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REQUIRING DISABILITY TRAINING FOR DOCTORS

People with disabilities and their advocates have spent years pushing for a requirement that medical schools begin to specifically train students on treating people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It may come as a surprise, however, there is currently no standard for such training in the medical community.

In 2019 two proposals were made that would have established a mandate on the standard curriculum of medical schools to include training on the treatment of developmental and intellectual disabilities. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), a group sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges rebuffed the proposals.

Now, in 2020 the committee responsible for creating the minimum standards for curriculum are set to discuss a new, revised version of one of the proposals. The new effort will better prepare future doctors and healthcare professionals to treat people with developmental disabilities

$1.75 million has been allocated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living that will go towards a new initiative over the next five years. As of now, there are five universities that will begin studies on the existing training and create new standardized practices and materials to be incorporated into medical schools’ curriculum.

The new curriculum being developed will be implemented first at Rush University, St. John Fisher College, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Minnesota, and Villanova University. There are 30 other schools that will ultimately include the training across a number of healthcare fields. 

The project, “Partnering to Transform Health Outcomes with Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities” will be assisted by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as their families through every stage of the training process.

This latest effort by medical professionals and educators to address just how limited doctors’ knowledge of developmental disabilities is. The ultimate goal of the program is to improve the quality of care and the health outcomes for individuals with these disabilities. By better preparing doctors the future of health care will improve immensely, as a population of people, long overlooked, finally get the acknowledgment necessary.

Originally published Russ Ewell’s website.

Great Books Written by People with Disabilities

While it is of the utmost importance to recognize the existence of disabilities and the absolute need for accessibility and representation, it is also important to take the time to celebrate the achievements of individuals who have disabilities. 

One major controversy among the disabled community is the lack of true representation on a number of levels. For instance, all too often non-disabled actors and actresses are cast to play disabled characters while actual disabled actors are left disappointed and struggling to find work. The lack of representation in the disabled community is nothing new. It wasn’t until 1988 that Gallaudet University (A school for the deaf) had it’s first deaf president, and it was only after the students protested and fought to see themselves reflected in leadership.

With these common representation issues in mind, here is a list of great books about disabled characters that were actually written by disabled authors. 

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis is a great work of fiction. It follows an autistic woman named Denise as she navigates the apocalypse. The story takes place in the year 2034 in the Netherlands. The protagonist, Denise tries to find her missing sister while helping her troubled motherboard a spaceship. If you like creative takes on the end of the world, this is a book for you.

Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen

This beautifully done anthology of poetry is written strictly by American poets who live with physical disabilities. The collection explores a number of poetry movements, from language to narrative, and includes writing on blindness, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and many other disabilities. The poets share complex thoughts and feelings surrounding relationships with themselves and their respective disabilities.

No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction by Ellen Painter Dollar

Painter tells her moving life story of living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a genetic bone disorder. After passing the disorder down to her first child she must decide whether or not to conceive her second child using assisted reproduction to avoid another OI diagnosis in the family. The book does a great job of sharing the many sides of the debate surrounding advanced reproductive technologies.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

UNDERSTANDING HOW DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ARE DIFFERENT

It is very common for people to mistakenly believe that diversity equates to inclusivity when in fact, the two are not synonymous. Inclusion centers on people feeling valued, accepted, and respected while diversity involves a number of different characteristics, such as a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Although companies in every industry have been promoting diversity in the workplace for years it is imperative that human resource departments are ensuring that not only are the work environments diverse but that employees are experiencing a consistent sense of inclusivity.

Diversity is viewed as a wonderful asset to a business’s success and inclusion should be considered just as important. When a business successfully creates an inclusive and diverse workplace employee creativity, collaboration, and overall satisfaction are improved. 

The most common issue within an organization is that while leaders work diligently to build a diverse workforce the company culture is often overlooked and employees are left feeling isolated due to the lack of inclusion. The very first step that management should take to promote inclusion is gaining a clear understanding of how diversity and inclusion differ.

Leaders at authoritative levels should highly consider making mandatory training and getting everyone involved. Not only should inclusion be explained, but strategies should be formed so that employees know how to foster diversity while simultaneously strengthening inclusion.  If a team is already very diverse there should be an astounding amount of opportunities to help improve company culture.

Furthermore, management must listen to their employees. By utilizing focus groups and surveys those in charge can gain insight into the level of engagement among staff and pinpoint any existing issues. It’s a great idea for human resources to create anonymous surveys so that people feel comfortable and safe to speak up and voice their opinions and needs. People should feel heard and be willing to express their concerns without worrying about retribution.

