On August 28, OCALI’s Office of Policy led a conversation. But this wasn’t just any conversation. It was part of The Big Table, an initiative created by the Columbus Foundation. It’s a day-long event where community-led conversations take place across central Ohio. Individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations sit around a table, share a snack, and have a conversation about a topic important to them.
For OCALI, choosing a topic was easy.
Based on Microsoft’s successful efforts to make accessibility and inclusion part of its mission, Teresa Kobelt of OCALI’s Office of Policy, challenged more than 30 Big Table participants to “imagine a future where accessibility and inclusion are in our DNA…what does Columbus look like?”
In July 2019, OCALI’s Office of Policy, on behalf of Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA), issued a survey to gain insight into family experiences around the time of diagnosis. More than 280 families responded and the results are available on OCALI’s website.
The good news is, the survey indicates that we are making progress as a state in terms of early diagnosis and helping families find the resources they need. For example, more than half (55 percent) of respondents indicated that their child was diagnosed by age three, and 80 percent were already connected to services and resources once diagnosed. Additionally, 90 percent of families receive services through school-based resources. Notably, families reported that the thing that helps them most in their journey is connecting with other families.
However, the survey also indicated several opportunities where improvements are needed to help children and families get access to the services they need to help children with autism live their best lives for their whole lives. For example, almost all families were initially told their child did not have autism or to “wait and see.” They were not referred for additional screening, evaluation, or services.
Additionally, more needs to be learned about the experiences of racially and ethnically diverse families, single parents, and families living at or below the poverty line, as the survey respondents did not adequately represent these population.
OCALI’s Office of Policy and the IWGA are committed to continuing to learn more and to utilize the information from this survey to guide future development and dissemination of resources for families.
Summer is winding down and schools across Ohio are settling in to a new school year. The team at OCALI welcomes you back and has compiled a list of professional learning and family resources and tips to get your school year started off right.
For more than 13 years, OCALI has been a trusted source for providing high quality research, resources, and training designed to inspire change and promote access for people with disabilities. As you start this new school year, check out these resources, many of which are free!
Accessibility is often the key to independence. In schools, this means ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the right technology supports and materials they need to succeed—including the use of assistive technology (AT).
Assistive technology is anything that helps a person with a disability do what they want to do. AT can help in the home, at school, at work, and in the community. Examples of assistive technologies include communication devices, adapted writing utensils, specialized calculators, switches, sensory processing supports, braille writers, magnifiers, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and more.
With students’ varying strengths and needs, it can be difficult to determine the AT devices and features that will work best for each student. SIFTS (Student Inventory for Technology Supports) is a free, web-based survey tool developed primarily to support Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams who need assistance in matching student strengths and needs to AT features.
Every day—multiple times a day—we receive information. Whether it’s through conversations, alerts, technology, or entertainment, information is everywhere we look. And, information shapes our experiences and our experiences shape us.
“People may not realize it, but eye contact, body language, and other environmental cues all contain information,” explains Christine Croyle, Program Director for the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness. “When a person’s vision or hearing is affected, part of the information is missing.”
The OCALI policy team created the Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) State Fiscal Year 2019 Report entitled “Supporting Ohioans with Autism Across Agencies, Across the State, Across the Lifespan.” The report, released in July, details the progress being made in Ohio toward the IWGA’s mission to improve the coordination of the state’s efforts to address the service needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders and the families of those individuals.
The Ohio State Fair—from the rides and attractions to the concerts, shows, and the ever-famous food, the Fair is an annual event and tradition for thousands of Ohioans. At this mecca of endless fun and entertainment, fairgoers experience the bright lights, loud sounds, and distinguishable smells—you know the ones, the mouth-watering smells of funnel cakes and french fries to the unique scents coming from the animal barns. While these sensory-stimulating features may not interfere with most fairgoers’ experience, others’ senses may be heightened by these things, impacting their overall Fair experience.
To ensure all Ohioans can positively experience the Fair, OCALI has partnered with the Ohio State Fair to host the Fair’s first Sensory-Friendly Morning on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. During these designated hours, fairgoers can experience a sensory-friendly morning where the lights will be lowered and the sounds turned down. For those looking to take a break, they can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room. Located in the Ohio Building, this quiet, air-conditioned space will offer a variety of low-tech and mid-tech solutions to support a variety of sensory needs, including fidgets, weighted lap pads, and other sensory supports.