Friday, June 19, 2009

How is Indiana doing in providing a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities?

I would like to share with you information from the Down Syndrome Indiana Governmental Affairs Committee Chair, Tom Milvert. I think his message is more important than anything I have to say today...

Every year the US Department of Education assesses the performance of how well each state is doing in ensuring that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education. The assessment is based on a State Performance Plan (SPP) that each state department of education submitted to the US Department of Education after the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004.

So how is Indiana doing in providing a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities?

The latest state assessment results have been published and Indiana is…..

At the absolute bottom of all educational jurisdictions that were assessed. And to make it worse we have been at the bottom for three consecutive years. Below is a summary of the results:

Following is each state's performance in meeting the requirements of IDEA Part B, which serves students with disabilities, ages 3 through 21:

MEETS REQUIREMENTS-Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Connecticut, , Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Republic of Marshall Islands, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming

NEEDS ASSISTANCE-Delaware, Guam, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Texas, Virgin Islands and Vermont

NEEDS ASSISTANCE (two consecutive years)-American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia , Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Palau, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia

NEEDS INTERVENTION-Bureau of Indian Education, Louisiana and Rhode Island

NEEDS INTERVENTION (three consecutive years)-Colorado, District of Columbia and Indiana

[Ref: US Department of Education]

To read more details follow this link:

Our children in Indiana deserve better than last place. For to long, the Indiana Department of Education has failed to provide the leadership and has failed to provide the guidance and accountability that is required to ensure that every student, in every school, in every community, in Indiana receives the special education services and supports that they are entitled to. It is time for change and time for accountability in Indiana. Our children deserve better than “free”; they deserve the appropriate education that the IDEA guarantees.

Over the next few days and weeks I will provide some additional information on this topic and together we can form a plan to address this as a unified community.

Please let Tom know if you have any questions on this topic.

Tom Milvert
Down Syndrome Indiana
Governmental Affairs Committee Chair

Thanks for sharing Tom!!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On coming together...

On coming together…

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart once said, “Individuals don’t win. Teams do. “ Well, let me tell you about the great great teamwork that I see happening in Indiana to enhance the lives of individuals with Down syndrome and disabilities in general:

· There is now an active Government Action Committee in Indiana that meets via conference call monthly to discuss public policy initiatives that affect our community. This committee is made up of Down syndrome organizations from throughout the State of Indiana that want to form a more unified movement. In addition to giving us a stronger voice and the ability to mobilize quickly on important issues, the committee is also putting together a map of what counties each organization covers, identifying gaps and then coming up with a plan to make sure all of Indiana has access to the information and support that it needs! Ever hear of the Autism Health Insurance mandate? Well, hopefully through the work of this committee you will see a Down syndrome Health Insurance mandate as well.

· I just got off the phone with an amazing group of individuals representing Down Syndrome Indiana, the ARC of Indiana, the National Down Syndrome Society, the Autism Society of Indiana and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community to improve post secondary education options for individuals with developmental disabilities in Indiana. There will be a meeting on July 28th, 2009 that is open to everyone to talk about this wonderful topic. The meeting will be held at St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Indianapolis from 6 to 8pm and everyone is invited to attend!

· A group of Master of Public Health students at IUPUI along with Riley Children’s Hospital are teaming up create a transition packet for individuals with Down syndrome that are transitioning from high school into the adult world. This will help to fill an unmet need in the community for more information for adults with Down syndrome.

· The Autism Society of Indiana is working to identify the needs of minorities with a disability and what type of support groups would be helpful to these families. In fact, the Autism Society and Down Syndrome Indiana are also combining the Hispanic parent groups during the summer months. Many of the issues that are discussed during parent group meetings are the same even though the disability may be different therefore it makes sense to try to reach a broader population instead of segregating this growing community.

· Get ready for green office space for nonprofits in Indianapolis! There is a committee that will begin meeting regularly to create a green office building for health related nonprofits. The focus of the building will be a healthy workplace and the goal is to create a building where nonprofit organizations can share resources to further their mission. Everything will be designed with the environment and easy access for individuals with disabilities in mind. How exciting is that?! Look for it in 2010 or 2011! (You guessed it, DSI gets to be part of the planning process.)

And those are just the tip of the iceburg! I am so proud of the Down syndrome community and disability community as a whole for really coming together to enhance the lives of , well, everyone! As Harry Truman once said, “ It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Keep up the great work everyone!!!! Until next Thursday….

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On what is important to self advocates...

Down Syndrome Indiana is in the process of working with several partners to create and distribute a transition packet to families that have an adult with Down syndrome transitioning from high school into the work world. On Tuesday, June 2nd, we held a mock focus group session to find out more about our self advocates and what is important to them during the transition from high school to the adult world. A huge thank you to all the self advocates that participated in our session on Tuesday and also, a huge thank you to the students at IUPUI and the faculty at Riley Children’s Hospital for making the evening possible. Now I would like to share with you what we learned:

On what is important for advocates to do for themselves…

Working is very important whether it be at a paid position or volunteer position.
They would like to live on their own in an apartment or home (but close to their parents).
They need assistance with money management and billing.
They want to have the freedom to be in a relationship with whom they choose.

On when to tell your parents you are in a relationship…
When they are in a good mood!

On what our advocates would like to teach the younger generation….
Self determination
How to cook!
That it is more important to look at abilities than a disability.

On goals…
To be on television

On Fitness and nutrition….
Wii Fit is a favorite!
Parents are the anti-drug.
Nutrition, weight management and healthy eating are important to all of our advocates.
Smoking and drugs are bad.
When it comes to drinking, it is not good but if you would like to know our favorite drinks just scroll down a little more because we are not about sharing family secrets.

On safety…
Don’t open doors for strangers.
Don’t take rides from strangers.
It is important to have emergency contact information available at all times.

On Heroes…
Chris Burke

On our favorite drinks…
Margaritas (not that we drink but if we did)
Green beer on St. Patrick’s day (not that we drink but we are over 21)
Bud Light (just sayin’ it’s a good drink, if we were to drink)

On what they do for fun…
Talk to friends
Volunteer at Down Syndrome Indiana (yes, it is fun, I am not making it up!)
Cooking class
Make (or was it eat) chocolate chip cookies
Go to the movies
Spend time with their families

On what the heck the meeting was about…
“Sex, drugs and beer.”

And the #1 most important item to our self advocates is: their family.

We also asked their parents what they wished they would have known when their adult children were transitioning from high school into the adult world but that will be in another blog because it’s not as entertaining! Or maybe it is, you will just have to visit again next Thursday to find out….