Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Support for Kids with Autism: Panel discussion in Ann Arbor

This is an announcement from the Washtenaw County Special Education E-Information Listserv:

Panel Discussion: Support For Kids With Autism

Monday, November 21, 2011
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
In the multi-purpose room in the downtown library
Ann Arbor District Library
343 S. Fifth Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 

A panel of teacher consultants at Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), including Walter Kwik, Pamela McClure, Marla Sebu and Katrina Stewart, will talk about Autism Spectrum Disorder, what it is and how to help people/children with it in Washtenaw County feel more comfortable and successful in their daily lives. They will also discuss the START project, which gives professionals and parents the knowledge and skills to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in reaching their greatest potential. 

The STatewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project is committed to creating a sustainable structure of support for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders within each region of Michigan by provide training and technical assistance to educators and families that support students on the autism spectrum. 

The START project has been in place for 10 years through the funding and support of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services. The rapid increase in the number of students with ASD entering public schools in Michigan has created a critical need for more in-depth training for educators in the use of evidence based practices. Additionally, the START Project has served a key role in meeting this need through innovative activities such as Regional Collaborative Networks, training and coaching models, and resource material development. 

For more information on this event, call the Library at 327-4555 or visit the Website

Ira Lax
Outreach and Neighborhood Services
Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled
Ann Arbor District Library

Monday, November 7, 2011

Friends of DD newsletters, 2009-2011

I have posted Friends of DD newsletters from the last two years on Google Docs. You can find them here

Here are specific news letters that may be of interest because of the topics featured:

Friends of the Developmentally Disabled, Washtenaw County, MI

Friends of the Developmentally Disabled, (aka Friends of DD) began as a group of families of people with developmental disabilities more than 10 years. Initially, our purpose was to support people with DD in local group homes and in the day program at Washtenaw Community Mental Health. We never organized formally, although we once may have elected a treasurer. This turned out to be unnecessary, because we never had any money. 
We have managed for a long time without a formal organization, although, at least until recently, we have met regularly, and we have cranked out a newsletter to go along with the (almost monthly) meeting notices. We tend to have family members whose loved-ones are on the more severe end of the range of people with developmental disabilities, but everyone is welcome to attend our meetings and sign up for the newsletter.

When we started, we came up with a set of principles. We rarely refer to this document, but we adhere pretty closely to it. Here it is:

  • People with developmental disabilities have diverse needs based on the nature and severity of their disabilities, their experiences, and family circumstances.
  • For people with developmental disabilities who cannot speak for themselves, the best advocate is a parent, other family member, or close friend who is aware of the individual’s needs and cares about the welfare of that individual.
  • To meet the long-term needs of people with developmental disabilities, a full range of services, programs, and living arrangements, designed to meet their unique needs, must be available and the availability communicated to people with DD and their families.
Our purposes are:
  • To ensure the availability and delivery of appropriate services to people with developmental disabilities while protecting the rights and preserving the dignity of those individuals.
  • To provide information so that people with developmental disabilities and their families or friends can advocate for themselves to obtain the services they need.
  • To communicate with public officials charged with the responsibility for providing services and protecting the rights of the developmentally disabled and to ensure the accountability of public agencies to people with developmental disabilities and the public.
And furthermore, Friends of DD does not dictate to you what is best for your family member or browbeat you into conforming to a particular ideology or belief.  

This year, we have not met as often as we have in past years, but I have been sending out more information by e-mail with frequent updates on issues affecting families and people with disabilities. Friends of DD has joined ddAdvocates of Michigan, an Internet-based network of community organizations and family members. The purpose of ddAdvocates is to provide information to families and friends and apprise them of opportunities to comment on local, state, and national policies affecting people with developmental disabilities.

Jill Barker
Friends of DD
Ann Arbor, MI

Saturday, November 5, 2011

iPad, iPhone, and iPod apps for special ed students

I recently talked to a parent whose son was able to order food from a restaurant menu for the first time by himself using an iPad to communicate. Apparently, these new-fangled computer machines do all kinds of amazing things that make communicating and understanding easier for children with learning difficulties.

Through the Website Bridges4Kids, I found a list by Eric Sailer of dozens of apps for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. They teach communication skills, sign language, math and spelling, help with speech problems, provide interactive games and books, help with organization, and many other things. These are available through the iTunes store and have reviews that will help parents determine which apps will be the most suitable to their child's needs.