Friday, February 28, 2014

African American Heritage month!

February is African American Heritage month in the US. On this final day of this month, please check out this and other resources available to commemorate the lives and the history of people of African descent! 

http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/index.html

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Life lessons from a plane


Life lessons from a plane

Most people are familiar with the flight safety instructions that are given to commercial air passengers before take off. A commonly stated one is that in case of a loss of cabin pressure, the passenger should always put on their own mask before attending to any passengers requiring assistance with theirs. The premise is that in order to help other people, you must first help yourself.

I think that's one of the hardest things for many of us to do. Self-care is a necessary but too often neglected concept for several reasons, time being one of them. But it's something we have to learn to prioritize.

In addition to self-care, we have to also self-advocate. It's important that we look out for our own needs as well as those of the communities we serve. You never know when things are going to go awry, and you need to be able to fight for yourself as passionately as you do for everyone else!

Several months ago, I was reminded of this. I was invited to speak at a local function, and one of the speakers (someone whom I greatly admire) reminded me of an instance a few years prior in which I was in need. I was very fortunate that when that situation occurred, I had several people who went to bat for me. But I also stood up for myself. Even though it took a LOT of spoons. Even though I felt intimidated. Even though I wasn't sure if I was wasting my time, and if the whole thing was a losing battle.

I used MY weapon of warfare--my words. Something I never run out of!  I wrote about it. I talked about it. And I also prayed about it, and cried about it.

In that case, I "won." I don't always have that type of outcome, and neither will you. But since you never know what the end result will be, you HAVE to still fight. Even when you're burned out and tired. You have to make the effort. Don't give the naysayers the satisfaction of silencing you!

Tribute to my grandpa, an advocate in his own right

Tribute to my grandpa, an advocate in his own right

(From Morénike)

Advocacy is in my blood! My grandfather, Titus (rest in peace!) was known for going against the grain. He was extremely literal, completely blunt, and always considered to be very different from his other relatives; I suspect that he was probably on the spectrum  

But aside from that, he followed his heart. Though he came from a family with a long history of traditional indigenous religious beliefs (what we know today as Yorùbá and/or Lucumí), he caused quite a controversy when he converted to Christianity. He was practically disowned.

Then, he pursued another idea that was even more radical. Rather than pursue a "real" career, he decided to go into ministry--specifically missions. In the rural part of West Africa that he lived in, a formal education was considered to be THE ticket out of poverty. Selecting any other option was seen as risky. But this felt like the right choice for him, so he jumped in--and never looked back. And when he died in 2007, he left behind a legacy that stretched back several decades: churches planted, disciples mentored, numerous communities and lives transformed by his work.

Did he remain "poor" as a result of his decision? Yes, unfortunately--at least in finances.

Did he become well-known? No, not outside the areas where he ministered.

But was he fulfilled, was he happy? From everything I know, he was. Not every day was a happy one, and not every moment of his life was celebratory. But I know that he lived--and he died--being true to himself. What more can one ask of themselves than that? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Super Kids Global in Australia fights for kids with HIV!

"It is no longer the 1980s, 30 years is a long time in medical research and advancements."

Super Kids is group of passionate volunteers working with documentary and education outreach programs to better support children living with HIV.

By utilizing education, outreach, and documentary, Super Kids works to save lives, improve lives and also to increase awareness that with medication HIV is simply another manageable chronic disease.

HIV does NOT equal death for either the person with the condition, nor those around them. Many children who have been orphaned who also HIV are overlooked for adoption simply because of lack of knowledge of the disease. For some of these children adoption means LIFE.

With greater understanding communities can better support these "Super Kids".

Visit this "Friendsday WEdnesday" page on Facebook at 
https://www.facebook.com/SuperKidsGlobalOrg

Also, watch their cool video here: http://vimeo.com/90629563

"YOU can go to college."

"YOU can go to college."

VAST Academy is a program of the Houston Community College System that provides post-secondary transition programs and comprehensive support services which lead to meaningful credentials, employment and independence for differently-abled individuals. 

