Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | Disability Services planning events to change perceptions | Disability Services planning events to change perceptions

Yo everybody! My first article in the Indiana Daily Student was published last week, on my birthday no less!

Grants for Artists with Learning Differences

This past year, the Indiana Arts Commission received federal funding to distribute to artists with disabilities through their "Artist Access Program." My friend Sean Cortright recently completed his first album with these funds from the Indiana Arts Council and The National Endowment of the Arts!  Sean has PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified) with Asperger's tendencies.  The album is available at and at record stores in Bloomington, IN.  I'm so glad that the government funds artists with disabilities and encourages them to showcase their talents!  Here is a small video interview with him to his music:

Sean Cortright's "Bandit Song" from James Walsh on Vimeo.

Other links:
ArtsWork Indiana: For Indiana artists with disabilities
Indiana Arts Council

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Life With Lucy: The Little Things that Make it Worth It

Having a service dog in training is more than just the long hours of exercises and daily exposure to public environments.

"Mommy! She can't bring a dog in here!" is what I often hear children say as I walk into Target or the grocery store.
"That's a special dog," mothers say.
"Well, my dog is special! I want to bring him in here too!"

Training my own service dog is exhausting, and at times I've really just wanted to give up. When I see a child's first exposure to Lucy, it's one of those the little moments make me smile and say I'm thankful for Lucy despite the daunting responsibility. I want my partnership with Lucy to be a chance to teach children about the uniqueness of service animals as well as help them learn to appreciate and understand people with disabilities as people just like themselves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Boy With Autism and His Service Dog:1 School District:0

Watch this YouTube video about a ten-year old Oregon boy and his family who have finally won the right to bring his autism service dog to school:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Is Autism Really a Disorder?

Until recently, scientists have been stuck on the idea that a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder means that a child's life will be filled with a series of deficits: difficulty with social cues such as eye contact and reading body language, problems integrating with peers and establishing relationships, and difficulty processing spoken language.

As a result, parents and researchers alike have thrown themselves headfirst into every effort or latest trend that comes along with even a hint of possibility of curing autism. But does autism really need a cure? A recent article published by Wired Magazine argues that autism is not necessarily a disorder at all, but simply a difference in the wiring of the brain, leading individuals with autism to function differently than a typically developing person would in everyday life.

The article also supports the idea that, contrary to popular belief, those with even the most severe forms of autism may not be as "trapped in their own worlds" as we had originally thought thanks to the internet and mass media capabilities like blogging and text-to speech software.

Take twenty-seven year old Amanda Baggs, one of the subjects of Wired's interview: nonverbal autistic but managing a blog and a YouTube channel where her latest upload has received over 100,000 hits. She's obviously onto something, and now she and others like her may soon turn the long-held opinion that those who don't speak don't understand completely on its head.

Read the full article here:

Watch Amanda Bagg's latest YouTube video: "In My Language":

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bloomington Family Reaches Fundraising Goal for Service Dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about seven-year old Tyler Grieb and his parents Scott Grieb and Emily Nehus on a quest to raise at least $13,000 for a service dog to assist with Tyler's autism.

I'm happy to say that the family has achieved, even exceeded their  goal. The extra money raised will be donated to 4 Paws for Ability,for other families who have been waiting for a service dog the longest and had the least success at raising funds.  They are now waiting for the appropriate dog  for Tyler, which has not even been born yet, but they are hoping for a Labordoodle or Golden Doodle because of Emily's severe allergies to dogs.

The next job for Emily and Scott will be filming a video of Tyler in his daily life. His dog will be trained based on this video. Training will take about nine months to a year, and once the dog is ready to be paired up with Tyler, he and his family will make the trip from Bloomington, Indiana to Xenia Ohio for two weeks worth of training camp in order to learn the dog's commands and start bonding with it.

4 Paws for Ability pairs service dogs with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and other neurological conditions. For more information visit:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bloomington, Indiana Parents on a Mission to Acquire Service Dog For Son with Autism

If seven-year old Tyler Grieb could tell you who his best friend is, he'd probably say, "The stereo." Since fourteen months old, Tyler has lived with a rare neurological condition known as agenesis of the corpus collousm or AAC as well as autism, in which the two hemispheres of his brain are not fused and act independently of one another which makes processing language, forming relationships with peers, and interacting with the world challenging

Tyler's parents, Emily Nehus and Scott Grieb, both musicians have passed their love of music down to Tyler and spent the last seven years using music to help him make sense of the world. In a recent interview with IU Bloomington's newspaper the Indiana Daily Student, Scott said, "The people Tyler interacts most with are musicians: Taylor Swift, The Beatles, James Taylor, etc."

Tyler takes a walk in the woods.
However, Emily and Scott are hoping that a service dog from the Xenia, Ohio based agency 4 Paws For Ability will soon help Tyler interact with more than just his favorite artists. The family has been on a waiting list for about a year and a half and is in the process of raising $13,000 in order to start the year long training process for a dog specific to Tyler's needs. The dog will have responsibilities such as keeping track of Tyler, helping to curb some of his behavioral tendencies caused by autism, providing companionship, comforting him when he is upset, and acting as an icebreaker in social situations allowing Tyler the possibility of more social connections.

