Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Webinar on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Research

image of globe and laptops
Designing Effective AAC Technologies for Beginning Communicators

PRESENTER: Janice Light, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Penn State University

DATE: Tues., January 10, 2012
TIME: 12:00 - 1:30 PM E.T.
OVERVIEW: To date there are few guidelines to support clinicians and manufacturers on the design of effective AAC systems for beginning communicators. When AAC systems are well designed they may enhance communication and language outcomes for beginning communicators with complex communication needs. This webinar will present research results from recent studies that address the design of AAC technologies, and will suggest clinical guidelines to improve design based on this research. Each study will be presented briefly with a focus on research results and their implications for beginning communicators. Examples will be used to illustrate key points.

NOTE: You can review the complete webinar abstract by clicking on the title above.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The South Carolina Assistive Technology Workshops

The SC Assistive Technology Program and the SC Department of Education Assistive Technology Specialists are offering the workshops below in December. The workshops are free of charge, but require pre-registration.

12-5-11 – Columbia Boardmaker Studio Basics<> – Val Gioia

Register for the Boardmaker Studio Basics workshop online<>

12-7-11 – Low Country Windows 7 Accessibility Features<> – Stacy Springer
Register by emailing Stacy Springer>:

1. Your Name/Email/Contact Number

2. Your District/Position

3. The Training Title & Date

12-13-11 – Coastal Free Literacy and Study Aids<> – Stacy Springer
Register by emailing Stacy Springer>:

4. Your Name/Email/Contact Number

5. Your District/Position

6. Training Title & Date

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Saving For People With Disabilities May Soon Be Tax-Free

image of money
Disability Scoop, November 15, 2011 - "A bill that’s expected to be introduced in Congress Tuesday would give families a new way to save money for people with disabilities without jeopardizing government benefits.

The legislation known as the Achieving Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, would create savings accounts that could be used to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses for people with disabilities.

A bipartisan group of legislators plans to announce that they will introduce the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate at a noon press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill where they will be joined by representatives of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, The Arc and other groups.

Under the legislation being proposed, up to $100,000 could be deposited into a so-called ABLE account without compromising access to government benefits from Social Security, Medicaid and other programs.

The accounts are modeled after the popular 529 college savings plans, which can be opened at any financial institution. Interest earned on funds within the accounts would be tax-free.

“Our tax code currently provides advantages to help Americans save for college and retirement, yet people with disabilities do not enjoy those same financial planning tools,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., who’s sponsoring the House bill. “No longer would individuals with disabilities have to stand aside and watch others use IRS-sanctioned tools to lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They would be able to as well.”
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

People With Early Alzheimer's Disease May Be More Likely to Have Lower BMI

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2011)Studies have shown that people who are overweight in middle age are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease decades later than people at normal weight, yet researchers have also found that people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI). A current study examines this relationship between Alzheimer's disease and BMI.

The study, published in the November 22, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, examined 506 people with advanced brain imaging techniques and analyses of cerebrospinal fluid to look for biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease, which can be present years before the first symptoms begin. The participants, who were part of the Alzheimer's Disease. Neuroimaging Initiative, included people with no memory problems, people with mild cognitive impairment, or mild memory problems, and people with Alzheimer's disease.

The study found that in people with no memory or thinking problems and in people with mild cognitive impairment, those who had the Alzheimer's biomarkers were also more likely to have a lower BMI than those who did not have the biomarkers.

For example, 85 percent of the people with mild cognitive impairment who had a BMI below 25 had signs of the beta-amyloid plaques in their brains that are a hallmark of the disease, compared to 48 percent of those with mild cognitive impairment who were overweight. The relationship was also found in people with no memory or thinking problems.

"These results suggest Alzheimer's disease brain changes are associated with systemic metabolic changes in the very earliest phases of the disease," said study author Jeffrey M. Burns, MD, MS, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "This might be due to damage in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus that plays a role in regulating energy metabolism and food intake. Further studies should investigate whether this relationship reflects a systemic response to an unrecognized disease or a long-standing trait that predisposes a person to developing the disease."