Opportunities include vocational certificates, pre-college and freshman success “bridge” courses, career readiness credentials, internships and employment assistance offered through an inclusive, relevant and affordable avenue. There is also optional post-secondary dormitory style housing available.

The vision of VAST Academy is to be a "post-secondary, affordable program of choice, for 'differently abled' individuals seeking workforce certificates and academic advancement, leading to professional careers, employment and independence."

VAST aims to be integral part of the economic and educational life of it's local community through collaborative partnerships.

The program also hopes to serve as technical resource model, sharing best practices with community colleges and institutions seeking to develop similar model programs

Visit this Friendsday WEdnesday page at:

http://vast.hccs.edu/

"Autistics/people with autism are worth more than gold!"

"Autistics/people with autism are worth more than gold!"

The mission of ASD Houston is to give the Autism Community more opportunities, bring them together for special events, and shine a light on the ABILITIES of those with AUTISM!

ASD Houston is a nonprofit that was founded by Bernadette Danna-Elkins, a Houston area mother & grandmother of children on the autism spectrum. A longtime organizer of several autism event groups for adults, children, teens, and families, Bernadette is passionate about creating and sharing opportunities for the Autism Community, and hopes to cultivate a village that will "shine a light on the ABILITIES of those with Autism!"

ASD Houston is excited to announce that they are exploring a partnership with Kate Winslet's Golden Hat Foundation!

Visit this Friendsday WEdnesday page at: http://asdhouston.com

Our 3rd "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Today is Advocacy Without Borders' favorite day of the week: "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Friendsday WEdnesday is a weekly feature celebrating all of the great things that WE (advocates around the world) are doing to improve our various communities. 

We are not employed nor formally affiliated with any of these groups nor are we receiving any compensation for promoting their work. We consider them to be "friends" because we share a common goal of using our resources for positive change. And we hope that you will be inspired by their passion!

Keep checking throughout the day to learn more about these great individuals and organizations!

Friday, February 21, 2014

For Sparrow of Unstrange Mind

What's good for the goose...

There's a cliche that earns against inequality and double standards: "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." In theory, most people support this ideology. Fairness. Equal opportunity.

"All men are created equal." -The US Declaration of Independence.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." -The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one..." -The Holy Bible.

"O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” -The Quran

"Love your neighbor as you love yourself." The Torah

"Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.” -Nelson Mandela

"...I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength..." -Thomas Hobbes

So we say this. But do we mean it?

When people whose skin, serostatus, age, religion, abilities, and/or other characteristics are "different," how far does this equality really go?

When services and accommodations are denied in schools and places of employment, there is not equality.

When violent crimes can be committed against certain groups and go unpunished, there is not equality.

When health needs are minimized or ignored, there is not equality.

When medications and medical interventions that are REQUIRED for an individual to LIVE (i.e. insulin, chemotherapy, HIV anti-retroviral medications, feeding tubes, breathing equipment, etc) are discontinued or denied because of semantics and bureaucracy, there is not equality.

When people die of starvation while millions of pounds of uneaten food are thrown away, there is not equality.

When laws, such as the criteria used to determine "earned" and "unearned" income are interpreted and applied in a manner that causes disabled entrepreneurs to be financially penalized for efforts toward self-sufficiency (resulting in insufficient benefits needed to pay for food, housing, and shelter), there is not equality:

http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title16b/1612.htm

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Meet Katy Hall, Advocate, Adult with Developmental Disability, and Humanitarian

31 year old Katy Hall is a Board member of Texas Advocates and a member of the Arc of Texas' Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition to advocating for and serving as a role model for others with developmental disabilities, she is raising funds and awareness to help homeless individuals in her community. Learn more about Katy here:

http://m.kltv.com/#!/newsDetail/24781291

Opportunity for our friends in the Deaf community!

For our friends in the Deaf community: 

Are you interested in developing the skills that will enable you to be a national community advocate for the Deaf community? 

Apply for the Nancy J. Bloch Leadership & Advocacy Scholarship program!

