Monday, April 30, 2012

Landmark research study shows targeted intervention improves the reading and language skills of children with Down syndrome

from DSE:

A landmark research study has shown that a targeted teaching intervention accelerates progress in reading and language development for children with Down syndrome. The primary results of the study are now available online, ahead of publication in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The study was the first large controlled trial of an intervention designed for children with Down syndrome and was led by researchers at Down Syndrome Education International working with colleagues at the Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York. DSE will be publishing a handbook and other resources, and providing training and support services, to help teachers successfully implement the new reading and language intervention.

Dr Kelly Burgoyne, a Research Psychologist at Down Syndrome Education International who led the study commented, “We are very pleased with the results that clearly indicate the benefits offered by the intervention. We are also pleased with the feedback that we have received from teaching assistants and families about how helpful and enjoyable the intervention has been. We are already starting to pursue new avenues of research based on these results and considering how we will be able to continue to improve the program in the future.”

The first scientific paper from a landmark randomized controlled trial of a reading and language intervention for children with Down syndrome is now available online ahead of publication in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. This three year study involved nearly 60 children in schools in York and Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. It was funded by the UK Big Lottery Fund.

for the full article:
Landmark research study shows targeted intervention improves the reading and language skills of children with Down syndrome

Evaluating special education teachers

from Fox News:
Since the first day of class this school year, Bev Campbell has been teaching her students how to say their names.
Some of the children in her class have autism. Others have Down syndrome or other disabilities. "People don't understand where they've come from," she says. "It's slow."
Just one has learned how to say his name. Still, the South Florida teacher sees signs of growth in the nine kindergarten to second-grade students in her class.
Those little steps are what teachers like Campbell consider major leaps for students with the most significant physical and cognitive disabilities — and what are the most challenging to capture on a test. Yet that will be a significant part of the way school districts in Florida and in many other states will evaluate teachers.
Spurred by the U.S. Department of Education's $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant competition, more than a dozen states have passed laws to reform how teachers are evaluated and include student growth as a component. For most students, that growth will be measured on standardized tests. But for special education students that is considerably more complicated.
"I don't know how they would ever do that for my students," said Campbell, who has 28 years of experience teaching special ed.
In its guidance to states applying for the funds, the Department of Education set as a priority increasing the number of effective teachers in special education, language services, and hard-to-staff subjects such as science and math. Effectiveness would be determined, in part, by whether students reached "acceptable rates" of academic growth. Federal officials provided some criteria for what should be included in teacher evaluations, but left states to decide how student growth should be measured.
The result is that in Illinois, Florida, New York and other states, education leaders and teachers unions are trying to create evaluations that take into account factors such as a student's prior performance, socio-economic background and English language skills. Creating those measurements for general education teachers has proven challenging enough, but for special education teachers, it is even more trying, as officials try to find a way to evaluate growth that often can't be measured on a test.
"The great concern right now in many states is they're using the same criteria for the general education teachers that they're going to use for the special education teachers and there's real resistance to that," said George Giuliani, director of the special education program at Hofstra University's Graduate School and executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers.
In a survey by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 63 percent of special education teachers said they believed student achievement gains should be a component of their evaluations, but only 21 percent thought standardized test scores were an appropriate measure.
Seventy-eight percent said their state hadn't determined how to measure the growth of students with the most profound disabilities. Complicating matters is the very limited research available on special education assessments and evaluations. That means states will have to study and modify their systems as they go along.
"It's a very complex process and it's kind of trial and error," said study co-author Lynn Holdheide, a research associate at Vanderbilt University.
In New York and Illinois, recently passed laws require districts to base a significant percentage of each teacher's evaluation on student growth. Both are still working to determine how that will be done for special education students, a category that encompasses a vast range of conditions, not all of which negatively affect academic performance. In Florida, the process has already begun, with a committee examining a broad range of conditions, from dyslexia to traumatic brain injuries, and analyzing the effect on test scores.
"The performance varied quite a bit based on disability," said Kathy Hebda, Florida's deputy education chancellor.
Because of that, the committee decided students with similar disabilities who can take Florida's statewide math and reading assessment should be compared to one another. The student's prior academic achievement will also be factored in. Teachers will then be evaluated based on how much above or below the average their students performed.
That, however, won't work for students such as those in Campbell's class. For now, most of them are too young to take Florida's statewide assessment, but when they are older, they'd likely take an alternate test. Officials are still deciding how that exam could be used to measure student growth.
"A large number of special education students are able to make learning gains," said Will Gordillo, administrative director for the division of special education at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation's fourth-largest school district.
Those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, however, may not.
"There's concern with this group," he said.
All three states are running up against deadlines: In New York, districts will use a growth component in this year's evaluation, and transition to a "value-added" measure like the one being used in Florida and other states next school year. Chicago will also begin implementing a new teacher evaluation system in the fall.
Some have already expressed concern that the process is moving too quickly, and that it could have negative repercussions for disabled students.
Kevin Kumashiro, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, was one of 88 professors who recently signed a letter raising questions about Chicago's plans. In an interview, Kumashiro said there has been a trend when high stakes are placed on standardized test scores: students who require special services are either turned away or not tested.
"And neither situation is really good," Kumashiro said.
In Florida, the stakes have already been set: 50 percent of teacher evaluations this school year will be based on student growth. For Campbell, that will consist of the school-wide average of students who do take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — students she has no involvement in teaching.
"We're trying to implement something that wasn't well thought out and now the clock is ticking," said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for Florida's statewide teachers union. "It's a real problem."
On a recent morning, Campbell took her students at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Hialeah, Fla., through their exercises. She put on a song and spent time with each student, saying their name, and encouraging them to look into a mirror and repeat it. Next she read from a giant book, about a third her size, about farm animals causing a ruckus in a house.
She went around the room with a small board that had images of a cow, horse and duck. She asked them to point to the cow. Some of the students chose the right image, but others didn't. Some looked off in another direction, delighted by the attention, but unable to respond to the question.
For others she helped guide their hand to the right answer.
"It's taken them a long time, and they're just starting to get these three," she said.
Campbell marvels at what others might see as tiny, insignificant improvements. She likes teaching students others might give up on, sometimes even their parents. One autistic student in her class came in unable to say his name and hardly spoke any words. Now he's reciting many letters of the alphabet and words such as window and couch. Another child, confined to a wheelchair, used to scream and cry all day. Now she stays calm and follows the activities. A child with Down syndrome has begun correctly identifying pictures.
"These are little things," she said, "but it's a lot."

