Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cutting Old Growth in Washington?

My wife and I recently decided to go camping in the old growth of the Gifford Pinchot National Forrest in Washington. We figured we’d get some well deserved r&r and replenish our energy. Not so. On our 2nd day in we saw 4 late teens walk past our campsite; one carrying an axe. We wondered out loud why someone would be carrying an axe on Federal land, but out of common sense decided not to inquire. 4 with an axe outweighs 2 without one any day.

We’re sitting there at around 1:30 when we hear chopping. We looked at each other and realized these people were cutting down a tree. We could make out their silhouettes through the brush, and sure enough they were swinging away. After about 15 minutes I saw the tree come down. We hoped the camp host would also hear it as she was in a site about 5 or 6 away from ours. After some hooting and hollering, the kids came out of the woods; walking past us and looking like their thoughts were; “What are you going to do about it?”

Another 15 minutes rolled by and we heard a gun blast from the direction they went. I kid you not. All on Federal land. Within the next ½ hour we heard another 5 shots fired. I’d say we were wise not to point out the whole axe thing. These kids were obviously whack jobs.

About an hour later the camp host came by and asked if we’d heard anything strange. We filled her in on what we’d seen and heard, and I showed her the tree that had been cut down. She acted very angry, but my hunch was that she was also afraid to approach them. Why she didn’t call for back-up is anyone’s guess. She left to call her boss.

An hour later they both showed up. She took him to look at the tree, and then they both came over to our site. They had an Incident Report that they said they wanted me to fill out, which I did. I’m wondering if anything will become of it or not. They have my contact info.

Sarah Palin and Downs Syndrome

Ok, so let me get this straight. Sarah Palin gave birth to a child with Downs Syndrome on April 8th of this year. That would be just under 5 months ago, right? And now she's putting in who knows how many hours a day campaigning each day. That means 1 of 2 things in my mind.

Either she's lugging this infant around with her on the campaign trail, or someone else is caring for him at home. Either way it seems a bit neglectful to me. She's spoken of how Trig (the baby's name) is a gift from God for her and her family. I'm cool with this idea, but is this how a good mother CARES for her gift from God? I don't think so.

I'm quite sure McCain is using her in part to get votes from the disability community. I'm equally certain that when this community becomes aware that she views disability in her own family so carelessly, they will run from her like the plague. You can't have it both ways Sarah. Either choose to be a good mom and take care of your newborn, or run for VP and let a nanny do the hard work.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This Hurts

I've been out of town the last few days. I see the world hasn't changed any since I've been gone. This sickening story comes out of West Seattle...

West Seattle murder case: “My last fight for my brother”

August 26, 2008 at 10:06 pm

In Crime, West Seattle news, West Seattle people

Three people were murdered in West Seattle in 2007. Two of the three people arrested in those three cases are still awaiting trial — but if a hearing downtown tomorrow goes as expected, one will enter a plea rather than facing a jury. The suspect is 45-year-old Brian Sheridan Walsh; the victim was 44-year-old Harold Benjamin (”Benny”) Reside, a West Seattle native, developmentally disabled and using a wheelchair, viciously beaten to death in his Cal-Mor Circle apartment in April 2007. His sister and brother-in-law have been involved with the case against Benny’s alleged killer every step of the way since - and today, on the eve of the expected plea hearing, they sat down with WSB to tell their story:

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Pam Reside Leach fought for her little brother Benny Reside all his life, which means most of hers.

She fought the kids who tormented her little brother — known then as “slow,” but not too “slow” to keep him from graduating from West Seattle High School in special ed — kids mean enough to pick him up and dump him in trash cans.

She fought to help her brother find his way as an adult — “a really kind, gentle person who had the odds against him,” as a family friend describes Benny — including helping him find that Cal-Mor Circle apartment after their mother’s death in 2001 led to circumstances keeping him from staying in the family home.

Now, she is fighting to ensure justice, on his behalf, in the form of appropriate punishment for the man accused of killing him.

The call came on what until that moment was a lazy Sunday morning in the West Seattle home Pam shares with husband Jeff Leach: April 15, 2007.

“I had a cat on my lap, had my cup of coffee … and then my cell phone rings, maybe 8:30, 9 am, which was unusual. I answer, and it’s his neighbor” — someone Pam knew from her many visits to look in on her brother at Cal-Mor — “She says, ‘I think you should know, your brother’s been murdered’. I wanted you to hear it from us first.”

According to court documents that lay out the case, it happened hours earlier, around 3 am, in Cal-Mor Circle apartment 609, where Walsh had been staying with Benny for about half a year.

The court documents refer to a story told by the lone witness, Craig Steele, who had been in the apartment with the victim and suspect, and also had been beaten that night (which his roommate, at another location, had called police around 3:18 am to report):

At about 0405, Steele called 911 and said police needed to get over to Reside’s residence because there may have been a potential murder there. … Steele indicated that he, Reside, and Walsh had been drinking and were intoxicated. While there, Walsh became angry at Reside, accusing Reside of being a drain on the welfare system. Steele said the verbal argument between Walsh and Reside quickly escalated into violence. Walsh began punching Reside. Steele tried to (stop him). Walsh began assaulting Steele, punching him repeatedly in the face. Steele said he thought Walsh was going to kill him. He decided to flee. As he did so, Steele said he saw Walsh ‘getting really brutal with Ben’.

Police found Benny Reside dead, “with visible head trauma,” according to the court documents. They found Brian Walsh “hiding in some bushes … a couple blocks away,” with “blood on his hands and clothing.”

He also was in possession of Benny’s wallet and cell phone, which factored into the first-degree charges filed against him. He has been in the King County Jail since that day, 16 and a half months ago, bail set at one million dollars.

And for all that time, Pam and Jeff Leach have been “living with murder,” as Jeff put it today. “A summer of murder,” this has been, he says, hard for those around them to comprehend, as they continue to live with details of the case, proceedings in the case, decisions to make.

Going back almost to the first day, there have also been the small details — the two kittens that Benny had been keeping in his apartment; they of course came to the Leach home after Benny’s death. One of those kittens, Oscar, is still there; the other one died after a car hit her — and that launches Pam into one of the stories she shares about her brother.

“He first named it Felix, and then it turned out to be a boy, so he changed it to Laura. Like Laura from ‘General Hospital’.”

“I thought it was Laura Ingalls,” interjects Jeff.

“Well, her too.” And the mood turns. “Police couldn’t get the cats out of the apartment” after the murder, Jeff recalls. “They were so traumatized,” Pam adds. “They had to go in with nets to get them, they wouldn’t come out for days.”

“They saw something really bad,” Jeff says.

There is no question that, as murders go, this one was “really bad.” Again, from the court documents:

Initially beaten in the head by Walsh’s fist, the suspect also used the base of a brass lamp and the broken ceramic shards of the body of this lamp to repeatedly lacerate and stab the victim’s face, head, and neck. The electrical cord of the lamp was found wrapped around Reside’s neck and was used to strangle the victim. Shoe marks on Reside’s neck and torso indicate that the suspect stepped or stomped on the victim. The bones in Reside’s neck and ribs were fractured and his liver was lacerated.

That is where that particular court document, known in the news business as “the charging papers,” ends. That is where Pam and Jeff’s fight begins, and soon it may be over.

They will go downtown to King County Superior Court tomorrow afternoon, for a hearing at which they say a plea bargain will be presented. Walsh — who has no known serious criminal history — is expected to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

On that plea, the Leaches say, the prosecution and defense agree. The point of disagreement will have to be settled at sentencing — how much time he should face. They want the “high end” of the sentencing range, while his lawyer reportedly is insisting on the “middle range.” That might mean 15 years in prison, “not nearly enough for taking someone’s life,” as Jeff puts it, but more than they fear he would get if the case went to trial, given the unpredictable nature of juries.

Pam fears a jury would hear the circumstances of the case — three very drunk men, all with .3-something blood-alcohol levels, in a physical fight — and reduce the charge to manslaughter. “Maybe they would hear, ‘Three alcoholic guys, sitting around, they had it coming’ … (A manslaughter verdict) could mean he would get five to eight years, and I couldn’t live with that,” she says.