To read more about Alzheimer's disease, please click the above title.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Support and Resource Group for Students and Parents & Educators of Students with Learning Differences

image of poeple

December 13, 7:30 pm Glenforest School 1041 Harbor Drive West Columbia, SC

We will discuss ADD/ADHD – the brain mechanisms involved, behavioral outcomes, and strategies for teachers, parents, and students. It will be a very open environment in which everyone will be welcome to share their experiences and any strategies they have found useful.

For information or directions call (803)718-3532 or e-mail

Friday, November 18, 2011

Max From NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ Talks Asperger’s

Disability Scoop (Nov. 9, 2010)- When NBC’s “Parenthood” premiered in March, viewers quickly learned that 8-year-old Max Braverman has Asperger’s syndrome. Since then, autism has emerged as a central part of nearly every episode of the drama, which focuses on the experiences of three generations of a California family.

The Asperger’s storyline follows the family’s journey to accept Max’s diagnosis and help him progress, all while dealing with their own emotions. The show’s heavy focus on life with a developmental disability is believed to be a first and so far audiences both with and without ties to autism seem to be responding.

“While not all parents are dealing with autism or Asperger’s, what I do find is all parents are dealing with something with their kids,” says Jason Katims, the show’s creator who himself has a son on the autism spectrum.

At the heart of the “Parenthood” drama is actor Max Burkholder, 13, in the role of Max Braverman. Nearly halfway through the show’s second season, Burkholder opens up to Disability Scoop about what it’s like to play a character with Asperger’s.

Disability Scoop: How did you land the role of Max on “Parenthood”?

Max Burkholder: I went in to audition and I really liked it a lot, so I was hoping that I would get called back. I had no idea what autism was before so I wanted to be able to learn more. It’s hard sometimes thinking of stuff that a person with autism might do in any given situation, but it’s still really fun.

Disability Scoop: What’s it like to play a character with Asperger’s syndrome?

Max Burkholder: It’s quite a bit harder because I have to figure out a way of expressing what Max is feeling without making it seem that he doesn’t have Asperger’s.

Disability Scoop: What goes through your mind to get into character?

Max Burkholder: I just think what Max might be feeling. He has special interests, like he loves bugs, anything about bugs. So whenever there’s something about bugs I try to seem really interested. But he doesn’t like to be touched so I make myself think that if this person touches me, it’s going to hurt a lot.

To read the entire interview, please click on the above title.

SC Adult Sibling Leadership Network Newsletter

NOTE: To see a larger version of the newsletter, click on the image above and then click again to zoom.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Columbia Parkinson's Support Group

Meeting Reminder

Date: November 20, 2011


For our open forum meetings we usually start with a theme or topic and go from there. Our members have an opportunity to share their own experiences; ask questions of each other; and help each other by proving solutions that they have for various issues, concerns, problems, etc. Our members tell us that at the open forum meetings, they learn about information and things that they can't find in anywhere else, because they are learning directly from other Parkinson patients and their caregivers.

For meeting information (time, place, map) please visit our website page of

Join Us For Our Annual Christmas / Holiday Party on December 18th, 2011

In December, our regular meeting will be our Annual Christmas / Holiday Party.

Refreshments and Entertainment will be provided. There is no charge or fee. Please feel free to invite and bring guests.

Back by popular request --- We will be having live entertainment by Bob Michalski, who plays a wide variety of contemporary and jazz instrumental selections. Bob has appeared in many locations around Columbia, including churches, weddings, and corporate events.

Visit to hear a short sample of Bob's dinner music -and- you can also go to Bob's website at for more information and music.

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to enjoy the music, have some refreshments, have fun, and get to know other members of our Parkinson support group in a relaxing environment.

Bring yourself and your guests - Come to the party! No RSVP is needed.