This summer program is held at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) headquarters in MD. Participants, who will receive a stipend, will engage in advocacy efforts to protect the civil, human and linguistic rights of the American Deaf community.

Apply now at:

http://www.nad.org/news/2014/2/join-applications-now-online-2014-nancy-j-bloch-leadership-advocacy-scholarship

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"We Plan. We Lead. You Grow:" Meet First Person!

"We Plan. We Lead. You Grow."
First Person is an innovative organization that aspires to be the first call (thus, the "first person") an organization seeks out when they desire growth.
Led by Christina Canales Gorczynski, Brian Sanchez, and Melanie Espinosa Pang, mission is to create a plan, lead an organization to growth and turn it back over to its leadership to sustain.
First Person models its leadership practices on the biology and behavior of geese, who work together instinctively. Serving as the front goose, they guide teams, develop plans, implement structure, and step back to allow the formation of a natural, efficient flight structure--like that of a flock of geese in V formation.
To learn more, check out their website

Hope Stone Inc believes in Art for ALL!

Art for ALL!

This is the mission of the Houston and New Orleans based non-profit, Hope Stone, Inc. Founded by executive and artistic director Jane Weiner in 1997, Hope Stone, Inc. provides outreach and support services to children and adults through dance and performance art. 

Hope Stone is dedicated to improving the quality of life through the use of various forms of art. Hope Stone offers year-round music and movement classes for all ages.

It also houses the Hope Stone Dance, a professional dance company, and HopeWerks, a space grant program that is free for young choreographers and dancers.

Hope Stone also offers several outreach and satellite community initiatives under the umbrella of its Hope Stone Kids program. Created in 2002, this phenomenal program helps to meet the artistic and emotional needs of underserved and at-risk students ages 6-18.

Hope Stone Kids uses master teachers in dance, theater, music, photography, spoken word and yoga to empower and educate students enrolled in urban schools, non-profits serving HIV affected families, impoverished youth, former Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees, and other at-risk populations.

Hope Stone was recently acknowledged by Josh Groban's Find Your Light Foundation for their years of dedication and passion for arts education.

Please check this awesome group out on their website: http://hopestoneinc.org

Redefine+: Reforming HIV/AIDS education everywhere

Redefine+ is a grassroots initiative dedicated to reforming HIV/AIDS education in public schools everywhere. 

After realizing that many public school health education curricula contained outdated, stigmatic, and medically inaccurate information about HIV/AIDS (and, by default, people with it), Jodie Howerton, a Seattle mom in an HIV affected family, spearheaded an effort to replace them with brand-new materials that were both accurate and affirming of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Neither Jodie nor collaborating partners in Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation had the money necessary for recreating the videos and manuals needed for the 295 school districts in Washington State.

But that didn't stop Jodie; she reached out to the media and the internet, and within a matter of days raised more than enough money to fully fund the project!

With the videos in full production, the next step for Redefine+ is to reform the health education resources in other parts of the United States, and then beyond!

We encourage you to check out Redefine+ and follow their growth!  For, as Jodie says,

"Education is our best defense against the spread of HIV/AIDS and against the stigma still surrounding the virus. Through education, we can get to zero new infections and can foster compassion and acceptance for those living with the virus. Together, we can turn the tide! Will you join the fight?"


http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb11081743.htm

The Autism Women's Network launches DIVERgent

The Autism Women's Network (AWN), a phenomenal non-profit autism organization, has recently launched an exciting new initiative. 

Concerned with how some groups were portraying and excluding women with disabilities from conversations and activities related to female empowerment and equality, AWN created DIVERgent.

"DIVERgent works to change how disabled women are commonly perceived within society while challenging the myths of our inferiority, both as women and as disabled people...by exploring the interactions between sexism and ableism within both disabled and nondisabled communities."

Chaired by Elizabeth Grace and Kassiane Sibley, DIVERgent is a truly inconclusive community that welcomes disabled and non-disabled members.