That, despite other evidence in the case, such as: “They charged (Walsh) with first-degree murder in the first place because they found (Benny’s) wallet and phone (on him), which means the death was caused in the commission of another felony,” Jeff explains.

“He made a call that night,” Pam elaborates. “He called somebody and said - something bad happened” - Jeff finishes the sentence, “And he said, ‘the f***er’s dead’.”

Pam: “He didn’t admit to killing him, just said ‘he’s dead’.”

They did not arrive easily at the decision to accept a plea bargain. They have some legal experts in the family — Jeff’s brother is a recently appointed appeals judge in Snohomish County, married to a lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor. “They said we had been really lucky to get (a plea bargain for) second-degree,” says Pam, before Jeff continues, “What he will plead to is what he did — a fight ensued, he could have stopped, but he kept going, and (Benny was) brutally murdered.”

And yet - there are aspects of what they have learned about the legal system, what they have seen, that continue to trouble them. We talk about public defenders, and how far they are obligated to go to defend their clients; part of what figured into the Leaches’ decision is the fact the defense hired specialists who they say were going to testify about how the suspect’s blood-alcohol level could have rendered him incapable of premeditated murder.

Alcohol, Pam rues, caused trouble for Benny even before that life-ending night. She could help him with so many things, but she could not stop him from drinking. Part of the problem, she recalls, is a system that had no good way to help a developmentally disabled person with a drinking problem; she recalls taking him to rehab once, and being turned away by someone who said the program wasn’t right for him, because he could not sit in lectures, take notes, take tests.

And yet, in his subsidized apartment (Seattle Housing Authority runs Cal-Mor), with Social Security disability, he got by OK - at least until the injury that put him in a wheelchair. “They had polished the floors in the building, and he slipped, and broke his pelvis.” He wasn’t a particularly beefy person in the first place — 5′9″ and maybe 112 pounds, says Pam — but the injury put him at further disadvantage. “We had just gotten him a motorized wheelchair that January,” she remembers, three months before he was killed.

So many questions, so many loose ends, remain for them - whether things might have ended differently if a social worker at Cal-Mor had still been there: “She knew what was going on, and they (the residents) knew she knew” — and of course, what might have been, had Benny not met Walsh at the (now closed) nearby Chuck and Sally’s Tavern at some point in the year before the murder. And clearly, it is still hard for Pam to accept he’s really gone.

“Benny gave Pam a purpose in life,” Jeff observes. “She shopped for him, even socks, and cat food.”

“I loved him,” she acknowledges. “He was important to me. Just because the rest of the world didn’t care …” Her voice trails off.

Though their parents are gone, and Pam says their sisters have kept their distance, there is another family member who has stayed close to the case, Jeff noted: “We have a 17-year-old son, Joey, who remembers Uncle Benny. He’ll be there (in court) tomorrow.”

“Knowing Benny made Joey a better, a more understanding person,” Pam adds, remembering what a soft touch her brother was for her son, and her sisters’ children, in earlier years, sometimes deluging them with treats.

The family friend who joined us midway through the conversation notes that Benny was one of the many people who are said to have “fallen through the cracks”: Too disabled to really live independently or hold a job, yet not quite enough to qualify for constant care; Pam tells the story of a group home he left, complaining the supervision was so lax, the housemates were awash in drugs, and he didn’t want any part of that.

Now, they have one last set of people to deal with on his behalf: Lawyers, a judge, a victims’ advocate, and of course the suspect, for whom no family members have come forward at any point during the case. “We think he’s from the Midwest,” Jeff offers. “Maybe a Gulf War veteran.” Pam says she tried a Web search to find information about him, but didn’t come up with much. They have seen him mostly through glimpses of a man in an orange jumpsuit, showing up for myriad brief hearings to sign papers delaying the case yet again — almost routine in such proceedings — various reasons, from DNA-evidence processing delays to a change in lawyers, that have stretched the case out over these many months, months during which they never thought of easing their attention to what would become of the man who took away Benny.

“You’ve always been his advocate,” Jeff smiles at his wife of 20 years.

“It’s my job,” she says simply, matter-of-factly. “I love him.”

And that is the truth behind every violently ended life: Even if it is not a headline-grabbing case, not one of those heart-tugging cases of an angelically innocent victim taken too soon — the victims all have people who loved them. Though maybe not all as tenaciously as this West Seattle couple facing the end of their final fight, for Benny.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Through the Grapevine

Goodwill puts out “a monthly publication for employees of Goodwill industries of Columbia Willamette” titled the Goodwill Grapevine. Back in June my nephew’s case manager there asked me if it was ok to do an article about him. I was a little bit hesitant because I didn’t want him portrayed in any kind of negative light. She assured me that wouldn’t be the case, and said she’d do a story for the August edition.



He came over for Sunday dinner today and brought a copy of the newsletter with him. There’s a picture of him on the cover which is very cool. However; the back page is where his “story” is told, and I think it sucks. I don’t know who wrote this piece of trash, but they ought to be hung by the toes.

It starts out by saying; “The myriad of workplace sounds confuse him”. They don’t know that. He may have been confused because the situation was new. It goes on to say “The fast and efficient movements of employees make him anxious”. How can they write that? He certainly has never told anyone that. As I read I’m picking up on a vibe that they’re trying to make his disability look much worse than it is. Next they go on to say he “suffers from autism, a severe brain disorder”. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing he suffers from are the fools who wrote this drivel. “Some autistic individuals even feel terrible pain when they hear certain sounds. And sometimes the disease forces individuals to withdraw into their own world to avoid dealing with the sounds of the real world”. That may be true for some people with autism, but it’s not Joseph’s m.o. by a long shot. And...somebody needs to tell the writer that autism is NOT A DISEASE.

The next paragraph starts out by saying “Yet, somehow Joseph found the courage to move beyond his disorder”. Is this hyped-up fluff, or what? Courage? He’s as autistic now as he was when he started at Goodwill. He likes being autistic. I like his autism. The writer of this article ought to go back to school to gain an understanding of what disability is and isn’t. That’s the biggest reason he's bustin’ out of Goodwill.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The "R" Word

Maria Shriver's not afraid to tell it like it is. What about OUR legislators?? From the LA Times...

The 'R-word' is no joke
For the intellectually disabled and their families, it's just as bad as the "N"-word.
By Maria Shriver

August 22, 2008

This has been a year filled with teachable political moments. Racism, sexism, ageism and "change" have been debated at kitchen tables and water coolers across America. But this last week, those gathered around my kitchen table have been consumed with another discussion, one that is not Democratic or Republican -- it's the "R-word" debate.

The "R-word" stands for "retard." For the 6 million to 8 million Americans with intellectual disabilities and their families, this word and its hurtful use is equal to the impact of the "N-word" on an African American.

The reason it's kitchen-table fodder is because of the Dreamworks film "Tropic Thunder," which topped the box-office charts when it opened last weekend and which will attract many more moviegoers this weekend. In the R-rated film, which I've seen, a character named Simple Jack is a caricature of a person with a developmental disability. In one of the scenes, the character played by Robert Downey Jr. chastises Ben Stiller's character for "going full retard," and the "R-word" is repeated many times.

As a journalist, I respect the right to freedom of speech, and my kids will tell you I laugh the loudest when we see a comedy. But as the niece of someone who had a developmental disability, and as a member of the board of directors of Special Olympics International, I know how hurtful the "R-word" is to someone with a disability. I know why "Tropic Thunder's" opening was met by protests on behalf of the intellectually disabled.

Listen to actor Eddie Barbanell, who serves on the Special Olympics board with me, and he will tell you in very emotional terms how the use of that word has made him feel rejected, stupid, demeaned.

Or you can talk to Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne, who speaks on behalf of millions when she describes how the "R-word" has been used to mock and degrade her. She asks all of us to stop using this word without regard to its effect on the hearts and minds of people with disabilities.

There is an old saying: "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me." Even when I chanted it as a child, I never believed it. Words do hurt -- they break people's spirits, they break people's dreams, they break people's hearts.

Kids will see "Tropic Thunder," no matter the rating, and when they leave the theater and go out to their schools, their homes and their communities, they'll call each other the "R-word" because they think it's funny. They'll do it without any idea or regard to how it makes a person with a disability feel.