When establishing a plan to build more inclusivity, the goals set should be easily measurable to review at specific dates and times. Check-ins with employees can take place leading up to the goal dates so that if anyone is struggling they receive the proper assistance. Identify people’s shortcomings or difficulties in a healthy manner. FOr instance, if some workers use English as a second language then distribute materials for meetings beforehand so that everyone has an equal opportunity to process information in a timely fashion. This will ensure that everyone will be included in the conversation and capable of giving accurate feedback. This small practice can also benefit people on the team who may be more introverted.

Finally, management should encourage getting people out of their comfort zones from time to time. Although people naturally make habits and stick to what is comfortable, wonderful things can happen when different groups of people get together. Mix things up during collaborations and see how many new perspectives are gained.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

BECOMING A MORE INCLUSIVE LEADER

Being an inclusive leader is one of the most effective ways to help your company succeed. When implemented consistently, inclusivity boosts employee productivity and morale. Inclusive leaders from every sector of business have proven that the approach nurtures an environment of connection, respect, and involvement. Here are five practices to use when you are working towards being a more inclusive leader.

Acknowledge Unconscious Bias

As with personal relationships, you will find that each of your employees has norms, rituals, values, and beliefs that are integrated into every facet of their work. To be an inclusive leader, take note of any biases that you have about your employees as you observe their behaviors. Challenging these thought patterns helps you get to know your employees as real people and unlocks potential for growth and overcoming challenges in your business.

Leave No Rules to Chance

You set the tone and norms for your business, and you need to make sure that your employees are on the same page. To be an inclusive leader, write down rules that reflect how you expect your employees to interact with each other and your customers. Even the most fundamental rules should be clearly written and referred to as needed. In an inclusive work environment, you will bring together people from different backgrounds and cultures that may define what is considered cultural norms outside the workplace. Thriving in an inclusive company means that everyone knows what is expected and follows through on those expectations.

Hold People Accountable

An important practice that is used by inclusive leaders is to hold all staff to the rules and norms that you outline for your business. Even the smallest misstep should be addressed quickly and appropriately. You not only clarify expectations to the individual but also let your staff know that you are willing to maintain an environment that is safe and comfortable for everyone.

Understand Diverse Perspectives

Being a more inclusive leader means that you take the time to consider everyone’s perspective. Culture, gender, race, religious beliefs, and many other socioeconomic factors influence an individual’s perception, thoughts, ideas, and comfort level. Overcome your assumptions that everyone has the same comfort level as you or other staff in any given situation.

Value Differences

Differences in ideas, approaches, beliefs, and other aspects can be the root of conflict within any business environment. Teach yourself and your employees to value differences because they help to define comprehensive strategies and solutions. Model behavior that respects and encourages differences in your company if you want to be an inclusive leader.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Navigating the Developmental Services System

According to the research by the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy, families often have to wait for months or even years before receiving the formal diagnosis necessary to begin receiving services. Such delays can be very detrimental to some children as there are often critical windows of time in which interventions for specific conditions such as Rett’s Syndrome or autism are most effective.

Bureaucratic Delays

Notwithstanding the increases in postponements of services because of the pandemic that prevent children’s interactions with professionals or doctors, the chief reasons for delays are the bureaucratic inefficiencies and complexity of a state’s system for detecting and providing services to children’s developmental issues. Often, with little or no guidance, parents must deal with various health care providers, insurance programs, and special education departments, all of which have different eligibility criteria. One mother complained, “I felt like I had been shot out like a pinball and I just kept bumping into these different things that were kind of pushing me along.” It took two years before this parent obtained a diagnosis for her autistic daughter. This delay caused the loss of a critical period for the girl’s interventions that would have greatly benefitted her.

Interactive Flowchart

Unfortunately, there is often no cohesive system in which each department’s representative knows what the previous person has said and done. As an illustration of the complex issues that parents encounter in California, an interactive flowchart was created by the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy to show the various pathways that a family having a child under four years of age must navigate to receive support for a social-emotional or developmental health issue.

This chart does not include the first challenge of identifying a child’s problem and procuring a diagnosis. It does, however, illustrate several possible systems that a family may need to deal with, such as California Children’s Services, Medi-Cal, and Early Start programs. There are also local educational agencies, community-based programs, county mental health plans, and managed-care plans.

Improvements

Taking steps to improve the system, California is expanding and clarifying early intervention eligibility. It is making improvements in its collection of statewide data and accountability for managed care plans. Developing preventative services for young children at risk for mental health or developmental problems has also been included. Sometimes, when a child is small, preventive services for young children with treatable problems can keep such conditions from becoming worse.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

How the Pandemic Has Hurt Early Intervention

For many special needs students, early intervention is a key part of providing assistance. By giving children accommodations and therapy at an early age, they get the tools they need to continue growing and advancing. Unfortunately, many child therapists worry that the COVID-19 crisis may make early intervention more challenging. There are a few unique factors that may keep children from getting the diagnosis and care they need.

