July 2011



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Guiding Eyes

For guide dogs like Chen Yan’s Jenny, many public places are still inaccessible due to the absence of a proper regulation. Zhang Wei / China Daily


Updated: 2011-07-16 14:09

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)


Lack of rules creates working hurdles for assistance dogs


Under other circumstances, Jenny would be treated as one of China’s “talents”. One of only 34 specialists in her field, she would be widely respected and given carte blanche in her work. But Jenny is a dog, a guide dog for a blind Beijing woman. And too many people and businesses won’t let her do her job.


“I have never succeeded in taking Jenny into the subway station near my house,” Chen Yan says. “I was refused six times, with the reason that they don’t know how to deal with a guide dog appearing in the subway.” She has encountered similar problems in restaurants and with cab drivers and airlines. It’s not animosity but ignorance that bars the way.


A railway station director in Beijing who asked not to be named says there is no direct boarding access for a blind person and guide dog. “We know it is not forbidden, but we just don’t know how to do this, what rules we should abide by.”


According to Beijing’s blind people protection regulation, a blind person alone can ride the subway for free.


New in China


Guide dogs assist visually impaired and blind people by avoiding obstacles, stopping at curbs and steps, and negotiating traffic. Assistance dogs also can be trained to help the deaf and hard of hearing or people with such disabilities as autism or seizure disorders. All are considered working animals.


In most countries where guide dogs have been introduced, people who use assistance dogs are guaranteed access to all places and modes of transportation available to the general public.


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July 16, 2011|By Allison Steele, Inquirer Staff Writer


Philadelphia police said Friday that they were still piecing together how a 4-year-old boy was shot to death inside a Kensington house this week, but sources close to the investigation said someone would be charged in the near future.


Police sources described the death of Javier Merle Jr. as accidental, and said the boy may have picked up a gun left unattended.


The child’s death left family members anguished and residents of the 600 block of East Clementine Street shocked.


Candles, stuffed animals, and toy cars were placed in front of the boy’s home, along with a red tricycle. Car windows bore messages of “R.I.P. Lil Javie” and “Good die young.”


On Friday morning, family and friends sat quietly in front of the house. When asked about the boy, one young man looked down.


“There’s nothing to say, really,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “The little one is gone. That’s it.”


Police have been tight-lipped about the circumstances of the shooting. They have acknowledged that they believe several adults were in the home at the time, and they have questioned the boy’s parents and other relatives.


“The case is very much under investigation,” Capt. James Clark said Friday. “We’re still not sure what happened.”


Police arrived at the house around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, responding to a call about a child bleeding from the head. Javier was pronounced dead at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children shortly afterward.


The boy’s parents declined to comment Friday. The couple have two younger children who also live in the house.


After the shooting, investigators combed the house and the area in search of the weapon. A gun was found, police said, but they are not certain it is the one that killed the boy.


The narrow block is dotted with rundown houses, but is also filled with families and parents who sit on the steps and chat while their children play. On Friday, a hopscotch court was drawn in chalk on the street and a few friends washed off their grill for a barbecue.


Javier, who was autistic, was known as a friendly presence on the block who loved video games and superheroes.


“All the kids here play together,” said one young woman who asked not to be named because “I would not feel safe.”


Neighbors said Merle and his wife were friendly and devoted to their children.


“They loved that little boy,” said one woman, who also declined to give her name. “They love all of their kids. This is a great loss to us.”


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Columbus, Ohio

July 18, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Service providers and advocates for Ohioans with disabilities still are sorting through the details of the state’s new two-year budget to see how budget cuts will affect the lives of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. As the budget is implemented, significant changes to services are expected across the board to programs which help individuals with disabilities.


Some of the cuts include reductions to the Help Me Grow program, which provides developmental services for children from birth through age 3, reductions in subsidies to county boards of developmental disabilities, and education cuts that will impact special-education programs.


Barb Yavorcik, executive director of the Autism Society of Ohio, says some of those who will be impacted the greatest are the thousands who are on waiting lists for services. Their needs won’t be addressed now, she says.