You can learn more about DIVERgent by visiting the Autism Women's Network on their website, onTwitter, or on their FB page!

http://autismwomensnetwork.org/divergent-when-disability-feminism-collide

Our 2nd "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Today is Advocacy Without Borders' "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Friendsday WEdnesday is a weekly feature celebrating all of the great things that WE (advocates around the world) are doing to improve our various communities. 

We are not formally affiliated with any of these groups nor are we receiving any compensation for promoting their work. We consider them to be "friends" because we share a common goal of using our resources for positive change. And we hope that you will be inspired by their passion!

Keep checking throughout the day to learn more about these great individuals and organizations!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The connection between food security and health in HIV

A recent study in Uganda with 221 pregnant and breastfeeding HIV-infected women with showed that malnutrition and food insecurity heavily decreases the effectiveness of HIV treatment.

Women with access to adequate nourishment had a 15% to 41% better virologic response and more optimal health outcomes. 

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/272821.php

Mind, body, and soul: how mental health conditions impact people who are HIV+

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that individuals with mental health diagnoses may be up to 4 times more likely to be HIV+ than the general population. 

HIV activists have long advocated for increased mental health services and for more integrated health care for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). While "opt-out" and universal testing is becoming more common in urgent care and routine clinic settings, it has not increased as noticeably among behavioral health providers.

As earlier studies have demonstrated a correlation between inadequately treated mental health conditions and poorer health outcomes among those living with HIV, these new findings seem to underscore the importance of addressing not just viral load, CD4 count, and opportunistic infections, but also mental health needs as well.

http://m.timesofindia.com/life-style/health-fitness/health/Mental-health-patients-more-likely-to-have-HIV/articleshow/30628579.cms

Supporting their youth: Annual Adoption Consciousness Week in the Philippines

Known as the deadliest typhoon on record in Philippine history, Haiyan (November 2013) is believed to have taken the lives of more than 6,000 people, and bodies are still being located months later. 

Numerous children were separated from their families as a result of the devastating typhoon, many of whom are "known" orphans as a result of the documented deaths of their parents/caregivers. 

A signatory to The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the Philippines allows international adoption of abandoned, neglected, and/or special needs children. Approximately 200 children each year are adopted from the Philippines by American families; the numbers are similar for British and Australian families.

However, despite the devastation, the Philippines is demonstrating the resiliency of its people. The government is turning to its own citizens, encouraging them to consider fostering and/or adopting these orphans in order for them to remain in their home country if possible.

Through awareness and marketing campaigns that coincide with annual Adoption Consciousness Week (February 15-23), it is hoped that several of the children known to be orphaned will find homes. Free legal aid will be offered to prospective adoptive families to assist in completing their adoptions.

In addition, the government has established a Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification Program to help those children who do have living relatives locate their family members and reunite with them.

http://m.philstar.com/314191/show/2d0aaba94d8c73d81220859f7dd29db3/?

Across the burning sands: the plight of refugees and displaced persons

The story is heartbreaking. A four year old child crossing the desert alone, separated from his family due to unrest that forced them from their home. 

Thankfully, Marwan was later able to reunite with his family. 

Unfortunately, for the more than 2 million refugees who have fled the three-year conflict in Syria, and for the billions of other refugees and displaced persons around the globe, reunification may only be a dream.

http://www.euronews.com/2014/02/17/four-year-old-fleeing-syria-found-alone-in-the-desert-report/

AANCART: Reversing the cancer crisis facing Asian Americans

Did you know that Asian Americans are the ONLY U.S. racial/ethnic population who experience cancer as the leading cause of death?

And did you know that cancers that disproportionately affect Asian Americans are both attributable to genetic and environmental causes?

There is support and mentoring available for new and early career researchers wishing to reverse the cancer crisis facing Asian Americans.

The Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training founded the National Center for Reducing Asian American Cancer Health Disparities in 2000 to address this. Supported by the National Cancer Institute, AANCART utilizes this center to conduct community-based participatory education, training, and research by, for, and with Asian American community.

The organization currently targets one-third of all Asian Americans by focusing upon Americans of Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Korean, and Vietnamese ancestry living in Sacramento, CA; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Honolulu, HI; and Seattle, WA.

The Training Program aims to nurture and mentor new and early stage investigators (“NESIs”) in community-based participatory research (CBPR) who will submit peer-reviewed proposals and obtain funding to conduct research to reduce health disparities. The program also supports fellows engaged in related research that focuses upon diversity.

Learn more about opportunities with AANCART by visiting them online!

http://www.aancart.org/

Monday, February 17, 2014

"A Walk to Beautiful" PBS documentary explores obstetric fistula in Ethiopia

"A Walk to Beautiful" is an award-winning documentary that highlights a difficult journey that begins in hopelessness and shame for thousands of women in Ethiopia, but ends in a productive new life. 

The film tells the personal stories of rural women who make their way to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, seeking treatment for obstetric fistula, a life-shattering complication of childbirth.

Filmed in a starkly beautiful landscape, the documentary juxtaposes the isolated lives of village women who are outcasts because of their medical condition, with the faraway hospital that offers a miracle after a long and arduous trek—a "walk to beautiful."

A transcript is available on the PBS we body for those unable to view or hear the documentary on YouTube.)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/a-walk-to-beautiful.html

Youth Making a Difference in Utah


For our friends in Utah:

Do you know of a youth or young adult who is interested in developing leadership skills needed to make change on both a local and global level?

Youth Making a Difference is accepting applications now! This program provides a full year leadership training and practical experiences, culminating with a final project that emphasizing the value of making difference in the world.

The program transforms the lives of the youth participants as well as those they serve. Projects range from volunteering in India to tutoring at-risk children in local schools. Apply today!

http://www.ymad.org/

Partners in Policymaking ® in New York


For our friends in the state of New York:

Do you and/or one of your family members have a developmental disability?

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in your state?

Do you have internet access?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then you would make a great candidate for NY Partners in Policymaking ®!

This is a FREE, innovative leadership training program for people with developmental disabilities, parents and family members that is 98% online!

It is designed to provide state-of-the-art knowledge about issues and policies related to disability, and to develop participant competencies to become more effective in influencing policy development at all levels.

Apply today!

http://www.nyspip.org/

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Learning, Empowerment, Advocacy, Participation in Houston, TX



For our friends in Houston, Texas:

Do you want to develop the skills that will help you make a difference in the lives of the HIV+ community? Apply for Project L.E.A.P. (Learning, Empowerment, Advocacy, Participation).

This FREE semester-long program is the most comprehensive advocacy training program in the nation for HIV positive individuals and is sponsored by the Ryan White Planning Council.

There is a great need, as Harris County accounts for 35% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the state of Texas--over 16,000 Houstonians.

In Project L.E.A.P., you will learn:

-Who needs HIV-related services
-The specific needs of the HIV-community in Houston
-How HIV organizations receive funding
-Who makes the decisions regarding funding
-Where HIV funding originates
-How government decisions affect you and your community
-How YOU can have an impact on these decisions.

The deadline for 2014 is fast approaching; online today!

http://rwpchouston.org/Project%20LEAP/Project%20LEAP.htm


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Career ACCESS: Enabling youth/young adults with disabilities to be self-sufficient

Career ACCESS is an innovative pilot program in five states for youth and young adults with disabilities (under the age of 30). It is designed to provide employment training and support while still permitting them to retain SSI eligibility.

The proposed legislation, which has been fully endorsed by the NCIL, is seeking feedback!

www.advocacymonitor.com/calling-all-youth-disability-employment-advocates-your-feedback-requested-on-the-careeraccess-public-policy-initiative/

Positive Exposure

POSITIVE EXPOSURE, an arts, education and advocacy organization, utilizes the visual arts to celebrate the richness of human diversity and to expand and challenge conventional standards of beauty.

Created by award-winner photographer and activist Rick Guidiotti, POSITIVE EXPOSURE addresses stigma, and public fears about difference with positive images and powerful life stories.

Positive Exposure collaborates with health advocacy organizations, international NGOs, government agencies and ministries and educational institutions through vigorous cross-sector partnerships.

Our programs support and promote human dignity through Positive Exposure’s Spirit of Difference presentation, workshops and photographic exhibitions featuring individuals living with physical, genetic or behavioral difference in order to challenge stigma, fear and discrimination and support positive social change worldwide.

Positive Exposure is a proud ReelAbilities partner!

Check out this "Friendsday WEdnesday" page share; it will inspire you!


http://positiveexposure.org

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ramp Your Voice!

Ramp Your Voice! is a self-advocacy & empowerment movement for people with disabilities in SC & across the United States, led by Vilissa Thompson, LMSW. Vilissa is macro-minded social worker who is on a mission to educate and inform the public & political figures about the plight of people with disabilities, especially women of color with disabilities, in America.

Vilissa is an African American self-advocate living with osteogenesis imperfecta who is passionate about social change. Visit this "Friendsday WEdnesday" page today!


http://rampyourvoice.org

Simply Beautiful Dream List's pediatric HIV page

The mission of Simply Beautiful Dream List is to provide pediatric HIV education and acceptance! They aspire to help create a society where:

*All positively influenced kids can live in a world that is stigma free.
*HIV+ kids & kids of HIV+ parents will have a place of support.
*All + kids have access to dream/wish trips & camps.

Check out this great "Friendsday WEdnesday" page!

http://facebook.com/PediatricHivAidsAwareness

Welcome to our very first "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Welcome to our very first "Friendsday WEdnesday!"

Want to connect with likeminded advocates? There are a number of great grassroots resources within our very own communities! 

I will be listing several of them throughout the day today on Advocacy Without Borders' first "Friendsday WEdnesday" (which will become a weekly feature on our page). 

Be certain to check them out and show them some love!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Autism Public Comment Reminder

t's not too late to send a quick email to communications@dars.state.tx.us to let the Texas DARS Autism Program know that they should not make modifications to its program that will hurt families! Say NO to making autism "severity levels" an eligibility criteria, and say NO to weakening the standards for staff qualification and supervision!!!

http://www.dars.state.tx.us/stakeholders/autism/index.shtml

Overcoming the Odds!

A few days ago, Katie Couric featured some amazing guests on her show! If you haven't had an opportunity, please take the time to learn more about these inspiring ladies here:

Lizzie Vasquez is a young lady from Austin, Texas diagnosed with a condition so rare that the number of people known to have the condition can be counted on one hand. While she has been bullied and ostracized by others, even mocked as the "World's Ugliest Woman," Lizzie has dedicated her life to helping others as a motivational speaker and leader. Visit her website at:http://www.aboutlizzie.com/#!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Young entrepreneur changes the way global aid is distributed, promotes equality

In the 21st century we have to work together to be mutually beneficial, and not just provide one-way help." 

Doga Makiura, a  20-year-old entrepreneur who went from a "school kid" to negotiating business between Japan and Rwanda, discusses a new model for global aid: 

http://blog.ted.com/2014/02/06/a-new-approach-to-global-aid-where-everyone-is-equals/
And...since you've been so kind to send out emails... 

Please consider contacting the lawmakers below today. The Collaboration for the Promotion of Self-Determination (a coalition of more than 20 disability organizations) is urging the President to put an end to the low wages earned by disabled workers in sheltered workshops. Speak up on behalf of this cause to ensure that employees with disabilities have the opportunity to earn liveable wages. These links provide all of the information you need to place a call or send an email about this. Thank you for your support!

autisticadvocacy.tumblr.com/post/75921754621/urgent-action-alert-contact-the-white-house-and


http://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/02/disability-orgs-call-on-president-to-include-workers-with-disabilities-in-executive-order/

Friday, February 7, 2014

Comments Requested for Proposed Changes to Texas' Children's Autism Program

ATTENTION FRIENDS! YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!
The State of Texas is accepting public comment about proposed changes to its children's autism program until February 10, 2014. 

Sponsored by a grant from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, this program provides a variety of services on a sliding scale basis to children with diagnoses of an autism spectrum disorder and their families: therapy, parental training, service coordination, shadowing, in-home support, etc.

