7 Essentials for Decorating Your ASD Child’s Bedroom

LinkedIn
Children with ASD bedromm decorations

Children on the autism spectrum have unique needs. As parents, we might not always understand the reason behind a child’s preferences. Nonetheless, we do our best to accommodate them and create an environment where our child feels safe and comfortable.

When it comes to designing the home, the bedroom of a child with autism calls for particular attention. Children on the autism spectrum frequently have trouble sleeping. That lack of quality sleep, in turn, exacerbates some of autism’s most distressing behavioral problems, such as physical aggression and irritability. Designing a soothing, sensory-friendly bedroom helps children with autism sleep better and provides a safe space they can turn to when feeling overwhelmed.

These are some of the things that make an ideal bedroom environment for children on the autism spectrum:

Soft Lighting

Lighting can trigger mood changes in children with autism. This is especially noticeable with fluorescent lighting, which generate a flickering and humming that many children find distressing. Natural light is best for children on the autism spectrum; not only is it more calming than artificial light, but natural light helps regulate the circadian rhythms that control sleep. In dimly-lit rooms and after dark, LED lighting is the best choice.

Curtains

While natural light is great, unfiltered light streaming through a window casts glares and shadows that may disturb a child with ASD. Dress windows with light-filtering curtains to achieve softer illumination in your child’s bedroom. You can also use curtains in more creative ways, like to designate private spaces in a shared bedroom or to carve out a quiet sensory-deprivation nook for your child.

Soothing Paint Colors

Red, orange, and yellow paint colors are known to boost energy, but for a child on the autism spectrum, these bright colors can be overstimulating. In general, muted greens, blues, purples, pinks, and browns are preferred by children with autism. Every child is different, however, so pay attention to how your child responds to different colors before selecting a bedroom paint color.

Soundproofing

Children tend to go to bed earlier than adults, but if there’s still noise in the home, your child may focus on the sound rather than falling asleep. Soundproofing keeps outside noise out so kids can rest peacefully. Learn how to do it yourself at Soundproofable. A white noise machine can also be used to mask noise.

A Comfortable Bed

We don’t tend to start waking up with aches and pains until we’re older, but that doesn’t mean an uncomfortable bed isn’t affecting your child’s sleep. In addition to beds that are showing their age, certain mattress materials trap heat and contribute to night sweating. If you’re concerned about budget, buy a bed large enough that your child can continue using it through their adolescent years. Most mattresses last 7-10 years with proper care.

Soft Bedding and Pajamas

Many children with autism are irritated by rough fabrics, seams and tags in clothing. Keep your child’s fabric preferences and dislikes in mind when shopping for bedding and pajamas for his room. In general, soft, silky fabrics are best. You can also find seamless and tagless clothing designed specifically for kids on the spectrum. Friendship Circle names the best places to find such products.

Sensory Toys

A child’s bedroom isn’t only a place to sleep, it’s also a safe and private space where kids can relax and escape sensory overload. Sensory toys are excellent for calming children with autism by providing a positive sensory experience. Individual children are drawn to different sensory toys, but you can learn about some of the most popular ones here.

Sleep is central to physical, mental, and emotional wellness. For children with autism, the effects of poor sleep are especially pronounced. However, parents aren’t helpless to improve their child’s sleep. While redecorating may not completely solve the sleep problems of a child on the autism spectrum, the right bedroom environment goes a long way to making your child feel safe and secure in his room.

Source: specialhomeeducator.com

Let’s Get to Work! —Program Employs People with Autism

LinkedIn
Picture of Posted titled Autism Stories

A partnership between Pepco Holdings and The Precisionists, Inc., stole the show at Exelon’s Innovation Expo, beating out more than 250 other entries to win first place in the fast-pitch contest’s Inspiration/Ideation category. Daymond John from the popular TV show Shark Tank was both keynote speaker at the event and one of the judge for the competition. The Precisionist employs dozens of adults with autism, and Pepco Holdings has been using their innovative disability employment model across a number of its business areas.

“When properly assessed, trained and employed, people with autism are extremely high-performing employees in critical and challenging jobs, such as administrative business functions, software testing and data analytics,” said Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists. “When you consider that more than 70 percent of people with autism in the country are either unemployed or underemployed, we are making a true difference in engaging this significant, untapped and high-performing labor force.”

