Disabilities

This story was updated on July 24, 2020 to include additional information on deaths in group homes.

One of the ways Mikaela Coppedge has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic has been through writing poetry. Her poem “The Fear That Is COVID-19," starts: 

“Since the coronavirus outbreak and then the quarantine beginning, life as we know has all somewhat gone to hell.” 

Coppedge has a rare brain disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis. As a treatment, half her brain was removed when she was three years old.  

Just a few months ago, LuAnn Cooper and her client Margie went on lots of outings together — exercising at the gym, grocery shopping, getting ice cream. 

But the pandemic put a stop to those trips.

Margie, who has a developmental disability, hasn’t been able to leave her home in Washington, Missouri, since March. 

A federal Judge says the state has been too slow in responding to the needs of inmates with hearing problems. 

An Illinois freelance journalist was inspired by his personal experience at CEDU — widely recognized as the flagship enterprise of the "troubled teen boarding school" industry — to undertake an investigation of that facility.

In the 2017-18 school year, Illinois taxpayers funded the placement of close to 350 special education students at some 40 facilities in other states. Those facilities were as varied as the students’ needs.

When Avital van Leeuwen was in 10th grade, she was into skateboarding, punk rock, smoking pot and feminism. Her home life was in turmoil in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, and even though — or maybe because — she’s high IQ, she was having problems at school. She wanted to transfer to a completion program, get her high school diploma and move on. 

That plan got derailed in the wee hours one morning, when she was sitting in bed reading Bitch magazine.

“I just remember my parents coming into my room out of nowhere — both of them, which was weird… I was at my dad’s house. And they said, ‘Avital, we love you very much.’”

She instantly knew: “Something really bad’s about to happen.”

Last year, Illinois amended its school code to limit options for districts sending special needs students out of state. Under this new amendment, districts are no longer be able to send students to states that don’t provide oversight of residential facilities. But some families quickly found a way to work around the new law. 

The amendment might as well have been called the Utah law. Because even though the plain language doesn’t mention Utah, that’s the state it excluded.

Stephanie Jones was general counsel for the State Board of Education in 2017, and she advocated for the change. But today, she acknowledges that families quickly resorted to unilateral placement as a workaround.

Every child in America has the right to a “free and appropriate public education,” thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush almost three decades ago.

And if that education can’t be provided in the student’s home district, the student can go elsewhere —  also for free. Illinois taxpayers typically spend at least $25 million per year to place hundreds of students outside the state, in residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and other private facilities designed to serve students with special needs. 

In the 2017-18 school year, Illinois sent close to 350 students with special needs to private boarding schools in other states. The cost added up to more than $10 million for tuition, and close to $20 million for housing. But it’s not always possible for school officials to know exactly what that money buys, or for parents to know what’s happening to children in those facilities.

Kiwanis Club Raising Funds for Inclusive Playground

Oct 23, 2019
Steph Whiteside/WSIU

The Carbondale Kiwanis Club announced efforts to create an inclusive playground in Carbondale on Wednesday.

The group committed $20,000 to the project, which will install accessible equipment at Turley Park. Carbondale Township is also contributing funds, while the Kiwanis club is seeking help from the community to raise the rest of the money needed for the project.

About a dozen children with complex medical needs have been kicked out of school over a funding dispute. The children reside at Children's Habilitation Center — a long-term care facility for children with complex medical needs, located in Harvey, Illinois.

On Friday, CHC filed a lawsuit against the West Harvey-Dixmoor Public School District 147, the Illinois State Board of Education, and several other school districts.

Images
Illinois News Connection

Legislation that has changed the lives of millions of Americans, including nearly one in five Illinoisans, marks its 29th anniversary Friday.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, and is considered the most significant piece of civil-rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Illinois’s new $15 minimum wage law doesn’t guarantee better pay for workers with disabilities. An exemption in federal labor law still allows some employers to pay them less.

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Secretary of State

Secretary of State Police will target holiday shoppers abusing disability parking at malls statewide, including University Mall in Carbondale.

The enforcement will start on Black Friday since it marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed measures that would increase wages for workers who care for those with developmental disabilities and expand a child care program for low-income families.

The Republican governor said there isn't enough money to support the proposals.

People
Brad Palmer, WSIU Radio

State Representative candidate Marsha Griffin spent the day walking in the shoes of a local home healthcare worker to see firsthand how a new overtime policy is impacting them.

More than 10-percent of Illinoisans are living with a disability, and this week the focus is on making sure they get an equal chance to vote.

Thousands of low-income families would once again be able to get state help paying for child care ... under a compromise deal introduced Monday by Governor Bruce Rauner.

Families with babies, from birth until they're three years old, are eligible for state assistance to help their children learn and grow. It's called early intervention. But without a budget, Illinois stopped paying the therapists who provide these services. Now, the comptroller and the governor's administration says they've come up with a way to pay again, even though Illinois still has no budget in place.

www.sestherapeuticriding.com

A new pilot program will provide equine therapy to veterans at Marion's V-A Medical Center.