Read more:

Max is king at high school prom

from KSN 3:

Max Jackowski of Lake George, New York has not stopped dancing since Saturday and really why should he?
He is after all the Lake George junior-senior high school's new ordained prom king, Down's syndrome and all.
When max's name was called, students and staff quickly rose to give him a standing ovation.
"I just started to cry it was joyful it was exciting, and honestly it's kind of a blur," said Lisa Jackoski,
Max’s mother.
Not only did max win, he won big. 
Eighty percent of the votes went to him.
It was an amazing and almost surreal end to a school year or years that haven't always been easy for a boy with special needs and his family.
"They not only made max so happy, i mean, they really reached deep inside and i think they made this decision with their heart." said max’s mother.
It's not however Max's peers' hearts that earned him this title, it was his.

Father helps daughter experience high school prom

from the Souix City Journal by Tim Gallagher:

The email began with a teaser. "Good story," it read.

It continued: "Vernon Meyer... has Down Syndrome daughter Corinne... she will probably not marry or be independent ... She is a senior at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School ..." 
So he did what most people probably wouldn't do. He rented a tux and they got her a dress he took his daughter to prom.

"I think being around all those teenagers probably not the most comfortable moment for a dad ... but he did it for her ... what a great example in fatherhood ... he may not be a war hero or a big-shot executive ... but he is a hero to his daughter ... and a good example to ... men ... to be fathers."

The message led me to Sergeant Bluff on Thursday. I found Vernon and Aileen Meyer sitting at the kitchen table with their oldest child, 18-year-old Corinne, still all smiles, reliving her big night Saturday, her senior prom.

"Dance," she said. "Dress," she said, pointing at the pictures.

"A friend of Corinne's went last year to prom and we thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat for Corinne to experience prom in her senior year?'" Aileen asked.

Aileen and a couple of her friends took Corinne to find a dress recently. I failed to understand the depth of this mother-daughter rite.

"We might not get that whole wedding dress experience that a mother and daughter often share," Aileen said. "So this was kind of our big hurrah for Corinne. And, yes, I suppose, for me as a mom. I'm so grateful I had friends with us who could share in the experience."

Vernon, meantime, headed to Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. for a black suit and bow tie.

Corinne awoke at 6:30 a.m. each day last week. She'd pop into her parents' bedroom, asking, "Dance? Dance?"

"Not yet," they'd reply. "The dance is coming, but not until Saturday."

The SB-L High School prom played out a few hours after Corinne ran two races in a Special Olympics meet at Sioux Center, Iowa. She placed second in the 50-meter dash, fifth in the 100-meter dash.

The family then "sprinted" home to shower and dress to the nines, as the expression goes. They soon found their place in line waiting for the announcer to introduce this "couple" in the grand march.

"I was more nervous for this than I was for my own senior prom 25 years ago," said Vernon, a 1987 graduate of Lytton, Iowa, High School.

The crowd cheered. Vernon and Corinne stopped several times for pictures while passing sections of the bleachers.

"Corinne is a ham," Vernon explained, saying his daughter wasn't at all nervous about the experience. "Her personality doesn't lend itself to being nervous."

Following the grand march and its related paparazzi, dozens of SB-L High School prom-goers gathered around Corinne to congratulate her on her beautiful dress and inspiring walk with Dad.

"That's all you want as a parent," Vernon said. "You want for any of your kids to be accepted and loved."

While that could have ended the experience on a high, Vernon gave his daughter more. They headed with the group to the Marina Inn across the river in South Sioux City where they dined and danced with the rest of SB-L's prom contingent.

It marked Corinne's first school dance.

They danced for nearly three hours until Corinne's eyes grew heavy. Dad knew the time had come to take his prom princess home.

"This was really just a chance for Corinne to experience her prom," Vernon Meyer said. "I focused on her reaction and I could see it meant a lot to her."