Individuals taking part in the program are identified, assessed, trained and employed by The Precisionists, then carry out project-based work, including managing and updating databases, supporting the processing of solar application invoices and requests, and entering and analyzing data for the company’s customer care organization. Participants also provide support to all of the Pepco Holding’s utilities, which includes Pepco in Maryland and the District of Columbia and Atlantic City Electric in southern New Jersey.

Individuals entering the program go through a comprehensive four-week training program, utilizing the methodology of Specialisterne, a nonprofit launched by Thorkil Sonne that offers programs for talent and career development to autistic individuals. As part of the program, Delmarva Power hopes to identify additional opportunities to expand this employment model to other parts of the business, further supporting The Precisionists’ goal of employing 10,000 people with disabilities in the United States by 2025.

Source: businesswire.com

Dr. Ann Wagner Named National Autism Coordinator

Ann E. Wagner, Ph.D., is the U.S. National Autism Coordinator. It’s a role she holds in addition to her position as chief of the National Institute of Mentalpicture of Ann Wagner smiling in her office Health’s Biomarker and Intervention Development for Childhood-Onset Mental Disorders Branch, which houses the institute’s Autism Research Program. Dr. Wagner plays a vital role in ensuring the implementation of national autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, services, and support activities across federal agencies. This role will complement the activities of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes public and federal members, takes place in a public forum, and focuses on sharing information about ongoing activities and providing advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to ASD.

Source: nimh.nih.gov

Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable

Disability:IN (formerly US Business Leadership Network [USBLN]), along with: DXC Technology, EY, Ford Motor Company, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Microsoft, and SAP, formed the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable to help close the unemployment and underemployment gap for individuals on the autism spectrum.

These cross-industry employers have led hiring initiatives specific to individuals on the autism spectrum for over a year, and recognize the significant benefits to their company cultures as well as those experienced by individuals hired at these companies.

The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable values transparency and the community of employers are sharing best practices and findings for autism hiring initiatives. For example, employers looking to explore how to get started with their own inclusive hiring programs can leverage the deep operational experience of these companies. Those employers in the roundtable are also given resources and guidance on efforts such as program messaging, approach and other recommendations.

“By working together we can further develop our programs, knowledge and share it with other organizations both large and small, allowing us to make impact for the current and future generations of people on the spectrum,” states Michael Fieldhouse, Director – Emerging Businesses and Cyber security, Dandelion Program Executive, DXC Technology.

The Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable will engage with autism communities and broader groups in academia and universities to raise awareness of the various hiring initiatives available at these companies. The collective roundtable of companies will collect feedback on these efforts as various initiatives scale, with the end goal of ultimately having an impact on reducing the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Source: Disability:IN

NXT GEN Coders to Increase Employment Readiness

GameStop and Autism Speaks partnered up to help tackle the high unemployment or underemployment rate the vast majority of adults with autism face. The NXT GEN Coders Program powered by GameStop provides financial funding to organizations, schools and universities that teach digital literacy and coding to people with autism, to help prepare them for the competitive job market. With a special focus on teens and college-age students, the NXT GEN Coders Program is also open to children and adults on the autism spectrum, from preschool age through retirement.

In its first year, the NXT GEN Coders Program received 38 proposals from 16 states. Applicants included community-based coding academies, not-for-profit service providers and large universities. All qualified proposals were evaluated by professionals within the coding industry and adults with autism who work in computing and gaming.

Source: GameStop Corp., Autism Speaks

World’s First Water Park to Receive CAC Accreditation

Aquatica sign outside of the park pointing where to goAquatica Orlando, in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), completed a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training as well as an onsite review of the park property and guest experience. The completion designates Aquatica Orlando as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES—the first water park in the world to receive such a distinction. This accreditation follows sister park Sesame Place, which was the world’s first certified autism center theme park.

Source: SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.

Autism Stories On-Demand Platform

To address the growing prevalence of autism and the desire to empower the global community affected, co-founders Remi Tetot and Alex Plank launched Autism Stories, a platform that will offer informational resources to subscribers through engaging interviews and documentaries featuring individuals with autism, impacted families, scientists, researchers, professionals in the field, and more. Autism Stories will be the convener of voices that will support and propel the autism community further. The subscription-based service is built on three verticals: living, growing and succeeding with autism. Each section will offer 10- to 60-minute interviews with world-renowned individuals on the spectrum, such as Temple Grandin and Steve Silberman, as well as conversations with parents, kids and prominent leaders in the space.

