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News Roundup: Top Stories In The Special Needs Community This Month

a roundup of all the latest trends and news when it comes to different abilities.

JUNE

Disability Scoop –  Amazon recently ordered a new comedic drama that will stream through Prime Video and will feature actors with autism. The creator of the show Parenthood based this new series on an Israeli show. It will focus on the experiences of three young adults on the autism spectrum.

The Arc – Hospitals are required to allow visitors for individuals with disabilities. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a resolution making clear that federal law requires hospitals and state agencies overseeing those with disabilities allow them safe access to in-person support, even during COVID-19. Strict no-visitor policies have prevented that from being a possibility.

Disability Scoop – Federal officials are putting millions of dollars into new housing opportunities for people with disabilities across the country. Close to $77 million will support close to 8,300 housing vouchers, which will help ensure more individuals can reside in community-based settings while the pandemic is ongoing. The funding comes from the CARES Act, the coronavirus relief package approved by Congress in March.

Chicago Sun-Times – The PBS show Hero Elementary recently featured a superhero with autism. The show, which is geared toward kiddos ages 4–7, features young heroes learning to master their powers. The hero on the autism spectrum, AJ Gadgets, has the ability to make super gadgets. The show’s creators hope the character will teach empathy and reinforce the concept that different is OK. The show airs on Mondays.

The News Minute – Google recently launched new accessibility tools and apps for Android. One app is called Action Blocks and allows people to create custom home screen buttons. The new features are geared to help those with hearing loss, deafness and cognitive differences.

APRIL

Check out what happened in the special needs community this month.

Fox News – Amy Wright, owner of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shops—which employs over 100 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities—visited the White House recently to discuss how the PPP loan she received saved her business and her employees’ jobs. Wright said that thanks to the PPP loan, all 120 employees are able to be on the payroll and are working from home writing handwritten notes that are included with online orders when shipped. Wright’s employee Michael Heup joined her, saying, “At Bitty & Beau’s we use the phrase ‘not broken’—that means me and all my coworkers are not broken and we have lots to offer.”

CW 39 – A Houston employability center is helping students with autism and special needs find their career path. Social Motion Skills—a Houston nonprofit that works to empower those with autism and similar special needs—recently received a grant from the M.D. Anderson Foundation to open the Transition and Employability Center. The new center provides an assessment that, is taken over several weeks and will help students learn what career path best suits their talents and interests.

Disability Scoop – HBO is releasing a documentary that follows five young adults with autism. The documentary, titled Autism: The Sequel, shows how the group is living as 20-something adults. All five were also featured in the HBO documentary Autism: The Musical in 2007.

NJ.com – Students with special needs recently donated plastic face shields made from their school’s 3D printers to Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey. The students were able to work with the printers in their homes once the schools closed. At least nine boxes of masks have been donated so far.

MARCH

Yahoo – Kids’ shows Fancy Nancy and Sesame Street both announced that they will air autism-themed episodes in April. Sesame Street’s character with autism Julia will have an entire episode dedicated to her. An episode of Fancy Nancy will feature a character named Sean (who has autism) and show how Nancy learns about differences and neurodiversity. You can find Fancy Nancy on Disney Channel and Sesame Street on HBO.

The Guardian – A disability rights film called Crip Camp premiered on Netflix. The film is a documentary that shows how a “hippy” summer camp for disabled kids “launched a generation of activists.” Produced by the Obamas, the film focuses on the camp during the ‘70s and how it helped shape the disability rights movement for that decade and the years that followed. Pro Tip: The film is rated R and is not suitable for kids.

Disability Scoop – The shoe brand Vans is introducing “sensory inclusive” shoes for those with ASD. The brand describes the shoes as ultra-comfortable, with sensory elements including a “calming color palette” and design features that “focus on the senses.” The shoes are available in toddler, kids and adult sizes online and in stores.

WIVB – A dance studio in Depew, New York—geared specifically toward those with special needs—has been holding online dance classes during the coronavirus pandemic. Danceability has been closed since mid-March, but Facebook Live has allowed the studio to still reach 173 students. Each class is free and teaches a different genre of dance. If you’re interested in checking out the classes, click here. The classes are offered Monday–Thursday at 5pm.

FEBRUARY

Check out these great stories from this past month.

CBS– Isaiah, a student with special needs from Alabama, was recently named an honorary officer at his school. Isaiah became close friends with his campus resource officer, who checked up on him every day. When the officer learned Isaiah wants to be in law enforcement one day, his department organized a special ceremony. Officers from all over the state traveled to see Isaiah receive his honorary sheriff’s star. As a new officer, he was able to patrol his school and even take a ride in a helicopter. Check out the full video interview here.

Hollywood Reporter– The Peanut Butter Falcon star, Zack Gottsagen, made history at the 2020 Oscars as the first presenter with Down syndrome. Co-star Shia LeBeouf joined Zack onstage to present the award for best live-action short. Zack received a standing ovation as he graced the stage and waved to the audience before introducing the nominees.

Disability Scoop– A few moms in New Jersey started a Girl Scout troop for kids with special needs. Hillsborough Troop #60651 currently has three members, but leaders Kathy Kafka and Karen Briegs hopes the troop will continue to grow. As the girls each have different needs, Kafka and Briegs are still in the process of creating a program that will work for everyone. The troop participates in traditional scouting activities, such as learning the Girl Scout promise, making s’mores, creating arts and crafts and, of course, selling Girl Scout cookies. Recently, the girls also made beds for a local animal shelter. Kafka and Briegs hope this troop will provide an example to girls that are neurotypical that they can learn from each other.

Fort Worth Star Telegram– A couple from Fort Worth recently welcomed home a 2-year-old girl with Angelman syndrome after a lengthy adoption process. The couple always had a soft spot in their heart for those with Down syndrome and ultimately wanted to adopt a child with that specific condition. When they saw 2-year-old Lola though, things changed and they decided to pursue adopting her. The couple has three other children as well—a 15-year-old, 11-year-old, and 6-year-old—who all bonded with Lola immediately. The family hopes to show others the importance of adoption through their experience.

JANUARY

See what happened in the special needs community at the start of 2020.

US News– An elementary school in Alaska has a new employee—a 3-year-old cream golden retriever serving as a therapy dog for those with autism and sensory issues. The pup, Casper, was trained in California and now helps the kids handle meltdowns and provides deep pressure therapy. The kids also earn time with him through good behavior or getting their schoolwork done. Casper’s trainer says the dog’s regular presence is helping the kids get more social interaction and has been a game-changer for students with special needs.

Disability Scoop–Erin Feeney, a woman from Illinois who has cerebral palsy, recently wrote a script for Disney. Her script for the show Doc McStuffins premiered in January on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. This is extremely exciting for Feeney, who is nonverbal and primarily communicates with a communication board attached to her wheelchair. Her dream going forward is to write fairy tales and work more with Disney.

FOX 6– A facility serving those with special needs in Lubbock had a real reason to cheer on Super Bowl Sunday. High Point Village, a faith-based nonprofit, and its “Villagers” consider Kansas City Chief’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes a friend. Two years ago, Mahomes met the Villagers at a fundraiser. After he helped them, they rooted for him as he vied for the ultimate football trophy.

FOX 4– A Dallas ISD basketball league now features players with special needs. While preparing for the Special Olympics, district officials came up with the idea to create a league for those with learning disabilities. The program is partnering with Special Olympics and is part of Dallas ISD’s work to provide opportunities for all students. Participating schools include South Oak Cliff and Wilmer Hutchins high schools.

Photo courtesy of iStock.