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December News

New Technology Being Tested by Police

St. Paul police have a new tool to help them better understand the needs of people with autism and emotional disabilities.  An app called the Vulnerable Individuals Technology Assisted Location Services or VITALS uses Bluetooth technology to send messages to the officer regarding the needs of the individual they are encountering.  Helpful information including possible behaviors triggers and how to calm the person could improve interactions with police.

DHS Seeks New Members for Advisory Group

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is seeking individuals who may be interested in serving on an advisory board to provide input and advice regarding autism and related conditions for individuals under age 21.  DHS is seeking a wide diversity among members, and those interested need to apply by December 30, 2016.  Learn more about the group, its goals and a link to apply.

Creative Inclusion Activities Outside of Class

There is a growing effort to include students with intellectual disabilities into more high school activities.  Besides sporting events like Special Olympics, other activities like drama and technology opportunities are now being offered in some schools.  It's a wonderful way for all students to work together for a common goal while learning more about one another.

November News

Study Discusses Lack of Available Transportation

A review of Medicaid waiver programs from across the country shows that people with developmental disabilities face a host of barriers in accessing public transportation.  Services were often only available for specific purposes, like getting to and from work.

U.S. Justice Department Issues Guidance on Adult Day Programs

A 13-page guidance was issued in October by the U.S. Justice Department.  The statement says that many individuals with disabilities that work in segregated day programs known as "sheltered workshops" are capable of joining the mainstream workforce.  Minnesota has a large number of people who work in this setting, and a Star Tribune investigation in 2015 found that many of these individuals felt trapped there due to lack of transportation, job coaching and other support services.

Fight to Decertify Service Employees Union

The Service Employees Union International (SEIU) represents about 20,000 home care workers that assist people with disabilities and those that are elderly.  Opponents are seeking to decertify the union.

October News

DHS Seeks Public Feedback on Disability Waivers

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is currently seeking feedback from stakeholders regarding revisions to the statewide transition plan for the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) rule. They would like to hear from people who receive one of these disability waivers:  Brain Injury (BI), Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI), Community Alternative Care (CAC), and Developmental Disability (DD).  They would like to know how these services could better encourage community participation, increased choice about how to spend time, increased independence and recognition of individual rights.   Comment period is open until November 3, 2016 at 4 pm.

2.5 Million In Funding Awarded For Job Training

Minnesota is one of the states chosen by the U.S. Department of Labor to receiving funding aimed at increasing employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities and help them live more independently.  The grant will be managed by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).  Some of the goals are to improve employment outcomes, provide diversified training opportunities and to promote more active engagement with the business sector.

Virtual Reality Training Improves Social Skills

Research shows that virtual reality training can help children with high-functioning autism practice social skills.  The University of Texas at Dallas has seen positive results in areas such as emotional recognition, understanding the perspective of others and the ability to problem solve.  Findings can be found in the journal Computers and Human Behavior.

DHS Certifies Behavioral Health Homes

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has certified 17 Minnesota providers to coordinate behavioral health services for clients with serious mental illness.  Behavioral health homes will serve clients who are covered by Medical Assistance (MA) and will provide care management coordination along with patient, family, referral, and social support services.

Young Actor Openly Discusses His Disability

Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on "Stranger Things" is very open about his disability.  Gaten freely shares information with others about the condition that affects his physical appearance and speech.  He wants to raise awareness about cleidocranial dysplasia and his openness has helped others affected with the same disability.

September News - Back To School!

Students Receiving Special Education Services Is Rising

After years of steady decline, the number of students receiving special education services has grown.  According to the president of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, about half of the students have severe disabilities, major behavior issues and medical issues.  The article in Education Week discusses possible reasons for the increase including the rise in autism and other health impairments, reclassification and changes to No Child Left Behind.

Positive Behavioral Supports Must Be Available To Those In Need

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has issued guidance regarding positive behavioral supports for students with disabilities.  A letter written by the OSERS says schools are required to provide supports for students with disabilities that need them.  The letter also states repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest students may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports through the IEP, and that this is likely to result in them not receiving the free appropriate public education (FAPE) they are entitled to by federal law. 

Public Virtual Schools Need To Follow IDEA, Too

The U.S. Department of Education says students with disabilities attending online public schools are entitled to the same free and appropriate education (FAPE) as students attending brick and mortar schools.  The Department has been receiving an increasing number of questions on how IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) applies to public virtual schools.  They have issued a letter offering clarification and guidance.

Summer News

Ohio Is First to Offer ABLE Accounts -- Minnesota to Follow

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts allow people with disabilities the ability to save money without risking eligibility for government benefits.  Each state is developing their own ABLE programs with unique features and fees. Although Ohio is leading the way, other states including Nebraska, Tennessee and Florida will be launching their own programs soon.  According to DHS, Minnesota will have their program up and running this fall.  Learn more here.