Too many in the intellectually disabled movement cannot speak out for themselves. It is up to their families and those of us who advocate on their behalf to explain that calling someone by the "R-word" is no longer acceptable and is anything but funny.

It's not acceptable in a movie theater; it's not acceptable on a playground. It's not acceptable that college coaches use it to chastise athletes. It's not OK to use it in a classroom or a boardroom.

"Tropic Thunder" is giving Claiborne, Barbanell and many other individuals and organizations that serve those with special needs -- the Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, the Arc, the American Assn. of People with Disabilities, Parent to Parent-USA -- a teachable moment. They are ready to join with the entertainment industry to change minds. Dreamworks' decision to include a public service announcement with DVDs of "Tropic Thunder" is an important first step, but far more needs to be done.

Just as important, parents must talk to kids at our kitchen tables about how we have felt when someone called us stupid, idiotic or lame. Because once we put ourselves in someone else's shoes, certain names just aren't that funny any more.

I often quote the Hopi prayer that tells us not to look outside ourselves for a leader. It tells us that we are the ones we have been waiting for. We can exchange one "R-word" for another: respect. We can teach our children that name-calling hurts.

Let's makes the "R-word" as unacceptable as the "N-word." Think of all we can accomplish if we work together.

It's one thing in this political season that shouldn't require a water-cooler debate.

Maria Shriver is the first lady of California.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Lesser Sentence For Destroying a Life

I don't see how an unprovoked attack with a baseball bat can be called second-degree assault. This IS in fact, a hate crime. When are our prosecuters going to call things what they are instead of plea bargaining down? This comes from the AP...

Eugene teens sentenced for brutal attack
08/21/2008
Associated Press

Two teenagers who beat a 59-year-old man with a baseball bat have each been sentenced to almost six years in prison.

Alex Lee Swegle, 19, and Joseph Anthony George, 17, both of Eugene, pleaded guilty last week to reduced charges of second-degree assault.

They attacked 59-year-old Michael Clay on June 9.

Clay, who is black, said he supported a decision by prosecutors not to prosecute the beating as a hate crime. Clay told investigators he does not remember his attackers using racial slurs, and an FBI investigation turned up insufficient evidence to support a racially based civil rights charge against the teens, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Bud Fitzgerald said this week.

"All crimes are hate crimes," Clay told The Register-Guard newspaper.
Clay, a musician and Vietnam veteran who also sells organic vegetable seeds he grows in Southern Oregon, was walking home when the teens assaulted him near an intersection.

Clay said he didn't realize how bad he was hurt until he reached his home a few blocks away. He learned at the emergency room that the attack had fractured his skull, broken his jaw, crushed a major sinus in his face and damaged his teeth.

Though he still suffers severe headaches, the dizziness and short-term memory problems caused by his brain injury have largely subsided. Doctors tell him he needs surgery, but Clay said he's not sure whether to have it.

"Everybody's talking about all this reconstruction, but nobody's doing it without getting paid," he said. "And the question is, do I spend that much money on myself at this point in my life?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Disability and Sexual Assault

PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Persons with disabilities are at 1.5 to 5 times the risk of sexual abuse and assault as members of the general population.

Of the most frequent crimes against people with disabilities, more than 90% are offenses.

90% of the girls and women referred to the Seattle Rape Relief Disabilities Project had been exploited by relatives or other people they knew.

Of sexual abuse victims who have disabilities:

• 75% were developmentally disabled;

• More than 40% were mobility impaired;

• 15% were hearing impaired;

• 37% had multiple disabilities.

• Almost 80% were female.

Among developmentally disabled adults, as many as 83% of the women and 32% of men have been victims of sexual assault.

Severe behavior problems in developmentally disabled adults were often a result traumatic sexual abuse by multiple perpetrators, which usually began in childhood.

98% of perpetrators of sexual abuse against persons with disabilities are male.

More than 1/3 of the boys, and more than 1/4 of the girls, with disabilities who sexually abused were physically abused as well. Almost one in five suffered injuries; almost 9% were seriously injured, such as having a bone broken; more 7% contracted a sexually transmitted disease; almost 2% became pregnant; and 1% died as a result of assault.

Sobsey, Dick, R.N., Ed.D., Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities: The End of Acceptance? p. 52, 1994.
Carmody, M. “Invisible Victims: Sexual Assault of People with an Intellectual Disability.” Australia and New Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 17, pp. 229-236, 1991.
Webb, Tracy. “Abuse of the Disabled: Violence against Women with Disabilities.” Working Against Violence in Community. www.nrps.com/disabled.htm.
Sobsey, p. 83.
Stimson, L. And Best, M.C. Courage Above All: Sexual Assault Against Women with Disabilities. Toronto, Women’s Network Canada, 1991, cited in Sobsey, Dick. Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People with Disabilities:
The End of Silent Acceptance? 1994.
Ryan, cited in Sobsey, Dick.
Turk, V. and Brown, H. “Sexual Abuse of Adults with Learning Disabilities.” Cited in Sobsey, Dick.
Sobsey, Dick. 1994.

So the next time you see someone pushing a wheelchair, please don't assume they are some kind of hero.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Harry Potter Has Dyspraxsia

I'm not kidding! Daniel Radcliffe, who has played the part of Harry Potter in the 5 movies has a learning/developmental disability called dyspraxia which affects his ability to perform some tasks like tying his shoes. When I watched his movies I suspected there was something a little bit different about him, but I couldn't figure out what it was. From the Daily Mail via ABC News he had this to say about it...

For "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, it's the simple things that give him the most trouble.

Radcliffe, 19, doesn't take issue with memorizing the scripts for the five "Harry Potter" movies he has headlined, or even the lines for his Broadway debut coming up this fall. But, asking him to tie his shoelaces is a different story.
In a recent interview with the UK's Daily Mail newspaper, Radcliffe admitted publicly for the first time to suffering from dyspraxia, a neurological disorder commonly associated with klutziness.

Radcliffe said the motor skill disorder sometimes gets so bad that he has trouble completing simple tasks, such as tying his shoes or writing a thank you note.
"I was having a hard time at school, in terms of being crap at everything, with no discernible talent," Radcliffe told the paper.

Poking fun at his own disability, Radcliffe went on to lament that Velcro sneakers never excelled in the world of fashion.

"Why, oh why, has Velcro not taken off?" Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe was unavailable for an interview with ABCNews.com, but his publicist, Vanessa Davies, said that the actor's dyspraxia is "very mild."

"It's a mild condition that affects his ability to tie his shoe laces and affects his handwriting," Davies said, adding that while he is capable of tying his laces, he "often fails" to do so.

Dyspraxia Turns Everyday Tasks Into Challenges
Dr. Mark Hallett, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes in Bethesda, Md., said the cause of dyspraxia is still unknown.

"Dyspraxia is a form of clumsiness, which is seen largely in children and is not explained by more elementary problems," said Hallett.

"Those who have dyspraxia may have trouble with simple things, such as shoe laces, jumping rope or throwing a ball."

Twenty-seven-year-old Warren Fried of Chicago told ABCNews.com that he was diagnosed with dyspraxia at age 19 -- after years of living an isolated childhood with no explanation for why some of the easiest challenges proved so difficult.

When I was growing up, I always knew there was something different about me," said Fried, adding that using buttons and zippers is still difficult.

"In school, every subject I tried, I failed," said Fried, who founded Dyspraxia USA two-and-a-half years ago to help other families with children suffering from the disorder. "Even the simplest things, like drawing and staying in the lines, was hard."

Radcliffe and Fried are hardly alone in their struggles, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities in New York City, which estimates about 6 percent of all children show some signs of dyspraxia and 70 percent of those are boys.

"It's wonderful that Radcliffe is coming out with this information, and it will be great for other youngsters with the same disorder," said Blanche Podhajski, a member of the professional advisory board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
"Some kids are just always considered sloppy writers, or lazy, or they're called unmotivated. But that's not the case."

Podhajski, who treats children with learning disabilities at the Stern Center for Language and Learning in White River Junction, Vt., said that, like many disorders, dyspraxia manifests itself in a variety of ways, depending on the child.
"Dyspraxia may mean that a child has difficulty with speech or, instead, may have trouble performing motor movements, like using a pencil and paper," said Podhajski, adding that, like Radcliffe, many children who suffer from the disorder have poor handwriting.