Source: Autism Stories

Vacation Home Rental Company is Certified Autism Center

VillaKey, a Certified Autism Center, is the first vacation rental company globally to earn the CAC designation. The family-run business caters to families, many with children on the autism spectrum to book vacation home rentals. “We saw an under-served market with a genuine need,” says Alice Horn, the CEO of VillaKey, LLC. “Children on the autism spectrum are uncomfortable with unfamiliar environments, and many families avoid hotels, or may not go on vacation at all. The children require a familiar and safe environment, which can be best provided in a vacation home.”

Source: VillaKey LLC, ibccess.org

Urban School Initiative Backed by Taraji P. Henson

LinkedIn
Taraji P. Henson in pink dress speaks onstage at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Since Taraji P. Henson launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) in honor of her father, the organization has conducted several listening sessions with therapists, social workers, educators and mental health leaders across the nation.

The goal of the tour is to identify trends in education, faith, and family that have perpetuated the stigma around mental health in the black community. One of the key pillars of the foundation is to provide urban schools with additional resources to address the mental health needs of African-American students. “We will increase mental health support in urban schools that demonstrate the highest need based on research and data collected from working groups consisting of Principals, counselors, teachers, social workers, parents and therapists,” said Tracie Jenkins. This work begins in Taraji’s hometown of Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser recently named February 8th as Taraji P. Henson Day in honor of her contributions to the nation’s capital.

BLHF has partnered with PROJECT 375, who will provide Youth Mental First Aid training for teachers and staff in eight public schools in Washington, D.C. BLHF will also support trauma-informed curriculum workshops and classes that educate and engage students, teachers, and families throughout the school year.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation focuses on eradicating the stigma around mental health in the African-American community. According to the BLHF website, “We were taught to hold our problems close to the vest out of fear of being labeled and further demonized as inapt, weak, and/or inadequate. African-Americans also have a history of being misdiagnosed, so there is mistrust associated with therapy.”

BLHF is near and dear to Taraji P. Henson’s heart, because, as she says, “Everything I do is for the positive, forward movement of humanity.” On January 28th, Henson received the 2,655th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. She dedicated her star to the next generation of actresses, while paying respect to those who came before her. “I fight for roles that will break through glass ceilings so that with these young women coming behind me, they won’t have the same narrative that we had,” she said.

“That’s how powerful art is. I don’t take anything for granted,” says Henson. “Every role I take on is just as special as the last one.”

Source: The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
Photo credit: TOMMASO BODDI/STRINGER/GETTY IMAGES

National Investors Call for Workplace Disability Inclusion

LinkedIn

 

Investors representing more than $1 trillion in combined assets, led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, today called on companies they invest in to create inclusive workplaces that can benefit from employing the millions of talented people with disabilities who remain underrepresented in the workforce.

Signatories to the joint statement disability inclusion investor statement. Download PDF File included New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Fortune 500 asset manager Voya Financial.

“Disability inclusion provides businesses with a great opportunity to improve their bottom lines, while boosting diversity and innovation,” said Comptroller DiNapoli, Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We want to know that our investment dollars are being used to maximize a company’s potential and its long-term profitability. Disability inclusion expands the pool of talent companies can hire from and creates welcoming workplaces that foster different perspectives, giving an enterprise a competitive edge.”

“Companies that embrace disability inclusion in the workplace benefit from increased innovation as well as profitability,” said Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read. “We are asking the companies we invest in to adopt policies to improve the representation of people with disabilities in their workforce and continue to identify opportunities for improvement.”

“Today’s announcement on disability equality by the nation’s leading institutional investors and pension funds marks a key turning point in the disability rights movement,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., bone cancer survivor, amputee and Board Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). “This new, concerted focus on corporate and shareholder engagement and accountability catapults the issue of disability inclusion into the forefront of corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and corporate governance — ESG — investing. Citizens, employees and shareholders will now be watching how companies respond to this new challenge and which corporations authentically support our goal of economic independence and workforce participation of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

When companies adopt best practices for hiring people with disabilities, they outperform their peers among numerous financial metrics, according to “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” a report published in 2018 by Accenture, Disability:IN, and AAPD.

