Art, Photo & Essay Contest celebrates diversity

September 29, 2011 by cpehrson

There are over 400,000 people with disabilities who live in Utah.  It is a better place to live because of the diversity that surrounds us.

Here is an opportunity to share your thoughts about diversity through art, photography, or an essay.

The Utah Disability Law Center is sponsoring a contest with the theme of:  Diversity:  All kinds of minds and bodies working together. The deadline for submitting entries is October 18, 2011. Entries can be submitted to Disability Law Center, 205 North 400 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84103. Entries can also be brought to the Center for Persons with Disabilities on the Utah State University campus–just leave them with Sharon Weston.

All ages are invited to participate.

Winners will receive cash prizes and their art will be featured at a November event honoring Dr. Temple Grandin’s visit to Utah in November.

The CPD is proud to be one of the sponsors of Dr. Grandin’s visit to the USU campus on November 1-2, with a luncheon, lecture and book signing.

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Brown Bag Discussion: CPD’s ASD Interdisciplinary Clinic

September 29, 2011 by cpehrson

“This is the place we should be doing this,” claimed one of the presenters at this month’s CPD Brown Bag discussion.

He was talking about the new ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) Clinic that opened at the CPD earlier this year.

Dr. Martin Toohill, along with fellow clinicians George Wooten, Janel Preston, and Vicki Simonsmeier, shared with an interested audience how the concept of  developing an interdisciplinary team at the CPD evolved out of a brainstorming session during a URLEND training project.

“The idea of working in (medical) ‘teams’ is a relatively new concept in Western practices,” Wooten told CPD staff.  ‘What better place in Cache Valley to do this than here at the CPD where we have all the disciplines represented.”

The purpose of the ASD Clinic is to provide one place where parents can bring their child when they suspect signs of autistic behaviors and receive a diagnosis that denies or confirms their feelings…and do this in as efficient and thorough a way as possible.

Because autism encompasses a broad spectrum of symptoms, a single brief evaluation cannot predict a child’s true abilities or diagnosis.  The Clinic offers a best-practices interdisciplinary, one-stop, unified approach.  The team consists of a pediatrician, a psychologist, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, an audiologist, and a care coordinator, all of whom are part of the CPD family.

Early intervention care coordinator, Janel Preston, said that the greatest complaint she hears from parents is that, during their child’s initial diagnosis, they had to ‘go around to see twenty different people, answer the same questions over and over again, and do this all in the same building.’

The ASD Clinic will eliminate those problems which will lessen the stress on parents and give the child a more thorough evaluation.  Along with the interdisciplinary diagnosis, parents will receive recommendations for treatment and intervention options.

The presenters were very excited and optimistic for the future of the ASD Clinic.  The next hurdle is to make it financially viable, and then “there is no limit to the direction this service can go!”


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Is there enough money for special education?

September 28, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

Martin Blair, left, at the Utah Utah Special Education Law Institute

By Dr. Martin Blair, associate director at Technical Assistiance for Excellence in Special Education.

The Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at the CPD organizes a variety of special education conferences and meetings around the country. We talk about  discipline, family involvement, compliance with federal regulations, etc.

But the “hallway chatter” these days usually ends up on the same topic: “How are we going to provide increasingly expensive special education with current or decreasing funding levels?”

States have a federal requirement to budget at least the same or more funds for special education from year to year.  This can be nearly impossible for those states who see their annual income decrease from year to year. Some states have asked that this “Maintenance of State Fiscal Support” or MFS requirement be waived. Special education advocates see this as a reduction in services to children with disabilities.

Local school districts, including Charter schools, are required to spend the same amount from year to year. This is referred to as the local “Maintenance of Effort–MOE” requirement. The exceptions to this rule are few and very specific. (See OSEP Memo 10-5.)

State and local special education administrators ask, “Should states and districts be held to these MFS or MOE requirements even when funds for other critical social services are reduced or cut completely?” “Should the federal government grant MFS waivers to States?” “If States provide less funding to local districts, how will special education services be prioritized, especially if the federal law requires that each eligible student receive a free appropriate public education?”

Advocates, families, students and school administrators answer these questions in a variety of ways. The bottom line: there may not be a right or best answer, only a better answer. However, what is “better” depends on which policies and programs we each find most important and most closely aligned with our personal values.

Note: This issue is discussed in detail in an Education Week article by Nirvi Shah, the website’s special education blogger.

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Autism Reauthorization bill awaits President’s signature

September 27, 2011 by cpehrson

Last night, the United States Senate passed the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) as one of its last acts before going on recess. It is now awaiting President Obama’s signature.

Extending this law allows the autism research, education, and early identification efforts begun in 2006 to continue, reauthorizing $693 million for the next three years, something that advocates feared might be gone by the end of next week.

“Reauthorizing the Combating Autism Act is a crucial step towards advancing our knowledge on autism.  We are now able to ensure research programs continue finding breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment, and that training and intervention programs continue providing families the tools they need to better understand and manage this increasingly prevalent affliction,” U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) network members worked along side legislators, family members, advocates, and autism and disability organizations to inform Congress about the importance of continuing these important autism-related activities.  Their hard work helped make this reauthorization possible.

Several CPD projects focus on autism research, training, diagnosis, and intervention, including the ABC early intervention classroom, the ASSERT preschool classroom, Early Markers for Autism Biomedical research project, and the ASD Interdisciplinary Clinic.

The CPD is part of the AUCD’s national network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs).

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CPD Legacy Story: Karen Robinson

September 27, 2011 by cpehrson

This CPD Legacy Story is from Karen Robinson.  Karen volunteers at the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center, part of the Center of Technical Assistance in Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at the CPD.

By Karen Robinson as told to Connie Pehrson.

When I was looking for a part time job over twenty years ago, little did I know I would find the perfect job!

I have worked at the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center at the CPD for the past 23 years. I started out working in the MPRRC Library with Julia Burnham (now retired), doing some filing. I now work a day or two each week for a couple of hours shredding papers, helping with the recycling, book binding, and whatever else they need done.  I like working here because they allow me to be flexible with my schedule. I have recently decided to continue to work here as a volunteer so that I can stay in touch with all of the great people that have become my friends through the years.

Having cerebral palsy hasn’t slowed me down much.  The Cache Valley Transit buses help me to get to and from work because I am able to get my electric scooter on it easily.

The buses also help me get to the activities offered by the local Options for Independence Center in Logan.   I have made some great Halloween costumes for their annual Halloween Party, and have had my picture in the Herald Journal showing them off a couple of times.  Most of the time I win first place!  I have also come in first place a few times in their 3K scooter/power chair races held each year.

I like my job, and I like to work.  Coming to work each week gets me out of the house and gives me a feeling of satisfaction.  I want to thank all of the great people at the MPRRC for letting me come and helping me to be productive and independent.

Here's a selection of photos showing Karen in her Halloween costumes.

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