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We begin 2018's Dialogue on Disability Week with a conversation about autism. New research published in JAMA indicates that the rates of autism spectrum disorder among U.S. children remained stable from 2014 to 2016. That's a change from earlier studies, which suggested that autism rates rose steadily over the past 20 years. The authors of the recent study pointed to changes in diagnostic criteria, more public awareness, and more children being referred to doctors as among the principle reasons for the earlier increases.

Yet, as physicians, advocates, and parents are quick to point out, the stabilization shouldn't detract for exploring new treatments and adaptive experiences for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. This hour, we discuss a range of issues related to autism, and explore options for care in our community. Our guests:

  • Dr. Susan Hyman, M.D., chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at UR Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong
  • Mary Walsh Boatfield, CEO of CP Rochester, Happiness House, and Rochester Rehabilitation, and co-founder of the Golisano Autism Center
  • Michelle Maney, parent of a teenager who is on the autism spectrum
  • Sandra Erb-Petruccione, parent of an adult who is on the autism spectrum

Editor's note: This report includes graphic and disturbing descriptions of assault.

Pauline wants to tell her story — about that night in the basement, about the boys and about the abuse she wanted to stop.

But she's nervous. "Take a deep breath," she says out loud to herself. She takes a deep and audible breath. And then she tells the story of what happened on the night that turned her life upside down.

"The two boys took advantage of me," she begins. "I didn't like it at all."

The largest minority group in the United States is people with disabilities. The individuals within this group are incredibly diverse themselves comprising of different races, cultures, religions and socio-economic classes. Considering this, why don’t we hear more about disability issues in the political sphere aside from so-called campaign promises during election years? And how would more disability representation in politics affect the issues that matter most to Americans with disabilities? Those questions and more examined on this edition of Need to Know.

The phrase “sharing economy” is becoming a household name. The options available in this collaborative landscape include services like: coworking spaces, home and apartment sharing, fashion reselling, talent sharing, and something relatively new in upstate New York - ridesharing.

This past fall Need to Know reported on concerns from area residents who say individuals with disabilities, in particular those utilizing wheelchairs, have been forgotten about when it comes to this sector of the “sharing economy.”

Resident Kenyatta DaCosta was curious to see if a ridesharing service would be able to get him from Point-A to Point-B while accommodating his motorized wheelchair. He had his friend schedule the ride for him since he doesn’t have a smartphone. He allowed Need to Know to observe the experience which he also documented in this video diary utilizing a smartphone camera WXXI provided him. Check out his experience on this edition of Need to Know.

We’re now living in the midst of a ‘sharing economy.’ If you’re looking to lend, borrow, exchange or share there’s likely a service to meet your needs. However, one service, among others, is leaving some Stranded. That story on this edition of Need to Know.

Also on the show, the issues that matter most to more than 56 million Americans and what it will take to get them front and center in the political sphere.

nysed.gov

The New York State Board of Regents this week voted to expand options for special education students who struggle with academic exams.  

The Regents adopted regulations to expand the criteria under which students with disabilities may be eligible to graduate high school with a local diploma. That’s a high school diploma that has different requirements from those needed to get a Regents Diploma.

State Education Department officials say that some students with disabilities are unable to demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests even with certain accommodations.

Local middle school students are teaming up with students at Rochester Institute of Technology to create a therapeutic device for children with autism and other sensory challenges.

Both the Kids Miracle Making Club and RIT’s Effective Access Technology program use technology to help people with physical or developmental challenges. In a pilot program launched just this fall, Access Tech students mentored students at Brighton’s Twelve Corners Middle School, showing how the club’s program can look in a school setting.

There are major gaps in special education spending in New York. A study by the New York State Association of School Business Officials found that spending in wealthier districts for special needs students was almost double the spending in more impoverished districts.

“Special education spending in the lowest need districts is $43,635 per special education pupil while spending in the highest need districts is $25,823 per special education pupil,” wrote researchers of the study.

Karen DeWitt

New York faces fiscal challenges in 2018, but that has not stopped groups from asking for more money in the new state budget, including agencies that provide care to people with disabilities. 

Chanting, “Be fair to direct care,” about 200 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, along with their family members and caregivers, gathered in a reception area outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Wednesday to ask for more help in paying the workers more money. 

dutchessny.gov

ThinkDifferently is an initiative started by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro to change the way individuals, businesses and organizations relate to people of all abilities in their community.

Molinaro was in Rochester Wednesday, meeting with Senator Rich Funke, as well as a number of community organizers to talk about ways to be more inclusive to people with disabilities.

Funke said we have great awareness here, but can always do more.

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