The report concluded that corporate America has failed to capitalize on the talents of more than 10 million people with disabilities.

In their joint statement, the investors called for companies to adopt policies for:

  • Setting goals for hiring people with disabilities and tracking progress in meeting those goals;
  • Public support from a senior executive for creating a disability-focused employee resource group that fosters a supportive network; and
  • Including people with disabilities in their corporate diversity and inclusion statements.

The investors’ statement also encouraged companies to participate in the Disability Equality Index (DEI). The DEI, an initiative of Disability:IN and AAPD, allows companies to self-report and benchmark their disability policies and practices and identify ways to build reputations as inclusive organizations. In January, Comptroller DiNapoli wrote to 49 corporations in the portfolio of New York state’s pension fund, urging them to register for the DEI. A number of companies participated as a result.

“Companies looking to get started on or advance in their disability inclusion journey should attend the Disability:IN Annual Conference on July 16-18 in Chicago and/or register for the 2020 DEI,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN. “These opportunities will allow companies to benchmark and network with their industry peers to advance their inclusion efforts.”

This multi-state investor group is supported by various disability organizations, including members of the National Disability Leadership Alliance, representing some of the leading disability rights organizations throughout the nation. The full list of disability organizations that support this investor initiative are below.

The full text of the investors’ statement is available here . Download PDF File .

Supporting Disability Organizations:

  • American Council of the Blind
  • ADAPT
  • American Association of People with Disabilities
  • Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
  • Communication Service for the Deaf
  • Disability:IN
  • Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
  • Little People of America
  • National Association of the Deaf
  • National Coalition of Mental Health Recovery
  • National Council on Independent Living
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
  • Not Dead Yet
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
  • United Spinal Association

 

Maria Town Named AAPD’s President and CEO

LinkedIn
AAPD logo that says american association of people with disabilities

Washington, D.C. (May 22, 2019) – The Board of Directors of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) announced today that Maria Town has been selected as the new President & CEO.

Ms. Town, a well-recognized disability rights advocate, will begin her new position on July 15, 2019. AAPD Board Chair, Ted Kennedy, Jr., said he is excited about the future of AAPD with Maria at the helm. He went on to say that he is “incredibly grateful to our current CEO, Helena Berger, for her leadership and dedication to AAPD. She has created an environment that will allow the new CEO, Maria Town, to have maximum impact at AAPD in 2019 and beyond.”

Ms. Town is currently the Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, where she serves as the primary liaison between the more than half million people with disabilities in the greater Houston area, the Mayor, Houston City Council, and other key city, state, and national leaders. Ms. Town quickly became an expert on emergency response having begun the position shortly before Houston felt the impacts of Hurricane Harvey.

Prior to that, Ms. Town served as the Obama White House Senior Associate Director & Disability Community Liaison in the Office of Public Engagement. While there, Ms. Town increased the White House reach to the disability community by more than 700%. She also engaged with leadership from the nation’s premier disability and civil rights organizations, including AAPD, to provide White House Senior Advisors with daily briefings on key issues related to Americans with disabilities, seniors, cabinet agencies, and the Obama Administration’s place-based initiatives.

Upon being named President & CEO, Ms. Town stated, “I am incredibly honored to be the next CEO of AAPD. I look forward to working alongside our committed board, staff, and stakeholders to ensure that AAPD represents and engages our diverse community in the collective fight for equal access, integration, and full inclusion for Americans with disabilities.”

Ms. Town is the recipient of many awards and honors including the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities Martha Arbuckle Award, Susan Daniels Mentoring Hall of Fame Honoree, and an AAPD Paul J. Hearne Leadership Award Finalist.

Ms. Town began her professional disability rights career as a disability advocate in a policy advisor role at the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University.

AAPD is a convener, connecter, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As one of the leading national cross-disability civil rights organizations, AAPD advocates for the full recognition of rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s programs and initiatives have been effective in mobilizing the disability community through communications advocacy; cultivating and training new and emerging leaders with disabilities through leadership development programs; increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote through the REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign; and advancing disability inclusion in the workplace through the Disability Equality Index (DEI) — the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion. To learn more about AAPD, visit aapd.com.

