a partnership with Deseret Industries. He researches and writes on disability issues.

Senate Bill  43, or Clay’s Law, would mandate the insurance companies in the state of Utah to cover treatments for autism spectrum disorders such as autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified.   Currently in the senate, Clay’s Law passed the second reading and now needs to pass a third reading before it goes on to the House.

If the bill becomes a law it will “require that an accident or health insurance policy that provides a health insurance benefit shall provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders, grant rulemaking authority to the Insurance Commissioner, describe minimum coverage amounts and limits for the insurance coverage required by this bill, and provide for annual adjustment of the coverage amounts described in the preceding lines, based on the Consumer Price Index.”

The 2009 General Session of the Utah State Legislature ends March 12, 2009.

Students discuss disability at state capitol

February 10, 2009 by JoLynne Lyon

Representative Fred Hunsaker talks to students from the CPD's disability awareness course.

Representative Fred Hunsaker talks to students from the CPD's disability awareness course.

Utah State University students spoke out about the issues that mattered to them at this year’s Utah Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities’ reception.

They made the trip to Salt Lake in February with the Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning class, offered through the Center for Persons with Disabilities on the Utah State University campus.

Student Aria Spear said the experience was valuable. “It was so informative. … I’m glad that I came. It will be easier to contact him [State Senator Lyle Hillyard] if I have concerns.”

Spear wanted more information about a legislative budget cut that repealed an extra dependency exemption to families of a child with disabilities. The exemption is no longer available on 2008 Utah state income tax returns.

The change came after a marathon session of budget cutting. Representative Fred Hunsaker said the goal was to create more stable income tax revenue, but he was sorry the exemption was lost. “That’s not a good tradeoff,” he said.

Spear also wanted to know whether her legislators supported Clay’s Law, which would require insurance companies to cover autism services  for Utah families.

The subject interested several of the students who went on the trip. Representative Fred Hunsaker of Logan told the students that he supported Clay’s Law (SB 43), though he had reservations about mandating insurance coverage in general.

As for the bill, Senator Hillyard was not sure how far it would go in this year’s legislative session. He told student Jody Facer that he would probably support it, though he had some reservations about supporting mandates on insurance companies. “Though he could tell that what he had to say wasn’t what I wanted to hear, he was really honest about it,” she said. Facer is the mother of two children with autism.

As of February 10, Clay’s Law remained in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it has been since January 28.

Attendees fill the rotunda at the Utah Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities’ reception.

Attendees fill the rotunda at the Utah Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities’ reception.

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