With graduation and an extended learning program coming to help Corinne transition from high school, Vernon Meyer grew reflective.

Studying his daughter's prom photos and the corsage, he said, "I'm so glad we did this. Those moments are valuable and limited."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Congressmen Crenshaw and Sessions speaking on the ABLE Act

“The federal government provides special tax advantages to help people save for college, retirement, and other life events, but people with disabilities have different challenges and go without an appropriate tool for savings,” said Crenshaw. “I encourage everyone to attend the briefing and learn how they can support tax-free savings accounts for the disabled through the ABLE Act.”

Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), author the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act – HR 3423, S 1872) with Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA).

Congressman Pete Sessions speaking at a press conference in support of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. Congressman Sessions is a proud cosponsor of this legislation to encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence and quality of life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lauren Potter on supporting the ABLE Act

Lauren Potter for the ABLE Act by Michael Hansel on Vimeo

ABLE Act National Call In Day Wednesday 4/25!

People with disabilities recieving Medicaid benefits are limited to $2,000 in assets. In many cases this prevents them from improving their quality of life were they cannot get a job with a decent salary, cannot save to buy a car or a home, cannot save to pay for medical services beyond what is covered by Medicaid, cannot save money from birthdays/holidays, and cannot save to pay for their future aspirations. They are basically forced to live at poverty levels because of their need for Medicaid support.

If passed by Congress, the Achieving a Better Life Expierience Act will provide a savings account (ABLE account) similar to a retirement account, health savings account, or education savings account where the money in the account will not count against the $2,000 Medicaid asset limitation. The person will be able to save money for their future and continue to recieve their Medicaid support allowing for greater independence and quality of life.

The ABLE Act is one of the most important pieces of pending legislation for people with disabilities. Help us get this Bill passed by contacting your members of Congress to ask them to be a co-sponsor of the ABLE Act by following the instructions below.

from the NDSS:

Ds Advocates:

Mark your calendar! NDSS is hosting a National Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Act (S. 1872/H.R. 3423) Call-In Day this Wednesday to ask Members of Congress to cosponsor this significant, bipartisan legislation. The call-in information script and talking points are included in this action alert (click here or follow the instructions below).

NDSS will be joined by the following host organizations: Autism Speaks, D.A.D.S. National, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Disability Institute, National Fragile X Foundation, The Disability Opportunity Fund, and the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination.

The ABLE Act, when passed into law, will provide individuals with Down syndrome the same types of flexible savings tools that all other Americans have through college savings accounts, health savings accounts, and individual retirement accounts. The ABLE Act would utilize the 529 education saving accounts program with which thousands of Americans are already familiar. As with the existing 529 accounts, contributions to ABLE accounts would grow tax free and would be easy and inexpensive to create and support people with disabilities.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to make calls to your Members of Congress on Wednesday that haven't cosponsored the ABLE Act.
Happy Advocating!
Sara Hart Weir
Vice President, Advocacy & Affiliate Relations, National Down Syndrome Society

Steps to Take Action -- Easy as 1 – 2- 3

 1)      Find out if your two Senators and your Representative have signed onto the ABLE Act by clicking on the links below (under cosponsors):

If any of your Members have NOT signed onto the ABLE Act, please call their Washington, DC offices (click here to find out the phone number). 

Begin the call by introducing yourself and asking to speak with your Member’s disability legislative staffer. (Note: You may need to leave a voice mail or call back, if the disability staffer does not answer)

2)      Follow this ABLE Act phone script (below or click "take action" right handside of the email):
Once you have the staffer on the line, open and introduce yourself with:

  • “Hello, I am calling to ask my [Senator/Representative] to be a cosponsor of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.”
  • I am a constituent   from your [State/District] and am a self-advocate, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc. from the [insert disability] community.
Talking Points to Mention During Your Call:
  • The ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) currently has over 134 cosponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate. This bipartisan bill was introduced by:
    • Senators Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) as S. 1872 
    • Representatives Crenshaw (R-FL), McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Van Hollen (D-MD) as H.R. 3423
  • The bill has been endorsed by over 50 national, state, and local disability organizations.
  • This bill would utilize the 529 education saving accounts program with which thousands of Americans are already familiar.  As with the existing 529 accounts, contributions to ABLE accounts would grow tax free and would be easy and inexpensive to create. 
  • The ABLE Act will give individuals with disabilities and their families the ability to plan and save for their child's future just like every other American family, and help people with disabilities live full, productive lives in their communities without losing benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.
  • The account could fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals, including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing, and transportation.
  • The ABLE Act provides individuals with disabilities the same types of flexible savings tools that all other Americans have through college savings accounts, health savings accounts, and individual retirement accounts.
If your Member is interested in signing on as a cosponsor, please have them contact:
3)      Let Us Know About Your Call: Please let us know about your conversation! Email ( to let us know who you spoke with and what they had to say about the bill. We can help by following up with their DC office.

For more information about the ABLE Act, please use the following resources:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pageant celebrates spirit of girls with disabilities

Sammie Gibbons strutted across the stage during the evening wear portion of the Maryland Miss Amazing Pageant, stopped at center stage, spun around, put her right hand on her hip while staring at the audience, then exited the stage to a round of applause.