“Folks that are looking for just a little bit of help – maybe some respite care or some medication help or some basic therapy – won’t be able to get it because of the fact that services are being cut instead of being added to.

Yavorcik’s advice for individuals with disabilities and their families is to be aware of what’s coming.


“It’s important to be a strong advocate, know what your rights are and be informed, and talk to the folks who are delivering your services to make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to.”


People with disabilities are among the state’s most vulnerable citizens, Yavorcik says, adding that leaders need to keep that in mind as they make important budget decisions.


“It’s not necessarily cutting so much as thoughtful use of the resources, and making sure the resources are working for the families that need them the most.”


One interesting addition to the budget, Yavorcik says, is the creation of the Jon Peterson Special Education Scholarship, which provides a voucher for any special-education student on an Individualized Education Program.


More information on how the new budget affects individuals with disabilities can be found online at autismohio.org.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH


New Zealand

By Amelia Romanos of NZPA

6:03 PM Monday Jul 18, 2011


The Government is being called on to do more to help those on the autism spectrum, as Autism New Zealand pins hopes of saving its Waikato branch on a funding miracle.


The six staff at the branch were given four weeks’ notice of redundancy on Friday after a lack of Government funding and donations forced a decision to close.


Chief executive Alison Molloy said there had been some amazing responses since news about Waikato’s closure broke, but she had not had an offer that would save the branch.


“It is only day one,” she said.


There were no plans to shut down any of the other 15 branches, but Ms Molloy said they were vulnerable.


“When you’re dependent on one-off funding, in this particular environment, it means that they’re all working really hard to keep on delivering services.”


Waikato had previously received a $35,000 community response fund from the Ministry of Social Development, but this year all of Autism New Zealand’s branches had their applications for the funding turned down on grounds of eligibility.


Ms Molloy said the organisation was struggling against the Government’s understanding of where autism sat.


“We say that autism is not just a health issue, it’s a social issue, as well as an education, employment, justice one, it’s a cross-agency problem,” she said.


“The Government needs to acknowledge how this can work because there are 40,000 people, or there abouts, with some degree of autism.


“While there is some tagged money for autism that the Government has put aside it equates to about $125 per person on the spectrum, so it’s pretty minimal.”


Opposition parties have jumped on the branch’s closure as an example of the Government not getting its priorities in order, with Labour health spokesman Grant Robertson saying it should be a wake up call.


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Published Online: July 20, 2011

By Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News (MCT)


As a commercial software expert for the financial services industry, Ted Conley was frustrated with the technology that a speech therapist recommended to help his developmentally disabled son. So he decided to build his own application.


In place of an unwieldy and expensive device with buttons that his son struggled to press, Conley developed a series of apps that allow the now 3-year-old Pierce to signal words and sentences by lightly touching a series of familiar pictures on an iPad screen, which prompts an audio program to play the words out loud.


Conley’s line of “TapSpeak” programs are among scores of new apps available to help children with autism or other conditions that interfere with their ability to speak, learn or socialize.


Most of the early apps have been associated with Apple’s iPad, but some are available for a variety of touch-screen gadgets, including those running Google’s Android. Hewlett-Packard recently announced plans for a volunteer “hackathon” to create a series of touch-screen apps in conjunction with a national advocacy group, Autism Speaks.


Parents and educators say the ease of use, visual impact and intuitive nature of a touch screen, combined with the portability and “cool factor” of a tablet computer, have led to near-miraculous breakthroughs for children with a variety of disabilities.


“These tablets are giving children a voice,” said Gary James, a Connecticut father who started a website to review apps for children with special needs, based on his own experience with a 6-year-old son, Benjamin, who has autism.


For some children with autism, experts say, images on a computer screen draw closer attention than pictures on paper. For older kids, a sleek tablet doesn’t carry the stigma of bulky, conspicuous special education equipment. Most importantly, a touch screen eliminates the difficulty that a child with autism or motor disabilities might have with manipulating a keyboard or understanding the connection between a mouse and cursor.


