October, 2014 | Littman Krooks, LLP
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Group Homes Are Good for Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Good for Communities

October 27th, 2014

For adults with disabilities, living in a group home can be the perfect blend of independence and supervision, offering the supports they need while allowing them to live as part of the larger community. However, the proposed placement of a group home in a particular neighborhood often leads to resistance from residents. Their concerns are understandable but they are often unfounded. In reality, group homes almost always coexist peacefully with their neighbors.

Group homes are good for the health of the individuals served by them and they are also good for the health of the community. Adults with developmental or other disabilities benefit from varied social interaction. When certain groups of people are isolated from others, unwarranted fears and resentments can build. The vision of people with disabilities living their lives as an integral part of the community has proven to be a vast improvement over past over-reliance on institutional solutions.

Nevertheless, neighborhood residents often resist the placement of group homes. Their apprehensions may include declining property values, safety issues, or an increase in traffic. Residents’ concerns may stem from a fear of the different or the unknown. However, multiple studies have shown that the presence of group homes has little effect on property values and the problems envisioned by residents do not materialize. Often, residents objecting to group homes say that they want people with disabilities to have a home, just somewhere else – “not in my backyard.”

Often the law must protect the human rights of a few from what the majority might prefer. New York’s Padavan Law prevents communities from excluding group homes unless the area is already saturated or a better site in the same community can be found. Communities often file objections but they rarely succeed in blocking a group home.

Because of the Padavan Law, passed in 1978, a quiet revolution has taken place in New York. The care of adults with developmental disabilities shifted from institutional care to community settings. However, to achieve a community that truly understands, welcomes and supports people with disabilities, we need not just strong laws, but people willing to speak out for what is right. Noam Bramson, the mayor New Rochelle, showed that leadership in an eloquent website post that called for community support of group homes. Bramson wrote that at a recent City Hall meeting, residents of a tight-knit, middle class neighborhood spoke overwhelmingly against a proposed group home and the City Administration responded by filing the appropriate objection with the state Office of Mental Health. Bramson publicly opposed the City’s action, despite the residents’ concerns. Indeed, he said that he knew the residents would eventually greet their new neighbors with courtesy and warmth. Bramson knew the objection was likely to fail and he could have kept quiet, but he chose to take a stand in support of people who often lack an effective political voice of their own.


Learn more about special needs planning and special needs advocacy by visiting www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Pam Moskowitz and Randi Silverman - Parent to Parent Support Groups when Raising Children with Mood Disorders including Depression and Anxiety

October 23rd, 2014

Our guests this week include Pam Moskowitz and Randi Silverman, co-founders and facilitators of Parent-to-Parent Support Groups for Raising Children with Mood Disorders.  Join host Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., and our weekly guests to discuss the benefits of peer-to-peer support groups, ideas that help you take care of your family and where to find a group that fits your needs.


Parents and Teachers Can Take Action to Address Bullying of Children with Special Needs

October 10th, 2014

By Marion Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

Recent years have seen a welcome shift in public attention toward understanding the serious repercussions of bullying in school. Our society now recognizes that bullying, once dismissed as simply part of growing up,can have a serious negative effect on the mental health and social development of children, even into adulthood.

For children with autism, the problem has even greater scope and effect, in part because children with autism have intrinsic vulnerability to bullying and they are more likely to be victims of bullying. Children often face bullying for being different and the sensitivities and typical peers may not understand the behavioral differences of children with autism.

In addition to being more likely to be bullied, children with autism may have more trouble understanding and responding to teasing. Children with autism tend to interpret statements literally, so they may not understand jokes or sarcasm. Stress and anxiety may lead to an outburst or other problematic behavior, which can lead to further harassment.

The consequences of bullying can be severe. Research has shown that children who are victims of bullying may develop low self-esteem, learning difficulties, anxiety, depression and other symptoms, all of which can persist well into adulthood. In addition, although some types of bullying may decrease as children get older, that may not be the case for children with autism. Indeed, there may be a greater cause for concern with older children.
Here are four action steps you can take to address any bullying of your child:

  1. Do Not Ignore Problem of Bullying. Faced with these challenges, it is important for parents and teachers to be aware of the problem and take action to prevent and respond to bullying. Do not ignore early signs that a student is being bullied or is bullying another student.   Some of the focus must be on the bullies rather than the victims. Teachers should not only intervene when they witness bullying themselves, but teach other students how to do so. A school district’s curriculum and code of conduct should promote an environment free of harassment.
  2. Help Children Advocate for Themselves and Report to Adults. Children with autism can also be taught how to respond appropriately to different types of bullying behavior. Role-playing exercises can be especially effective in instilling the confidence and self-esteem necessary to respond effectively. Through conversations with parents and teachers, children with autism can learn when they need to strongly stand up for themselves and when they might be able to use a joke to deflect more mild teasing.  Make sure a child has a trusted adult in the school to whom to report any bullying. Parents and teachers must provide an appropriate balance of support to protect children from bullying while allowing independence and peer relationships to develop. Parents should bring this up at their child’s next Committee on Special Education team meeting, so that that team can consider goals to help the child advocate and needed supports for the child.
  3. Use State Law and School Policies as Tools to Stop Bullying. Finally, when a child is the victim of bullying, parents and teachers must take steps to intervene. Under New York’s Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”), schools must protect students by taking prompt action to end harassment, bullying or discrimination that is reported to the administration. Parents should communicate with the school’s Dignity Act Coordinator for students with disabilities, and report any harassment. Check your school district’s policies and procedures
  4. Document Bullying. Be sure to document any instances of bullying in writing and report them to the school. Take pictures of any physical injury. Save copies of text or Facebook and other social media messages.

Preventing bullying requires a multifaceted approach, with attention paid to a number of factors within a social context, which is only possible when bullying is recognized as a serious problem. All parents and teachers should take active steps to raise awareness, teach children strategies to respond to harassment, and take action to prevent bullying.


Learn more about special needs planning and special needs advocacy by visiting www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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