Her mother and sister stood in the second to last row of the audience giggling while taking as many pictures as possible.

Sammie, 14, was participating in her first pageant, but she isn't your typical beauty contestant.

Sammie has Down syndrome and was one of 11 girls with disabilities participating in Maryland's first Miss Amazing Pageant on Saturday at the International Community Church in Frederick.

The mission of the pageant is to provide an opportunity for girls and young women with disabilities to build confidence and self-esteem in a supportive environment.

"They're not judged on what they can or can't do," said Sammie's mother, Jean Harley. "Everybody wins."

The pageant was organized by 16-year-old Gov. Thomas Johnson High School junior Kadija Bah, who heard about the pageant on Nickelodeon and contacted the organizers to bring a show to Maryland.

"It was amazing," Bah said after the nearly two-hour pageant. "All of these girls deserve trophies and sashes after tonight."

More than 80 people attended the pageant, which featured the girls introducing themselves, showcasing their evening wear and performing a talent such as dancing, playing an instrument or singing.

Bah said part of her inspiration came from baby-sitting her neighbor Gabriella Rodriguez, who has Down syndrome.

"She is just as special as everyone else," Bah said.

Rodriguez's mother, Dana Specht, said her daughter had been "so excited" in the weeks leading up to the pageant, especially trying on all the different dresses.

Although the pageant started at 5 p.m., the contestants arrived at the International Community Church at 9 a.m. to begin preparations. They had an opportunity to learn from current Miss Maryland, Miss Urbana and Miss Maryland Outstanding Teen pageant winners, and have their hair and makeup professionally done.

Contestants ranged from 7 years old to those in their 30s.

Bah said she was thankful for all the volunteer support, especially from the church, and she is hoping to make the pageant an annual event.

Standing onstage after being named first princess in her division, Brigitte King blew a kiss to her father, Rex, sitting in the second row. After the pageant, King said he was "incredibly proud" of his daughter for participating in her first pageant.

"It was something she was really looking forward to," he said.

boy with Down syndrome becomes Eagle Scout

from KVUE News:

Reaching a major milestone, an Austin scout had to over come a special challenge to reach his goal.

Sunday afternoon 17-year-old Ty Harvey was recognized for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. In order to reach this prestigious rank, he built five picnic tables for Laurel Mountain Elementary. Harvey raised more than $1,300 for the project and planned it all out himself. Harvey met his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout while holding down a job, doing volunteer work, going to school and dealing with the challenge of Down syndrome. He said it's a good feeling to know so many people were behind him.

"I said wow, that is so amazing," Harvey said. "I can't believe I see so many of my people to support me."

"It has just been a tremendous journey," said Harvey's father Paul. "I would have never believed we would have gotten to this point with him as an Eagle Scout."

teen with Down syndrome shares excitement of prom night

from KHOU 11 News by Lisa Chavarria:

A local teenager who graduates next month was excited to experience prom night Thursday.

Amber House, 18, has been homeschooled. Her mother is grateful for how things have turned out.

Amber didn’t have a date, so her mom finally went to the parents of a boy who was in the choir with her daughter.

“I said well, I’m asking too much. And she said, ‘No he wants to ask her today.’ And I just started crying, and she said, ‘Is that OK?’ I couldn’t even answer, I said, ‘Yes it’s OK!” her mother recalled.

Amber could hardly hide her smile.

“I’m really excited,” she said.

KHOU 11 News talked to her about her first big date.

"I’m going with Matt,” she said.

When asked how she would describe Matt Amber just smiled.

After all the primping and curling was done, it was time for the big reveal and a beautiful girl was ready for prom and a date with a big heart.

“I’m just so proud of the young man who would step up and take her. And that she’s able to do this and have this experience with all her friends,” Amber's mom said.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

prom dream comes true for girl with Down syndrome

from 5 KSDK by Kristen Gosling:

It was quite the prom night for Kentucky high school senior Taryn Mains.
The Mason County High School senior, who has Down syndrome, had her dreams come true when her prince charming escorted her to prom.
As Taryn and her student tutors, who are also her friends, look through photographs from Saturday night, they reminisce about that special night.
Treg Setty, a 6'9" basketball player at Southern Illinois says he'd always had a soft spot for Taryn when he went to Mason County High School.
Last year, when Treg was a senior there, Taryn worked up the courage to ask him to prom.
He said yes, but with Treg in college this year, Taryn got dressed up and figured she'd be going alone.
That would not be the case.
Treg Setty said when he heard Taryn missed him, he had to find a way to be there on prom night.
"I just ran and gave him a hug and he liked that," says Taryn.
"If there's anything I want people to get out of this is to be there for people who need you to be there, and try to be a role model," says Treg.
But Prince Charming wasn't the only surprise of the night.
"She inspires me to be a better person. That's why I wanted to do it for her," says Samantha Kieper, a senior at Mason County High School.
A group of students lobbied hard to get Taryn Mains elected prom queen.
"She's just the sweetest girl," says Mackenzie King. "She's a queen even without the title."
Taryn's King would be Josh Harris, also an athlete who will be playing football for the University of Kentucky in the fall.
"He bent on his knee and gave me a rose," says Taryn.
As for happily ever after?
"Anytime she wants me to come back I will," says Josh Harris.
"He will," added Taryn.
One of Taryn Mains' peer tutors, Samantha Keiper, says the experience has inspired her to pursue a career in special education.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Free iTunes Apps from


In honor of Autism Awareness Month during April, you can get 15 free Apps from on sale for $0.00 for a limited time on iTunes (normally all 15 apps would cost over $20).