Teletherapy Doesn’t Address Unique Needs of Many Families

Most therapists have had to put an end to in-person visits for the time being. Early intervention experts are continuing to help their clients with the use of teletherapy, however, this can be challenging. Some children do not respond well to voice instructions and televised body language. Instead, they need physical contact and hands-on therapy to be engaged. Without their regular therapy sessions, many therapists worry that patients are regressing or falling behind in progress.

Professionals Who Can Spot Warning Signs Are Not Seeing Children Now

In many cases, it is not a parent who first decides a child needs testing and treatment. Parents are often not trained to recognize early warning signs, which can be very subtle. Often, symptoms go away when a child is in a familiar environment, so it may be hard for a parent to notice things like the socializing challenges present in autism spectrum disorders. Instead, it is often pediatricians and school teachers who recommend that a parent see a specialist. With many families staying at home, they are not interacting with experts who could refer them to get help. Brighton, an Early Childhood Intervention agency reports that their number of monthly referrals has dropped from around 350 to below 100.

Government Funding May Be on the Decline

Most early intervention programs are at least partially funded by the government. However, most departments calculate the amount of funding a clinic receives by looking at the number of patients in the previous year. With 2020 referrals so low, many therapists are left worrying their budget will be slashed in the upcoming year. Furthermore, available funds may be used for COVID-19 business relief efforts instead of childhood care. This may make it even harder to provide care to at-risk families.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

NAVIGATING VIRTUAL COLLEGE AS A STUDENT WITH DISABILITIES

Virtual College for Disabled Learners: A Need for Advocacy

Virtual education has quickly become a part of the “new normal” as many colleges and universities in the United States have made the tough decision to forego face-to-face classes this semester. Many students have been impacted by the decision to hold classes in an online environment. However, perhaps the most negatively affected group consists of students who have disabilities.

Though disabilities are commonly accommodated on campus, it can be difficult to ensure that those students’ needs are being met while they are at home. Now, more than ever, it is important that students with disabilities advocate for themselves. While student accessibility offices are legally and morally responsible for ensuring that all students have a fair opportunity to learn, students share in that responsibility and are expected to be proactive in order to obtain the appropriate accommodations.

The education of students with disabilities is often handled on a case-by-case basis. Every individual is unique so the educational plans must differ so that everyone’s personal accommodations are suited for their needs. While some students require only minimal adjustments to succeed, others may require special tools that will help them to complete course objectives. Although the virtual classroom may not come with the special learning technologies that are often available in college labs, the student accessibility office should still be notified of any difficulty.

The institution may have to make the appropriate technology available in the students’ home, or the instructors may have to create lessons with alternate methods of delivery. By advocating for themselves, students with disabilities can ensure that they are able to learn in the ways that are most effective for them despite the lack of face-to-face contact with professors and peers.

Though virtual college may seem like a challenging setback for students with disabilities, it doesn’t have to be. With the proper communication to university faculty and staff, these students have a chance to perform just as well virtually as they do in the live classroom. In order for students with disabilities to do well, institutional personnel must work with them and not only support but ensure that those who have disabilities are advocating for themselves because they truly do need assistance. Now is the time to pull together and show young people that we do not define them by their ability, but rather support them so that we can provide everyone with the same opportunities to succeed and begin their careers.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Challenges of Online Schooling for Special Needs Families That are Less Fortunate

The dire warnings began early this year as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone around the world. Schools closed and hastily threw together remote or virtual learning alternatives in the face of explosive outbreaks. Some have predicted a “wasted” school year for all students, most of all those already at high-risk of falling through the cracks: low-income and special needs students. Often these two high-risk groups overlap and normally have inherent obstacles to educational achievement. These challenges make virtual learning especially difficult for them.

One initial and terminating obstacle is lack of access to high-speed internet services. Poor families may only have cell phones with hotspots and probably cannot afford devices for completing online lessons.

Working parents, especially single parents working multiple jobs, means less support at home. Since virtual learning often necessitates some caregiver-led learning, less affluent children will suffer from the roster of sitters, daycare workers, or family members — including siblings — looking after the children. Revolving caregivers and sibling minders introduce a lack of continuity that disrupts learning.

Financial difficulties limit the effectiveness of the virtual school by decreasing class time, too. Alhambra, California teacher Tamya Daly can attest to this, and to the sibling minders. Daly has had to record lessons because parents advised her that childcare schedules and device-sharing needs made it impossible to do more than one hour of live virtual lessons.