Congress Learns About Dyslexia

A two-hour Senate Committee hearing took place to focus on dyslexia.  Senators heard from people who have dyslexia and from top researchers in the field who gave their feedback and recommendations for future research in this area.

"FordInclusiveWorks" Provides Jobs for Individuals with Autism

Ford Motor Company is  looking to tap the potential of workers with autism spectrum disorders.  In a pilot program, "FordInclusiveWorks," positions have been designed to suit the unique set of talents of individuals with ASD in product development.

Nearly 1 in 10 with IDD Prescribed Antipsychotics

The June 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports nearly one out of every ten youths given antipsychotics is diagnosed with a developmental disability.  The rate is even higher for those with autism -- one in six. Findings come from an analysis of 39 existing studies looking at over 350,000 youth.

May News

New Approach to ADHD: Behavioral Therapy Before Meds

A new therapy protocol for children with ADHD uses behavioral therapies such as simple rewards as the preferred first treatment to help with development.  Currently medication is often the first choice, but a study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology says using behavioral approaches first and medications second resulted in better outcomes.  Watch a video of a family who has used the approach successful.  Details, including a link to the study, can be found here.

Update on Minnesota Legislative Session

Changes to Medical Assistance (MA) including raising spenddown limits, pay raises for caregivers, special education, mental health and transportation are some of the issues being discussed during the current legislative session.  These are changes that could impact children and adults with disabilities. Stay up to date on what's going on at the Capitol from The Arc Minnesota.  The current legislative session runs through May 23rd.

My Child Is Turning 22 -- What's Next?

Turning 22 can be a difficult time for parents of children with disabilities.  Special education transition services end along with the support, training and funding these programs provide.  In a story focusing on the 500,000 young adults with autism that will be exiting special education in the next ten years, families share their concerns on what comes next for their children.

The Rock" Says Young Man Is Tougher, Stronger and Has More Heart 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took a break from his filming schedule to spend time with a young fan and his family.  The meeting was emotional for everyone and a time filled with gratitude from the movie star. "The Rock" even learned some sign language!  A great community of belonging story.


April News

True Friends Camp to Hold Open Houses

True Friends, a non-profit organization that provides services to individuals with physical, developmental and learning disabilities, is holding open houses at four of their summer camp locations.  Take a tour, explore the cabins, chat with staff and see the camps first-hand.
     - Camp Friendship in Annandale on May 1st from 1:00 - 3:00 pm
     - Camp Eden Wood in Eden Prairie on May 1st from 1:00 - 3:00 pm
     - Camp Courage  in Maple Lake on May 15th from 1:00 - 3:00 pm
     - Camp Courage North in Lake George on May 15th from 1:00 - 3:00 pm

NEW Website for Finding Licensed Residential Openings

DHS and the Metro Crisis Coordination Program are announcing a new website,, where licensed residential providers can post openings for individuals with a developmental disability or related condition.  For those looking for residential openings, the site will help you narrow your search by area as well as types of homes, funding types, and home features. 

Service Dogs Get Training at the Airport

Eight service dogs from Can Do Canines, an organization that trains dogs adopted from local animal shelters to assist people with disabilities, took a 'flight to nowhere' at Minneapolis St. Paul Airport.  The dogs received important training on how to navigate around the airport, including going through security checkpoints and boarding the plane.  Service dogs assist individuals with a variety of special needs including those with mobility issues and autism.

Change in Heart Rate Can Predict Seizures

In a recent study in Japan, researchers discovered that epileptic seizures can be predicted by using an electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure fluctuations in heart rate.  Wearing a monitor to detect changes is easier to wear than one measuring brain activity and could help people with epilepsy know when a seizure is expected.  This can alleviate worry and help prevent injuries.

March News

Caroline's Cart Coming to Target

Beginning March 19th, a majority of Target Stores will have at least one Caroline Cart.  Named after the inventor's daughter who has Rett syndrome, the cart is tailored for children that have outgrown a standard shopping cart.  The cart will give caregivers the opportunity to shop with just one cart instead of needing to maneuver both a shopping cart and a wheelchair through the store.  In addition to Target, you can find a list of stores in Minnesota that carry Caroline's Carts here.

Minimum Wage and Back Pay Ordered for Workers in Sheltered Workshop

An administrative law judge with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has awarded minimum wage and back pay for three employees working in a sheltered workshop in Ohio previously making $2.50 per hour.  These employees are some of the first to ask for a legal review of their wages with the DOL. The original petition was filed by Disability Rights Ohio, the National Federal of the Blind, and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

New Bill Proposes Licensing of Music Therapists

During the upcoming session, Minnesota legislators will be debating whether music therapists should be licensed.  The bill authored by Rep Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) would require a bachelor's degree and internship for practicing music therapists in the state.  Lee McGtath with the Institute for Justice says licensing isn't necessary and would create higher fees and less competition.