Sight Words
Flash Cards – Food
Flash Cards – Famous Places
Flash Cards – Earth Science
Flash Cards – Emotions
Flash Cards – Alphabet
Flash Cards – Vehicles
Flash Cards – Sports
Flash Cards – Actions
Flash Cards – Animals
Problem Solving – Which Go Together?
Problem Solving – What Does Not Belong?
Problem Solving – What Rhymes?
Receptive Identification
Receptive Identification – By Class

These are highly-rated apps that are used by educators and speech therapists. I love the real photos they use and the ability to change the settings to customize the app for your child. These apps are compatible with an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad with iOS 4.0 or later. This post contains affiliate links, please visit my Disclosure Policy. (image credit: iTunes)

The newest greeter at the Angels Team Store

from The Orange County Register by Marcia A. Smith:

The first face many fans see as they stream into the Team Store during games at Angel Stadium this season is smiling, often giggling, infectiously warm and inviting.

It belongs to Trevor Hendershot, the 21-year-old Irvine man with a sandy brown mop top, a red polo shirt tucked into his khaki pants, and black slip-on sneakers.He is a greeter whose first day on the job was the Angels' season opener on April 6. The victory doubled as a life opener for Hendershot.

This is his first paying job, a huge triumph toward independence for the man born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes lifelong mental retardation and developmental delays.

The Angels and Team Store operator AEG could have hired anyone. They gave the opportunity to Hendershot.

To arriving shoppers during the first homestand, he proudly said, "Welcome to the Angels Team Store," sometimes rushing through the greeting to say it again and again and again so as not to miss anyone.

Many fans lit up. Some stopped and shook his hand to say, "Hello." Some high-fived and bumped fists with him, sparking laughter from the young man who loves to be around people, particularly sports fans.
"I'm excited," Hendershot said about his new job. "The people are nice."

Having Down Syndrome, Hendershot quietly realizes, can make some people uncomfortable. His facial features are doughy and subtle, his speech slurred but his smile and spirit unmistakably outgoing, kind and genuine.

"You can't train people to be that way," said Team Store senior retail manager Martin Marin. "That's why we picked Trevor."

Hendershot loves the Angels. He can tell you every players' jersey number and position. He can list everyone on the 2002 World Series champion team. He can point shoppers to the wall of No. 5 jerseys of his favorite Angels player of the moment.

"Albert Pujols. Pu-jols! Pu-jols! He's the best," he said enthusiastically, knowing the Angels slugger has a 14-year-old daughter, Bella, with Down Syndrome.

Hendershot makes the connection proudly. He wants to show that his condition doesn't keep him hidden at home or unable to do a public job well.

For every Angels home game, from two hours before every first to a half hour after the final out, Hendershot will man his post by the glass double doors. Proudly. Confidently. And with a smile.

Seeing his son work brings his father, Bob Hendershot, nearly to tears. The two had been inquiring about this job since August when a fellow member of Voyager's Bible Church in Irvine told them there might be an opportunity at the Team Store.

The father and son attended the Challenger Little League tournament at Angel Stadium in November. They met Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl and former Angels pitchers Scott Lewis and Clyde Wright, who signed the shoulder of Trevor's favorite Angels T-shirt.

Trevor won them over with his engaging personality, making them feel at ease. He has been doing that all his life, which has been filled with challenges since the May 4, 1990 day he was born in a Laguna Hills hospital.

"You have a son, my first child, and it's the happiest day of my life, and then five minutes later, the doctor says, 'Do you know what Down Syndrome is?'" recalled Bob Hendershot.

"Then that was the saddest moment of my life, going from the utter joy to utter devastation."

Friends and fellow churchgoers came to the hospital to visit Bob and Melissa Hendershot. Feeling the support of their community "was the first sign things would be okay," the father remembered.

Bob Hendershot, 57, a manufacturer's representative for a wholesale custom computer hardware dealer, took time away from his job to spend Trevor's early years working with his son's speech, visual recognition and motor skills.

"It was important to stimulate him early and teach him how to walk correctly rather than let him wrestle with incorrect steps," the father said. "He really has grown up well."

Bob and Melissa Hendershot have two other children, Taylor, 19, and Tanner, 18. They traveled everywhere as a family, going to the beach, the movies, Angels games and Bible study.

That's where the Hendershots met Les and Beverly Barkley, whose son, Matt, is the same age at Trevor. The two infants used to share a play pen during the study.

Matt Barkley went on to become the USC quarterback, and Trevor found himself his own place on the gridiron as quarterback of Pop Warner's Challenger division Saddleback Valley Wolverines.

Growing up, Trevor played sports in leagues with other children who had physical and mental challenges.

In camaraderie, rather than scores, statistics or records, came the sweetest victories.

He swung a bat and threw a baseball in T-ball. His father coached his VIP/Challenger division AYSO team in soccer.

