Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, April 7 – Friday, April 11

Autism Awareness Month:
Autism-vaccine concerns remain widespread (Disability Scoop)
A new Harris Poll survey finds that 1 in 3 parents believe that vaccines can cause autism, despite the link being widely discredited by the scientific community. In the poll of 1,756 adults across the United States, 29 percent agreed that immunizations can lead to the developmental disorder. Among those with children under the age of 18, the number was 33 percent. Meanwhile, concerns about vaccination rates are running high, with a recent outbreak of mumps in Ohio and a rise in measles cases in California and New York.

Sesame Street to focus on autism (Disability Scoop)
The nonprofit Sesame Workshop is launching a new effort to reduce stigma surrounding autism and help those with the developmental disability learn life skills. Through its “See Amazing in All Children” initiative, Sesame Workshop will create digital tools to help children with autism learn to play with others and complete everyday activities such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, and trying new foods. Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby helped light the Empire State Building blue on April 2 in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

Inside the mind of a child with autism (The New York Times)
A new approach using animated characters to reach children with autism has been proposed by researchers at M.I.T., Yale, and the University of Cambridge. The proposal calls for a 16-week trial with 68 children with autism, aged 4 to 6 years. Half the children would receive therapy using animated shows or movies they love as a framework to enhance social interaction, building crucial abilities such as making eye contact and joint play. The other half, the control group, would engage in free play, led by the child’s interest. The idea for the study comes from the father of an autistic child whose new book, “Life, Animated,” describes reaching his son through his fascination with animated Disney movies.

Photo project for people with autism offers insights into their worldviews (The Washington Post)
The InFocus Project, a program of Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) in Montgomery County, Md., provides a means for individuals with autism to express themselves in photographs. Participants in the program meet each week, and their favorite photos are sold on CSAAC’s website. The group met recently to photograph the cherry blossoms around Washington’s Tidal Basin. (The Washington Post)

Rhode Island to become model for desegregating sheltered workshops (The Providence Journal)
The federal government and the government of Rhode Island have reached a settlement that will move people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into typical jobs in the community at a competitive pay. The plan aims to gradually move Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities from meaningless tasks such as capping lotion bottles for $2.21 an hour to jobs matched with their interests and abilities.

The wind on my legs’: Stimulator helps paralyzed men move again (NBC News)
An electrical stimulator has enabled four men with severe spinal cord injuries to move their legs again. The stimulator, originally developed by Medtronic to treat chronic pain, is a pacemaker-sized device implanted under the skin of the abdomen, connecting to electrodes placed near the spinal cord. When turned on, it delivers a low pulse of electricity. None of the men can walk again, but researchers believe the stimulator is retraining the damaged nerves in their spinal columns to communicate once again with the brain. One of the men recounts how the therapy has enabled him to exercise to reverse a gradual wasting of muscles and how he can now feel soft and hard touch and the wind on his legs. Short videos demonstrating the stimulator in action are included.

New research shows hearing loss affects personality in the elderly (Hearing Review)
New research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that hearing loss can amplify a tendency to become less outgoing in older people. A study of 400 individuals aged 80 to 98 years over a six-year period included a biannual assessment of their physical and mental measures as well as personality aspects, such as outgoingness and emotional stability. The only factor researchers were able to link to reduced outgoingness in participants was hearing loss. The study results point to the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the elderly.

Researchers use Google Glass to help Parkinson’s sufferers (gizmag)
Researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K. have investigated how Goggle Glass can be used to assist people with Parkinson’s disease. The project makes use of five headsets donated by Google to the university. The researchers worked with volunteers with Parkinson’s, tailoring the functionality of apps they developed to suit the real-life needs of the patients, such as providing personal reminders for appointment times and medication schedules. In addition, the technology provides discreet prompts to remind users to speak loudly or to move following “freezing,” a common Parkinson’s side effect. The article includes a video demonstrating the technology.

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