Special needs students have the added need for accommodations as outlined in their Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. These plans are developed to support learning objectives. Examples could be hearing or sight aides, special classroom professionals, and classrooms with fewer distractions for those with learning disabilities. to require special needs kids to manage on their own from an electronic device, away from their designated support, is a recipe for failure. In fact, Governor Gavin Newsom asserted that accommodations are impossible to provide in virtual learning when he outlined a new waiver application program. Schools may apply for a quarantine waiver so that certain high-risk students can receive in-school instruction in small groups.

It’s a tough choice, given fears of outbreaks. Some students cannot accept the opportunity due to underlying health conditions of themselves or their family members. Those who can accept the risks, however, just may have a workable solution.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Assistive Technology Empowering Students

RE - Assistive Technology Empowering Students

Stepping Into the Future: How Assistive Technology is Transforming Teaching Students with Disabilities

When considering technology, the first thing that comes to mind might not be the assistive tools used in classrooms, but these innovative instruments are revolutionizing the way teachers conduct their classroom business, especially Special Education classrooms. With a variety of different apps, organizers, and special technologies, students with disabilities and their families can rest assured that teachers have a large group of resources at their disposal.

 

Consider the Academy of Whole Learning, a K-12, private Minnesota school for students with learning disabilities including Autism. The academy introduced virtual reality technology to their classrooms, which is just one example of the many assistive technologies teachers can implement in their teaching. According to Kade Dreschler, a teacher at the Academy of Whole Learning, the immersive VR experience was a wonderful experience for the students. Using the VR technology, the students were able to block out classroom distractions and focus on the environment on the screen in front of them, leading to improvements in their social and friendship experiences. These technologies, too, are helpful for students with a range of disabilities, including those who are blind or visually compared, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those with other learning, cognitive, or developmental disabilities.

 

The types of assistive technology used by teachers is incredibly varied, especially depending on their students’ disabilities. For students who are visually compared, have dyslexia, or are blind, teachers can use text-to-speech technology to allow these students to listen to things on a printed page. It works by scanning words on a page and reading them allowed in a robotic voice, allowing students who cannot easily read to still enjoy the text!

 

Perhaps a lesser-known type of assistive technology is called the sip-and-puff system and works to assist students and people with paralysis or other motor skill difficulties. Using this system, students can use a joystick in order to control their technological applications, moving the cursor with their heads and clicking with a sip or puff. While this system is new and still needs some refinement, it has already become a pivotal part of special education classrooms.

 

Clearly, assistive technologies for students with disabilities are quickly becoming a necessity. With the emergence of these technologies, and the tireless plight of teachers to teach their students to the best of their ability, it’s safe to say that students with disabilities are in good educational hands.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

MUSIC THERAPY FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

RE - Music Therapy for Children with Special Needs

Modern research has been demonstrating many positive effects of music for children with special needs. Some therapists are specially trained in utilizing these tools to help their clients increase focus, regulate emotions, increase social abilities, and improve motor skills.

 

Benefits of music

 

Improved social interaction

 

Music therapy or music classes often include collaboration and exchanging instruments and melodies. This type of interaction can be beneficial for children trying to improve social skills. It can also provide positive self-expression and encourage experiences that improve self-worth. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, musical therapy and group music lessons have been shown to produce more diverse emotional expression and social interaction than similar experiences that were non-musical.

 

Benefits for emotional regulation

 

For students with ADD or ADHD, music can alleviate symptoms like loss of attention and difficult impulse control. In addition, music has been shown to reduce stress levels which can be a significant factor for many students with special needs.

 

Sensory-motor skills

 

Any kind of music creation includes precise movements coordinated with accurate listening. These activities can promote motor skills and sensory-motor coordination. In addition, music can have significant benefits for people with cerebral palsy including reduced muscular tension and increased alertness and dexterity.

 

Musical therapy types

 

Music education

 

While not formally a type of musical therapy, music education can have many of the above-listed benefits. Musical education comes in two main forms: one-on-one music lessons and music classes in a group. Music lessons tend to be focused on teaching musical skills with an instrument and may provide fewer therapeutic benefits than other options. Music classes are offered at most public or private schools as well as many non-profits. These classes can have many social benefits but tend to have less quality musical instruction than one-on-one lessons and may have less therapeutic benefits than working with someone specially trained in the field.

 

Musical therapists

 

Musical therapists are specially trained in musical interventions with demonstrated therapeutic benefits. They can work with you to identify specific objectives for your child and develop a plan to achieve those results. They often work with school systems or other childcare programs or in client homes.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.