Visit Our Website at The NEWS FOR YOU web page has been updated with "new" news and information that may be of interest to you

We have been busy scheduling speakers and topics for our 2012 meetings. The 2012 MEETING & EVENTS CALENDAR web page has now been posted on our website at
We have some really great programs planned for 2012.
----------------------------------Please Volunteer - We Really Need You! Our support group is operated and run by volunteers who are Parkinson patients themselves, caregivers / care partners of Parkinson patients, or people who have an interest in and support Parkinson's disease. Contact us if you have experience or skills that can be used by our group. See below for some of the positions we need filled

Newspaper PR - This very easy position that can be done at home on your PC - 30 minutes a month - need to know how to "Google" and send email.

Greeter - Another position is to be a Greeter at the door for our meetings at the beginning of our meetings. Ability to smile and say hello are required.

Program Committee Member - Currently we have Dottie and Carol doing all the planning of programs. We could use some help. We would definitely be working with you. Computer skill with email needed. You will have the opportunity to meet some really nice people who interface with the Parkinson's community in many ways.

We look forward to seeing you at the November 20th meeting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Parkinsonian Worms May Hold the Key to Identifying Drugs for Parkinson's Disease

ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2011) Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have devised a simple test, using dopamine-deficient worms, for identifying drugs that may help people with Parkinson's disease.

The worms are able to evaluate as many as 1,000 potential drugs a year. The researchers have received federal funding that could increase that to one million drug tests a year.

The test is based on the difficulty that these "parkinsonian" C. elegans worms have in switching from swimming to crawling when they're taken out of water.

"They can crawl fine," says Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor of neurobiology. "They go into a puddle and can swim fine. But as soon as the puddle goes away they crash. In some cases an individual will remain rigid for about a half hour."

Pierce-Shimomura led a team of researchers, including Andres Vidal-Gadea, Stephen Topper and Layla Young, to identify this "motor switching" problem. Their findings were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"We take these motor transitions for granted," says Pierce-Shimomura, "like getting up out of a chair or walking through a doorway from one surface to another. But people with Parkinson's have a terrible time with this. They freeze at the threshold. It looks like we have a very simple worm model for this now."

To identify potential therapeutics, Pierce-Shimomura begins with worms that have been mutated to be deficient in producing dopamine. It's the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain that causes Parkinson's disease in humans.

The dopamine-deficient worms are put through the same paces that lead to the immobility, but in the presence of a drug.

If they become immobile as they normally would when water is removed, the researchers move on to the next drug. But if somehow a drug helps the worms' brains overcome the dopamine deficiency and they transition to crawling, the lab has a potential therapeutic.

Pierce-Shimomura says that although humans have a vastly more complex nervous system than the worms, the two species share an "ancient and conserved" genetic structure to their dopaminergic systems. What works to overcome a dopamine deficiency in the worms may do something similar in humans, and it can be tested in worms with extraordinary speed.

To read more about new therapies for Parkinson's, please click the above title.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Risk Factors for PTSS in Iraq & Afghanistan War Vets Similar to Those Observed in Vietnam Vets

Women Veterans Face New Risk Factors

Veterans Today (Nov. 10, 2011)– Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers from Boston report in the November issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology that risk factors for posttraumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS, short of full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD) in Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans were found to be similar to those observed in Vietnam Veterans. This suggests that there may be generalized mechanisms and pathways, common to different Veteran populations, through which risk factors contribute to PTSS.

“This research underscores the vital importance of VA’s outreach to Veterans, and their families, in helping them cope with posttraumatic stress,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The study subjects were a national sample of 579 (333 female and 246 male) Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans exposed to combat operations who had returned from deployment in the 12 months preceding the study. Using data from mailed surveys, the researchers assessed, as predictors of posttraumatic stress symptomatology, several risk factors which were previously documented among Vietnam Veterans. Examples include exposure to combat, predeployment stress exposure, dysfunctional family during childhood, lack of post-deployment emotional support from family and friends, and post-deployment stress exposure.