Online Recruitment Platform to Connect Workers with Disabilities to Rewarding Careers

LinkedIn

The ISABLED Virtual Career Fair platform makes it easier to connect recruiters from leading companies and high-impact professionals with disabilities. They are are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. There are currently more jobs in the U.S than available workers to fill them, and companies are forced to explore more options to find talent to hire to help them grow their business.

Workers with different abilities (often referred to as workers with disabilities) are just one example of highly-skilled, but untapped segments of the population that more and more leading companies are seeking to recruit.

ISABLED, an online recruiting platform connects workers that identify as having a disability, with recruiters from leading companies who value inclusion and diversity in their workforce. The ISABLED platform allows job seekers and recruiters to connect and chat in real-time, from anywhere, and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

” The ISABLED Virtual Career Fairs are a fun and easy way to connect recruiters and job seekers with disabilities. Instead of asking both sides to attend a job fair at a physical location, we bring the career fair to them. The ISABLED platform allows our employer partners to recruit nationwide in just a few hours, and job seekers have instant access to the very recruiters who are seeking to fill the open positions” Stated Kevin O’Brien, Managing Partner, ISABLED.

The ISABLED website will include content to connect workers with disabilities to job opportunities from a wide range of companies and industries. The website will include a job board and a virtual career fair platform. ISABLED will host 4 virtual career fairs each year, and companies can host standalone virtual career fairs for their company as often as they like.

The first ISABLED virtual career fair is set for July 25, 2019, and open now for registration.

About ISABLED:

ISABLED, a division of Astound Virtual has a laser-focus on connecting industry-leading companies with workers people with disabilities who seek employment. Through the ISABLED Recruitment Center (IRC), job seekers and recruiters meet and interact, in real-time, but from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.

Meet the first openly autistic woman elected to political office

LinkedIn
Sarah Hernandez sitting at her desk smiling wearing a flowery green and yellow dress

By Kathleen Wroblewski, Director of Communications, Bay Path University

It’s difficult for many people to approach a stranger’s house and knock on their door. It’s quite another matter if you are knocking on doors and running for public office.

Within minutes, you need to introduce yourself and connect with the person on the other side of the threshold. We call it being face to face—a fundamental form of human communication.

When Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez, ’14 G’15, of the occupational therapy department decided to run for the school board in her local town, the process of canvassing in the community and meeting strangers was absolutely terrifying. “At first, I had to watch how people did it. And, slowly, I learned to pick up certain cues and how to handle myself in different situations. People were very patient with me. It was a big step when I knocked on that first door.”

Sarah’s success is all the more remarkable because she is neurodiverse: she is on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a development condition defined by social and communication difficulties and repetitive, inflexible patterns of behavior.

When you first meet Sarah, a mother of three with a friendly and welcoming smile, she appears to be the opposite of society’s profile of being autistic. But appearances can be deceiving. Sarah, along with many other young girls and women, has mastered what is known as “social camouflaging,” or hiding in plain sight. In many ways, this coping technique has led to women of all ages to be misdiagnosed, or in some cases, not diagnosed with autism at all. And that gets to the heart of Sarah’s story:

“I was diagnosed in my thirties, and that is not unusual for women. I knew that I was different somehow, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were times that I just had to shut down and not communicate. I was lucky to learn it was a form of autism because most women fly under the radar and never find out. They live in a world of inner turmoil. It’s only recently that researchers are looking at the gender differences in autism. In fact, the criteria for diagnosing ASD are based on data gathered from the studies of boys.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common in boys than girls. As awareness of autism grows, new protocols are being developed that indicate the gap may not be as wide as once thought. In the meantime, there are discernable shifts in society’s perceptions of autism.

Expanding the Definition of a Diverse Workplace

Sarah, like many others on the spectrum, has learned to live with her autism. She is a role model for her occupational therapy students, sharing her experiences to make them more sensitive to the differences and contributions of the members of her “tribe.”

“I let my students know right up front that I am autistic. And I share my knowledge of the strengths of autism—our ability to think in patterns, to visualize, and to be problem solvers,” she says.