He wore No. 75 for his Special Olympics basketball team. He pulled on No. 88 as quarterback for the flag-football Wolverines, helping score three touchdowns for one memorable come-from-behind victory.

"Big guys sometimes fall on you," said Trevor Hendershot, who made his league's All-Star team and played in a bowl game this past season. "It's not supposed to be tackle!"

School, particularly math, was tough to tackle since he has been mainstreamed, attending classes with students who didn't have his learning disabilities.

But at Northwood High in Irvine, Hendershot made so many friends with students and teachers he was voted Homecoming King in 2010.

Hendershot has learned to read well and write. He worked with Project Independence Orange County to get unpaid job experience in stocking and organizing store shelves at Trader Joe's and a Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store.

He has grown so comfortable with computers that he spends hours surfing the Internet to learn the lyrics of his favorite Beach Boys songs and download bagpipe music.

"I don't know where he got that taste," his father said laughing. "It's strange."

Trevor searches the Web, finds and memorizes the capitals of all 50 states and the nicknames of hundreds of colleges big and small.

"Test him!" his father said.

Quickly and without fail, Trevor answered "Bruins" for UCLA, "Bulls" for the University of South Florida, "Tigers" for Princeton and, slapping his long arms together, "Gators" for the University of Florida.
"If they ever have Down Syndrome week on 'Jeopardy' and the category is 'College Nicknames,' we're set," his father joked.

"Yes, we're going to win," Trevor gushed. "Like the Angels. They're going to win the World Series again.

Getting the Team Store job brings him closer to the Angels he has followed since he was 7 years old. He pays attention to whether they win or lose, gets sad but remains hopeful when they struggle and mourned when promising young pitcher Nick Adenhart died in a 2009 car accident.

"He's gone," he said. "It's very sad."

Among Angels fans, Hendershot belongs. He sailed through the interview for his new job because talking about the Angels comes so naturally to him.

But he got scared when asked to do a drug test because he thought he had to drink his sample, shaking his head, "No!" Then he wanted to high-five the clinician when he was finished.

"Trevor's still learning the ropes of getting a job," said his father, taking a teasing slug in his shoulder from his son. "Every day is a new step."

Trevor Hendershot, the newest greeter at the Angels Team Store, has landed a dream job in Angels' heaven.

Sequenom stock price rises on new Down syndrome test forecast

from Business Week:

Shares of Sequenom Inc. jumped Monday after the company said demand for its MaterniT21 Down syndrome test is continuing to grow.

THE SPARK: Sequenom said it performed more than 4,900 MaterniT21 tests in the first quarter, and it now expects to run 40,000 tests in 2012. The San Diego previously expected to run 25,000 of those tests.

THE BIG PICTURE: MaterniT21 is a prenatal blood test intended for women who are at high risk of carrying a fetus with Down syndrome. Sequenom says the test can detect the chromosomal anomaly that causes Down syndrome as early as 10 weeks of pregnancy. It is intended to be less invasive than amniocentesis and hormone testing.

Sequenom said in March it was aiming to perform at least 25,000 billed tests in 2012, but it also said those figures should improve because it has expanded its sales force. The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter results after the market closes on May 3.

Sequenom also paid $1.3 million to buy patents belonging to Helicos BioSciences Corp.

THE ANALYSIS: Jefferies & Co. analyst Jon Wood said Sequenom's revenue is going to be uneven until health insurers and government programs formally cover MaterniT21. He does not expect that to happen until early 2013.

SHARE ACTION: Shares of Sequenom rose 36 cents, or 9 percent, to $4.35 in afternoon trading. Sequenom stock is down 24 percent since Feb. 6.

Monday, April 16, 2012

iPads help students in special education learn

from The Daily Times by Jenny Kane:
Davie Jacobs sat at his desk while his teacher asked him to read the next page of a lesson on farm vegetables. He has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that delays physical and mental development.

A teaching assistant gently took his finger and directed it to an iPad on his desk. Davie's finger followed the sentence on the screen, the same one in his classmates' paper handbooks and, as his finger moved, a grown man's crisp, low voice recited the words.

"Potato," said the voice, as Davie's finger crossed over the boldly typed word accompanied by a picture.

If Davie could speak, he would not have the deep tone of middle-aged man, but for the time being, the man's voice is Davie's voice.

Davie is just one of the special education students in the district who is using iPad programs for both engagement and enablement. It is reflective of a growing interest in technology among those invested in special education.

This year, the Bloomfield school district distributed about 30 iPads to students in special education, an experiment that is becoming increasingly popular with school districts around the nation. Little research currently exists regarding the effectiveness of such methods, but the feedback from educators across the nation is positive.

"They think they're having fun and playing a game. I think they're learning," said Ehren Gieske, an occupational therapist with the district.

While not all special education students using iPads are without the use of their voice, many are reliant on those around them for either physical or mental assistance. Some use the technology to advance abilities that they have, and their curriculum is less centered on the technology.

Some students, for example, better learn coordination on an iPad because they can draw, but are not forced to hold a pencil to do so; they can use their finger. Others learn how to better articulate because the iPad can repeat back what it thinks students are trying to say, showing students what words or sounds they need to work on once they see which words were misunderstood.

