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The Art of Inclusion


Taken from Temple News

SEPTEMBER 13, 2017

The Art of Inclusion

Occupational therapist Roger Ideishi works with organizations across the country to create cultural and community experiences that welcome families facing disability.

When Roger Ideishi sent his graduate students into the Philadelphia community more than a decade ago to identify areas of need, they found a huge gap in access for families of children with disabilities.

“Families [had] been telling us that they don’t feel welcome in the community. They are often scrutinized and judged by the public—and not only by the public, but also by public institutions and organizations in the community,” explains Ideishi, director of the College of Public Health’s Occupational Therapy program. “When the family comes to a public space and their child or loved one is acting differently than how the rest of the public or society may act, they often will get judged, they’ll get scrutinized, they will often be asked to leave, which then makes it a very unwelcoming space.”

Since then, Ideishi, who came to Temple four years ago, has focused much of his energy on breaking down barriers and creating welcoming spaces for those families through partnering with cultural and arts institutions to provide education and training.

When Ideishi goes to a museum or theater to help create more inclusive experiences, he takes many factors into consideration—asking questions like whether there’s a moment in a performance that may be too loud or too dark for a person with a sensory challenge, or what a family with a child who has autism might need in advance to feel comfortable exploring an exhibit. Accommodations have been widely created for people with physical disabilities, Ideishi explains, but for people with cognitive disabilities or people who process sensations like touch, sound and light differently, support isn’t always a consideration.

Not just what’s easiest to do, such as, ‘Let’s put a ramp in at the entryway,’ but to really create ‘ramps’ for every single person, whether they need a cognitive ramp or sensory ramp or hearing ramp.”
-- Roger Ideishi
For a performance, Ideishi may work with the director and production crew to slightly modify a loud noise, or with educational and communications staff to ensure that families are properly informed to anticipate a blackout scene. At museums, including Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University, he’s helped train staff and created educational materials and practices that other organizations can replicate.

“One of my agendas is that these organizations fundamentally change the way that they view accommodations, the way they view disability, so it becomes an inherent part of everything they do,” Ideishi says. “Not just what’s easiest to do, such as, ‘Let’s put a ramp in at the entryway,’ but to really create ‘ramps’ for every single person, whether they need a cognitive ramp or sensory ramp or hearing ramp.”

In the decade since he began his quest, Ideishi has worked with cultural and arts institutions across the country, including international organizations such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and local institutions, such as Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum and Symphony Orchestra. He’s traveled coast to coast to provide support and training and exchanged ideas with colleagues from Australia to the United Kingdom, where inclusion is often handled on a policy level.

Amid the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which left hundreds of children with lead poisoning and resulting cognitive disabilities, Ideishi traveled to the city numerous times to work with the Greater Flint Arts Council to ensure families facing disability have the same access to arts and cultural experiences as everyone else. Here in Philadelphia, Ideishi continues to work with the Academy of Natural Sciences, one of his earliest partners. Other regional organizations he works with include the Philadelphia Orchestra, People’s Light theater in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and Delaware Theater Company in Wilmington, among others.

Through all of his work, he strives to avoid making major changes to performances or exhibits, instead working to ensure that everyone has access to the same experiences, regardless of disability.

“We always try to remember that the goal is to maintain the artistic integrity of the experience, that we don’t want to create a special event for special people,” Ideishi says. “That’s not our intent, and that really is not what we’re here to do. We’re trying to create an inclusive environment that anybody can come to and experience the same thing.”

Pittsburgh-area alumni: Hear Roger Ideishi speak in person at Heinz Hall during Temple Perspectives, sponsored by the Temple University Alumni Association, on Oct. 24. Learn more and register here.

Morgan Zalot


ASDA launch Happy Little Helpers scheme


Jenny Barnett works for Asda\'s Middlesbrough Store and has a 5-year-old-son, Charlie who is on the autistic spectrum and non verbal.

Jenny came up with the idea of a Happy Little Shoppers game based on PECS.

Read more here


New Children\'s Cartoon Voiced by Children with Autism


The Times newspaper reported this story yesterday. Another great step forward in autism acceptance and understanding.

"Meet Pablo, the first autistic television cartoon character. Pablo and his six friends are voiced by children who have autism, and some of the cartoon’s writing team are also autistic. The storylines take in the real-life experiences of other youngsters with the condition.

"The programme follows five-year-old Pablo, as he goes about his day. When events prove challenging, such as getting a haircut or attending a friend’s party, he works through them with the help of his friends — characters from his crayon drawings.

"The makers of the CBeebies show hope to promote understanding and empathy. The 52-episode series will not appear on screens until the autumn but has already been commissioned for a second run on the BBC’s pre-school network.