When Do Clumsy Children Need Treatment?

With the severity of dyspraxia ranging so widely from child to child, experts say there really is no timeline for when parents should seek medical treatment for their children.

Hallett said that one sign your child may be more than just a little bit clumsy is if the condition worsens.

"Dyspraxia tends to get better, if anything, and the children will develop reasonable coordination if given adequate time," said Hallett, adding that occupational and psychical therapy are common treatments for dyspraxia. "But if the children are getting worse, then that's definitely a problem that would justify seeking out medical attention."

Seeking out treatment] depends on the child's own threshold in terms of comfort," added Hallett, who said that many children he has treated for dyspraxia tend to be prone to frustration.

Podhajski agrees, and says that gauging how much a child's dyspraxia is interfering with his or her life is another good way to determine whether therapy is necessary.
"The most important thing to recognize is that not everyone is the same level at every skill set," Podhajski said. "We must learn to appreciate individual differences, but if they are such that they interfere with life functions -- whether it be having trouble with handwriting of speaking properly -- it might be time to consult a pediatrician. We're all wired differently.

"It's just how that wiring impacts your functioning differently that matters," she added.

"Not everyone could go on Broadway [like Radcliffe] and be so imaginative, and not everyone will be the best shoe tiers."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Autism

I just found out that Oregon ranks second on the list of states with the most people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Maybe we are talking about environmental causation, though I’ve suspected vaccines for some time as being the cause. Whatever the case may be 2nd of all the states is a pretty impressive fact.

My nephew/son Joseph has autism, but he wasn’t born here. He’s been through a lot, and continues to grow into being a productive man. When he arrived here at almost 17 my wife and I weren’t sure we could care for him. He was spoiled, non communicative, and truly self absorbed. He insisted that everyone should do as he wished or he would throw up. Seriously. Early on I made a rule. That was if he threw up it meant he was sick, and he would need to go to his bedroom AFTER cleaning up the vomit. After 1 time of doing this he stopped altogether.

I’ll tell you more about him in future posts. I just wanted to tell you about being second. Don’t know how I got off track.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

On my 3rd trip to the Multnomah County Commissioners Meeting on Thursday I was able to break through the silence. I testified (once again) that the county is not involved in any public attempts to stem the tide of violence, abuse, and neglect of folks with developmental disabilities.

They are not involved in the Portland Police Advisory Committee. They are not involved in any of the several groups throughout the state dealing with this issue. They are not involved in the Legislative Work Group in Salem. And they are not involved in the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes. It seems they want to operate from out of a vacuum.

This is the county that has a 6.7% rate for having crimes against people with developmental disabilities referred to the District Attorney. In the state, that is the second lowest rate. This is the county that uses their own lawyer to “facilitate” grievances against their employees concerning abuse. This is the county that has the largest population of folks with developmental disabilities living there. And this is the county where most of the violence, abuse and neglect occurs in Oregon. Something wrong here?

Commissioner Naito told me she’s certain that the office of Developmental Disabilities, the District Attorney, and the office of Domestic Violence are all doing “a lot”, and assured me the board would look into what they are doing. When she finds out they are NOT doing a lot around this issue, I hope the Board does something immediately.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The "R" Word Controversy

Is Ben Stiller a friend of people with developmental disabilities after all? He's brought to the attention of the disability community something that's long overdue. That's a discussion on the "r" word, which is now in the minds of many. I know that in the last few weeks I've blogged (along with hundreds of others) the story behind his film, Tropic Thunder, saying how tasteless and disrespectful his portrayal of an actor trying to garnish the attention of the film industry for his part of "Simple Jack" in the movie. I still find it offensive, but I'm glad there's a conversation going on.

So here is something to view about the "r" word...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When A Giant Dies

After yesterday's posting about the 10 year old boy who was a victim of rape, I decided to go a bit lighter. Here is an article about the death of the world's tallest woman from aol.

World's Tallest Woman Dies in Indiana
By DEANNA MARTIN


INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 13) - A woman who grew to be 7 feet, 7 inches tall and was recognized as the world's tallest female died early Wednesday, a friend said. She was 53.

Sandy Allen, whose used her height to inspire schoolchildren to accept those who are different, died at a nursing home in her hometown of Shelbyville, family friend Rita Rose said.

Sandy Allen, who was known as the world's tallest woman at 7 feet, 7 inches tall, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Indiana. While the cause of death was not yet known, Allen had been hospitalized recently for several ailments. She was 53. Click through to see more Guinness record holders.

The cause of death was not yet known. Allen had been hospitalized in recent months as she suffered from a recurring blood infection, along with diabetes, breathing troubles and kidney failure, Rose said.

In London, Guinness World Records spokesman Damian Field confirmed Wednesday that Allen was still listed as the tallest woman. Some Web sites cite a 7-foot-9 woman from China.

Coincidentally, Allen lived in the same nursing home, Heritage House Convalescent Center, as 115-year-old Edna Parker, whom Guinness has recognized as the world's oldest person since August 2007.

Allen said a tumor caused her pituitary gland to produce too much growth hormone. She underwent an operation in 1977 to stop further growth.

But she was proud of her height, Rose said. "She embraced it," she said. "She used it as a tool to educate people."

Allen appeared on television shows and spoke to church and school groups to bring youngsters her message that it was all right to be different.

Allen weighed 6-1/2 pounds when she was born in June 1955. By the age of 10 she had grown to be 6-foot-3, and by age 16 she was 7-1.

She wrote to Guinness World Records in 1974, saying she would like to get to know someone her own height.

"It is needless to say my social life is practically nil and perhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life," she wrote.

The recognition as the world's tallest woman helped Allen accept her height and become less shy, Rose said.

"It kind of brought her out of her shell," Rose said. "She got to the point where she could joke about it."

In the 1980s, she appeared for several years at the Guinness Museum of World Records in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

"I'll never forget the old Japanese man who couldn't speak English, so he decided to feel for himself if I was real," she recalled with a chuckle when she moved back to Indiana in 1987.

"At Guinness there were days when I felt like I was doing a freak show," she said. "When that feeling came too often, I knew I had to come back home."
Difficulty with mobility had forced Allen to curtail her public speaking in recent years, Rose said. She had suffered from diabetes and other ailments and used a wheelchair to get around.

Rose is working to set up a scholarship fund in Allen's name, with proceeds going to Shelbyville High School.

"She loved talking to kids because they would ask more honest questions," Rose said. "Adults would kind of stand back and stare and not know how to approach her."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is A Lawsuit Enough?

Here is a story you won't soon be able to forget. What is DHS thinking??

Boy was raped, lawsuit says
It alleges he was victimized by another boy in foster care

BY ALAN GUSTAFSON • STATESMAN JOURNAL

August 13, 2008

A 10-year-old boy with a history of fetal alcohol and drug syndrome, neglect, sexual abuse and mental illness was raped in March by another boy in a Salem foster home, according to a $10.5 million civil lawsuit filed this week in Marion County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the boy and his guardian by a Salem lawyer, alleges that he was victimized because of negligence by the state, along with a local nonprofit agency that has a network of foster homes and a Salem couple who provided foster care for him.

Named as defendants are the Child Protective Services Division of the state Department of Human Services, Catholic Community Services and foster patents Jack and Evelyn Cannon of Salem.

According to the sexual battery complaint, the boy — identified by the fictitious name of "Dakota" in court papers — entered state custody and care in 2006 after being sexually abused and neglected. His mother has a history of substance abuse and prison incarceration, the suit says.

Before being placed in the Salem foster home, Dakota received mental health evaluation and treatment at a Portland facility called the Parry Center for Children. He then was placed in a foster home in Mill City, about 30 miles east of Salem, and later was admitted to a psychiatric unit at Providence Hospital in Portland.

In mid-January, the state arranged with Catholic Community Services to place Dakota in a Salem foster home, according to the lawsuit. At the time, it says, state protective services workers, mindful of the boy's mental illness and past sexual abuse, gave "strict orders" that he live in a home with no other children.
"In spite of these strict orders, there were at least three other children in the Cannon household," the suit says.

