“Exploration for All”: A Museum’s Plan to Include Kids of All Abilities

Pacific Science Center logo

PYD’s National Center, which advocates for full inclusion of youth with disabilities and provides inclusion training to other organizations, completed a second round of inclusion training for the Pacific Science Center (PSC) in early May. The topic was, “What We Say, How We Say IT, What We Do:  Applying Inclusion Strategies in a Museum Setting.”

Located in Seattle, the Pacific Science Center inspires a lifelong interest in science, math and technology by engaging diverse communities through interactive and innovative exhibits and programs. Their award-winning, interactive programs reach more than 1.3 million people each year, on the museum campus, as well as within schools and throughout the community.

The Pacific Science Center has demonstrated a priority to making its programs more accessible for kids of all abilities through its “Exploration for All” Initiative, funded by Safeco Insurance Fund. Their focus on access has been recognized nationally and was recently showcased on NPR’s All Things Considered. PSC opens two hours early one Saturday each month for families with kids and young adults with autism, dimming the lights and reducing the noise while drastically cutting down on the crowds.

“It has been an amazing journey, that all started with Safeco and [PYD’s] workshop,” PSC’s Kelly Posewitz said about the experience of creating this opportunity. “That day was so eye opening. To be quite honest, prior to your workshop, I never thought of inclusion as a way to enhance everyone’s experience at PSC. I thought it would be more focused on the communities that we hoped to serve and what can we do for them. Instead we are learning that through our inclusion efforts we enrich the experience for everyone (staff and visitors alike!) and in turn create a more rich audience with new perspectives and insight. By embracing the different ways in which we all learn, we can all grow. I love it.”

To learn more about PSC and “Exploration for All”, visit them at their website.

Sign up for Access to Theatre & Making Healthy Connections

We’re halfway through September, and that means our Access to Theatre and Making Healthy Connections programs will be starting soon! Applications are now being accepted for both programs, so be sure to apply today.

MHC-2015-2016Making Healthy Connections (MHC) is a group mentoring program that empowers youth with disabilities ages 14 to 22 to understand their health care needs, access community resources, and connect with peers. There are currently two MHC groups: one in Springfield and one in Boston. Each group meets twice monthly during the school year.

At program meetings, youth meet new friends and mentors who demonstrate how to lead active, healthy lifestyles. They also participate in skills trainings, interactive discussions, role-playing, guest speaker presentations, games, and a variety of adaptive recreational activities.

Parents of youth participants have the option of participating in MHC Parent Group meetings, which are held at the same time and location as Youth Group meetings. Parent Group meetings provide a chance for parents to connect with each other and learn more about disability-related issues and resources.

An orientation for Boston MHC will take place Friday, October 16th, 2015, from 7:00PM to 9:30PM with workshops every other week taking place on Friday, November 6th at the same time. All Boston MHC workshops will be held at the Oak Square YMCA in Brighton. Springfield MHC will begin on Saturday, December 5th, 2015 and and will take place two Saturdays per month from December 2015-May 2016. All Springfield MHC workshops will take place at Hawthorn Services in West Springfield.

ATT-2015-2016Access to Theatre (ATT) is an inclusive theatre program for teens and young adults. Its purpose is to develop communication, artistic, and leadership skills, and lasting professional and personal friendships. ATT participants explore all aspects of theatre over the course of their involvement: acting, directing, improvisation, choreography, music, costumes, props, set design, and more. Guest artists from the community help youth participants throughout the program, serving as group leaders and mentors.

ATT workshops start Sunday, October 18 at 4:00PM and occur weekly at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton. Deep Chinappa will be the artistic director for the upcoming year.

If you have questions or would like to enroll in either of these programs, contact Deep Chinappa at 617-556-4075, Ext 20, or dchinappa@pyd.org. You may also apply online using our current youth intake.


Announcing Jobs Without Limits

WWL logoPYD would like to highlight one of our excellent partners, Work Without Limits (WWL), and an exciting new project it has launched. WWL, a program of The University of Massachusetts Medical School, is a state-wide network of employers and partners with the goal of increasing employment among individuals with disabilities. WWL has created a website, Jobs Without Limits, a free online job board designed for individuals with disabilities to help them with their job search.

Jobs Without Limits connects job seekers with disabilities with employers throughout the state of Massachusetts. Jobs Without Limits is a fantastic tool to aid job seekers with disabilities on their job search. New jobs are posted every day! You can search jobs by title, location, and company. Organizations posting job offerings include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, John Hancock, National Grid, State Street, TD Bank, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

To set up a profile and upload your resume, visit http://jobswithoutlimits.org/. To learn more about Work Without Limits’ services and programs, visit http://www.workwithoutlimits.org/.