"Kay Benbow, CBeebies controller, said: “When I went to see the cast and crew of Pablo, the parents of the young people with autism said, ‘You don’t know what this means. Our children are now empowered. They feel like they can do anything.’ ”

"Last month, Sesame Street introduced Julia, a puppet with autism, to the show, and the Blue Power Ranger in the recent Power Rangers film is also portrayed as being on the autistic spectrum. This summer’s Thomas the Tank Engine film will feature a new engine called Theo, voiced by Hugh Bonneville, which has autistic traits."

Further information here: 



My Name’s Holly and I Have Autism




After a few bad weeks at school including several melt downs 12-year-old Holly Lewis decided to announce to her class mates that she has autism.

She very bravely stood up in assembly in front of 180 people at her school an announced "my name\'s Holly and I have autism". Holly said that after her speech, things “got better, I think people understood me more. They could understand that I was different. People treated me like I was normal.”

During the assembly she showed “Make It Stop,” a short film by the National Autistic Society
 about her, and how the world comes rushing at her.

You can see both videos here:


£20M Given to Scottish University for Autism Research


Today the BBC has reported that the University of Edinburgh has been awarded £20 million to be used for studies into autism. They hope that this will bring about "new diagnostic tools, better therapeutics and new interventions".

The BBC said: "Edinburgh University researchers hoping to develop new treatments for autism have received a £20m funding boost from a US philanthropic foundation.

"The Simons Foundation has given the cash for studies into the biological mechanisms that underpin changes in brain development linked with autism.

"Autism spectrum disorders affect about 75 million people worldwide.Symptoms include altered social interaction, communication and restricted and repetitive behaviour. The Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain will be based at the university\'s Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities.

"Centre director Prof Peter Kind said: "This is an amazing opportunity to bring together a range of scientific and clinical expertise at the university with the aim of understanding how the brain develops on multiple levels, including molecular biology, neural circuitry, genetics, behaviour and cognition. "By combining these approaches, we will learn how a healthy brain matures and gain valuable insights into the developmental origins of autism.

"Using this knowledge, we aim to deliver new diagnostic tools, better therapeutics and new interventions to the clinic that will address the causes and consequences of autism." Scientists will use advanced techniques to probe brain development in the presence of DNA changes known to cause autism. They will investigate how variations in the wiring of the brain can impact on how it processes information.

"Louis F Reichardt, director of the Simons Foundation autism research initiative, said: "We hope the foundation\'s support will enable them to apply these types of studies to other conditions on the autism spectrum." Foundation chairman Jim Simons added: "We are confident that the great scientists already in place, coupled with the comprehensive facility being developed, will accelerate understanding of autism and hasten the development of meaningful treatments."

"Prof Timothy O\'Shea, Edinburgh University principal, said: "We are tremendously grateful to the Simons Foundation for their generosity and vision."Their investment is a landmark commitment amidst an ongoing effort from donors at all levels to deepen our research programmes and accelerate progress in medical science." "


Autism detectable in brain scans long before symptoms appear


BBC News has reported on an article in Nature International Weekly Journal of Science which claims that differences in the part of the brain responsible for functions like language in children who went on to be diagnosed with autism can be seen as early as 1 year old.

The BBC reports that "The earliest that children tend to be diagnosed at present is at the age of two, although it is often later.
The study, published in the journal Nature, showed the origins of autism are much earlier than that - in the first year of life.
The findings could lead to an early test and even therapies that work while the brain is more malleable.

One in every 100 people has autism, which affects behaviour and particularly social interaction.

The study looked at 148 children including those at high risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder. All had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months old.

The study uncovered early differences in the part of the brain responsible for high level functions like language - the cerebral cortex - in children who went on to be diagnosed with autism.

Dr Heather Hazlett, one of the researchers at the University of North Carolina, told the BBC News website: "Very early in the first year of life we see surface brain area differences, that precede the symptoms that people traditionally associate with autism.

"So it gives us a good target for when the brain differences might be happening for children at high risk of autism."

The study opens up possibilities for big changes in the way autism is treated and diagnosed.

Giving children brain scans, particularly those in high-risk families, could lead to children being diagnosed earlier.
In the long run, it might be possible to do something similar for all infants if DNA testing advances enough to become a useful tool to identify children at high risk.

If it can be diagnosed early, then behavioural therapies such as those that train parents in new ways of interacting with an autistic child can be introduced earlier when they should be more effective.

Prof Joseph Piven, another researcher on the project, told the BBC: "Now we have the possibility that we can identify those who are most likely to go on to to get autism.

"That allows us to consider intervening before the behaviours of autism appear, I think there\'s wide consensus that that\'s likely to have more impact at a time when the brain is most malleable and before the symptoms have consolidated.

"So we find it very promising."

The researchers fed the brain scan images into an artificial intelligence. It was able to predict which children would develop autism with 80% accuracy.