His parents are also looking forward to a possible increase in Tyler's verbal ability among other gains. To donate to the fundraiser visit:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Department of Justice Reaches New Ruling Regarding Service Animals

So, I have recently been doing quite a bit of thinking about the Department of Justice's new ruling regarding service animals. First, as of January 2009, service animals are to be limited to dogs only and secondly, under this new ruling, emotional support and psychiatric service animals no longer qualify if their main functions are to provide companionship, elevate mood, and so forth, the reason being that these benefits are not seen as any different than the benefits one acquires from a household pet.

While this ruling will be undoubtably problematic and painful for those affected, I think the DOJ had its reasons for making this decision. That's not to say I don't support those with emotional needs because let's face it-- we all have them, but I think that, as the ruling specifies, service dogs should be trained for specific, visible tasks and I don't know that happiness or contentment can be measured

However, a service dog may work with an individual who has a psychiatric or emotional disability that is co-morbid, meaning it exists as part of another diagnosis and this I fully support because many times, psychiatric and emotional disabilities do not exist solely as the individual's only condition but often accompany others like traumatic brain injury, autism, and oppositional defiant disorder. (ODD)

To read an article on this topic, click here:

I would love to hear your comments on this topic! Feel free to put in your two cents!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Indiana Cuts $34 Million from Medicaid for Autism

Introducing 34 million dollars in budget cuts to Indiana Medicaid in order to "avoid reducing vital services to the 1.2 million Indiana residents to whom the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA)  provides benefits."  The only thing these cuts will actually accomplish is leaving millions of young adults in Indiana with autism without the proper supports they require to become integrated within their communities and enjoy happy, fulfilling lives.  As a result, their parents or guardians will despair over how on earth they are going to provide for their children's long-term care.

Furthermore, for those with autism, routine and ritual are essential. We frame our lives around these patterns of daily activity and once they are removed from the equation it becomes extremely difficult to appreciate a normal existence again. Without routine, life is chaotic, unpredictable, and scary.

To the thousands of individuals and their families around Indiana affected by this--you have my deepest sympathy.

It appears our state government officials have none.

Autism Waiver cuts spell catastrophe in Indiana.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Not Your Average Dog... or English Professor

Think your dog is smart? This dog earns A's in obedience and English for knowing over 1,000 nouns! Check it out!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fradulent Autism Vaccine Study Article in the NY Times

I have never held any stock in the belief that vaccines may cause autism, and I think it was a very wise thing England decided to do when they took Wakefield's license.

First, a person, but especially a doctor should not just make the claim that twelve children were normal until given the MMR shot, unless they know for a fact through extensive investigation that that is the absolute truth.

Obviously, Wakefield was just looking for a quick way to get his name in the books and did not do nearly enough research before publishing his paper because now all the glory goes to Deer for calling him out and bringing attention to the fact that his claims were actually false.

Autism Fraud

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eight States Adopt New Legislation Concerning Diagnosis and Treatment of ASD'S

2011 marks a turning point in many areas. Today, Brazil's first female president officially took office. The Oprah Winfrey Show will end its twenty-four year span on daytime television in favor of adopting a cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and America has a Republican House of Representatives once again. But the new year also marks a turning point in the fight against autism.

Today in an interview with MSNBC Nightly News, Executive Vice President of Programs and Services for Autism Speaks, Peter Bell confirmed that "As of January 1, 2011, eight states have passed new legislation requiring insurance companies to pay for the diagnosis and treatment of autism." Among the eight states are: Kansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. This law is not limited exclusively to cases of classical autism, but includes the whole gamut of autism spectrum disorders (ASD'S). To read the full article or see if your state is on the list, go to:

Many times, families with children with disabilities end up going into debt over their various medical needs, I think that requiring insurance companies to pay for the diagnosis and treatment of ASD's is definitely a step in the right direction.

It's going to take a huge weight off a number of parents' shoulders because they'll no longer have to choose between buying groceries or paying to send their child to social skills group. I hope more states, if not the remaining fifty adopt this legislation in the future. To contact your state legislature regarding autism reform visit:

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

A year ago today, my service dog Lucy was born. Now as she sleeps at my feet, I look back on the past seven months we've been a part of each other's lives and think how much richer and more fulfilled my life feels now that I have her by my side every day than it would if I were to continue living the way I had lived prior to knowing she existed.
Because of her, I finally know what it means to love someone more than yourself and to care for someone's well being more than your own. I am so excited to watch her continued progress as she grows and to finally get our first full year as a team underway. Who knows where she will be this time next year? Thanks everyone for all your support! We look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you soon!

Happy Birthday Lucy, thanks for being such a good friend and helper. I love you!