Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pondering the Neurodiversity Movement

"I am not a puzzle, I am a person" is a salon article by Elizabeth Svoboda with this preface: People with autism don't need to be "cured," argues the burgeoning "autism culture" movement. Not all parents or medical experts agree.

This fascinating article was forwarded to me by my friend and personal autism-issue clipping service (Thanks, Mr. D!). It's about the "neurodiversity" movement - and I'm not sure what my opinion is on the idea that society needs to learn to adapt to people on the autism spectrum, not the other way around.

I am quite concerned about the "ABA-bashing" aspect of this movement. Individual ABA therapy, a type of behavior therapy commonly used for people with autism, jump started Sayer's ability to talk, and instilled in him vital self-sufficiency skills. Both his language and self-help abilities are essential to who he is today - although he STILL would have you believe he needs help putting on his socks. And I think that the "aversive" techniques originally used in this therapy, decades ago, are rare today.

On the other hand, any movement that disparages Jenny McCarthy has some merit, in my book. From the article:

Jenny McCarthy can go jump off a cliff. While the Hollywood comedian's claims that childhood shots cause autism may be well-intentioned, Ne'eman says, her message has a pernicious and probably untrue implication: If we stopped giving kids "toxic" vaccines, autism wouldn't exist. Not only does this message distract from pragmatic efforts to get autistic kids the social support they need, it implies that autistic children are inherently less valuable than their normal counterparts. "The cure paradigm sends a message that there is somehow a normal person under the autistic person, and that's a significant denial of who we are.

But yet - people like Sayer do need to fit into the world as it is and not endanger themselves or others. And to disparage therapies is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Please share your views on the idea of neurodiversity, and this article.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Social Security PASS Program: A pathway to self-employment

How 1 Autistic Young Man Runs a Business is a great article sent to me by reader "K." It describes how Joe Steffy, a young man with autism and Down's syndrome operates his own Kettle Corn business, Poppin' Joes Kettle Corn. This guy is from Kansas and is also nonverbal.

Joe developed his business with the help of his parents, a consultant, and a program that's news to me - the Social Security Administration's Plan to Achieve Self-Support program (PASS). He now has five part-time employees and unmeasurable self-esteem and sense of worth that comes with running your own company.

The PASS program offers resources to enable people with disabilities in the Social Security system to begin work or return to work. A key support in the program is the ability of persons who receive Social Security benefits to set aside money and/or things they own to pay for items or services needed to achieve their specific work goal.

Joe was required to develop a business plan to participate in the PASS program. The webcast on his web site, "Developing a Business Plan for Self Employment" may be useful for families exploring this employment option. The PASS program has other requirements, all outlined in this link.

More information about the program, and other success stories, can be found in this video from the University of Florida Institute for Child Health Policy.

What I don't know is how this program is fairing in light of budget cuts and the economy. It would be a shame to curtail the program, especially since participants who succeed save the government money. For example, Joe no longer receives Social Security disability payments AND he pays state and federal taxes.

If any readers have experience with this program, or know about it's future fate - please share.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Discover MidLife Bloggers

When I first started this blog, I connected with other midlife bloggers via BlogHer, a women's blog site. Several of us responded to the post query "Where are all the midlife bloggers?" submitted by Jane of the By Jane blog.

Soon, and with much work, Jane created MidLife Bloggers: Making the most of midlife together.
MidLife Bloggers is a wonders site that features various contributors, on these topics:

Our Bodies: What We See In The Mirror and How We Feel About It

Our Careers : The work that we do and that we wish we did

Our Minds: Our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual selves

Our Relationships: Mates, children, parents, siblings, friends.

A group of us women bloggers contribute to the blog (included your truly). I encourage you to visit the site. Here is a sample of recent posts: