From the CEO
To quote the infamous Auntie Mame, “We need a little Christmas.” After subdued holiday activities of the last couple of pandemic-laden Decembers, activities are rolling out with renewed zest. I think there are more parties, brighter lights, amplified music, and a veritable barrage of pent-up celebrations.
If you are planning on family and friends visiting during the holidays, consider a few thoughtful elements that could make the visit better for everyone. What can be festive and joyful for one may be overwhelming for the next.
These tips are helpful to the parent bringing a child with sensory issues, but can also be beneficial for the senior with dementia and adults with anxiety or emotional needs. Not everyone is happier in a crowded space with bright lights and a pervasive chaos of people coming and going.
Keep the music moderately low. Consider music that is more background than a feature. If instrumentals with a more consistent timbre are possible, then they can set a somewhat calmer tone. Familiar tunes are best.
State Legislation & Disability
by: Joni Schmalzried
Legislative sessions at the State House in Indianapolis begin in January, and disability will certainly be on the agenda. Critical issues will be written in briefs and policies, presented to committees, and discussed in the hallways. Some will come to a vote to support change. In the past, I was interested in those things, but not always sure how to make sure my voice and my profession were heard.
If you are interested in public policy and disability, here are a few things you can watch (and hope) for during the upcoming session that legislators will consider:
- Re-defining special education categories and funding in schools
- A higher level of investment in First Steps programs
An increase in funding for protections and increase in Medicaid Home and Community based Services and Direct Support Professionals
- Rate increases for therapies
- Increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities
- A greater understanding and requirement to inform families of alternatives to guardianship at the school level
How can you follow this information? How can you support? Find out who your legislators are and make sure they know your interests, support, and concerns. Subscribe to those briefs and journals that keep you updated on critical issues (Indiana Capital Chronicle, Arc of Indiana Newsletter). Votes are over, legislators have been chosen, and state committees are set. That does not mean, however, that your voice and input are not needed.
Series: Assistive Technology
by: Andie Mosley
As I navigate autism as an adult who did not get the guidance that comes from being diagnosed as a child, I am still learning ways to support my various needs. I’m perceived as having “low-support needs;” I have a full-time job, live alone in a home that I bought, and am high-masking. The truth is, I require and receive a great deal of support. This year brought some breakthroughs in the form of assistive technology(AT), one of which is very new but has great potential to assist disabled people.
It’s no secret that social norms and communication are a major struggle for most of us (all of us?) on the spectrum. If you knew how much time I waste overanalyzing every text or email that I send, you would wonder how I get anything done. Enter ChatGPT. This Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot can simulate human communication. I know, I know, it sounds creepy, but hear me out. This AI was designed to help with content creation, but it could be a game changer in AT. I’ve tested it by asking it to write difficult emails and texts (like canceling plans). You can tell it a tone (professional, casual, etc.) and what type of conversation you’re hoping to simulate. The more information the better. The program is currently in testing and still working out kinks, so don’t expect perfection. You may have to make some edits, but overall, it’s an effective tool and has cut down my time spent agonizing over writing emails. And this just scratches the surface. I also asked it questions like when and how to leave certain social situations (if you know an autistic person that is always last to leave your party, it’s because we don’t know how). It gave me step-by-step instructions!
At the beginning of the year, I was not using any assistive technology, but I am always willing to try new methods of making my life a little easier. Think of assistive tools like medication. Each one may impact people differently, so you have to find the ones that work best for you. That’s why it’s great that people keep creating and technology keeps evolving. I can’t wait to see what’s created next year.
We want to explore the vast world of AT and how it helps others with disabilities. If you want to contribute to this series, reach out to me at email@example.com. Let us know what assistive technology works for you.
You may be wondering about the name of our newsletter. Patti gave a history of the name and its meaning for our organization. You can read all about it here.
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