Dakota was sexually assaulted by a 12-year-old boy, himself a foster child taken into state care because of abuse and neglect, according to the complaint. The older boy "raped, molested, sexually and physically assaulted, intimidated and otherwise abused Dakota," the suit says.

Being sexually assaulted again caused Dakota severe physical and mental suffering, including post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, retarded emotional development and other problems, the suit says. He reportedly attempted suicide multiple times after being raped.

Still in state custody and receiving care at a secure treatment facility, Dakota will require counseling, medical care, medication, supervision and constant psychological evaluation for the rest of his life, according to the suit.

Salem lawyer James Shadduck, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the boy, said late Tuesday that the case was investigated by Salem Police and resulted in criminal charges against the older boy. He said the juvenile court case has not been resolved.

Asked how Dakota is faring now, Shadduck said: "Terrible. He had a lot of emotional issues before this because his mom was in prison for drug- and alcohol-related offenses and apparently there was sexual abuse early in his life. He wasn't exactly in the best of shape emotionally before this, and the events surrounding what happened have exacerbated it. He has a hard time communicating verbally."

Before being placed in the Salem foster home, the suit says, Dakota was "prone to lashing out, exposing himself, and otherwise instigating instances in which he may create an environment that would invite sexual abuse and assault by other male children. This was a primary reason why Dakota was to be placed in a foster care environment without other children."

Shadduck said the defendants failed to ensure Dakota was the only foster child in the home.

"That was the key element that was supposed to be met, in addition to the treatment he needed in a temporary foster situation," he said. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason — Catholic Community Services or DHS or somebody — dropped the ball and he was placed in a home with another foster child, and the background he had was not suitable for that.

"I don't believe, based on what I can tell, that the Cannons had a clue that that (single child in the home) was supposed to be the situation. I think they still needed to maintain supervision and make sure the kid didn't get hurt and so forth. Those are different issues and responsibilities. But in regards to the communication, that was between the state and the agent they contracted with — Catholic Community Services."

The lawsuit says the Cannons were paid by Catholic Community Services to be foster parents for Dakota. The Cannons could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mary Marshall, the communications director for Catholic Community Services, said that she could not comment on the lawsuit.

"We're unaware of such a case, and in any event we are bound by customer confidentiality, so we would be completely unavailable to comment," she said.
Catholic Community Services is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves children, youths and families with special needs as well as adults with disabilities in the Mid-Willamette Valley and Central Oregon Coast.

It offers more than 20 programs providing family support services, independent living services and community homes for children in foster care and for adults with developmental disabilities.

The lawsuit asserts that the state failed to properly train Catholic Community Services employees and the Cannons "in the proper techniques and guidelines" so that they could be "qualified therapeutic intervention specialists who could recognize and determine Dakota's needs."

The suit also claims that the state failed to inspect the foster home and check records to make sure that there were no other children living there with Dakota.
It also asserts that the state failed to ensure that the foster home had an adequate safety plan, "requiring the Cannons to ensure that Dakota's safety would not be compromised during the course of their care and supervision of Dakota and the sexual predator."

Spokesmen for the state Department of Human Services and the Oregon Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the suit.

"We've received the lawsuit, and we're reviewing it at this time," said Jake Weigler, a spokesman for the AG's office. "That's about all I can say."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tropic Thunder Protests

It's all over the internet. The uproar over the movie Tropic Thunder is moving along as I suspected it would. The disability community across the country has plans to protest the opening of this movie throughout the US and beyond. People tried to warn Dreamworks that they wouldn't stand for this "film" to be released without them editing it first. That would have meant rewriting, editing, and reshooting the movie, which I knew they wouldn't do.

So now we have an interesting scenario where you'll be seeing scores of protesters in front of theaters where it will be shown. Ben will no longer be a crowd favorite (as with Jack and Robert), but will be crucified in the media when it comes to light that their attempt at crude humor was a big mistake.

I can see it now. Ben Stiller answering questions about why it's being slammed. He'll talk about it as an afront toward actors who go to great lengths to "make it big". He won't be able to explain how he could make such a hurtful film, knowing the disability community warned him not to.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

“Sorry, We Don’t Have Enough Money”

When you approach our state’s legislature with an important need, asking them to fund it, you often hear the same words... “We don’t have enough money in the budget to fund this need.” There always seems to be another excuse why needs don’t get funding, and generally it revolves around the budget. That being the case, someone please answer the following question. If the budget is so constraining, how in the name of all that’s good and sacred can the legislature fork out over 1.25 million dollars, for of all things, OFFICE FURNITURE?

I know we need an ombuds program to ensure people with developmental disabilities who live in the community are protected. I also know that when the financial impact is discussed in the upcoming legislative session about said program, there will be hemming and hawing over what it costs. In Illinois they have one.

The statewide ombudsman program — advocating on behalf of more than 80,000 people in more than 800 facilities — operates on a $2.8 million annual budget. That breaks down to $1.7 million from the federal government, $750,000 from civil penalties paid by nursing homes with health violations, and $391,000 from state general-revenue funds.

I say “to hell with the office furniture. Give us and ombuds program!”

Tell 'Em Tina!!

State Representative Tina Kotek recently weighed in on the whole Social Security flap in the Oregonian. She set things straight with her comment about the General Assistance Program which was eliminated a few years back. Tina seems to have the right idea about much of what we need in our state.

Friday, August 08, 2008 The Oregonian
Like many readers, I was disturbed by The Oregonian's recent coverage of the ordeal thousands of people with disabilities must face to receive the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits they need and deserve. Any bureaucratic process that is drawn out so long that people die before receiving help is just plain wrong and must be fixed.

While the backlogs and benefit delays must be solved by the federal government, it's important to examine what role state government can play in helping individuals waiting in limbo for their federal disability benefits. One of the things Oregon can do is make sure we have a strong vocational rehabilitation system. For people with disabilities who can work in some capacity, we must do everything we can to help them remain working or enter the work force whenever and wherever possible.

But we must also recognize that this path is not available to everyone with a disability. The state must do its best to bridge the gap between loss of employment and the eventual delivery of federal disability benefits.

Up until three years ago, Oregon had a state-funded program called General Assistance that provided a monthly stipend and health care benefits to very low-income SSI or SSDI applicants until they received federal benefits. The program was designed to help those without any other resources, the "neediest of the needy." When the federal benefits came through, they were awarded retroactively in a lump sum so the state could be reimbursed for much of the monetary support it had provided to Oregonians going through this process.

But the General Assistance program fell under the budget axe during the state's last recession. Consequently, many Oregonians with disabilities now suffer needlessly, unable to pay for their most basic needs. Applying for federal benefits, as The Oregonian's stories illustrated, is a lengthy and complicated process that requires documented medical opinions and trained lawyers for the appeals process. Many applicants give up; some become homeless.

The current cost to the state's crisis services -- emergency rooms, shelters, jails -- is undoubtedly more than what General Assistance cost taxpayers when it was operational.

One of the families profiled in the Sunday story was a mother and her son who are receiving cash assistance, health insurance and case management from the state through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, help that is now available because of changes to state welfare policy enacted in the 2007 Legislature.

The critical bridge support previously provided by the General Assistance program should now be extended to all adults with disabilities. It is the cost-effective and humane thing to do.

People with disabilities and our communities are looking to the state to step up. We should not let them down.

Tina Kotek is a Democrat representing Portland in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Racism in Portland

For those who believe racism is no longer a problem in Portland, Oregon comes a story of extreme racism right here in Portland, Oregon.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 08, 2008
LEGAL BRIEF: ELECTRONICS RETAILER 'VIDEO ONLY' TO PAY $630,000 FOR HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION

The Legal Brief gives everyone an idea of some of the types of cases that EEOC litigates, as well as an idea about the specific race-based issues that other Blacks have faced and challenged in the workplace. Readers may also gain insight into the arguments presented by EEOC and the defenses offered by employers. This information may be helpful to workers, who may be considering filing a complaint or seeking legal counsel, as well as to employees who feel they are becoming embroiled in race-related issues at work.

In this case, the employer used intimidation tactics against coworkers in an attempt to silence them and hired private investiators in an attempt to get information to discredit the complaining employees. These employer tactics are not uncommon.


