Immunization Month – Not Just for Kids

August has been recognized by the CDC as National Immunization Month. During this month they are striving to inform individuals about the importance of immunizations, not only for children, but throughout an individual’s lifespan as well. The week of August 24 – 30, designated Not Just For Kids, specifically tries to reach out to adults about maintaining their health with proper immunizations. Immunizations are especially recommended for those adults with chronic conditions (for example asthma), diabetes or heart disease, which studies have proven to all be more prevalent in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Many individuals with IDD may live in a residential housing program with other peers or attend a day program – this increases their daily exposure to other individual’s germs and bacteria making it even more important that they keep up to date with necessary immunizations.

For an individual with IDD that already has many other chronic conditions present contracting the flu, pneumonia, whooping cough, etc. can be very hard to fight off as well as being a large financial strain if hospitalization, follow up medications, etc. is required.

One vaccine that is most commonly discussed for adults is the Influenza, or flu, vaccine. It’s recommended to get a flu vaccine every year to build immunity against the illness. The other highly recommended vaccination is the Td (tetanus) shot, which is recommended every ten years for adults (starting after the age of about 19 years old). To avoid getting the tetanus bacteria it is also recommended to make sure to thoroughly clean all wounds and cuts to get all dirt and bacteria out. This will also help to reduce the chances of getting any other bacterial infections as well.

Other vaccines can help prevent against certain cancers, Hepatitis A & B, measles, mumps, and pertussis (also called whooping cough). In past years there has been an increase in the outbreaks of whooping cough in the US. In just the state of Wisconsin they reported over 7,000 cases of whooping cough from 2011 to 2013 and 48,000 cases nationwide in 2012. It is unsure what has recently caused this increase, but making sure that everyone is up-to-date on all recommended vaccinations will help to reduce future outbreaks.

Vaccinations are not the same for everyone. They can depend on an individual’s age, occupation, genetics, potential exposure to harmful diseases and germs, and other pre-existing health conditions the individual may have. So next time you’re at the doctor make sure to talk to him/her about which vaccinations are recommended for the ones you care for and make sure to keep them up to date in the future.

Autism CARES Is Law

The Arc celebrates the enactment of the “Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014.” This law reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for five years and makes a number of improvements to it. President Obama signed the legislation into law on August 8, 2014.

Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. Among its many notable achievements are an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention.

“Thanks to this law, health professionals are increasingly better able to serve people with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Greater public awareness and professional education on screening, diagnosis, and appropriate interventions promise to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, The Arc’s CEO.

“The Arc commends the lead sponsors, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), for their leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation. We also greatly appreciate the improvements that they made to the law – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth,” said Berns.

For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

The Arc to Host Los Angeles Theatrical Release of Award- Winning Short Film “Menschen”

The Arc will be sponsoring a limited engagement theatrical release of the award-winning short film Menschen in Los Angeles. This film directed by Sarah R. Lotfi and produced by Anastasia M. Cummings, showcases an often forgotten part of the Holocaust. During World War II, Nazi Germany had in place a non-voluntary euthanasia program called the Action T-4 program that targeted individuals with disabilities who Hitler deemed “life unworthy of life”.  According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, about 200,000 people with disabilities were murdered between 1940 and 1945 under this program. The film centers on a young man with a developmental disability who is taken under the wing of Austrian troops during World War II and the unlikely guardian that keeps him safe. The goal of Menschen is to show that individuals with disabilities are “life worthy of life”, a concept which embodies The Arc’s mission.

The film stars Connor Long, an actor with Down syndrome. Long, learned German for his role, and spent extensive time learning about this part of history in preparation for the filming of the movie. His work was rewarded when he was honored as Best Actor, during the Filmstock Film Festival in 2013.

“The Arc is honored to be sponsoring the Los Angeles theatrical release of Menschen, a film that sheds light on a part of history that is too often hidden. Sarah Lotfi deserves much admiration for choosing to share this important part of the Holocaust that impacted thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We are also thrilled to be supporting the work of Connor Long, the phenomenal actor who brought this story to life. Connor represents everything The Arc stands for, and we hope that his success as an actor inspires other individuals who have dreams of the lime light, and that his performance challenges the entertainment industry to create more dramatic roles for individuals with disabilities.” –  Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc

“As an individual I grew up watching The Arc play an active role in the advocacy of my brother and sister whose lives are very much impacted by their disabilities. As a filmmaker it is a beautiful thing to partner with that same organization and work together to give Menschen its Los Angeles theatrical release. For me the underlying message of the film champions the value of life and some challenges of disability that are relevant to this day.” -Sarah R. Lotfi

“We feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to work alongside an organization like The Arc that passionately champions the quality of life for individuals who otherwise would not have advocacy. This is a very special partnership to share our film Menschen, whose message truly coincides with the mission statement of The Arc.” – Anastasia M. Cummings

“I am so happy that The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties is able to be a part of this theatrical release.  A dark part of history is exposed in this film, and it is important for audiences to understand the suffering that hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities faced during this time. I am grateful to the director and producers for telling this story, and of course to Connor for his hard work in making this film a success.” – Kevin MacDonald, CEO, The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties

This theatrical release will make Menschen eligible for consideration during award season. Screenings will be held at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, on August 15th, 16th, and 17th, at 11AM and 12PM. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online. After each screening, a Q&A will be held with Sarah Lofti and Anastasia M. Cummings.