An interesting finding was that the women Veterans surveyed had new risk factors that were not seen in Vietnam-era women, such as exposure to combat and perceived threat. The authors ascribed that finding to the significantly different experiences of female Vietnam War and Afghanistan and Iraq war Veterans. Women Vietnam Veterans were primarily nurses or clerical staff. In contrast, women Veterans’ roles in Afghanistan and Iraq have substantially expanded, with much higher levels of exposure to combat. Thus, women Veterans in these more recent conflicts may have more in common with their male contemporaries, in relation to PTSS risk, than with their female counterparts from the Vietnam era. However, in terms of postdeployment readjustment, family relationships during deployment appeared to play a more prominent role in female compared to male Veterans.

“Our findings highlight the impact and role of family disruptions in increasing the risk for posttraumatic stress symptomatology, particularly for female servicemembers,” said Dr. Dawne Vogt, the paper’s lead author, from the VA Boston Healthcare System. “It is particularly noteworthy that women who experienced relationship problems during deployment, also reported less postdeployment social support.”

Veterans who believe they are experiencing symptoms of PTSS or PTSD may call the crisis hotline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and then push 1 on their telephone keypad to reach a trained VA mental health professional who can assist the Veteran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To read more about PTSD, please click the above title.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad

image of child with iPad
(CBS News) -- "For severely autistic people, communication is often impossible, leaving them unable to convey what they want or need. But as Lesley Stahl reports, touch-screen apps designed for tablet computers like the iPad are now giving autistic people new ways to express themselves, some for the first time. Teachers and parents are hailing the technology as a breakthrough, one that can reveal the true depth of knowledge and emotion trapped behind a wall of silence.
In the weeks since Steve Jobs died, there has been an outpouring of gratitude from his fans for the way his inventions, like the iPad, changed their lives.
Among the most passionate are parents of children with severe forms of autism, especially those who can't speak and appear hopelessly locked inside themselves. Those parents often say these kids understand more and know more than they're able to communicate.
Well now, with the iPad and other tablet computers spreading through the autism community, some of those parents are finding out they were right.
It turns out that autistic children show a real interest in the iPad with its easy touch-and-swipe screens. With specially-designed applications, or apps, these computers are helping them communicate and unlocking the isolation of people like 27-year-old Joshua Hood.
Imagine spending your life having conversations like this...having to poke out words on a laminated piece of paper - one letter at a time.
It was so frustrating for Josh, his mother Nancy says he would often give up and retreat into himself. At family gatherings, he was sidelined because no one understood him. At school, he sat passively in class unable to participate. When Josh was feeling bad or really needed something, the family resorted to charades..."
NOTE: To read an interview with Nancy and more about the iPad applications, click on the title above.

Friday, November 11, 2011

State Assistive Technology Act


The issue: The draft Fiscal Year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill contains new language of a mandatory Alternative Financing Program (AFP) set-aside of funding for State Assistive Technology Act. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will continue negotiations with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education THIS WEEK and our opportunity for Congress to eliminate this language from the House draft bill is NOW. Action is needed by Friday, November 4th. **

What it means: Under the new proposal, State Assistive Technology Programs would be required to spend 25% of their federal allocation for alternative financing programs through contracts with community-based organizations. These cuts would have significant negative effects on device reutilization, device loan and device demonstration activities.

What it means for SC: The South Carolina Assistive Technology Program’s (SCATP’s) AT Reutilization Program connects consumers, agencies and other organizations in the donation and sale of used medical equipment to people who could not afford it otherwise. The past two years, this initiative resulted in a cost savings of $695,172 to consumers, state and federal agencies and other organizations. Funding cuts would also greatly reduce the offerings of SCATP’s Device Demonstration and Device Loan Programs. In FY 2011, over 350 people participated in SCATP’s device demonstration program and people got a chance to borrow over 400 devices to “try before they buy” through SCATP’s device loan program. These programs greatly reduce demand for funding and promote responsible decisions for purchasing devices using Medicaid and Medicare dollars.

What can you do? If you feel that the proposed language of a new mandatory Alternative Financing Program set-aside in the draft 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill would negatively affect the lives of South Carolinians who have disabilities and those who serve them, consider these steps:

CALL, EMAIL or FAX your SC Congressmen and ask them to speak to the members of the House Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee and share how this legislation would impact SC though cuts in essential equipment reuse, demonstration and loan programs administered by SCATP. If you, a family member, friend, or client who has benefitted from these programs, please share those personal stories.