PORTLAND, Ore. – Home electronics retailer Video Only will pay $630,000 and implement preventative measures to settle two discrimination lawsuits, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on Monday. Judge Garr M. King of the U.S. District Court in Portland signed the Consent Decree approving the settlement.

According to the EEOC's suit (Civil Case No. 06-1362-KI in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon), two employees of Video Only’s Jantzen Beach store in Portland -- Michael Gonzales, a Hispanic, and Jayson Lewis, an African American whose fiancĂ©e and two young children are Jewish -- faced repeated slurs and jokes about their race, national origin, and religion. The abuse included use of the “N–word” by management; the telling of racially offensive “jokes”; use of the epithet “beaner”; and a doll with its hair and face painted black that was hog-tied and hung by a nail in the break room.

The EEOC also alleged that the company retaliated against Gonzales and Lewis after they reported the harass¬ment by, among other things, hiring a private investigator to gather information in an effort to discredit their harassment claims. Company officials also confronted co-workers who supported the complain¬ants by telling them they were hurting the company and trying to get them to quit, the EEOC charged.

The EEOC and the employees took the unusual step of filing pretrial papers seeking a ruling against the company and, on June 11, 2008, Judge King ruled that Video Only had indeed unlawfully retaliated against Lewis and Gonzales. In finding for the EEOC and the discrimina¬tion victims, the court said the company had called for a private investigation because of Gonzales’s and Lewis’s complaints and “for no other reason.” The court also knocked down a cornerstone of Video Only’s defense, finding as a matter of law that Video Only failed to exercise reasonable care to promptly correct the harassment.

All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gonzales and Lewis will be awarded $500,000 of the total $630,000 settlement. The remaining $130,000 resolved a related suit to which EEOC was not a party. The related suit alleged retaliation against Travis Herron and Dave Guralnick, two other Jantzen Beach employees who spoke out on behalf of Gonzales and Lewis.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Video Only agreed to implement anti-discrimin¬ation policies and procedures in its work force. The company will provide anti-discrimination training to all management and non-management employees in Oregon and at its headquarters store in Seattle-Southcenter. The company will also provide periodic reports to EEOC on its compliance with the terms of the consent decree. The Oregon court will have jurisdiction to enforce the EEOC’s settlement for the next three years.

“Our investigation discovered harassment that engaged in the worst stereotypes and slurs about Blacks, Latinos and Jews, and that upper management actively participated in this behavior,” said EEOC Acting District Director Mike Baldonado. “This is a major victory for Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Lewis, the employees who testified on their behalf and future employees at Video Only. The settlement should send a strong message that harassment based on race, national origin and religion has no place in the workplace, and that those who speak out against discrimination are protected by law from retaliation.”

EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo added, “The kind of heavy-handed intimi¬dation Video Only employed led us to seek a pre-trial ruling. The court’s June 11 finding affirms EEOC’s position that retaliation designed to frighten employees from reporting or testifying about discrimination violates the law. These employees should be recognized for their courage in stepping forward,”

Video Only, Inc. sells home entertainment video and audio equipment. The corporation has 18 stores located in Washington, California, and Oregon and has its headquarters in Seattle.

On Feb. 28, 2007, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp launched the Commission's E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. Further information about the E-RACE Initiative is available on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/initiatives/e-race/index.html.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Source: http://www.eeoc.gov/press/8-4-08.html

Thursday, August 07, 2008

As If They Didn't Know

Ben Stiller ought to know better. Jack Black ought to know better. Robert Downey Jr. ought to know better. Paramount Pictures ought to know better. And Dreamworks ought to know better. I’m talking about the movie Tropic Thunder due to be released on 8/13, and their collective efforts to make fun of people with developmental disabilities (not to mention black folks).

The word “retard” is thrown around as they talk about Ben’s role in another movie called Simple Jack, where his character plays the part of a farm worker who has a developmental disability. Lots of laughs at the expense of a group of Americans struggling to get by in their homeland. Why don’t they take the same level of disdain and place it where it belongs... at the feet of the government that neglects these people?

Do they not know that people with disabilities are some of the lowest income people in our country? Do they not know that when you have a label of mental retardation, you are only allowed up to $2000 in resources before you are cut off Medicaid? Do they not know that almost all these people use food stamps and are destined to live with medical services like the Oregon Health Plan where they are treated like cattle? Are they all THAT ignorant?

Until we as a society begin to acknowledge the pain and strife THAT IS the lives of people with developmental disabilities, films poking “harmless” fun at them should not be made. We all ought to know better.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Job Coach, Huh?

Sometimes I read my email with little reaction to alerts I get from Google. Not so today. In Glenwood Springs, Colorado there is a man who is called a job coach; a person who's job is to assist a person with a disability in accomplishing whatever tasks their employer needs done. Well, this fellow took things significantly further than that over the 11 years of working with the woman in this story. From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent...

Glenwood Man Accused of Sexual Assault

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — Police arrested a man last Wednesday accused of sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled woman for whom he was a “job coach.”

James Garland, 66, of Glenwood Springs, was arrested on suspicion of one count of crimes against at-risk adults — sexual assault, a class two felony. A court document says more counts “will likely be charged.”

The allegations came to light when a Wal-Mart employee told the Glenwood Springs police that another female Wal-Mart employee who was “developmentally disabled to some degree” was seen performing a sexual act for Garland in his car in the Wal-Mart parking lot last Wednesday.

The alleged victim was once a client of Mountain Valley Developmental Services, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, and Garland, who was a manager at Safeway, acted as her “job coach” and helped her get the job at Wal-Mart about 11 years ago.

He declined to comment on the allegations.

The woman didn’t speak to police while at Wal-Mart. She talked to them later at the police department in an interview including her parents.

The woman’s demeanor appeared “very childish” and she was difficult to understand at times. She eventually nodded and answered “yes” to a question about whether the sexual act occurred, the affidavit says, later adding that Garland regularly came by her house.

The woman’s mother told the detective the woman had a developmental disability since birth.

Mountain Valley Developmental Services told police that home visits are contrary to policy and there’s no reason Garland should have gone to the woman’s house. A job coach helps people find jobs and is supposed to act as an “interpreter” between employer and employee, the affidavit says.

The charge in the affidavit says Garland knew the alleged victim was incapable of determining the nature of her conduct.

Garland is free on $25,000 bond and will appear for formal filing of charges Aug. 20.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Savage Ad Boycott Working!

The disability community has made some progress in an ad boycott against Michael Savage. You know... the guy with the shock radio show. He said some really dumb things about autism on his show which propmted the following response from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Below that you'll see a letter I received this morning about Honda/Accura dropping his show. I hope this goes even further.

August 04, 2008
Disability Community Unites for an Ad Boycott Against Michael Savage

From Ari Ne'eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network:

Hello everyone,
As many of you have already heard, this past week talk radio personality Michael Weiner, better known on the air as Michael Savage, made several outrageous remarks in regards to autism, including, "Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket…I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."

Remarks like these spread ignorance about autism and threaten to return us to a previous era where parents were blamed and labeled as "refrigerator mothers" for having autistic children. Not only have Michael Weiner and Talk Radio Networks refused to retract these outrageous comments - they have added to them by claiming, unsupported by science of any kind, that the autism spectrum is an overdiagnosed medical condition. This is part of a broader pattern of statements attacking people with disabilities and our families. It requires a strong response.

As a result of this continued attack against autistic people and the broader disability community, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network has joined with over a dozen national and regional disability rights organizations to call on the sponsors of Talk Radio Networks and the Savage Nation to pull their support. Together, we have issued a strong joint statement calling for an ad boycott. In addition, we've collected contact information for several of the major sponsors of Talk Radio Networks in order to empower our community to take further action. We urge you to use the information below to write, call and e-mail these sponsors and tell them why it is imperative they join companies like Aflac and Telesouth Communication that have already pulled their ads in response to these hateful remarks. There are over 50 million people with disabilities in the United States with approximately $200 billion in disposable income. It is time for us to make our voices heard.