NDMC Meeting Minutes: September 2015

National Disability Mentoring Coalition Meeting
September 3, 2015
Meeting Minutes

Rayna Aylward, PolicyWorks
Darius Murray, FAU
Lindsay Baran, NCIL
Erin Pluto, MCB
Patricia Gill, IEL
Jessica Queener, NYTC
Gary Goosman, Policyworks
Derek Shields, PolicyWorks
Keri Gray, NYTC / NCIL
Marie Strahan, consultant
Emily Hanna, WID
Judy Shanley, Easter Seals
Kristen Humphrey, PYD
Steve Slowinski, PYD
Raymond Hutchinson, DC Public Schools
Genelle Thomas, PYD
Carolyn Jeppsen, Broad Futures
Ebony Watson, IEL
Alan Muir, COSD
Kevin Webb, MEAF

Topics Covered: Details on the upcoming launch of the Hall of Fame at the USBLN Conference in Austin; updates on the “25 for 25” mentoring champions; continuing updates to the NDMC website; updates on collecting information from member organizations.

Download complete NDMC meeting minutes here.

The Ins and Outs of SSI and SSDI for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities

Road sign displaying words like "Confused," "Lost," and "Unsure"Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can both be incredibly confusing and disorienting to families, yet they can also be a great and needed resource. To help our youth and families navigate these confusing programs, we recently had Svetlana Uimenkova (Staff Attorney at the Disability Law Center) hold an SSI/SSDI webinar for many of our participants. You can view the recording of this webinar online.

We also are lucky enough to have a blog post on this subject contributed by Deanna Power from the Disability Benefits Center. Thanks to both Svetlana and Deanna for contributing such useful information for our families!

Supplemental Security Income, also known as SSI, refers to Social Security Disability benefits for lower-income disabled individuals or a child with a severe disability and developmental or physical limitations caused by a disability. This program, administered by the Social Security Administration, is a government-funded program that helps financially support a child with a disability, enabling the parents to offer the necessary care for that child, bring the child up to speed developmentally if possible, and ultimately offer the ability for the child to reach his or her full potential in life by increasing the quality of life for the child and the family. SSI benefits are income-based benefits and can go toward helping families pay for medical expenses, in-home care, education, specialized developmental help, and more.

Qualifying for SSI

Asset limits are very different for children applying for SSI benefits than adults. Adults must not earn more than $733 per month to qualify for SSI benefits, and they also must not own more than $2,000 in assets. These restrictions do not apply to adults applying for SSI benefits for their children, although some income limits do exist. The SSA gives a decent guideline of how much income a family can make per month for their children to qualify for disability benefits, but most states have their own laws on income limits, making the SSA’s guideline more lenient than it appears. Some states will also give parents additional benefits. Read more about monthly income limits for children applying for SSI here.

Guidelines for Receiving SSI

The Social Security Administration offers guidelines as to where and how the money a child receives for SSI is spent and invested. Guidelines for receiving SSI benefits for a child are strict, so the money going into the family for the child’s disability must be used appropriately. The SSA Blue Book is used to identify the condition and severity of condition of the child. The SSA is concerned with the child receiving the best care and equipment that he or she needs to achieve the best possible quality of life. If benefits are awarded, a checking account created specifically for the use and tracking of SSI money must be created. This checking account helps keep a log of purchases made for the child. In addition, parents or guardians will have to submit every purchase to the SSA for review to ensure these purchases are acceptable necessities for the child so that all of the money given is used to help a child reach his/her full potential.

Acceptable Purchases with SSA Money

There are several purchases with SSA money that are not acceptable ones for the child’s SSA Blue Book disability, including anything personal to the parents and non-medical or developmentally related products or services. Acceptable purchases with SSI money dedicated to a child’s disability and overcoming/treating it include:

  • Medical treatment
  • Education
  • Personal Needs Assistance (in-home care)
  • Special Equipment
  • Housing Modification (to make a child’s room wheelchair accessible, for instance)
  • Therapy, both physical and mental
  • Rehabilitation
  • Other SSA-approved products and services

SSI payments are not to be used for other household needs such as rent or food, unless the child is in danger of starvation or becoming homeless.

Applying for SSI

The rules and regulations applied to receiving SSI benefits for a disabled child’s needs are significant, but the help these funds offer families without the financial ability to ensure their child maintains as much independence and developmental progress as possible are more so. Unlike disability benefits for adults, SSI applications for children must be made in person. Making an appointment with the closest SSA office and bringing in as much supporting documentation as possible pertaining to the child’s disability and the developmental issues related to it as well as proof of the income of the household are all you need to get the process started. The SSA offers a Child Disability Starter Kit to help parents prepare for their trip to the SSA office.

After the application process has started, it will take approximately two to four months for your child to receive a decision regarding his or her disability claim and begin receiving benefits. If denied, you have a right to appeal the denial. You can do so on the Social Security Administration’s website.

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