The Honorable Joe Wilson

Staff: Melissa Chandler-, 202-225-2452

United States House of Representatives, 2229 Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Trey Gowdy

Staff: Christopher Ingraham-, 202-225-6030

United States House of Representatives, 1237 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable James E. Clyburn

Staff: Willie Lyles,, 202-225-3315

U.S. House of Representatives, 2135 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4006

The Honorable Jim DeMint

Staff: Erica Suares,, 202-224-6121

United States Senate, 167 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-4004

The Honorable Jeff Duncan

Staff: Caleb Paxton,, 202-225-5301

U.S. House of Representatives, 116 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4003

The Honorable Lindsey O. Graham

Staff: Courtney Titus,, 202-224-5972

United States Senate, 290 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-4003

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney

Staff: Greg Thomas,, 25-5501

U.S. House of Representatives, 1004 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4005

The Honorable Tim Scott

Staff: Delores DaCosta,, 202-225-3176

U.S. House of Representatives, 1117 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4001

The Honorable Addison Graves Wilson

Staff: Melissa Chandler,, 202-225-2452

U.S. House of Representatives, 2229 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-4002

We'd also appreciate your sending an electronic copy of your letter to

Key discussion points to consider:

· It is urgent that the proposed language of a new mandatory Alternative Financing Program set-aside for State Assistive Technology Act Programs be removed from the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill.

· The proposed language of the set-aside means SCATP would force cuts to funding we currently use to implement SCATP’s AT Reutilization program which connects consumers wanting to sell or give away used medical equipment to consumers in need of used equipment. Funding cuts would also greatly impact SCATP’s Device Demonstration and Device Loan Programs. These programs reduce the demand for federal funding by millions of dollars and promote responsible decisions for purchasing devices using Medicaid and Medicare dollars. Emphasize the role that SCATP has played in ensuring that assistive technology is purchased and used effectively by South Carolinians.

· You could mention the ways SCATP serves as a resource in helping agencies and individuals in activities ranging from education to health care and even jobs, as well as the outreach to rural, underserved and minority populations. If you are in the education field, you can emphasize how SCATP has helped school districts and students meet the goals of the "No Child Left Behind" legislation. It might also help if you let them know how much the SC Assistive Technology Program has helped you, a friend, relative or client with disabilities.

**If you have questions, contact and we can update you on progress of this legislation and help you determine what you might do.

Two New EASI Free Webinars

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EASYCHIRP, an Accessible Interface for Twitter
Saturday November 12 at 1 PM Eastern standard time

Presenter: Dennis Lembree

Social media seem to get more popular every day. People with disabilities have become more and more involved in these online meeting places. The interfaces have varying degrees of problems for such users. Here is a valuable tool for Twitter.

Dennis Lembree, author of Easy Chirp, discusses Twitter and accessibility. Easy Chirp, an accessible Twitter web application formerly named Accessible Twitter, and other Twitter applications will be discussed.

Register now from the Webinar page:

Basic Web Accessibility: Understanding WCAG 2.0

Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 1:00pm - 2:00pm EST

Presenter: Jon Mires

If you're tasked with helping ensure your organization produces accessible web content, you've probably heard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). As the most widely used international guidelines on web accessibility, and the basis for many federal and local standards, it's important to understand WCAG. In this webinar, we'll explore the relationship between WCAG 2.0, WCAG 1.0, and Section 508. We'll also discuss how to apply the WCAG 2.0 guidelines to actual web content, and the differences between A, AA, AAA level conformance. Despite all the acronyms and abbreviations, this webinar is intended for people who are new to web accessibility or new to WCAG.

Learning Goals:
* Learn how WCAG 2.0 fits into big picture of web accessibility guidelines and standards
* Understand what each of the guidelines means in practical terms
* Leave with a set of online references for achieving conformance

If you have any questions about the webinars, please contact Karen Sheehan,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We Connect Now

Our Mission – We Connect Now is dedicated to uniting people interested in rights and issues affecting people with disabilities, with particular emphasis on college students and access to higher education and employment issues.