"What I see is student empowerment," said Jennifer Martin, the district's communications specialist.

While many of the lessons are nothing new, the medium by which the lessons are taught is changing how educators look at the potential of students.

Davie, for example, likely never will be self-sufficient. However, with the iPad, his parents and teachers both take pictures of what he has done during his time with them. When Davie arrives at class or at home, he has a series of pictures of himself with explanations that relate what is going on in those photos.

While he is unable to type out the explanations or take the pictures, he is able to relay them to those around him by touching the screen.

"A lot of people think this is just for fun," said Martin, but she argues instead that the technology gives students such as Davie a means to communicate. Already, she said, he has his favorite programs, indicated by his tendency to click on specific programs more than others.

Additionally, the iPad is not the sole tool used to teach students, who still use tangible items such as books, puzzles and toys.

"It's not the end-all, be-all," said Gieske.

The district this year spent about $70,000 in stimulus funds on innovative technologies for special education, a pricetag that included the each of the $400 iPads and other items.

"We provide whatever would support our kids the best," said Lorna Bulwan, coordinator of student services for Bloomfield schools.

It will take several years before much data is available concerning special education students using iPads, but educators believe the qualitative evidence tells the iPads are helping the students retain knowledge and skills. Also, lessons can be taught more efficiently using the iPads, which work more quickly than the older technologies, teachers said.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm," said Bulwan.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Substitutes for the R-word

from by Terri Mauro:

Often, when asked not to use the R-word, defensive speakers will reply, "You can't say anything these days!" But people, that's just a failure of imagination. Many, many, many substitutes for that offensive slur against individuals with intellectual disabilities are just a thesaurus away. In fact, I'll make it even easier than that -- in these pages, I'll share 225 words that can easily stand in for the R-word and make your vocabulary less limited.

First, a selection of words to substitute for the R-word when you want to be self-deprecating. Fill in the blank with one of the 75 choices below.

"I am such a(n) ______________"
  1. airhead
  2. birdbrain
  3. blockhead
  4. blunderer
  5. bonehead
  6. boob
  7. bubblehead
  8. buffoon
  9. bungler
  10. butterfingers
  11. child
  12. chowderhead
  13. chucklehead
  14. clod
  15. clodhopper
  16. clown
  17. crackpot
  18. cuckoo
  19. damn-fool
  20. dim bulb
  21. dimwit
  22. ding-a-ling
  23. ding-dong
  24. dingbat
  25. dip
  26. dipstick
  27. dodo
  28. donkey
  29. doofus
  30. dope
  31. dolt
  32. dork
  33. dullard
  34. dumbbell
  35. dum-dum
  36. dunce
  37. dunderhead
  38. fathead
  39. featherhead
  40. fool
  41. goof
  42. goofball
  43. goose
  44. ignoramus
  45. incompetent
  46. jerk
  47. joke
  48. jughead
  49. know-nothing
  50. kook
  51. lamebrain
  52. lightweight
  53. loser
  54. lowbrow
  55. lummox
  56. lump
  57. lunkhead
  58. meathead
  59. nincompoop
  60. ninny
  61. nitwit
  62. noob
  63. numskull
  64. oaf
  65. ox
  66. pudding head
  67. scatterbrain
  68. schlub
  69. schnook
  70. screwball
  71. slug
  72. turkey
  73. yahoo
  74. yokel
  75. yo-yo
visit the article for the full 225 Substitutes for the R-word

Friday, April 13, 2012

Facebook takes down internet trolling abuse of girl with Down Syndrome

from Parentdish by Kieth Kendrick:

A mum whose Down's Syndrome daughter was subjected to vile abuse by internet trolls has won her battle to have the photos removed from Facebook, thanks to

We stepped in after Liz Crowter was alerted to online pages that mocked her 16-year-old daughter Heidi.

Images of the teenager were taken from a Down's support group site posted by her mum and then shared amongst fellow trollers who made 'jokes' about the girl's looks.

Some of the things they wrote about Heidi are too offensive to be repeated here, but several were of a sexual nature.

The mildest was: "I'd do her," according to Liz, from Coventry.

The mum-of-four said she was 'horrified' when she discovered the photos were in circulation and were being used to attack her child.

She told "I felt so angry and upset. It was very distressing."

And she said that Heidi – who is internet-savvy – had also seen the abuse and was "very hurt" by the things that had been written about her. Heidi's two older brothers, Dan and Tim, and younger sister Suzy, were also distressed by what trollers were saying about their sister.

"But they know how the internet works and just feel sad that there was nothing they could do about it," said Liz.
Heidi's pictures were taken from a local support group website, which Mrs Crowter ran for about five years.

On the group's site, Liz had shared her experiences of being the mother of a child with Down's Syndrome and also went on trips and holidays with the group's members.

In October, she found her daughter's picture on a Facebook page which insulted people with Down's Syndrome and other learning difficulties.

She contacted Facebook and also West Midlands Police, who she said informed her it was not a matter for officers.

Over the weekend Mrs Crowter was told by friends that Heidi's picture had been put on a new page which insulted people with Down's Syndrome.

