Chapters Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service and Improve Disability Inclusion Across America

Many of our chapters spent the past two months executing service projects made possible by a grant from The Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that leads national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

Many perceive people with disabilities as the ones in need of service – but in reality, they are often a part of civic engagement at the state, local, and national level. Chapters executed great projects, including food drives and food delivery events. Check out our new Facebook album or each chapter’s Facebook page below for highlights and pictures from each event. Thank you for participating in this wonderful opportunity with us!

  • TARC: Our local chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, kicked off their MLK Day of Service at a University of Tulsa basketball game. Volunteers with developmental disabilities from TARC worked with university students to accept canned food donation and transport food to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. In February, volunteers from the chapter also packaged food at the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma; served meals at the Kendall Whittier Elementary School; and conducted a month-long food drive at the University of Tulsa and at the True Blue Neighbors office.
  • The Arc Big Bend: On February 15th, this Madison, Florida, chapter hosted a “free lunch” for 250 people who experience food insecurity at a local park. Volunteers with and without disabilities from the local Kiwanis club, Aktion Club, local health department, and nursing school hosted a variety of activities, including free health screenings, fire rescue demonstrations, and performances from a local boys choir.
  • The Arc of Greater Twin Cities: Our Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, chapter worked with Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank to deliver emergency food aid to at least 180 people in need. During the weekend before MLK Day, thrift stores operated by The Arc of Greater Twin Cities engaged volunteers to work at their thrift stores to collect canned food and sort clothing to be sold (the proceeds of which supported the work of The Arc of the Greater Twin Cities).
  • The Arc of the Glades: The Arc of The Glades in Belle Glade, Florida, began a joint adventure with The Church of The Harvest and Lighthouse Food Pantry to help provide food to those in need in our local community. As of February 10th, 40 volunteers with and without disabilities have given 385 hours of their time, served 2,468 meals, and distributed 5,686 bags of food to those in need.
  • The Arc of Luzerne County: Our chapter in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, partnered with the Wilkes Barre Kiwanis and Pittston Rotary Club to box food for over 150 low-income seniors at the Commission on Economic Opportunity,  a local community organization that serves people suffering from poverty on MLK Day. Since this initial event, volunteers with disabilities have been serving in the kitchen at the Commission on Economic Opportunity to help prepare 800-1000 lunches daily for low-income children in the area.
  • The Arc Nature Coast: Throughout February, volunteers with and without disabilities in Brooksville, Florida, delivered and distributed fresh fruits and veggies to nearly 300 families at four food banks in the community.
  • The Arc of the Midlands: Working with community partners, this South Carolina chapter fed close to 200 people at an event that included live music, a basketball scrimmage, and special guests including state representative Chip Huggins and Indianapolis Colts football player Kelcy Quarles.
  • The Arc of Virginia: On February 19th, volunteers and chapter staff assembled 230 meals for distribution to people in Richmond who experience food insecurity. This effort was supported by Virginia Delegate Kaye Kory, members of the Virginia General Assembly, and assembly staff.
  • The Arc of Walton County: The Arc of Walton County partnered with their local Anchor Club and The Matrix Community Outreach Center to provide food to those in need in northwest Florida.
  • Genesee Arc: This New York chapter supported volunteers with and without disabilities to conduct food drives throughout the month at twelve different community locations. The food collected was donated to 200 children in need at the United Way of Genesee County’s Backpack Program, which provides food to school-age children who experience food insecurity on the weekends.

The Arc Awarded Contribution for New Center for Special Education Advocacy

Washington, DC – The Arc is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a contribution from AT&T to create a new Center for Special Education Advocacy called TheArc@School. The center will support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education and employment by improving the quality and availability of trained lay advocates to support the development and implementation of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

All students who qualify for special education services are legally required to have an IEP to ensure they are receiving the support and guidance necessary to successfully pursue their educational goals. The IEP process requires an annual meeting between teachers, administrators, parents and students. In the meeting, attendees discuss everything from students’ present levels of academic achievement to their future goals and any accommodations or modifications they need in the classroom.

“These discussions can be overwhelming and intimidating for parents – many parents in The Arc’s network have shared that they are hesitant to express their opinions, they feel they do not have the expertise to participate, or that they are not encouraged to participate. As a result, plans often set low expectations or lack personalization, making it difficult for students to stay on track to achieve their full potential. TheArc@School aims to improve the process,”
said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Currently, in order to make the process more manageable, some families choose to work with professional advocates. These advocates can be incredibly knowledgeable and can act as an excellent resource for parents and students, but many receive no formal training; they often become experts through their own personal experience navigating the special education system, usually as parents or teachers.