In an effort to serve more children (the program has an extensive waiting list), a number of modifications have been suggested. While many of these changes are positive, there are a few that are very disconcerting, particularly these:

"Program Eligibility Elements:
• Establish eligibility criteria to consider severity of impact of the autism diagnosis."

AND:

"Treatment Provider Qualification and Supervision Elements
• Change education, training or experience requirements
• Change credentialing requirements
• Change staff supervision requirements."


The proposed modifications pose a threat to the very clients they wish to serve. By using "severity criteria" to determine who "deserves" to be accepted into the program, the program is perpetuating the myth of functioning levels and will cause certain children will be unfairly denied services because it will be perceived that they do not "need" help.


By presumably diluting the qualifications of staff and the methods of supervision, the program endangers the physical and emotional safety of the children. Thorough, ongoing training and close supervision is imperative in such a program to ensure that services are rendered both ethically and effectively. Reducing these standards creates the potential of unnecessary risk and diminishes the program's impact as well.

Why do I care? Because Texas is a state where there is huge unmet need, and this statewide program fills a void for many. This program serves a racially and economically diverse population of children and families in a number of settings and provides them with resources, hope, education, and support. 

If "severity levels" are imposed, it implies that we need to "grade" our children. Who determines which child's autism diagnosis is "more severe" than another? What criteria does a child need to meet to "pass?"

If staff are not adequately trained, educated, and supervised, than how will they be able to distinguish between what is "aggressive behavior" and what is not? Whether a child is being "noncompliant" or whether it is something else? Without close supervision, who can gauge if the child's program is being implemented safely and properly?
implore you to consider sending a public comment letting the decision makers know that these modifications are NOT what these families need!

"DARS will be taking written comment from January 20, 2014, to February 10, 2014. Written comments may be submitted electronically to communications@dars.state.tx.us or sent by postal mail to:

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Center for Policy and External Relations, Mail Code 1423
4800 North Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78751-2399."

Please see the embedded links for more detail on the DARS program if desired.

PLEASE take a moment and write a short, one or two sentence email! Public comments matter! Your remark might be the very one to change their minds! Please consider helping, because the advocate=you + me!

http://www.dars.state.tx.us/stakeholders/autism/index.shtml

http://www.dars.state.tx.us/stakeholders/stakeholdersnews/20140102.shtml

Quoted from the DARS website:

"The Current DARS Autism Program

• The DARS Autism Program serves Texas children ages 3 to 8 years old that have an autism spectrum diagnosis.
• Services are provided through contracts with local community agencies and organizations in six areas of the State. The providers are currently located in: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Rosenberg and San Antonio.
• The Autism Program model provides comprehensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment services. These services are designed to address a child’s developmental needs in addition to behavioral challenges.
• Contractors vary in their delivery of comprehensive ABA services.
o Treatment intensity varies from 10-35 hours per week based on an individualized treatment plan developed by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or Licensed Psychologist.
o Services are delivered by para-professionals under the supervision of a BCBA or Licensed Psychologist.
o Most services are provided in a clinic setting, although home-based services may be provided as needed.
• Children are eligible for up to 24 months of services.
• Services are currently capped at $5,000 cost per child per month, based on the number of service hours delivered and the contract rate; however, DARS may approve requests to exceed this amount on a per-case basis.
• All families are required to participate in the cost of services by paying a family cost share.
• DARS is the payer of last resort for services provided in the Autism Program. Texas Medicaid and CHIP currently do not provide reimbursement for ABA services (except through a small number of Medicaid long-term care waivers) and only 30% of the private insurance plans are required by Texas statute to cover the cost of autism treatment services.
• The program’s funds are State general revenue appropriated by the Texas legislature.

