Archive for November 30, 2011

FIU offers program for students with special needes

WEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) — A local school is giving students with special needs the opportunity to go to college.

Florida International University started it’s Project Panther Life for intellectually disabled students. “It’s important for people to realize that an intellectual disability does not limit you from so many other things that you can do in your life” said a Liliana Demoya, a mother who helped start the program.

APD Director Mike Hansen Updates on APD Budget

From our friend and fellow advocate Aaron Nangle of

APD Director Mike Hansen Gave Updates on APD budget at House committee meeting.

On November 15, APD Director Michael Hansen made a presentation to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on actions the agency is taking to bring its Medicaid waiver within appropriations.
He talks in depth about how APD is working hard to get the budget under control. I do hope many of you took the time to see this meeting. I do have to say in my opinion Mr Hansen did let our legislators know they are not providing us with enough funds to provide the proper care that people need. He let them know that the waiver needs another 1,000,000.00 Also that the cuts and funding is all up to them to control.
He talked about how some cost plans will be cut in half. “Yes cut in half” He talked about people only having core services and not non core services. It is important for you to know what they are and how it will affect you.
As you look at the slide shows you will see information on what Mr. Hanson went over with the legislators at this meeting. If you do not agree with what you see and what is happening it is up to each and every one of you to call, write and go see all of your representatives. Let them know your thoughts and opinions. Tell them how this will affect you and your families health, safety and well being.
Aaron and all advocates – keep us informed and keep squeaking your wheels.

Florida Face to Face Interview with APD Director Mike Hansen

Florida Face to Face Interview with APD Director Mike Hansen


Being Old, Disabled Or Vulnerable In Florida Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

You can abuse and neglect the disabled at an Assisted Living Facility in Florida – and you can still continue to run or work at the facility.  Yes, that is true.  There is no statute or administrative rule that prevents someone who has been held responsible for the abuse, neglect or even death of a resident of an ALF from being banned from running or working at an ALF.

Couple this with the fact that Governor Scott fired the head of the Long Term Ombudsman Council for being too aggressive in pursing complaints against  Florida Nursing Homes and other care facilities – and being disabled or aged in Florida can be dangerous to your health.

Rick Scott has formed a panel to look into the possibilities that care facilities for the aged and disabled may be harming our citizens.  Of course this is the same man who put the owner of a large chain of nursing homes in charge of the entity responsible to oversee and handle complaints from nursing homes.  The foxes are running the hen house.  We can expect no more from any commission that our Governor sets up.

The Miami Herald ran a series called Neglected to Death.  This investigated and documented numerous cases of abuse in our ALF’s and nursing homes.

This series ran in May and our vulnerable elderly and disabled are still without adequate protection.

At one time the State of Florida had the Human Rights Council and later the Florida Local Advocacy Council to oversee complaints and conditions in facilities for the disabled and elderly.  These were volunteers with no vested interested who gave of their time to inspect and investigate complaints and conditions.  They reported to the Governor’s office.

However, like the Ombudsman Council they were too aggressive and found too many problems with facilities that provided care to the vulnerable in our state.  Two years ago the council was abolished.  We no longer have a third party organization, or any organization for that matter, concerned with Human Rights Violations.

Being old or vulnerable in Florida can be hazardous to your health.

Governor Scott step up and appoint a third party organization to review Human Rights Violations.  It needs to be an organization of volunteers who have no vested or monetary interest in Nursing Homes, ALF’s or other facilities.

Make Florida a safe place for our elderly, disabled and vulnerable citizens.

Keep squeaking those wheels.

Previously posted on View From The Dark Side Of The Moon blog.

Showing Disabilities in a Fun and Meaningful Way

Can you have a talent even though you have a disability?  Of course you can.

I saw this great news story about a man with Cerebral Palsy and a friend without a disability, who go to school together. They thought of this idea of getting awareness out about disabilities and to be entertaining at the same time.  They have a show called “HandicapThis”.  It is a mix of music and humor.

Do you have a talent you can show others? Get out there and show the world. It does not matter if it is at a talent show, stage play, on the news, etc.

You have the power to live a fantastic life.  Live it Big! I am thinking of becoming a comedian. I say that if you have it then show it off.

Watch this news story and make the decision to squeak those wheels and live your life to the fullest!

“Handicap This”  


Living On Your Own With a Disability

Have you ever wanted to live on your own?  What is stopping you?