One of the goals of this site is to help college students with disabilities to succeed in their studies by getting the information and support they need, both through resources, links, blogs latest news, studying existing laws and regulation and through personal contacts. Through this website people can also share and read other people’s stories as a source of support and comfort. We also want people using our webpage to take action by writing blogs, hosting an event or becoming involved in politics by knowing about upcoming legislation. Also, every month our webpage will focus on a particular disability or condition to bring our visitors more information and support related to our focus of the month. Through our jobssection, we also hope to help empower people with disabilities find employment through job posting and job searching tips, and if people have any questions we encourage them to contact us. The goal of this site is that people leave it having gained knowledge, a support system and having taken action. We were founded in 2008 as a blueprint project for Young People For.

To read more about We Connect Now, please click the above title.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Biologists Use Flies and Mice to Get to the Heart of Down Syndrome

ScienceDaily (Nov. 4, 2011) A novel study involving fruit flies and mice has allowed biologists to identify two critical genes responsible for congenital heart defects in individuals with Down syndrome, a major cause of infant mortality and death in people born with this genetic disorder

In a paper published in the November 3 issue of the open access journal PLoS Genetics, researchers from UC San Diego, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the University of Utah report the identification of two genes that, when produced at elevated levels, work together to disrupt cardiac development and function.

Down syndrome, the most common genetic cause of cognitive impairment, is a disorder that occurs in one in 700 births when individuals have three, instead of the usual two, copies of human chromosome 21.

"Chromosome 21 is the shortest human chromosome and intensive genetic mapping studies in people with Down syndrome have identified a small region of this chromosome that plays a critical role in causing congenital heart defects," said Ethan Bier, a biology professor at UC San Diego and one of the principal authors of the study. "This Down syndrome region for congenital heart disease, called the 'DS-CHD critical region,' contains several genes that are active in the heart which our collaborator, Julie Korenberg, had suspected of interacting with each other to disrupt cardiac development or function when present in three copies. But exactly which of these half dozen or so genes are the culprits?"

To read more about Congenital Heart Defects, please click the above title.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

‘Glee’ Star Tapped For President’s Disability Committee

Disability Scoop (Nov. 7, 2011)- President Barack Obama is soliciting advice on disability issues from an actress with Down syndrome who has a regular role on Fox’s “Glee.”

Obama said he plans to appoint Lauren Potter, 21, to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. She is well-known for playing cheerleader Becky Jackson on the hit television show “Glee.”

The committee Potter will join is made up of 21 citizens and 13 federal representatives who are tasked with advising the president and the secretary of health and human services on issues pertaining to Americans with intellectual disabilities.

Potter rose to fame in disability circles in 2009 when she first appeared on “Glee.” The actress had recently graduated from high school when she impressed the show’s creators who decided to bring her back for additional episodes.

The notoriety from “Glee” led Potter to become involved nationally as a self-advocate, speaking out against use of the word “retard” and bullying of people with disabilities.

In addition to Potter, Obama also appointed Julie Petty to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. A self-advocate from Fayetteville, Ark., Petty is a past president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered who recently testified before Congress on disability employment issues.
To read more about the Disability Committee, please click on the above title.

Brain Cells Responsible for Keeping Us Awake Identified

image of neurons
ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2011) — "Bright light arouses us. Bright light makes it easier to stay awake. Very bright light not only arouses us but is known to have antidepressant effects. Conversely, dark rooms can make us sleepy. It's the reason some people use masks to make sure light doesn't wake them while they sleep.Now researchers at UCLA have identified the group of neurons that mediates whether light arouses us -- or not. Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and colleagues report in the current online edition of the Journal of Neuroscience that the cells necessary for a light-induced arousal response are located in the hypothalamus, an area at the base of the brain responsible for, among other things, control of the autonomic nervous system, body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue -- and sleep.