Liz said: "I felt violated and violated on Heidi's behalf. I'm disgusted that people can be so sick.

"It's not just Heidi, it's photos of other people's children as well."

The photos were originally hijacked to form the background of a "Meme", which was then posted on forums for other users to write a new "joke" over the top.

A Facebook spokesman told "These images can and will be removed by Facebook; Liz Crowter would need to use this link to report unauthorised photos.

"Once the images are reported, they will be reviewed by our User Operations team – who are responsible for reviewing incoming reports and taking the necessary action.

"Across much of the wider web there are few controls on behaviour and the content that individuals can post. That isn't the case on Facebook. Facebook has a real identity policy, which makes people accountable for their actions and behaviour.

"When people on Facebook do find themselves in a situation where they feel uncomfortable, we encourage them to use our reporting tools so the content or activity can be investigated.

"We also have a set of rules that set out how people are expected to behave – the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. These rules are intended to create a balance between enabling free speech and preventing harassment and abuse."

Liz said of Heidi: "She is a very independent young lady who is studying for her GCSEs at a mainstream school and doing a hairdressing course.

"She's funny, stubborn and very kind. "We're all very upset about what has happened."

Treating unilateral nasolacrimal duct obstruction in patients with Down syndrome

from Ocular Surgery News OSN Super Site:
Treatment of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction in patients with Down syndrome was effective, particularly in those with unilateral disease, a study showed.

Lacrimal drainage disorders are more common in children with Down syndrome than in other children.

"Careful punctal evaluation and management is advisable, and a possible delay of operative intervention in bilateral cases in patients 5 years and older aimed at improving hypotonia may be a wise decision," the study authors said. "Conversely, unilateral cases have to be treated early because unilateral disease and lower-end [nasolacrimal duct] obstruction are good prognostic factors."

Investigators retrospectively studied treatment records of 34 lacrimal drainage systems of 22 patients with Down syndrome who were a mean 47 months old. Three drainage systems were in patient 96 months or older, and eight drainage systems were in patients between 14 and 36 months old. Twelve patients had bilateral nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Mean follow-up was 20.3 months.

Study results showed that treatment was successful in 90% of unilateral cases and 45.8% of bilateral cases. The success rate of lower-end obstructions was 100%. The success rate of cases with multiple obstructions was 41.7%.

Treatment was successful in 91.7% of patients older than 64 months and 40.9% of patents younger than 64 months; the difference was statistically significant (P = .012), the authors said.

from Wikipedia:
Congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction (CLDO) is the condition in which a tear duct has failed to open at the time of birth. Around 6% of infants have CLDO, usually experiencing a persistent watery eye even when not crying. The condition is also known as dacryostenosis

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Super Why reading and Umizoomi math learning apps

from PBS Kids:
Based on the popular preschool focused PBS show, Super Why! is a learning app that will teach your child to read without them realizing they’re learning. They'll be having too much fun.
Help your child achieve the Power to Read with this collection of four SUPER WHY interactive literacy games. Your child can play along with each of the four main characters from the TV series: Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, Wonder Red, and, of course, Super Why, while practicing the alphabet, rhyming, spelling, writing and reading. Super Duper!
  • Alpha Pig’S Lickety Letter Hunt - Help Alpha Pig find his way home by identifying the letters he needs to follow the alphabet path. That’s Alphabet Power!
  • Princess Presto’s Wands-Up Writing - Help Princess Presto make objects appear by identifying letter sounds, tracing letters on the touch screen, and writing words. Spectacular Spelling!
  • Wonder Red’s Rhyming Time - It’s time to rhyme! Help Wonder Red find the rhyming words missing from her Wonder Words Basket.
  • Super Why’s Story Saver - Super the rescue! Help Super Why save the day by selecting words to complete sentences that fit the story.
  • Learning Rewards - Collect virtual stickers along the way and decorate a “sticker book” with over 50 items.
from iTunes:

Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom into Numbers
Team Umizoomi, ready for action! Your child will use mighty math powers to explore Umi City, uncover hidden surprises, and play five Umirrific math games:

•Toy Store – A counting game
•Number Bubbles – A number identification game
•Race Around Umi City - A number comparison game
•Up! Up! And balloons! – An addition/subtraction game
•Rolling Toy Parade – A number line game

Each game teaches fundamental math concepts critical for preschoolers: identifying numbers; one-to-one number correspondence; rote counting; reading number symbols; associating symbols with quantity; and basic addition and subtraction. Games are leveled, and designed to increase in difficulty. Appropriate hints are provided to support your child as they practice and build their math skills.

Children will also earn badges and trophies through out the game. These badges and trophies are tracked in Team Umizoomi’s Headquarters and earning enough badges and trophies will grant kids a special key to Umi City!

With Milli, Geo, Bot, and your child’s mighty math powers, they can do anything! Welcome to the team, UmiFriend!
Team Umizoomi: Zoom into Numbers includes:
•5 leveled games focused on fundamental preschool math skills
•Curriculum developed and reviewed by preschool education expert
•A rich, exploratory environment filled with surprises and added layers of math discovery
•Game instructions delivered by the voices of Milli, Geo, and Bot
•Player profiles that allow more than one child to play and save their progress
•Kid-tested appropriate games