60th Anniversary Marks Milestone for The Arc of New Mexico

How Diversity is Strength at The Arc of New Mexico

There were many reasons to celebrate at The Arc of New Mexico State Annual Conference in June. Balloons and a bedecked cake displaying “60 years” were visible reminders of how far they’ve come.

Randy Costales, Executive Director of The Arc of New Mexico, says that in a state with a variety of cultures, languages, and backgrounds, it can be difficult to meet the needs of each community. Although New Mexico has only one local chapter The Arc of New Mexico has established Statewide Advocacy Network that includes the local chapter, a southern office and several home offices throughout the state. Over time he has found that opening several home offices throughout the state helps cut costs and provide better services.

“We have to be able to respond to the needs of all the citizens of New Mexico that have I/DD regardless of their age, ethnicity, or background,” said Costales.

The Southern New Mexico office was established 15 years ago to provide services to Dona Ana County, one of the poorest counties in New Mexico. A majority of the population is Hispanic and all staff are bilingual. A key to the success of this office is having employees from the area who can understand the needs of that region. Other offices have been established in Santa Fe, Silver City and soon in Roswell.

In another region of the state The Arc of New Mexico provides funding to The Arc of San Juan County, near the Navajo Nation, to provide advocacy. Advocate Dolores Harden, an employee of the local chapter, is known for her ability to relate with the people she serves on a personal level. Harden, who has two sons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), visits and serves individuals and families at their homes and is also involved in a self-determination program for people with Down syndrome. Costales says that her work has been integral to The Arc’s success in New Mexico.

“She is a quiet, unassuming woman who is one of the most effective advocates I’ve ever seen,” said Costales. “Because of her, we have reached more people.”

Thanks to the Isabel Gonzales Trust established in 2010, The Arc of New Mexico is able to provide special services and support for individuals with Down syndrome and their families. The Arc of New Mexico has used funds to provide person centered planning for people with Down syndrome and their families as well as stipends to attend national and state conferences.

“We’re very appreciative of the partnership with the national office,” said Costales of this joint venture of The Arc of New Mexico and The Arc’s national office.

There are many areas of the country with diverse populations and thanks to a grant from the MetLife Foundation, The Arc is launching a new diversity initiative to make programs and services more accessible to those diverse communities. The Arc’s national staff looks forward to learning from chapters with rich diversity like The Arc of Mexico, and hopes other chapters will find inspiration from all this state chapter has accomplished.

With 60 years of experience, the organization looks to the future of service for individuals with I/DD in New Mexico. Lessons from the past will ensure many future successes and growth for this powerful chapter of The Arc.

“What I love about my job is the diversity of the people we serve,” said Costales. “Each county and community is different.”

Eruption Athletics – An Innovative Approach to Making Fitness Fun

Eruption AthleticsThe Arc recently paired up with the dynamic duo of Chris Engler and Joe Jelinski, the co-owners of Eruption Athletics, to present at the National Down Syndrome Congress Conference. Together, The Arc and EA, presented 3 health and fitness sessions – 1 to the general conference and 2 interactive fitness sessions with their Youth and Adult conference for self-advocates.

Eruption Athletics (EA) was created in 2009 to help prepare individuals competing in Special Olympics’ games. Since then the organization has evolved into an adapted fitness facility designed specifically for individuals with disabilities to come to work out and learn more about health and fitness. Located just outside Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, EA first partnered with The Arc’s Achieva Chapter to help do fitness sessions at their free health assessment events as part of the HealthMeet project.

Joe and Chris help empower their clients with the knowledge of how to be physically active to build strength and endurance while preventing injuries. They provide personal one-on-one or group training sessions. Their program instills in their clients an attitude that there is nothing they can’t do because of their disability and shows them that exercises just need to be modified or adjusted to fit each individual’s specific needs. Spend two minutes in a room with Joe and Chris and you’ll know why they have a dedicated following of clients that continue to come back. Their bright colored clothing matches their high energy vibe and excitement that they bring to each training session.

Individuals that come to their classes are not only becoming more physically active they are also developing socially and cognitively. The group sessions with peers masks working out by providing a fun, social, and supportive environment that makes individuals actually look forward to exercising! It gives them a place to go each week to see old friends, meet new ones, and be part of a group that encourages each person to fulfill their own potential without comparison to others in the program. Their innovative approach to physical activity is helping to improve their clients physically and mentally by not only building muscle, but also self-confidence through proven results.

EA has recently released their new patented Eruption Athletics “Volcano PADD”. The PADD along with the accompanying instruction manuals that vary from beginner to advanced makes exercising easier, fun, and more accessible for individuals with disabilities. To learn more about EA’s Volcano PADD, contact Eruption Athletics.

This isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of Eruption Athletics though. They will be joining us in October down in New Orleans for The Arc’s National Convention. Joe and Chris will be combining forces with the HealthMeet project again to provide morning fitness sessions – so make sure to find out what all the hype is about and join us in New Orleans for our energizing sessions to get your day started right (and make some new friends in the process!).