This contribution will allow The Arc to start by collecting data about current methods and practices, as little information about effective practices exists at this time. After analyzing this data to identify best practices, The Arc will disseminate this information through a comprehensive online resource center, making it easily available to parents, students, advocates, chapters of The Arc, and school administrators. The Arc will use this data on effective practices to inform planning to develop a comprehensive training effort aimed at lay advocates.

“AT&T is thrilled to collaborate with The Arc to provide a more comprehensive support system for students along with the resources they need for success,” said Nicole Anderson, executive director of philanthropy at AT&T. “The Center for Special Education Advocacy will be a key voice in making education accessible to more students.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 665 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

 

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

About Philanthropy and Social Innovation at AT&T

AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its community initiatives, AT&T has a long history of investing in projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; or address community needs. AT&T Aspire is AT&T’s signature philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue including funding, technology, employee volunteerism, and mentoring. Through Aspire, we’ve passed the $250 million mark on our plan to invest $350 million in education from 2008-2017.

Focus on Flossing this February : It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month!

toothbrushAlthough February is technically National Children’s Dental Health Month, oral health is important for people of all ages!

Did you know people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are more likely to have dental and oral health problems than the general population? A study conducted by Tufts University indicates that people with disabilities have a higher prevalence of oral disease such as dental cavities, gum disease, and missing teeth.

Caregivers play a key support role in helping people with I/DD make sure they have good oral hygiene practices like brushing teeth twice a day flossing regularly. However, only 6.4% of family caregivers have received any formal training to help their loved one keep his or her teeth clean

Fortunately, there are several resources out there for caregivers who want to learn how to help their family member improve his or her oral health. Here are a few that you may find interesting:

Reflections on the State of the Union Address

By: T.J. Sutcliffe, Director of Income and Housing Policy for The Arc

Last night, Americans across the nation, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families, tuned in for President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.

The Arc live Tweeted, and I had the honor of representing The Arc at the White House for the State of the Union Social live-viewing.

Here are five highlights that people with I/DD and their families will want to know about:

  • Remembering San Bernardino — One of President Obama’s guests at ‪SOTU was Ryan Reese, partner to Larry “Daniel” Kaufman who was one of the 14 victims of the December 2 attack at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA. Daniel was a job coach for people with disabilities who lost his life after saving four people. As we tuned in to SOTU, our hearts were with Ryan, Daniel, and all of the victims in San Bernardino, their families, loved ones, and community.
  • Disability affects us all, and we are stronger together — At the White House, Vice President Joe Biden kicked off the SOTU watch party. In his remarks, the Vice President shared an inspiring story about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) highlighting the need for us all to work together. After now-deceased Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) rejected a precursor of the ADA, then-Senator Biden was very angry with Senator Helms and thought the worst of him. But then he learned that Senator Helms and his wife had adopted a child with a disability. The Vice President summed up, “It’s always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment, but it’s never appropriate to question their motive,” because you just don’t know.
  • Our lifeline: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and SSI — We couldn’t agree more with President Obama about this: “That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
  • Lois Curtis, a disability rights champion — One of the “voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far” highlighted on video as President Obama spoke was Lois Curtis, one of two named plaintiffs in the landmark ADA case Olmstead v. L.C. It was amazing to see Lois, a fierce advocate for people with disabilities, featured along with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Alice Paul, and Cesar Chavez.
  • A SOTU for everyone — We thank the White House for making this the most accessible SOTU ever for people with disabilities.

What were your thoughts about the State of the Union? Share them with us on social media (Twitter & Facebook).

Get the Year Started Off Right with National Healthy Weight Awareness Month

HealthyEatingMaintaining a healthy weight is hard all year round, but can be especially hard during the winter holiday season. According to the CDC, maintaining healthy weight happens when a person keeps his or her weight at the right amount based upon a person’s height, the amount of food/drink he or she eats, and his or her activity level.

Maintaining a healthy weight can be hard, but people with disabilities tend to have more difficulty maintaining a healthy weight than people without disabilities. This occurs for many reasons, including the use of various prescription drugs that cause weight gain, less opportunity or education about exercising, fewer trainers who know how to work with people with disabilities, and less education about how or why it is important to eat healthily.

Fortunately for all of us who need to be better at watching our weight, January is National Healthy Weight Awareness Month! This month encourages people of all ages, weights, dress/pant sizes, and ability levels to improve their health and well-being by being more active and eating healthier. Here are some things that you and your family can do to improve your health and start your year right:

Reaching your healthy weight goals takes time. While you may not get to your ideal weight overnight, we hope these links will provide you inspiration and opportunities to get active and have a happy and healthier 2016!