Thursday, May 29, 2008

Monkeys With Brain-Wired Bionic Arms Give Hope to Disabled

By Alex Nussbaum

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- "Monkeys with tiny sensors wired to their brains learned to reach, grip and eat using a robotic arm, an advance that foreshadows bionic limbs that could restore motion for people with disabilities, researchers said.

In the experiment, two macaque monkeys were given prosthetic arms, complete with shoulders, elbows and finger-like grippers. The arms were linked to electrodes that transmitted signals from areas of the brain that control movement. Nerve signals powered the arms to grab marshmallows and fruit, which the primates popped into their mouths ``all in one natural-looking motion,'' said the article, reported online yesterday in the journal Nature.

The study documents the first successful use of a ``brain- machine interface'' to control a robotic limb for a practical function, said the authors. Before now, such experiments involved controlling a cursor on a computer screen, according to the researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University."

NOTE: To read the entire article, click the title above.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Natural Artificial Foot

Tensioned cables act like tendons in Rifkin’s magnesium foot.
Photo by John B. Carnett

"Gordon Link, a diabetic and foot amputee, is not looking to climb Mount Everest, run a marathon, or snowboard off a cliff. “I just want to walk without stumbling like I’m a drunk,” he says. It may not sound like a tall order, but until he was fitted with a prototype prosthetic foot that simulates the body’s natural movements, walking on uneven ground was like navigating an obstacle course. “Hitting a low spot of even one inch with my old foot was like a non-amputee stepping into a four-inch hole,” he adds. “Not good.”
Link has been testing the new foot for the past six months, but 36-year-old inventor Jerome Rifkin has been building and rebuilding the flexible mechanical foot for more than eight years—ever since he broke his hip in a bicycle accident and spent three years learning to walk again. The mechanical engineer had studied prosthetics as an undergrad, but his physical therapy was a crash course in the biomechanics of walking. “That’s when I realized that prosthetic feet were nothing like natural feet,” he says.

With 26 bones, 35 joints, and the awesome responsibilities of weight-bearing and propulsion, the foot is one of the trickiest body parts to mimic. Today, amputees must choose between mechanical models, which rely on flat carbon-fiber platforms that bend slightly with each step, or a computer-controlled motorized foot that better reproduces a natural gait but can cost up to $18,000 and often isn’t covered by insurance."

NOTE: To read the full article, click on the title above.

South Carolina Early Intervention Conference is a Success!

Dr. Richard Ferrante and Kristie Musick welcome the crowd.

The SC Early Intervention Conference for Families & Providers held on Thursday, May 22, 2008, was a success. The conference was held at the White Oak Conference Center in Winnesboro, SC. Around 400 attendees gained continuing education credit, listened to an entertaining and informative keynote address by Robin McWilliams, PhD, and attended a number of concurrent sessions focusing on early intervention services and curriculum. And the library got 20 new patrons to sign up.

Good job to all of the folks at TECs for organizing and running the event!

NOTE: To access the Sessions' handouts, click on the title above.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What's Going on at Family Connection

Monday, May 26
Leapin Lizards is open for Pop-In Play 10 to 5pm
Gymboree is having an Open House from 2 to 6pm...Enrollment Specials!

Tuesday, May 27
Parents Hope Association
Family Connection Office
2712 Middleburg Plaza 103-B
Contact Susan Haney for Childcare 252-0914

Wednesday, May 28
Morning Coffee
Lizard's Thicket
10170 Two Notch Road

Friday, May 30
Last Day of School (and a half day) for some districts!
Yikes! Ouch! Help! Make your plans for summer!
Email me your ideas for play groups!
Is it August 18, YET???

Stephanie Griggs Bridgers
Family Partner, Region III, Columbia
PEAP / FREE Coordinator
Family CONNECTion of SC
1-800-578-8750 or 803-252-0914

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


May 13, 2008

The first ever video podcast in
American Sign Language is being launched today on
the Disability Law Lowdown website at The Disability Law
Lowdown ASL podcasts will bring a new level of
service to the Deaf community by expanding
traditional audio-only podcasts to include video
that allows subscribers too see native Deaf
speakers signing the show's content. The
podcasts will deliver the latest in disability
law information every other week via American
Sign Language, captioning, voice-over, and
transcripts to maximize accessibility. Free
subscriptions to the ASL podcasts are available
to have shows automatically delivered to MP3
players. The ASL podcasts are also available on
the Disability Law Lowdown website, where
transcripts of the shows are simultaneously
available. And for the fastest viewing, the ASL
podcasts are available on YouTube at

The hosts for the ASL Disability Law Lowdown are
native Deaf signers Danny Warthling and AJ Roupp.
They will provide the latest information about
disability rights and obligations under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, and other
disability-related topics. Subscription is free
and RSS feeds are available to automatically
download the shows to video iPods, computers,
phones, and other video-capable devices.

