Among those of us who care deeply for and about people with developmental disabilities, I hope to hear emerge a new voice, ours, rising together for the benefit of all, harmonizing with reason, respect and hope, and transcending divisions, giving birth to a new era of creative cooperation.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Special Need Subdivisions

I found this article on the ActionDD.org website. This looks absolutely terrific - it's things like this that can happen when people dream!


Families seek approval of special-needs subdivisions

A bill that would allow subdivisions catering to the developmentally disabled raises questions on how best to integrate those with special needs into society.


Parents of developmentally disabled children from Pasco, Leon and Broward counties had an idea they thought would help their kids: create new subdivisions that would serve as safe havens for special needs people to live, eat, dine and play.

But an existing law prevents special-needs homes from being established within 1,000 feet of each other, so the parents began lobbying lawmakers to rescind it. The parents hope to clear the way for a cluster of communities catering to those with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.


A bill to rescind the 1,000-foot law has passed in the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House. And it is triggering discussion of a larger question that advocates for the disabled have struggled with for decades: How best to integrate those with special needs into society? Some warn that creating separate communities only ends up segregating those who are different.

``In our society, we call places like this institutions,'' said Kingsley Ross, who represents Sunrise community, a nonprofit organization catering to the developmentally disabled and the elderly. ``People with developmental disabilities have to be in contact with good models of behavior. If you surround them with people that don't have normal types of behavior, what we are going to see is more people with bad behavior.''

Others argue that the communities would give those with special needs a chance to be with people and families like them. Living among those who don't understand their situation sometimes leads to the disabled to being ostracized, harassed or assaulted, said Bill Sammons, president of the nonprofit group, Noah's Ark, in Central Florida.

Sammons, the father of a 24-year-old with autism, has seen the difficulties of his boy, Drew, as he tries to stay safe.

``He can name, maybe, every road in Florida,'' Sammons said. ``But then he won't look both ways crossing the street.''

About four years ago, Noah's Ark won approval from the city of Lakeland to build a 56-acre community that would be home to 200 special-needs residents and 40 family members.

``He would have more freedom in the gated community,'' Sammons said.

The subdivision, dubbed Noah's Landing, would have a communal dining room for socializing and pedestrian walkways between houses, so residents could cross the street without fear. It would be a mix of single-family homes, apartment units and group homes.


The group homes were the flashpoint. Afraid that homes catering to addicts and the developmentally delayed would drive down property values, the state Legislature ruled that the homes could not be within 1,000 feet of one another.

Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, introduced the new legislation which would allow local governments to make exceptions for group homes to be within 1,000 feet of each other. The lawmaker had learned there were other communities planned from Duval to Broward counties that would cater to the developmentally disabled and might have group homes in them.

``This is trying to establish a neighborhood, if you will, that would be conducive to people who are developmentally disabled, similar to a 55-plus community,'' Stargel said.

Robert Samuels can be reached at rsamuels@MiamiHerald.com.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/27/1599506/families-seek-approval-of-special.html#ixzz0oEUZj7EN


Peanut Butter & Jelly

As I watched his shoulders smoothly roll back and forth, his arms slicing through the water, his strong legs kicking behind with hardly a splash, I remembered that my son was always more graceful in water than he was on land. As a toddler he crashed his way through life with more than his fair share of thumps and bumps; a "toe runner" the neurologist called him, and then something about it being a developmental indicator that had something to do with delays, and then there was this low muscle tone thing, which was really hard to understand because this was the most active two-year-old on the planet. A whirling dirvish, my grandmother called him. He would buzz around a room with such high level energy that his fine blond hair would be sweat-soaked and stuck to his head. Then we discovered the pool. There was something about the water resistance and being horizontal that set his "body map" right. Maybe it was like a return to the uterus, you think? Whatever it was and is, if you watch him walk, you can tell there is something "different" about him. But when you see him swim, you see he is all right with the world.

So I watched him, and the people he has grown up with for the last twenty five years, as they swam laps at the Meadowbrook Pool to raise money for Seattle Parks Specialized Recreation Programs. Most of these people, like my son, are completely at home in the water, and in their own skin, their own joy, as they experience the freedom from gravity and the joy of play on purpose. There is no competition here. Every participant has raised money by pledging to swim a certain number of laps and getting friends and family members to sponsor them. I am envious that nobody cares what they look like in their bathing suit, nobody has body hang-ups, nobody cares how fast they swam a lap or if they rested between laps or even in the middle of a lap. It so isn't the point. And it so makes me wonder if, in our competitive, hurried, false-beauty conscious world we do get the point.

The participants who didn't swim walked laps around the track, or rolled around it in their wheelchairs. The high school marching band gave a great performance, and the laid-back atmosphere of the day was a reminder that we might all slow down once in awhile and lap up life for all the right reasons.

peanut butter & jelly

It is not too late to contact Seattle City Council Members about retention of the Specialized Programs in the Seattle Parks Department budget. They won't know how important the programs are unless we tell them.