During the 83rd Legislative Regular Session, a Health and Human Services Special Provision provided additional funding to expand the program to new areas of the state. The Special Provision required DARS to develop a plan to increase the number of children receiving autism services while considering the following criteria:

• Evidence based treatment modalities;
• The average number of treatment service hours necessary to make a measurable impact on behavior and the most appropriate duration of time to ensure progress is maintained;
• Which age range of children benefits the most from treatment;
• Which provider qualifications are most appropriate for the delivery of treatment services;
• Best practices for including parental and caregiver training and involvement in treatment services;
• Best practices for inclusion of treatment services in an educational setting;
• State and federal laws related to insurance coverage of treatment services for autism; and
• Funding options for treatment services that include maximizing non-state payer sources such as public and private insurance and family participation.
Potential Modifications to the DARS Autism Program

DARS has contracted with the University of Texas, School Of Special Education to research different Autism treatment modalities based on the above listed criteria. The purpose of these public hearings is to receive input from interested stakeholders on modifications to the DARS Autism program. We are seeking comment on the potential changes to components of the DARS Autism program listed below:

Program Model Elements
• Change or expand the treatment services covered in the program
• Establish criteria for intensity of services allowed or required in the program
• Allow for service treatment in a group setting
• Increase the requirements for parent or school participation in the program model
• Establish requirements for location of service delivery
• Establish transition services criteria

Program Eligibility Elements
• Establish eligibility criteria to consider severity of impact of the autism diagnosis
• Change the age limits for eligibility in the program
• Change the length of time for eligibility in the program
• Change the maximum amount of treatment services allowed monthly or annually paid by the program
• Establish criteria for child attendance and parent participation for continued eligibility
• Establish family income limits for eligibility
• Establish program interest list criteria

Treatment Provider Qualification and Supervision Elements
• Change education, training or experience requirements
• Change credentialing requirements
• Change staff supervision requirements

Family Cost Share Elements
• Change how family cost share amounts are calculated
• Change how family income is determined for family cost share
• Change the definition of family for determining family cost share"


National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!


Want to learn some ways to promote HIV awareness in your community? Attend a twitter town hall meeting being hosted at 12 pm EST in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! More info is available on their FB page:

https://m.facebook.com/pages/National-Black-AIDS-Day/355524207798154?id=355524207798154&refsrc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpages%2FNational-Black-AIDS-Day%2F355524207798154

From my heart...


From my heart...

I had a conversation (my favorite type, texting back and forth  with a friend not long ago. We were discussing Advocacy Without Borders, and I was sharing my thoughts. About why I'm doing it. About why I think it's needed. It's not very eloquent, but I think it's worth sharing here:

'This is long and tangential, but in addition to sharing resources and information that might be of use to others, I basically want to find a way to encourage people to find some way to help themselves and also help others. Whatever way that works with their lifestyle, resources, and ability level.

If it's volunteering at a nearby organization, at a community center, or at their kid's school. Or writing a blog. Or launching a ministry. Or working collaboratively with some other existing group on their topic of choice.

Something in me is just railing against the mindsets of "...you can't be involved in things until your kids grow up..." and

"You're not from the 'right' group, so your voice doesn't matter because you don't understand what X or Y group is dealing with."

Or "You're too young (and/or poor/uneducated/non-influential, etc) to make much of a difference anyway."

EVERYONE can do SOMETHING, in their own small way. People don't need to sit around and wait for hand outs. Yes, we can accept an outstretched hand, but we can also LEND a hand.'

So this is me, lending my hand. Aided by some wonderful people who share the same vision and want to lend theirs too. Thanks for your patience and support of us as we find our way!

Love, Morénike

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Welcome to Advocacy Without Borders!

Welcome to Advocacy Without Borders! Help us work toward building a better world. 


Advocacy Without Borders is a non-profit organization that was founded in February 2014 by Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, community  advocate.

MissionTo encourage all people to make a difference, regardless of THEIR differences.


Advocacy Without Borders exists because ALL voices matter, and because all people deserve an opportunity to strive for growth and change.

Affirming that "stakeholders," "clients," "consumers," "patients," and/or "self-advocates" should be actively engaged in our own movements, we seek to promote social justice via collaborative partnerships (where allies are valued not above, but alongside the individuals for whom they are advocating), education, and community engagement.

We strive to be an inclusive, cohesive community that welcomes all who support our cause.