Dr James Cusack, the director of science at Autistica, said the approach was "highly innovative and exciting".

He added: "Early, accurate diagnosis is the key to families being able to access the support they need.

"We\'ve still got some way to go, but one day, through continued investment in research, we may be able to diagnose autism in babies using innovative approaches like brain imaging."

Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society\'s Centre for Autism, said: "It\'s possible that MRI scanning of this type could be developed to help families who already have an autistic child to access earlier diagnosis for subsequent children.

"This would mean those children could receive the right support as early as possible."

However, she warned that autism was manifested in many different ways and "no single test is likely to be able to identify potential autism in all children".

The study also pours further cold water on the debunked claims that the MMR jab causes autism.

One of the reasons the link took hold was that autism tends to be diagnosed around the time that the vaccine is given to children."



It is much more than just making coffee! Students run coffee shop from their class.



FLORENCE, S.C. – Business is booming at Wilson High School.

Since October, students from the self-contained autism class have been running a coffee shop, Fill My Cup, for the first week of every month. The students sell coffee to their peers and teachers twice a day: once before school starts and again during lunch hours.

Rebekah Andrews, the autism class teacher, got the idea for the coffee shop at the beginning of the school year. To prepare students for life after high school, the class partakes in job-site outings three times per week and community outings once a month. The problem, however, is only two students can participate in job-site outings at a time. Andrews wanted to create something that could get the whole class involved at once.


“The coffee shop was something that I thought of just because people like coffee and it’s easy to serve and figure out how to work the coffee makers,” Andrews said. “It’s done really well so far.”

Andrews has made sure the students have been involved in every part of running the business: from advertising and serving customers to counting revenue and sorting deposits. They even get a paycheck at the end of each week.

“They get a check for two dollars a week,” Andrews said. “We do lessons on budgeting and how you need to save your money toward something.”

The students have the opportunity to cash part of their check and buy something from the school’s vending machines, or save it for a larger purchase at the end of the year. Andrews says this real-world experience is important for her students. It’s one thing to tell students how to budget, but it’s another to physically show them.

“Until they actually have money in their hands and they know, you can’t teach those kinds of experiences,” she said. “It’s given me a lot more at my fingertips to be able to prepare them for society.”


Although each coffee only costs a dollar, the class has quickly been able to raise approximately $1,000. Andrews hopes to use this money toward a life-skills lab. She wants to work with local businesses and have the students complete in-house tasks that each business requests.

For now, however, the students have been focusing on continuing the success of the coffee shop.

“They’ve loved it,” Andrews said. “It’s been an opportunity for them to feel more like part of the school and give them a voice and a way for them to communicate with peers in their age group, whereas normally they’d be in my class all day and wouldn’t get that interaction. So it’s really done a lot more for them than just making coffee.” "




PECS Coffee Morning 19th October




Marks & Spencer Launches Autism-Friendly School Wear



The National Autistic Society are delighted to have teamed up with Marks & Spencer to support the development of their brand new ‘Easy Dressing’ school uniform collection. It’s available for sale from 1 August, but you can already sign up to register your interest on their website. 

Following a product development campaign called ‘Inventors Wanted’, M&S received lots of feedback asking them to do more for people who struggle with clothing – especially children on the autism spectrum. 

After consulting with professionals working with autistic children, they decided to develop an ’Easy Dressing’ school uniform range. The charity was thrilled to be approached by M&S to work with them to develop the clothing. 

As a first step, students at our very own Helen Allison School told the designers what they like and don’t like about clothes – particularly the kind of things like labels and fastening that can feel very fiddly, and even painful and distracting because of their sensory sensitivities. In March, M&S came back to the school with prototypes of the five garments in the range for the students to try out.

The young people and teachers were really enthusiastic and Corinna Laurie, an occupational therapist at the school and author of the NAS Sensory Strategies booklet, welcomed the new clothing range:

"Parents often ask me where they can buy clothes that reduce the impact of their children’s sensory sensitivities. Children can become distressed and distracted by uncomfortable seams and labels, itchy fabric and fiddly buttons on regular school uniforms. So I jumped at the opportunity to provide input about M&S’s new ‘Easy Dressing’ range. It’s been great to be involved as the clothes have been developed with help from professionals and students at the NAS Helen Allison School. 

“It’s really wonderful that this leading retailer is taking on the issue of autism-friendly clothing. I know this range will offer families a school uniform which is easy to wear from both a sensory and motor skills perspective. I can\'t wait to be able to recommend it to the families I work with!" 

As well as working with the charity to develop the range, M&S will also be donating 10% from every item sold to The National Autistic Society.

Go to the M&S website if you’d like to register your interest in their ‘Easy Dressing’ range, so they can let you know when the range is ready to purchase on their website. 