In fact, this skill set is prompting companies and organizations to expand their definitions of a diverse workplace. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage, by Robert Austin and Gary Pisano, reports that the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool. With a vast number of IT and IT-related positions going unfilled, HR departments are re-examining their recruitment practices and working environments to accommodate neurodiverse employees. In companies with active neurodiverse hiring programs, such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, and others, they have already realized productivity gains and a high number of innovations. They have found that diversity does deliver.

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder

“I know I am incredibly lucky to be working at Bay Path,” states Sarah. “I am doing what I love, and I can be honest about who I am.”

Sarah’s generosity of spirit does not stop at Bay Path. She and her husband have one biological child, have adopted two children, and are therapeutic foster parents. When one of Sarah’s children experienced difficulties in school because she is darker in complexion, she knew she had to step forward to give voice to her daughter and others. She decided to run for the school board.

“I can hide my disability, but my daughter can’t turn her skin color off. I decided that I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with others on the spectrum, as well as represent all those who need a spokesperson.”

So, Sarah left her comfort zone and began knocking on doors, participating in debates, and attending meetings. She never hid her autism. And she won.

But her victory wasn’t just for the schoolchildren in her town. Through social media, her election gained broad attention. NBC Hartford did a profile on her, and at a national conference on autism, she shared the stage with former Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Senate.

For Sarah, the attention was sometimes hard to believe: “As a person on the spectrum, I believe we live in a world that wasn’t made for us. But we have to keep participating, and we have to work to represent ourselves. I like to say, ‘We have to put our pants on in the morning.’ We just need to show up.”

Sarah certainly has.

Source: baypath.edu

Pizzability is serving up a slice of community right alongside its hand-tossed pizzas and craft beer

LinkedIn
Tiffany Fixter pictured with employees at the brewery in Pizzability Restaurant

Owner Tiffany Fixter’s mission for the restaurant, which opened in December, is not only to create employment opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD); she also wants to give Denver area families with special needs children or adults an inclusive restaurant option that accepts and supports people of all abilities.

After teaching special education for 11 years, Fixter knew she could do more to help an often-overlooked population gain skills training that can lead to meaningful work.

“I realized there’s an employment crisis for adults with developmental disabilities,” she says. “I wanted to try to solve that, so I started the brewery.”

In 2016, she opened Brewability Lab, Denver’s first and only brewery focused on employing and training adults with IDD for job opportunities in the beer business. Then last spring, she heard a local pizzeria was closing, so she jumped at the opportunity to grow the business.

“I just thought, (pizza) goes with beer really well,” she says. “I just see so many job applications. It can be difficult trying to fit everyone in and make sure they’re getting what they need, but the only way to solve that was to expand.”

Pizzability employees have a wide range of differing abilities. Between the brewery and the pizzeria, Fixter says many of her employees have autism spectrum disorders. She also has one who is deaf, one who is blind, and others with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Aside from some funding from the Rocky Mountain Human Services’ mill levy program that was put toward the initial renovation of the space, Pizzability is funded entirely by customers. And at such affordable prices (during happy hour, which runs 2-5pm Tuesday through Saturday, pizza is $2 a slice and a glass of Brewability beer or wine is $5), keeping afloat is a challenge, but one Fixter believes is well worth it.

“So many people (with IDD) need jobs,” she says. “I just have to make sure we have the customer base to support it.”

Five days per week, Chef Bryce Love is in the kitchen giving employees hands-on support, making sure everyone understands everything from how to get ready for work to the importance of following processes to ensure food safety.

“It’s important to me that everyone learns the right way the first time,” Fixter explains. “We got very lucky with Chef Love.”

Recently, ESPN featured the pizzeria in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics, recognizing Pizzability as one of 50 “game changers” that is changing the way the world views disability.

To continue her mission to change the game, Fixter is working on setting up delivery and catering services within Cherry Creek. She’s also looking forward to summer, as she plans to open up the restaurant’s garage door to allow guests to enjoy the outdoor seating.

“We’ll also be adding gelato and we’ll be creating a sorbet out of our beer.”

When guests step up to Pizzability’s counter, they are greeted with a visual menu, which is also available in braille. The restaurant offers mostly classic toppings like pepperoni, supreme and Hawaiian, which are also available on gluten-sensitive crust.

