New treatments begin in Exemplary Services

January 30, 2014 by Sue Reeves

two boys swimming

Swimming is one activity used by Clinical Services to promote social language skills.

Social skills classes and parenting classes are among new treatment options offered by the CPD’s Clinical Service division for children on the autism spectrum and their parents.

The social skills class s for children in the age 5-12 range who have some verbal skills and can hold a conversation in a rudimentary way, said Exemplary Services director Sue Olsen. These children often fall into a service “black hole.”

“The ones who do have language skills don’t get school services, and insurance won’t pay, because they have language,” Olsen said. “They just don’t have good social communication skills.”

The small groups started in November, Olsen said, led by Up to 3 clinician and speech pathologist Jacqueline Guymon and occupational therapist Amy Henningson.

About 10 children are currently participating in the evidence-based curriculum. Children are placed in groups of two to five based on developmental skill level, rather than age. Parents also receive assignments to work on with their children at home.

“We figure out how to group the kids on equal ground in the way of social and expressive communication skills,” Olsen said.

In addition to the classes, children are invited to participate in community activities, such as bowling, swimming or a trip to the Jump Zone. If the children attend a class, they are eligible to go to the next activity.

“They learn to initiate conversations in small groups,” Olsen said. “Jackie and Amy go with them to support them in practicing their skills or correcting behavior.”

A five-session punch card costs $60 and is good for two months, said Olsen. There are 15 to 20 opportunities to attend small group sessions or activities during that time frame. Individual sessions cost $15 each.

A parent education class called The ABCs of Behavior is being led by Up to 3 clinician Janel Preston. Parents receive a workbook and other reading materials and also complete homework assignments. Each lesson could stand alone, Olsen said, but they do build on each other.

In March or April, Olsen said, the goals is to start sessions for children who are non-verbal or don’t have conversation-level skills.

For more information on any of these classes, contact Up to 3 at 435-797-2043.

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Torres studies link between immune system and autism

January 29, 2014 by Sue Reeves

image of Torres

Dr. Anthony Torres

Research published by Dr. Anthony Torres from Utah State University’s Center for Person with Disabilities suggests a link between autism and the immune system. A new study by a different team of researchers appears to support Torres’ research.

Torres, a medical doctor, is the director of the CPD’s Biomedical Laboratory and has spent his entire career in research, formerly at the National Institute of Health, Yale University and private biotech companies, and now at USU.

Following leads published by former CPD researcher Dr. Reed Ward and a research group at the University of California-Davis, Torres’ research group examined KIR genes, which help regulate the killing response of Natural Killer lymphocytes (NK-lymphocytes). Their data suggests a highly significantly increase in activating KIR genes compared to inhibiting KIR genes, which indicates an increase killing response of NK-lymphocytes in subjects with autism. The research was published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity in January 2013. Another study, published in the same journal last month, supports Torres’ research.

Instead of scanning hundreds of thousands of genetic polymorphisms across the entire genome in this research, Torres and his team took a more targeted approach and examined very specific genes on chromosome 19 called the leukocyte receptor complex, in particular the KIR genes.

Torres studied DNA from two autism populations. Upon statistical examination, both groups have similar results, suggesting a strong association of KIR activating genes with autism.  Torres  is currently studying the same KIR genes in new samples received from the Genetic Disease Branch of the California Department of Health, which has one the largest bank of autism samples in the country.

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Innocenti to lead AUCD webinar on PICCOLO

January 27, 2014 by Sue Reeves

image of Innocenti

Mark Innocenti

Mark Innocenti, director of the Research and Evaluation Division at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, will lead a webinar from AUCD’s Early Intervention/Early Childhood (EIEC) Special Interest Group on the use of a recently published assessment tool developed by CPD researchers.

The Power of Parenting for Young Children with Disabilities: A Parent-Child Interaction Measurement Tool, Research Findings and Suggestions for Use will be presented Tuesday, January 28 from 4-5 p.m. EST (2-3 p.m. MST).  The webinar will present information on the Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO) tool, which provides a practical observation measure of developmentally supportive parenting with young children. Strategies for using the PICCOLO in practice will also be described. CPD researchers tested the reliability and validity of this measure with parents of children with an identified disability.

Innocenti is a member of AUCD’s Early Intervention workgroup and volunteered to lead the webinar because it is a topic of interest to the early intervention community, he said.

According to the webinar description, this information will be useful to anyone interested in early intervention with families who have a child with a disability and families where the parent may have a disability. The message for the field is that common parenting behaviors, in which parents typically engage, are important predictors of later outcomes for children with identified disabilities, and these parenting behaviors need to play a more salient role in Part C services.

For more information, or to register for the webinar, click here.


Budget, Medicaid expansion top discussions at event

January 24, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of legislators at event.

Legislators who attended a recent “Meet Your Elected Officials” event were (from left) Rep. Curt Webb, Rep. Lee Perry, Sen. Pete Knudsen, Rep. Ed Redd, Rep. Rhonda Menlove and Sen. Lyle Hillyard.