These cells release a neurotransmitter called hypocretin, Siegel said. The researchers compared mice with and without hypocretin and found that those who didn't have it were unable to stay awake in the light, while those who had it showed intense activation of these cells in the light but not while they were awake in the dark.

This same UCLA research group earlier determined that the loss of hypocretin was responsible for narcolepsy and the sleepiness associated with Parkinson's disease. But the neurotransmitter's role in normal behavior was, until now, unclear."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Babies Understand Thought Process of Others at 10 Months Old, Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2011) — "New research from the University of Missouri indicates that at 10 months, babies start to understand another person's thought process, providing new insights on how humans acquire knowledge and how communication develops."Understanding other people is a key factor in successful communication, and humans start to understand this at a very young age," said Yuyan Luo, associate professor of developmental psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science. "Our study indicates that infants, even before they can verbally communicate, can understand the thought processes of other people -- even if the thoughts diverge from what the infants know as truth, a term psychologists call false belief."

During the study, infants were monitored during different trials of a common psychological test in which an actor indicated preference for certain objects. Researchers timed the infant's gaze, which is an indication of infant knowledge. The infants watched longer when the actor's preferences changed. This led the researchers to believe that infants understood how the actor interacted with the objects."

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

Autism Moms Have Stress Similar To Combat Soldiers

Disability Scoop (Nov. 10, 2009)- Mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions, new research finds. These moms also spend significantly more time caregiving than moms of those without disabilities.

Researchers followed a group of moms of adolescents and adults with autism for eight days in a row. Moms were interviewed at the end of each day about their experiences and on four of the days researchers measured the moms’ hormone levels to assess their stress.

They found that a hormone associated with stress was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat, the researchers report in one of two studies published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

“This is the physiological residue of daily stress,” says Marsha Mailick Seltzer, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who authored the studies. “The mothers of children with high levels of behavior problems have the most pronounced physiological profile of chronic stress, but the long-term effect on their physical health is not yet known.”

Such hormone levels have been associated with chronic health problems and can affect glucose regulation, immune functioning and mental activity, researchers say.

In a companion study, the researchers followed up with the same group of mothers daily to interview them about how they used their time, their level of fatigue, what leisure activities they participated in and whether or not stressful events occurred. This information was then compared with data from a national sample of mothers whose children do not have disabilities.

Mothers of those with autism reported spending at least two hours more each day caregiving than mothers of children without disabilities. On any given day these moms were also twice as likely to be tired and three times as likely to have experienced a stressful event.

What’s more, these moms were interrupted at work on one out of every four days compared to less than one in 10 days for other moms.

Despite all of this, mothers of an individual with autism were just as likely to have positive experiences each day, volunteer or support their peers as those whose children have no developmental disability, researchers found.

To read more about Autism Moms, please click the above title.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Discovery Helps Explain Progression of Lou Gehrig's Disease, Offers New Therapy Approach

ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2011)Researchers in Uruguay and Oregon have discovered a previously unknown type of neural cell that appears to be closely linked to the progression of amytrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, that they believe will provide an important new approach to therapies.

There is now no treatment for this disease, which causes progressive death of motor neurons, serious debility, paralysis and ultimately death within a few years.

Even a way to slow its progression would be hugely important, scientists say.

The findings were reported October 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, Clemente Estable Institute and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

The scientists discovered a type of "astrocyte" cell that displays atypical behavior and causes motor neuron death. They are referring to them as aberrant astrocyte, or AbA cells. Astrocyte cells are very common in the brain, and usually help provide metabolic support and protection to neurons. But they can sometimes also become toxic and cause the death of neuron cells.

The researchers now have markers to identify the AbA cell, and found them adjacent to dying motor neuron cells in the spinal cord of laboratory animals with ALS.

The newly-identified AbA cells are selectively toxic to motor neurons, the researchers reported in the study, and 10 times more toxic than any other astrocyte cell known to exist. That level of toxicity is unprecedented, they said.

"We believe these aberrant astrocyte cells are helping drive the progression of ALS," said Joe Beckman, an OSU professor of biochemistry and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute who has been working on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for more than 15 years.

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