The Power of Self-Advocacy

When Brittni Wendling, a freshman at Iowa State, read critical comments on her school's "Campus Stories" page about her using an electric scooter around school, she was initially embarrassed and sad.  Brittni has Larsen Syndrome, a condition where her joints are dislocated and makes walking difficult.  Her scooter gives her the ability to navigate more easily around the campus.  Brittni turned her sadness into a chance to educate others and advocate for herself by responded to her critics in an open letter on Facebook. 

February News

Lego Introduces New Minifigure

Under the pressure of an online campaign, Lego has produced a minifigure that reflects real life.  The Large toymaker will introduce a figure of a boy in a wheelchair.   It will be part of a playground set and will come out in June.

Program Finds Alternatives to Sheltered Workshops

Using a successful Ohio program as a model, more opportunities may become available for persons with disabilities.  Many currently work in segregated settings for very low pay working at jobs such as shredding paper, packing boxes and picking up trash.  The "Way to Work" initiative accesses trained counselors to help workers find more meaningful employment.

Priorities for The Arc Minnesota in 2016

Improving quality of services and supports, home and community based services, and reducing barriers to supports and services are on the list of priorities for Arc Minnesota for the upcoming legislative session.  Some specific issues include funding of self-advocacy training, increasing housing supports, lowering parental fees, and increasing dental benefits and access to dental care.

Autism News

Minnesota Dept. of Education Seeks Input

The Minnesota Department of Education along with the Autism Society of Minnesota are looking for participants for an Autism in Education state-wide survey.  The survey will collect insights from parents of individuals with autism.  This Information will be used to guide future planning around the state.

"Tsunami of Adults With Autism Is Coming"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 45 children ages 3 to 17 has autism, and these children are growing into adulthood.  Who will care for this growing population, where will they live, and how will we pay for their care?  Financial and emotional challenges are being faced by many families caring for their adult children with autism.

The Journey of Caring for Those With Autism

What is it like to care for children and adults who have autism? Parents share their experiences, including everyday challenges, establishing routines within the home, and sharing their feelings about caring for their children into adulthood. Each of the parents has a unique story to tell.

January News

Legislative News

State Shortens Waiting List for Waivers

Earlier this year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story highlighting the huge waiting lists for Medicaid waivers.  Although Minnesota's waiver benefits are some of the largest in the country, the state also has one of the longest waiting lists.  But there has been a change.  Officials with the State are pressuring counties to spend unspent funds that were allocated to help people with disabilities live quality lives in their communities, and DHS has started to shift funds from counties that have unused funds to counties with long wait lists.  A court report issued recently shows about 1,100 people are now off waiting lists and are now receiving services.

ESEA Replaces No Child Left Behind

President Obama signed The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on December 10, 2015.  This reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), replacing No Child Left Behind.  Changes in the law may affect students with disabilities.  Find out how The Arc feels about the ESEA and about areas that will be affected by the passage of the bill.  Read more about ESSA from the U.S. Department of Education here.

ABLE Account Update

After pushback from disability advocates and state officials, the IRS has eased up on rules for ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts.  The final regulations will have less stringent report requirements with regard to medical documentation, taxpayer ID numbers from contributors, and how categorizing what money will be used.  Each state will have its own timetable for implementation.  According to the 2015 Legislative Notice to Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) Members, Minnesota does not yet have a date when ABLE accounts will be available.  You can find a good explanation about ABLE accounts here.

Medical News

Rethinking How We Look at ADHD

Dr. Dimitri Christakis is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Children's Hospital in Seattle.  In a recent editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Dr. Christakis says the current method of using a questionnaire as a diagnosis tool is subjective.  "If you fall on this side of the line, we label and medicate you," says Christakis. "But on the other side of the line, we do nothing."  The prevalence of ADHD has increased 30% in the last 20 years.  He feels we should look at ADHD as a spectrum of "attentional capacity" and rethink the highly medicalized framework and offers suggestions on how to help children achieve their potential.

Pediatricians Must Play Bigger Role in Education

In a 13-page report in the journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors have a significant role in ensuring children with disabilities get the services they need from schools.  The report says doctors should be identifying and referring children who need services and also communicating with the schools about these needs.  Pediatricians need to be up to date on changes to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and should offer support during transitions during the child's life.

Community of Belonging -- The Kindness of Strangers

Kind Note Surprises Family

When Caryn Thomas and her family finished their meal at a restaurant, they were surprised when the waiver arrived with their check.  The bill had been paid by another couple eating at the restaurant.  Read the note they left explaining their act of kindness and the reaction from the Thomas family.

Birthday Cake Photo Goes Viral

After Lisa Aldrich picked up the birthday cake she ordered, she glanced down at the message on her way to the check out.  It wasn't quite what she expected!  See a photo of the cake and how Lisa made the day of the employee who decorated the cake.

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