Fixter says they’re happy to blend the pizzas for anyone who has trouble swallowing or chewing. She also stocks adaptive utensils, cups and plates—there’s a visual menu board that includes all of these items at the counter, and guests can request whatever they need.

A sensory corner with noise-cancelling headphones, board games, and an interactive light up wall was created with help from PIMA Medical Institute students.

“It’s for anybody that needs to move and fidget,” she explains.

There’s also a quiet room in the back that allows employees to take a break away from the noise, which helps reduce any stress and anxiety that can be overwhelming for people with certain disabilities. Even the bathroom is stocked with personal care items to ensure accidents won’t disrupt a pizza party.

Continue on to Cherry Creek North to read the complete article.

Instagram co-launches a mental health awareness campaign to help people find support

LinkedIn
Poster that says May is Mental Health Awareness Month

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Instagram co-launched a powerful campaign to help raise awareness on social media.

The #RealConvo Campaign — spearheaded by both Instagram and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP,) an organization that helps those affected by suicide — encourages people to use the hashtag to share their own personal mental health experiences and speak more openly about their struggles.

On Thursday, the AFSP Instagram account introduced the campaign with the help of nine people who are challenging the idea that Instagram is exclusively a place for sharing positive moments, filtered photos, and superficial glimpses at seemingly-perfect lifestyles.

Each of the nine leaders, actresses, activists, entrepreneurs, writers, and more created a video in the hopes of inspiring others to use the platform to engage in authentic conversations around mental health.

Among the group of contributors is Sasha Pieterse, a 23-year-old actress best known for her role in the show, Pretty Little Liars. In her #RealConvo video, Pieterse explained how she often compared herself to other people’s Instagram posts, until one day she decided to let her guard down and share a not-so-glamorous glimpse at her reality.

“A while ago I wasn’t sure what was going on with my health so I put out a post that said ‘I’m under construction,'” she said. “I’m so glad I did because it was the first real convo that I had on Instagram and it was basically saying that nobody’s perfect, everybody goes through things in their life.”

Elyse Fox & Kelvin Hamilton — founders of @SadGirlsClub, a non-profit that aims to reduce stigma around mental health and provide mental health services to those who lack access to treatment, and @SadBoysOrg, a resource for men within the mental health community — also created a video. Together, they discussed the importance of being vulnerable and creating healthy dialogues around mental health disorders like depression.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.

Meet the HGTV Star (and Father of Six!) Who Adopted Four Children with Special Needs

LinkedIn
Caldwell family posing for a picture outside with parents holding two of the children in their arms

Luke Caldwell is a sought-after designer and an expert home renovator. But that’s not what he wants to talk about.

In fact, that’s not even why the Idaho native agreed to star in HGTV’s Boise Boys. Instead, the 40-year-old wants to use his platform to shine a light on something he’s passionate about: adoption.

Caldwell shares six kids and counting with his wife Miranda: two biological, four the couple welcomed via adoption and one on the way. Caldwell tells PEOPLE that, after the birth of two healthy biological children (Brighten, 8, and Elias, 10), they felt like they had “hit the lottery.”

But both Caldwell and Miranda were deeply impacted by orphanage mission trip work earlier in life (him in India, her in Romania) and knew that if they were going to have more children, they wanted to open their family to a child who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

“I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe these kids don’t have parents, they don’t have anyone to take care of them,’ ” Caldwell tells PEOPLE of his experience in India. “It broke my heart, even as a 12-year-old.”

So the couple started exploring their options. Throughout the entire process, they made sure to include Elias and Brighten, who were both under the age of 5 at the time. Although they might’ve been too young to understand the details of adoption, Caldwell tells PEOPLE they grasped the most important concept of it.

“One of the main things we tried to teach our kids is to not be entitled and to have empathy,” he says. “We want to be a family that loves other people. … We talked [about adoption] a lot to them, we showed them pictures, we prayed together about it.”

After a year of thinking and planning, Caldwell and Miranda found their perfect first match: a 5-year-old boy from China named Morris, who’s now 11. Morris then asked Caldwell and Miranda to adopt his best friend from home.

The superstar parents went back to the same orphanage in China and did just that with the adoption of Ezra, now 10. They developed a relationship with the nannies and soon ventured back for their third and, finally, their fourth child.