PECS and the MEHAYO Centre, Tanzania


PECS and the MEHAYO Centre, Tanzania

Late last year PECS UK were contacted by Jennifer Lee Bannister who is a teacher in Tanzania. Jennifer wanted to help a school there by introducing PECS, she wondered if we would be able to donate any PECS Resources which of course we were happy to do. Below in her own words is an account of her experience implementing PECS.

“I am a teacher working in an international school in Tanzania. I have been travelling to and fro from Tanzania since the age of 18, and it has, literally, become my second home. I secured my current teaching post in August 2012, and was introduced to a local charity called the MEHAYO Centre.

The town of Morogoro, surrounded by the Uluguru mountains and fields of crops, is the home of the MEHAYO Centre, a charity run by a wonderful lady fondly known as Mama Linda whose tireless efforts to provide a loving refuge to disabled children and young adults is awe-inspiring.

MEHAYO is a Tanzanian non-government organisation established with the aim of helping Mentally Handicapped Youth in Morogoro. It is a non-profit making organisation registered as a Trust Fund in October 1998.
Its goal is to improve the quality of life for disabled children and  young people, while at the same time creating better awareness of disability among and the local population.
The organisation has 2 centres and provides shelter for 41 disabled residents, ranging in age from 6 to 31 years. Some youngsters and children stay in the MEHAYO hostel permanently, but most of them live at home.
The staff at MEHAYO are enthusiastic and dedicated people, both local and International and most of them are volunteers. They contribute a lot of time, love and energy into the running of this special sanctuary.
It generates income by selling crops and home-made products. Other sources of finance are donations from friends and benefactors and occasional funding provided by international charity foundations.
Mama Linda Ngido, a teacher by profession and founder of the Mehayo centre, teaches at the centre, along with her team of volunteers. Daily activities include cooking, small scale farming, baking, wood working, card making, and drama.
On every visit, I am overwhelmed by the children – they are never without a smile and a welcoming hug!
The children\'s disabilities vary greatly. Most have been affected by malnutrition. Malaria, especially cerebral malaria, is another factor in the lives of the children at MEHAYO. The majority of the children and young people have great difficulty in communicating their needs which can often lead to frustration.
One day, Mama Linda asked me whether I would like to see their classroom. Being a teacher, of course I was thrilled that the children had the opportunity to learn and followed Mama Linda into a simple room decorated with children\'s drawings and crafts. As we left, I noticed some PECS symbols on the wall outside the classroom. Mama Linda explained that she had been given them by a charity based in Ireland, but was unsure of how to use them. This was the beginning of an interesting dialogue between myself, Mama Linda and my school, Morogoro International School.
Mama Linda was very enthusiastic about developing PECS at the centre in order to promote the children\'s communication. I introduced this idea to a group of students at my school who were eager to learn about PECS and make regular visits to MEHAYO. Students of the international school were fascinated by the concept of PECS and we are now planning to make regular visits to MEHAYO so that the children have opportunities to work with PECS as well as have fun with our students!
I have been to MEHAYO to work with a little boy who is about 12 years old and non-communicable. He is always very quiet and shy so Mama Linda and I thought it would be good for him to have a go at PECS on a one-to-one basis with myself. He immediately grasped what was required of him, and before long he was handing me the picture card for the blue dinosaur, his favourite toy, without any assistance at all. This soon became a game between us and it was great to see him smiling broadly!
We are hoping to make these sessions a regular activity, his PECS book is quickly filling up with all his favourite toys!
I would like to thank PECS UK for their kind donation to the MEHAYO centre and for helping this little boy begin his journey of communication and learning.”


PECS Donates Essential Resources to Tanzanian Autism Centre


PECS UK were contacted last December asking if we would be able to donate some resources.

In February 2013, 13 members of the ‘Ascent for Autism’ team scaled Kilimanjaro with the intention to raise funds for autism charities and to promote World Autism Day.  All of the team reached the top of Kilimanjaro, a height of 5680meters. 11 of the team went further than reaching the top of the mountain, reaching the Roof of Africa - ‘Uhuru point’ at over 5800 meters, minus 24 degrees and wind speeds of 50kph!

Before the team set off they met with the director of an autism charity. The purpose of the visit was to hear a firsthand account of the challenges for people with ASD in Tanzania, and as gesture of goodwill and in support of World Autism, individual members of the trek each contributed some money and had collected from various organisations within the UK, vital resources that would help with the important work in reaching out to carers, parents and those with ASD across the country.

The director of the charity, Mama Grace, was presented with a PECS resources and manuals kindly donated by PECS UK. It was clear that Mama Grace was thrilled to receive the PECS resources.


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Welcome to our NEW PECS UK website!


 It has been a long time coming, but here it is, our NEW PECS UK Website.  Have a good look around!


ASDA launch Happy Little Helpers scheme



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