Disability Law Lowdown is provided by the
Disability Business Technical Assistance Center
(DBTAC), a national network of ten ADA Centers
across the country, offering technical assistance
and training in the Americans with Disabilities
Act and other disability-related laws. DCRE Labs
developed the Disability Law Lowdown website and
brought together several new technologies as part
of the Disability Law Lowdown project.

To subscribe, look for the ASL Disability Law
Lowdown podcast on iTunes, or visit

California Democrats Push Bills to Fight Spread of Autism

California Democrats push bills to fight spread of autism
By Aurelio Rojas
April 3, 2008

'"West Wing" series actor Gary Cole speaks Wednesday at the Capitol about his daughter's autism. Cole said he was "thrilled" with the legislative package by Democratic lawmakers to deal with the nation's fastest growing developmental disability.

Undeterred by the state's budget woes, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday unveiled eight bills to address the dramatic rise in diagnosis of children with autism.

The legislation is the result of three years of public hearings throughout the state by the Legislature's Commission on Autism, consisting of health experts, educators and families affected by the nation's fastest-growing developmental disability.

Once considered rare, autism is now more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined – and affects one of every 150 children and one of every 94 boys."

NOTE: To view the entire article click the title above.

Service Dogs May Help Autistic Children

Service Dogs May Help Autistic Children
Many Parents Who Spoke to ABC News Raved About Their Experience With the Dog Therapy
April 1, 2008

"On Matthew Plunk's third birthday, his parents, Jeff and Jennifer, received some life-changing news: Their son had autism.
Matthew Ajax
Matthew Plunk's parents say they have seen a vast improvement in their autistic son since he got a service dog.

The diagnosis came as no surprise to the Plunks, who had long struggled to contain their son's emotional outbursts and antisocial behaviors.

"He had a lot of fears," said Jennifer. "Just a truck going by would make him want to climb up you."

After years of trying different therapies and experimental diets for Matthew, the Plunks noticed he had made significant progress but still suffered from intense anxiety and difficulty interacting with strangers.

"The biggest thing I was looking for [was] a calmness for Matthew," said Jennifer. "His mind is just going 90 miles an hour. It's like his foot is always on the gas pedal."

So when Matthew was 6, Jennifer went online in search of something else she hoped could help him -- a dog. She had heard about service dogs specially trained to work with children with autism so she researched a program that would help her find a canine companion for Matthew."

NOTE: To read the rest of this article, click on the title above.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

South Carolina Autism Society Presents "Inclusion" with Dr. Paula Kluth

Best Practice Series featuring Paula Kluth, Ph.D. You’re Going to Love this Kid, Inclusion of Students with ASD

Columbia Conference Center on Laurelhurst Avenue, Columbia, SC
June 12 9:00am-4:00pm
Registration: 8:30am

Monday, May 12, 2008

Down Syndrome Association of the Low Country

To access the DSAL's latest newsletter, and to read about up-and-coming events, click on the title above to be redirected to their home page.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

SC Assistive Technology Exchange Update

Image of wheelchair***SC Assistive Technology Exchange May 2008 Update***

The SC Assistive Technology Exchange is an online
recycling database to help citizens with
disabilities and older people with functional
limitations find affordable assistive technology
devices and equipment. For more information or to
buy, sell or donate, visit the Web site at
or email Catherine Graham at

Catherine Graham and Janet Jendron, SC AT Exchange Administrators

Items added since April 7th are listed at the
beginning of the available and needed sections in red.

Please visit the page at
and find the contact information for these and other items.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gene Therapy Experiments Improve Vision in Nearly Blind

Image of eyes and eye chart

"NEW YORK - Scientists for the first time have used gene therapy to dramatically improve sight in people with a rare form of blindness, a development experts called a major advance for the experimental technique.

Some vision was restored in four of the six young people who got the treatment, teams of researchers in the United States and Britain reported Sunday. Two of the volunteers who could only see hand motions were able to read a few lines of an eye chart within weeks."

To view this entire article, please click the title above.

DSAL Named As a Benefactor of Charleston Charity Duck Race

Image of DSAL logo

The Daniel Island Rotary Club has named Down Syndrome Association ofthe Lowcountry as one of the benefactors of the upcoming CharlestonCharity Duck Race!

This is the 2nd annual Charleston Charity Duck Race * last year 10,000rubber ducks were dropped from the top of the Wando Bridge on I-526 and floated downstream to the Duck Trap at Children's Park on Daniel Island where everyone was gathered to greet them. This year 15,000 will be dropped, and 3 ducks will be worth one million dollars if they come in first!

All other prizes are guaranteed to be given away the day of the race.The first 25 adopted ducks to cross the finish line will be deemed the consecutive winners. Please visit for more information and to adopt ducks. Be sure to indicate DSAL on your registration form where it indicates "Name of Rotarian" and encourage everyone you know to adopt a duck for DSAL! This wonderful family event is scheduled for June 7, 2008.

For more information, please click the title above.