Local elected officials met with disability advocates and community members Wednesday evening to discuss topics of interest in advance of the upcoming legislative session. The event was sponsored by the Northern Utah Coalition on Disabilities (which includes the Center for Persons with Disabilities, Grassroots Advocacy Partnership and OPTIONS for Independence) in partnership with the Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Corp.

Legislators in attendance were Rep. Curt Webb, Rep. Lee Perry, Rep. Ed Redd, Rep. Rhonda Menlove, Sen. Pete Knudsen and Sen. Lyle Hillyard. Menlove chairs the social services appropriations subcommittee, which makes budget recommendations for social services and disability-related issues. Redd and Knudsen are also members of that committee.

As expected, the Medicaid expansion and budget issues were top priorities.

“There will be a Medicare increase whether we do anything or not,” Knudsen said. The requirements have changed, so that many people will qualify for Medicaid who didn’t before, without the state of Utah doing anything.

“Budget-wise, there’s about $25 million worth of new expenses because of the automatic increases that will come with those changes. There is an expansion already built into the system.”

The expansion itself is supposed to cost the state nothing for the first three years, Webb said, but when those three years are over, “that’s 40 million we have to find in the future. These are really complicated issues, with lots of moving parts—how does it affect recipients, how does it affect providers?”

“Right now this is a very political discussion,” Menlove said. “No one is saying there isn’t need. But how do you address that need? Some of that is related to taking money from the federal government. Utah has tried to look for some unique way to look at it that fits our economy and value system. There is no question we need to address the needs of people in the state … I think this is going to be discussed at great length. There are a great many people in the legislature who understand that there is great need.”

Redd agreed with Menlove.

“People are concerned about people with lower income having access to health care,” he said. “How do we best meet the medical needs of that group of people, care that oftentimes will help them get back on their feet?”

As a medical doctor who treats inmates at the Cache County jail, Redd said he sees mostly neglected health care issues.

“The county ends up paying for this,” he said. “We need to make sure people get adequate care.”

Perry said there is a legislative mandate to balance the budget.

“If we go forward with the expansion, we will have to ask the question of where do you want me to cut? Where do we take the money from?  Education, higher education, roads? We’re going to have to make those decisions,” he said. “We have to come up with that money from somewhere, and we will have to take something from somebody to make that happen.”

Cherissa Alldredge, Region 1 coordinator for Grassroots Advocacy Partnership, said the following day, “I think that the event was very successful. We had nearly as many attendees as last year and more legislators participated.”

Meeting the needs of the disability community in Cache Valley requires more than support from the social services committee, Alldredge said. Elected officials across a wide array of legislative interests must be made aware of these needs.

“It is critical that advocates continue to involve these, and other elected officials serving on committees that may not focus on disability issues, in their advocacy efforts,” Alldredge said.  “Explaining what the needs of the disability community are, how allocated funds are used, and–where possible–helping legislators find opportunities to improve efficiency would all go a long way in what will likely be very difficult budget discussions.”

Weekly legislative updates will be presented by local elected officials in the multi-purpose room at the Cache County office building at 7:30 a.m. every Saturday during the legislative session, beginning Feb. 1.

Disability rights are civil rights

January 22, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By JC Vazquez, CPD Multicultural Coordinator

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to supporters in Washington, D.C. in 1963. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Every time I have the opportunity to go to Washington D.C., one of my favorite activities to do in the evenings after a long day of meetings or sessions is to go for a walk to visit the Washington, Lincoln and Martin Luther king Jr. memorials. I find it refreshing and uplifting to visit the sites remembering individuals that have shaped and transformed our nation for their great contributions. I find myself thankful and appreciative for such contributions.

As we commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., I would like to share some important information to remember a great man and his vision of equality for all individuals, regardless of race, color, gender and ability.

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but his father later changed both their names to Martin, after German reformer Martin Luther. Both his grandfather and father served as pastors of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. King served as co-pastor from 1960 until his death in 1968.

King attended segregated public schools in Georgia and received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Black institution in Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated.

In 1963, 250,000 demonstrators marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, where King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, that all inhabitants of the United States would be judged by their personal qualities and not by the color of their skin.

The following year, President Johnson got a law passed prohibiting all racial discrimination, and at the age of 35, King was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated by a white racist.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is from his 1963 book, Strength to Love: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”

Civil Rights and Disability Rights

As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for civil rights, it’s also a good time to think about how his legacy applies to disability rights.

Resulting from King’s extraordinary efforts in the civil rights movement, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed on July 26, 1990. Equal opportunities should be available to all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, disable or able-bodied. The disability right movement to this day can still be promoted and fought for by people with and without disabilities. King did his part by spreading awareness of the status and treatment of people with disabilities. Now, it is our privilege and responsibility to continue with these ideals and that his hard work is not forgotten.