Posts Tagged ‘ Awareness Spotlight ’

School Debate: Does ‘Inclusion’ for Asperger’s Kids Hurt Other Students?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

An article in the Pensacola News Journal highlights a national debate facing schools:  how much can children with Asperger syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD) be fully integrated into regular classrooms without making learning difficult for students without the disability?

Children with Asperger’s, as opposed to some other forms of ASD, are often quite intelligent and able to handle the schoolwork without incident.  But they do have behavioral problems, ranging from repetitive behaviors to problems socializing to sensitivity to things like noises or lights.  These issues can take up a lot of a teacher’s time, which heightens the debate.

The News Journal reports on how the issue is playing out in Florida:

Changes at the state level in how classes are categorized will put more special education students into more regular classrooms than ever before.

Many teachers and parents worry that all children — particularly students who just get by in their classes — may not get the attention they need in an inclusion classroom, because students with disabilities — students like [13-year-old] Dylan [Harris] — need extra attention.

“I think it’s a fair concern,” [Regina] Harris [Dylan's mother] said. “General (education) teachers typically aren’t trained very much to work with children with behavior issues. That’s opening a can of worms.”

Image: Students on a school bus, via Shutterstock.

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Autistic Boy’s Suicide Highlights Bullying in England

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Gareth Oates, an 18-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) died by apparent suicide in Bradford, England, highlighting what local officials say is a national bullying problem and a failure of mental health services to rise to the challenge.

Bradford Coroner Paul Marks said the case represents a gap in services between kids under age 16 and young adults over 18.  Those in the middle are left without much support if they are being bullied or abused because of their disability.  Oates was allegedly bullied repeatedly and called “suicide boy” by peers at his school.

The Independent reports that the coroner’s analysis hit a nerve across the UK :

Charities yesterday said his story underlined the need for better care for those with autism. Mel Carr, transitions co-ordinator at the National Autistic Society (NAS), said: “The tragic case underlines the very real difficulties facing young people with autism as they make the transition into adulthood and the need for support at that time.

“Gareth was let down by a system that failed to recognise his needs. This must not happen again and all agencies must do more to help young people with autism.”

Image: Bullied teenage boy, via Shutterstock.

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Michigan Votes to Mandate Coverage for Autism Therapies

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

A piece of legislation was signed into law today in Michigan, requiring health insurance companies to pay for therapies, medications, and treatments related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children up to age 18. has more on some potential limitations of the otherwise exciting development:

The new law, which will go into effect on October 1, requires insurance companies to pay for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis and treatment for children up to age 18.

The state law does not, however, compel “self-funded” insurance plans to carry autism coverage. Those health insurance plans are regulated by federal laws.

Most large employers, such as GM, Home Depot, DTE Energy, and even the State of Michigan provide benefits through a “self-funded health care plan.”

To get self-funded insurers to adopt autism coverage,  the new state law establishes for an incentive program to encourage employers with self-funded insurance plans to adopt autism coverage.

Image: Gavel, via Shutterstock.

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Holly Robinson Peete Advocates for Autistic Kids

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose 14-year-old son R.J. has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is embracing her role as a public advocate for families living with the disability.

From USA Today:

“As a mom, you worry about protecting your kid,” Peete says. “But there are extra added layers of fears when you’re talking about a kid with autism or who has some special needs issue. You worry about him being bullied, about being treated unfairly. You worry about him doing the wrong thing in public and it being misconstrued.”

Peete, best known for her primetime roles on “21 Jump Street” and “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” as well as for her hosting duties last year on CBS’ daytime chat-fest “The Talk,” might not love the extra worrying it brings, but she relishes her role as autism poster parent.

She wants the issues this growing segment of the population faces — the most recent estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 88 children lands on the autism spectrum — to be part of the national conversation.

“We need more support,” says Peete, who with her husband, former Detroit Lions quarterback Rodney Peete, in 1997 started the HollyRod Foundation, which helps bring awareness to autism issues, supports families and raises funds.

Image: Holly Robinson Peete, via Featureflash /

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Father of Asperger’s Child: ‘Music Unlocked John’s Tongue’

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Music has turned out to be an outlet that enables many who suffer from Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to express themselves.  The Louisville Courier-Journal reports on one such boy, who at age 8 had not yet spoken a word.  One day, John Thompson’s father heard singing in the house and assumed it came from a CD:

But when he opened the door, there was his son, playing a song on the keyboard and mimicking lyrics in a pitch-perfect melody.

“Music is what unlocked John’s tongue,” Grant Thompson said.

Through song, John Mikkiah Thompson, now 18, has found a way to overcome his limitations and express himself in ways he never knew possible. He also will release his first album of original music this month and headline a concert at Center Grove High School on Sunday.

His goal is to become a contemporary Christian music star.

But he also hopes to be an inspiration to other people struggling with autism, letting them know that the condition doesn’t mean they can’t achieve their goals.

“It feels good to know I’m moving people. People come up to me afterward crying, and it’s very interesting to hear that I touch their lives when I start to sing,” he said.

Image: Hands playing a keyboard, via Shutterstock.

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