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Published on Sunday 17 July 2011 22:19


A rare picture by the internationally acclaimed artist Richard Wawro will go under the hammer this week.


The 1972 pencil and crayon drawing entitled Diesel Train, which is one of only a handful of works by the artist ever to come to auction, could fetch up to £2,000.


The picture will be sold by McTear’s Auctioneers in Glasgow on Tuesday.


Wawro, who died in 2006, was an autistic savant, the term refers to individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills such as exceptional artistic, mathematical or musical abilities.


The artist, who was based in Fife, was noted for his remarkable landscapes and at the time of his death, his work had featured in over 100 exhibitions.


His drawings have been bought by many high profile figures including Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.


Brian Clements, managing director at McTear’s, said: “Richard Wawro’s work has an international following and although he exhibited widely during his lifetime it is very rare for one of his pictures to appear at auction.


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By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor


Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.


1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.


Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodge ball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.


Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?


By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.


2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.


While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.


The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.


Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.


Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.


3. Do what you love.


It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.


4. Manage your time well.


One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. Their to-do list expands, while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.


We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.


Here are Vanderkam’s seven steps to help you check off your to-do list and find time for the things you truly enjoy.


5. Create a toolbox of techniques.


One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.


Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.


Here’s a list of additional techniques to help you build your toolbox.


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Featured Article
Academic Journal


Article Date: 11 Jul 2011 – 2:00 PDT


New genetic mutations that are not inherited from one’s parents appear to happen more frequently in people with schizophrenia than might normally be expected in healthy individuals said a team of scientists led by Dr Guy A Rouleau from the University of Montreal in Canada. The team hopes their discovery, which includes genes not linked to schizophrenia before, will provide a list of genes for researching how the disease develops, and also lead to new treatments.


Rouleau and colleagues found the new or de novo mutations, that is genetic errors present in a person that are not present in their biological parents, when they examined about 20,000 genes in the “exomes” of 14 patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected parents. They write about their discovery in this week’s issue of Nature Genetics.


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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 13th 2011


I have written a few articles about the benefits of psychiatric service dogs for those who suffered from PTSD, especially as a result of combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.


However, most of the information gathered about the benefits of these dogs was criticized for being informal and, therefore, unsubstantiated by scientifically controlled studies.


Another criticism has been that, many of the articles describing the benefits of pet ownership, concentrated on people who were either socially isolated, depressed, and severely anxious.


That has changed as a result of three studies recently reported in the highly respected Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 6. 10.1037/a0024506.


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Janet Singer Updated: Jul 13th 2011


During OCD Awareness Week this past October, I sat in front of my computer, mesmerized, as I watched a live internet broadcast of first-person OCD stories. At the same time these stories were being broadcast, there were chat rooms open where people could connect and talk about anything related to OCD. I joined right in, letting everyone know that while I was not an OCD sufferer myself, my twenty-year-old son had recently recovered from severe OCD. I wanted to share our story as well as learn all I could about the disorder.


At one point during the chat, I connected with a distraught young woman who had been seeing a therapist for quite some time, but her OCD was getting worse, not better. “Is the ERP Therapy too difficult for you to do?” I asked her. “ERP Therapy?” she responded. “What’s that?”


I was stunned, though in retrospect I’m not sure why. Our family had floundered and then fought our way through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, desperately trying to find the best help possible for Dan. But I had thought Dan was the only one who had been steered in the wrong direction, sent to the wrong therapists, and put on the wrong medications. It was then and there that I became an advocate for OCD awareness.


Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP Therapy) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and, in my son’s case, a very effective treatment for OCD. In a nutshell, this therapy involves the person with OCD facing his or her fears and then refraining from ritualizing. This can be extremely anxiety provoking initially, but eventually the anxiety starts to wane, and can sometimes even disappear. A concrete example of ERP Therapy in action would involve someone with OCD who has issues with germs. They might be asked to touch a toilet seat and then refrain from washing their hands. Treating OCD with ERP therapy has even been the topic of some reality shows over the past few years. So why do so many therapists remain in the dark?


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