I moved out of my parent’s house a couple years ago and into my own apartment. I love it because I can do what I want.  I also have a lot more freedom and feel like another member of society!

There are minimal services that I receive from APD.  I have people that come in to help me with cooking, cleaning, shopping, getting into community and more.

I do different things now because of the freedom.  I hold get togethers in my apartment.  I go out to things in community with friends, go where I want and more. I can do this because I did not let my disability hold me back!

You can have this as well.  Do not listening to those who say you can’t do.  Do what you know you can. I know it is hard because you have a disability, but it is only a small obstacle. Move out on your own, find people who will help you shop, clean, get into community and whatever else you need help with. There are state agencies, people from church, friends, family and more that you can get help from to live on your own.

Today is the last day of letting your disability and others hold you back!!! It is your life so squeak those wheels and get out into society.


SB 144: Seclusion and Restraint on Students With Disabilities in Public Schools

Child In Florida School Being Restrained

Again this year we try to enact legislation that will help reduce the harmful and often abusive seclusion and restraint of our children with disabilities in our public schools.

Senator Anitere Flores is sponsoring SB 144.  Seclusion and Restraint on Students with Disabilities in Public Shools.

In a nutshell the legislation will do the following:

Seclusion and Restraint on Students With Disabilities in Public Schools; Requiring that manual physical restraint be used only in an emergency when there is an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others; providing restrictions on the use of manual physical restraint; prohibiting the use of manual physical restraint by school personnel who are not certified to use district-approved methods for applying restraint techniques; requiring that each school medically evaluate a student after the student is manually physically restrained; prohibiting school personnel from placing a student in seclusion; providing requirements for the use of time-out; requiring that a school district report its training and certification procedures to the Department of Education, etc.

In the 2010 – 2011 School year we had over 10,000 incidents of restraint reported in our public schools.

Thank you Sen Flores for sponsoring this legislation.  We need to protect our children.

Remember School Is Not Supposed To Hurt.

Keep squeaking those wheels.  Ask your legislator to support or co-sponsor this legislation.



DA Investigates Abuse of Student with Disabilities in Fulton County

From Georgia:Families Against Restraint And Seclusion

ALPHARETTA, GA (CBS ATLANTA) – Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard confirmed Thursday that a criminal investigation has been launched into the abuse that allegedly took place five years ago at Hopewell Middle School in Milton.

The announcement comes as CBS Atlanta News continues to ask Tough Questions about the abuse allegedly covered up by the Fulton County School System.

In a statement, Howard said, “Let me first begin by applauding CBS Atlanta’s continued reporting of this matter. There is nothing more important to my office than the protection of children and holding accountable those responsible for bringing harm to our most innocent victims.”

Howard continued to say that Fulton County Schools and Roswell Police Departments are jointly investigating allegations of abuse by former special education teacher Melanie Pickens dating back to 2006.

Lisa Williams, the mother of a special needs child reportedly abused, got emotional when told of the criminal investigation.

“That’s what I wanted,” said Williams to reporter Jeff Chirico when he broke the news to her.

Williams said she believes Pickens and others within the district who knew but didn’t stop the abuse should be prosecuted.

Alex Williams, now 18, was reportedly shoved, cursed at and isolated by Pickens at Hopewell Middle School in Milton during the 2006-2007 school year.

Lisa Williams, who said she learned of the abuse from another student’s mother in 2010, testified that the district never told her about the abuse. Williams also said the district blocked out her son’s name in a copy of the 2007 investigative report she requested. The district also withheld other records, she said.

“I was totally unprepared for the corruption. I feel they covered it up in an intentional attempt to prevent me from finding any of this out,” said Williams during a due process hearing in administrative court Wednesday.

The Williams family is requesting that the Fulton County School System pay for Alex’s future education costs estimated at $2.5 million. “I will not send him back there,” said Williams referring to Fulton County schools.

An investigation was commissioned by the Fulton County Board of Education in 2007 to explore possible abuse of a student, Jake Marshall. The 29-page investigative report concluded that former special education teacher Melanie Pickens apparently mistreated six students.

The Fulton County School System has come under fire for failing to tell parents that their children were named as abuse victims in the report which called Pickens’ actions “possibly criminal.”

On Tuesday, Fulton County School Board President Linda Schultz testified she did not know more than one student was abused by a special education teacher because she didn’t read the investigative report.