In total, the Caldwell family has four children whom they adopted from the same Chinese orphanage: Ezra and Morris plus daughter Darla, 7½, and son Tucker, 9½. And all four have special needs.

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

New 3D Accessible Parking Space Marks Launch of BraunAbility’s Drive for Inclusion to Create a More Mobility Inclusive Society

LinkedIn
3-D parking design

Indianapolis – May 1, 2019 – BraunAbility is launching the first-ever effort to gather and unify the voices of people across the mobility disability spectrum to take action for greater access, and ultimately inclusion,a for anyone living with a mobility challenge.

For the inaugural action of Drive for Inclusion, the company partnered with Speedway, Ind., to trial a new 3D accessible parking design at the front door of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“The purpose of creating a 3D accessible parking design is to bring attention to just one of the many everyday issues faced by people who use wheelchairs that goes largely unnoticed by the general public,” said Staci Kroon, CEO of BraunAbility, the leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles and lifts. “People with mobility challenges deserve to live in a society that is inclusive of every mobility level, yet today, more than 1 in 3 people show an unconscious bias against those with a disability. That’s higher than levels of bias on the basis of gender or race.”

While progress is being made in several areas around diversity and inclusion, many of the daily obstacles that prevent inclusion for people with mobility disabilities, which affect one in eight adults, are largely ignored by society as a whole. BraunAbility is launching Drive for Inclusion to ensure these challenges are heard, shared, and used to fuel conversations and actions that increase inclusion.

Accessible parking abuse is one of the most common issues BraunAbility hears from its customers. In fact, 84 percent are interested in actions aimed at preventing misuse of accessible spaces. More broadly, accessible parking abuse has been witnessed by 74 percent of participants in recent U.S. survey.

To create awareness of this issue, BraunAbility enlisted the talents of internationally renowned artist, Tracy Lee Stum, to redesign the access aisles found next to wheelchair van accessible parking spaces. The 3D optical illusion of a raised barrier is designed to stop someone from parking on the access aisle, keeping the space open for a wheelchair van ramp to deploy. BraunAbility is launching this effort just ahead of the Indianapolis 500 in May, which is also National Mobility Awareness Month.

BraunAbility invites anyone living with a mobility disability and their caregivers to share their voices through its online survey community at www.BraunAbility.com/TheDrivingForce and provide input on obstacles they face in their daily lives and what changes could lead to greater mobility inclusion. The information gathered through The Driving Force community will be used to inform future actions that will be championed by BraunAbility, and key findings from the survey community will be released annually through the Drive for Inclusion Report Card beginning in May 2020.

“The ADA has been in place for nearly 30 years, and yet, people with mobility disabilities, like myself, face unnecessary burdens in our daily lives — from lack of employment opportunities to having to enter a building through the back door where the wheelchair ramp is located,” said Sam Schmidt, Drive for Inclusion advisory board member and 2019 Grand Marshall of the Indy 500 Festival Parade. A former IndyCar driver, Schmidt became a quadriplegic after a devastating accident during a practice session in 2000. “I am extremely proud to be a part of this movement as one of the first The Driving Force members because when voices of those with mobility disabilities are included, all of society benefits.”

If proven successful, BraunAbility, the Indiana-based manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vans and mobility transportation, will encourage other businesses to incorporate the 3D access aisle into their parking lots. The company, who will soon move its global headquarters to Carmel, Ind., has plans to test the 3D access aisles in more communities later this year and will expand its employee volunteer efforts around mobility inclusion in communities across the country.

“Inclusion for people who use wheelchairs or who have mobility challenges can only be possible when everyone is able to fully participate in society, without discrimination, and the barriers preventing inclusion due to bias, lack of understanding, or inadequate access are removed,” Kroon said.

About BraunAbility

BraunAbility is the world’s leading manufacturer of mobility transportation solutions, including wheelchair accessible vehicles, wheelchair lifts and seating, storage and securement products. Founded nearly 50 years ago by Ralph Braun, the company has grown into the most well-known and trusted name in the mobility industry, bringing independence to millions of individuals across the world. BraunAbility is a wholly owned subsidiary to Patricia Industries, a division of Investor AB Group. Visit braunability.com for more information.