Below you will find contact information for Talk Radio Networks' largest sponsors and a sample letter for you to use as a reference point in your e-mails and phone calls. We will be keeping an updated list on our website here and will post updates and changes to contact information as new information becomes available. In addition, if you would like to express your support for the disability community's joint statement on this issue, you can do so by signing our petition here. Organizations wishing to become signatories to our joint statement should contact us at info@autisticadvocacy.org. Please distribute this message to your networks and feel free to repost.

Sample Letter:
"To Whom It May Concern:
As a member of the disability community, I am outraged by the recent comments made by Talk Radio Networks' host Michael Alan Weiner, also known as Michael Savage, stating that autism is "a fraud...a racket...In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is." Not only have these comments not been retracted but Talk Radio Networks continues to stand by Michael Weiner as he continues spreading public misinformation about autism. Autism is a very real developmental disability affecting millions of Americans. Public ignorance and prejudice against people with disabilities represent one of the most significant obstacles to full access and inclusion of people with disabilities throughout society. I urge you to take immediate action and pull your financial support from Talk Radio Networks and The Savage Nation Radio Show in response to these hateful comments."

Contact Information:

ABC, Inc.:
VP Advertising/Sales Mike Shaw
Phone: 212 456-7272
mike.shaw@abc.com
VP Public Relations Kevin Brockman
Phone: 818 460-7756
Fax: 212-456-1424

Acura:
Acura Public Relations
Mike Spencer, 310-783-3165
info@acura.com

American Express:
Leslie Berland
212.640.5142
Leslie.A.Berland@aexp.com
American Express
P.O. Box 981540
El Paso, TX 79998-1540

Boca Java:
Stefanie Hochstadter
shochstadter@bocajava.com
1-888-262-2528
Boca Java
730 South Powerline Rd.
Suite D
Deerfield Beach, FL 33442

Campbells:
Campbell Soup Company
Campbell Place
Camden, NJ 08103-1701
Phone: 800-257-8443
Phone: 800-871-0988

Citrix:
851 West Cypress Creek Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309, United States
Americas PR
Jason Wyse
Americas Senior PR Manager
Phone: (786) 449-3740
Email: jason.wyse@citrix.com
Eric Armstrong
Director, Corporate Communications
Phone: (954) 267-2977
Email: eric.armstrong@citrix.com

Dish Network:
CEO Charlie Ergen: (303) 723-1010
CEO assistant: (303) 723-1005
EchoStar Satellite L.L.C.
Attn: Corporate Communications
9601 S. Meridian Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80112
press@echostar.com

Ebay:
Alan Marks
Senior Vice President Corporate Communications
Telephone: 1-408-376-7400
Fax: 1-408-369-4855
Email: info@ebay.com

General Motors:
Andrea Canabal
General Motors, Northeast Communications,
Work: +1-914-244-6059,
Cellular: +1-914-391-6898,
andrea.canabal@gm.com
Stockholder line: 313-667-1500

Gallo Winery:
John Segale
Gallo Winery Spokesperson
Work: 916-960-5341
Cell: 916-600-1081

Prudential:
Bob DeFillippo
Phone: 973-802-4149
bob.defillippo@prudential.com
Nestlé Purina PetCare:
Email: kschopp@purina.com
Phone: 314-982-2577
Fax: 314-982-2752

Simon & Shuster:
Michael Selleck
(800) 223-2336
info@simonsays.com

Staples, Inc:
Paul Capelli, 508-253-8530
paul.capelli@staples.com

Subway:
SUBWAY® Public Relations
(203) 877-4281
Les Winograd Ext. 1683
winograd_l@subway.com
Kevin Kane Ext.1329
kane_k@subway.com

Volkswagen:
Keyes, Steve
Director, Press and Public Relations
Phone: 703 364 7650
Fax: 703 364 7071
Email: steve.keyes@vw.com
--------------------------------------

The following is the response I received today from American Honda regarding sponsorship of the Michael Savage Radio Program. If you are considering purchasing a new automobile, please consider Honda products. Please share this message with other advocates so they will be aware also. - Derrick

Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2008 13:49:57 -0700
Subject: RE: Michael Savage


Dear Mr. Jeffries,

Your communication regarding Michael Savage has been referred to me.

An American Honda automobile radio commercial mistakenly ran in the
Michael Savage “Savage Nation” radio program in the San Diego and New
York markets. We have taken immediate steps to ensure that all national
and regional Honda advertising be pulled from this program permanently.

Jeffrey Smith

Jeffrey A. Smith
Assistant Vice President
Corporate Affairs & Communications
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
1919 Torrance Boulevard
Torrance, California, 90501
310-781-5062


CA Code: Al Zonca

--

RIP Danieal

I wrote about Danieal Kelly, an autistic teen, who was murdered by neglect on Saturday. She was found covered in bed soars, on a bare and dirty mattress, with feces all around her. Her body left a permanent impression on the mattress when she was moved.

The mayor of Philadelphia was so angered over what happened to her that yesterday in a news conference he said he was "pissed off" at her caregivers, and would "kick their asses" if Danieal was his daughter. Strong talk from a politician. Not too worried about what people might say regarding his choice of words.

That all being said, I went to a Multnomah County Commissioners meeting last Thursday. I asked where the accountability is from the county for all the domestic violence, abuse, and neglect experienced by people with developmental disabilities in our state. Not one of our elected officials answered my question even though Multnomah County is leading the way to abuse. Not one of our elected officials could say "This is unacceptable". Not one of our elected officials had anything to say. I find THAT unacceptable!

I guess they were anxious to get down to the business of fast food calory counting, and couldn't be bothered by small stuff like death. Domestic violence just doesn't cut it with them.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Oregon Reflections

Why do you suppose it is that the Oregon Department of Human Services is so whacked out? Think about it.

The Department of Mental Health can’t seem to protect people with mental illness in our state. Seniors and People with Disabilities can’t seem to protect people with developmental disabilities. The Oregon Youth Authority needs to be investigated. Nursing Homes are a great danger to people. And... the whole time you see Bruce Goldberg out there talking about the great work DHS is doing.

Is this karma?? Or maybe it’s the result of Death with Dignity. Ok... Assisted Suicide. Whatever. My point here is that if you give a group of people (doesn’t matter what size) enough power that they can choose how and when they will die, it seems to allow them to look at other people’s lives as less meaningful. Thus, it may be related to why there is so much indifference around the suffering of others.

Just something to think about on your Saturday afternoon.

Assisted Suicide Nightmare

I told this story slightly differently the other day. If you missed it then, you might want to read it now. It speaks of what's happening in Oregon behind the Death with Dignity law we started using on October 27th,1997. This is REALLY IMPORTANT! If you thought (as I did) that this was a good idea... think again.


When government decides what your life is worth

Posted on July 31, 2008 by worldviewsmatter

by Rick Swengel

Randy Stroup has cancer.

Tragically, he does not have health insurance.

Not to worry. The state of Oregon, like most states has provisions for helping those who do not have insurance. Chemotherapy, though, is expensive. In fact, it’s so expensive that the state of Oregon has decided that the taxpayers cannot afford to foot the bill. But the compassionate state of Oregon has a solution for Randy Stroup. The state will pay for physician-assisted suicide?

That’s right. Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law provides for taxpayers to pick up the tab for those who cannot pay for the service themselves. Can’t afford to pay your doctor to kill you? Hey, the state’s got your back!

The Oregon Health Plan uses guidelines established by the state legislature to be certain that citizens are informed of all their “choices” including assisted suicide. DAWG Oregon (Disabilities Activist Work Group) makes the point that “the right to die will become a duty to die.”

The state of Oregon rations health care. Every government-run healthcare system in the world rations care. Rationing and raising taxes are the only ways government run healthcare can deal with costs. The rationing of care necessarily result in denial of care. Promotion of assisted suicide takes us farther down that “slippery slope” predicted by opponents of assisted suicide.

Government agencies have established values for human life. The Environmental Protection Agency recently lowered human value to $7.22 million (down from $8.04 million), the Department of Transportation gives your life a value of $5.8 million (a $3 million increase), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission gives you a value of $5 million. If our government has established the financial value of our lives, how far are we from being obligated to die when we become “too expensive” to keep alive. Dr. Peter Singer of Princeton University (De Camp Professor of Bioethics) has asserted for some time that the chronically ill, the handicapped, and the aged should be euthanized for the good of the rest of society. The New Yorker has called Singer the “most influential living philosopher.”
If this is true, be prepared for the coming death sentence you will receive when your life becomes too inconvenient or too expensive.