Schultz testified that she did not know other children were abused until she saw news coverage about it in 2011.

Williams’ attorney, Chris Vance, said the school system should have notified police of the abuse. However, district officials did not notify police until 2009 when it forwarded information to its own police department. Fulton County school police Captain Felipe Usury testified Tuesday he was instructed by his superior to close the case without forwarding the information to the district attorney’s office to determine if laws were broken.

Educators testified Monday about student abuse they allegedly witnessed at the hands of Pickens.

Several former and current employees of the Fulton County School System told similar stories of abuse and neglect including hitting, kicking and shoving special needs students.

According to testimony Monday, Williams was shoved often by Pickens during the 2006-2007 school year. Williams, who was 14 at the time, does not communicate verbally and has trouble walking.

Teaching assistant Denise Baugh testified Pickens burped, passed gas and shook her buttocks and breasts in students’ faces.

Several educators said they reported abuse to then principal Frances M. Boyd who ignored it.

In a bombshell admission, a coordinator for special education services for the Fulton County School System admitted that administration knew Pickens was abusing students for years. Pettes said she had recommended administration not renew Pickens’ contract after her first year as a Fulton County employee in 2002. Pettes said Pickens had trouble handling the students.

The Fulton County School System investigated the abuse of student Jake Marshall in 2007 after a teacher contacted the Division of Family and Children Services about an incident involving another student, Jake Marshall. Marshall, now 19, is nonverbal and has trouble walking.

While being restrained on May 21, 2007, Jake defecated and smeared feces on his body and the chair in an attempt to clean himself, Marshall’s mother Judy said.

The incident led the Fulton County Board of Education to launch the investigation.

Pickens resigned from Fulton County Schools on July 25, 2007, five days after the school system completed the investigative report that confirmed allegations of abuse.

The report indicated the abuse occurred between 2004 and 2007. More than 10 teachers and school staffers gave statements to investigators indicating they witnessed Pickens “hitting Jake on the back of the head.” Statements also revealed Pickens kicked, cursed, pushed and regularly restrained Jake in a seclusion room for long periods of time.

“The investigation determined that the May 21, 2007 incident was the most recent occurrence in an extensive pattern of inappropriate and possibly criminal conduct Pickens subjected upon her special education students,” the report read.

“I never anticipated that school would damage him,” Lisa Williams, Alex’s mother, said.

Doctors diagnosed Alex with post-traumatic stress disorder after leaving Pickens class.

“He refuses to say the word ‘happy’ and that was one of his first words,” said Williams.

Attorney Vance said school officials should have reported the abuse to police long before 2009.

“It is a crime not to report abuse of disabled students,” Vance said.

Police have not charged anyone with a crime.

Vance said she believes the abuse and cover-up is symptomatic of a culture of abuse.

“It was tolerated, accepted and condoned. It is a complete lack of concern for children with special needs,” Vance said.

Marshall said she settled with Fulton County Schools but could not talk about the agreement. The Fulton County School System would also not release the terms of the settlement, despite several requests by CBS Atlanta News.

Nothing Should Stop You

I was out in town this week and saw many people with disabilities. People with disabilities are finally deciding to get out in the world and not stay at home.  That is great.

Here is my week.  This shows you that I do not let my disability keep me at home.

Monday – I went food shopping.  I saw others with disabilities shopping as well. (They have to eat too)

Tuesday – I went to the mall to hang out all day.  While I was eating my lunch, a lady in a wheelchair comes rolling by.

Wednesday – I was just hanging in town and saw at least 5 people with disabilities.

Thursday – I stayed at home to work on MoonScapes Web Solutions my business.

Friday – I went out to Amscot and when I was getting back in the car a lady pulled up who had a disability and her car was all rigged up so she can get her chair in and out and transfer to it.

What a great week!

This shows that yes even though people with disabilities have struggles, with the proper accommodations, they can live a normal life.  After reading this are you going to get off your butt and get out of the house?

I know you can do it and every day encourage you to! I went water skiing, am taking a class on scuba diving and next will probably try parasailing.

No more excuses!!! You can do it and the world can include you and treat you like anyone else. Squeak those wheels until it happens.

No More Cuts –

From Tallahassee – Florida Senate ponders cuts for developmentally disabled.

No more cuts. The disabled are already shouldering more than their share of budget cuts.

Read the full story.