And that’s my take on it.

Oregon Youth Authority Investigation

Sorry for exposing you to the corruption in our state government, but it's too painful to ignore. You're talking about PEOPLE'S LIVES being ruined by decisions made by others. Rep. Linda Flores is taking steps to get to the bottom of what's been going on with the Oregon Youth Authority. Hopefully, the Governor will cooperate in setting up a thorough investigation. From Salem News.com...


August 01

State Representative Requests Investigation of Oregon Youth Authority - Salem-News.Com

State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) says recent situations involving misconduct and mismanagement at the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) prompted her to call for a special outside investigation of the agency. "I sent a request to Governor Kulongoski today urging him to appoint someone who can look into these allegations," said Flores.

"There have been many troubling news reports about OYA in recent months and it’s high time someone higher up take action."

OYA Director Bob Jester resigned this week after the Department of Corrections conducted an investigation into the RiverBend Youth Transitional Program in La Grande.

Flores says earlier this month, an OYA parole supervisor from Clackamas County was arrested on allegations of attempted prostitution. And an Assistant Director at the agency was also recently forced to resign over accusations that he had an inappropriate romantic relationship with an employee.

"I appreciate the work OYA has done to clean up any wrongdoing," noted Flores, "but clearly there needs to be more oversight."

Flores says that as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, she received a report from Jester at the Committee’s meeting last month which pointed out "the vast majority of OYA staff…produce outstanding results for youth offenders in our custody and the people of Oregon."

The investigation at RiverBend began over a year ago over allegations that former Director Darrin Humphreys stole state property, tampered with witnesses, and abused mileage and cell phone privileges. Humphreys was promoted to Superintendent at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility but resigned last spring.

Several staff at RiverBend were disciplined but there are lingering questions about a cover-up by top level managers, Flores said. She also says she is not the first legislator to call for a special investigation of OYA.

"State Representative Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) had similar concerns a few years back when Michael Boyles, an OYA parole and probation officer, was convicted of sexually molesting several young men in state custody dating back over a decade."

Representative Flores says she sees a similarity to the situation in 1989 after Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Michael Francke was murdered.

"20-years ago the Governor set up an independent investigation into corruption in the state prison system," explained Flores.

"Expertise from the outside could now provide an objective review of what’s happened at OYA and recommend necessary reforms."

After the 1989 probe DOC established an Office of the Inspector General to handle suspected misconduct. The Legislature established the Professional Standards Office at OYA to address youth safety issues following the Boyles case. Anytime an agency head leaves their post the State Audits Division does a routine review and Flores acknowledged the efforts made so far to address problems at OYA. However, she still wants to see the Governor take action to hold the agency accountable. Flores said, "we want to assure taxpayers that government resources are not being used inappropriately."







Abandonment For All The Disabled

What about abandonment? I read all these stories about "abuse" and "neglect", but never read anything about abandonement. Imagine for a moment that you are a parent of a 14 year old girl with cerebral palsy. You refuse to touch her. You won't feed her. You can't bring yourself to change her. You place her with strangers to care for her, but they don't. Who is responsible for her death?

From the Associated Press...

Aug 1, 9:27 PM EDT

Starved, disabled girl was failed at every turn
By KATHY MATHESON
Associated Press Writer


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- For days before Danieal Kelly died in a fetid, airless room - made stifling hot by a midsummer heat wave - the bedridden teenager begged for something to drink until she could muster only one word: water.

Unable to help herself because of her cerebral palsy, she wasted away from malnutrition and maggot-infested bedsores that ate her flesh. She died alone on a putrid mattress in her mother's home, the floor covered in feces. She was 14 but weighed just 42 pounds.

The nightmare of forced starvation and infection that killed Danieal while she was under the protection of the city's human services agency is documented in a 258-page grand jury report released this week that charges nine people - her parents, four social workers and three family friends - in her ghastly death.

The report describes a mother, Andrea Kelly, who was embarrassed by her disabled daughter and didn't want to touch her, take her out in public, change her diapers or make sure she had enough fluids. It portrays Daniel Kelly, the father who once had custody of Danieal, as having no interest in raising her.

And it accuses the city Department of Human Services of being "uncaring and incompetent."

"It was this indifference that helped kill Danieal Kelly," an angry District Attorney Lynne Abraham said. "How is it possible for this to have happened?"
The report should "outrage the entire Philadelphia community" and bring about "earth-shattering, cataclysmic changes" at the Department of Human Services, Abraham said.

Andrea Kelly, 39, the only defendant charged with murder, was ordered held Friday without bail. The social workers - suspected of falsifying home visits and progress reports in the case - face charges ranging from child endangerment to involuntary manslaughter. The family friends are accused of lying to the grand jury about the girl's condition before her death.

None of the lawyers for any of the defendants had any immediate comment.
Human Services Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose, in office only a month, said Thursday that she is intent on improving child safety and worker accountability in an agency that has repeatedly been accused of failing to protect children.

Late Friday, the city announced the resignation of Assistant Health Commissioner Carmen Paris. The grand jury had accused Paris of interfering in the investigation of the girl's death while she was acting health commissioner, but found insufficient evidence to charge her with obstruction of justice.

The report on Danieal's death in August 2006 documents a downward spiral from the early years that she spent in Arizona with her father and his girlfriend.

Though Danieal attended special-needs classes only sporadically, a school report described her as an active learner and "one of the sweetest students ever enrolled in this program." But allegations of parental neglect soon surfaced, and following Daniel Kelly's breakup with his girlfriend in 2001, Danieal never again attended school.

Daniel Kelly and his children moved to Philadelphia in 2003. He eventually asked his estranged wife to move in, even though she had several other children and he knew she was incapable of caring for Danieal, authorities say. He then moved out.
"Daniel Kelly was well aware what deserting his daughter meant to her safety and welfare," the grand jury report said. "He just did not care."

The Department of Human Services received at least five reports of Danieal being mistreated between 2003 and 2005. All described a "helpless child sitting unattended, unkempt and unwashed, in a small stroller in her own urine and feces," her screams ignored by her mother, the grand jury report said. The stroller, which served as a wheelchair, apparently never left the house.

Agency employee Dana Poindexter, assigned to investigate, also ignored Danieal, authorities say. Already having been suspended after a 3-week-old baby died on his watch in 2002, Poindexter continued his "slovenly, neglectful and dangerously reckless work habits" after being assigned the Kelly case, the grand jury said. He did not file a single report, authorities said.

The Kellys finally were assigned help from a private agency in 2005. Employee Julius Murray was required to visit the family twice a week, but authorities believe he may have come to the house only once - to have Andrea Kelly sign predated forms attesting to future visits.

The grand jury report said Laura Sommerer, a city social worker, failed to hold the now-defunct company accountable when, months later, Danieal still was not enrolled in school or receiving medical care.

And after Danieal died, authorities say, company director Mickal Kamuvaka held a "forgery fest" in her office where she had employees "concoct almost a year's worth of false progress reports."

But authorities say Andrea Kelly, whose other children are now in foster care, is primarily responsible for her daughter's death.

The report said she was confronted repeatedly by her own mother, uncle, friends and even two of her sons about Danieal's deteriorating health. She would lie or put them off by saying she would seek help, or banish them from the house, authorities say.
In the meantime, the report said, she entertained friends, attended classes and fed her other children.

"This behavior indicates that Andrea Kelly did not merely allow Danieal to die," the report said. "She may have even wanted her disabled daughter to die."

When an ambulance responded to a 911 call for Danieal on Aug. 4, 2006, the girl had been dead for several hours. Authorities said she was so emaciated she looked like the victim of a concentration camp.

She had been lying on the filthy mattress for so long that her body outline was imprinted on it.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.
What about abandonment? You read these stories about "neglect" and "abuse" of people with developmental disabilities, but you never hear about them being abandoned. Imagine if you can, being the parent of a 14 year old girl who has cerebral palsy. Imagine never wanting to touch her or feed her or change her.

I can't think of any situation more sorrowful than the case of death to a girl with cerebral palsy in Philedelphia, Pa. From the Associated Press...