Impacting Underserved & Isolated Individuals Living with Autism

Seed Money Map_05_14
Projects will connect citywide. Click to enlarge.

My Philadelphia Autism Project and the Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) Collaborative Eastern Region is providing seed funding to address our goal of impacting underserved and underrepresented populations living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the city of Philadelphia. Specifically we are providing funds to individuals, faith-based organizations and grassroots groups working to creatively and innovatively connect with African American, Latino, African, Caribbean, Asian and deaf communities across the city.

Support is also being provided so organizations that are utilized by the larger community, like libraries, museums, and the theatre can become welcoming and inclusive spaces for individuals and families living with autism. Groups selected to receive seed money are from across the city and projects include a wide variety of topics. All seed projects adhere to the guiding principles of the Philadelphia Autism Project and are aligned with the initiatives generated by project stakeholders.

Project: African and Caribbean Autism Awareness program

This Autism Awareness Program is designed by the Coalition of African Communities and seeks to address cultural and language barriers and reduce health disparities.  This program will include an educational workshop and the development of a video about autism spectrum disorders to help increase awareness, educate and support the African and Caribbean community.  In addition to these awareness raising events, this program will also develop and administer a needs assessment to understand the specific needs of this community.

Project: Autism Awareness Community Weekend

The Church of the Redeemer Baptist hosted an Autism Awareness Community Weekend during the month of April for Autism Awareness Month and will be hosting another event to continue to increase autism awareness in their community by providing information, resources & support. The event will target individuals with autism of all ages and across the spectrum, as well as parents/caregivers, family members and community members.

Project: Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Collaborative Care for Asian American Pacific Islander Communities

With a focus on autism, a coalition of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI)-serving organizations will test a collaborative care model to eliminate cultural and linguistic barriers, and reduce education and physical and behavioral health disparities among AAPI communities. An important component of this model is a one day summit to allow attendees to expand the capacity to provide appropriate diagnosis and assessment of individuals with an ASD by improving cultural competency among health professionals and educators.

Project: Grand Central – Relative As Parents Program (RAPP)

One of the most challenging aspects of being a relative caregiver of a child with autism is first understanding the diagnosis and then finding the resources to support both the family and the child. This program will serve grandparents, who are caring for their grandchildren with an ASD, by enhancing their ASD knowledge and providing a connection to community resources and supports.

Project: Pennsylvania School for the Deaf: Plan to Pilot a Modification of the M-CHAT

The goal of this project is to modify the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT) to meet the identification needs of children who are deaf.  This will allow a standardization of this instrument for use at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD), as well as other schools for the deaf, generating more accurate empirical evidence. This modification could potentially lead to earlier identification and earlier interventions for these individuals.

Project: Philadelphia Museum of Art Autism Inclusivity Training

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Division of Education and Public Programming staff will attend Autism Inclusivity Training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to learn best practices and participate in comprehensive inclusivity training from service providers in Philadelphia. This training will allow PMA to create more inclusive programming, improve environmental accessibility, and more fully respond to the needs and preferences of individuals with an ASD and their families.

Project: Sensory Story Time Events: Lower Moyamensing Civic Association

The goal of these sensory story time events at the Fumo Family Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is to present a welcoming and inclusive story-time for children with ASD and their families. The Lower Moyamensing Civic Association will receive seed money funding to be used to support the purchase of content-based materials for sensory story time events at the Fumo Family Branch. Sensory Story Time events will occur monthly and will include books, music, and sensory activities for children with an ASD and their caregivers.

Project: Sensory Story Time Events: Friends of Torresdale Library

The goal of these sensory story time events is to create an activity for individuals with autism and their families and to help them feel more comfortable and familiar visiting and using the library resources. The Friends of Torresdale Library will receive seed money funding to be used to support the purchase of content-based materials for sensory story time events at the Torresdale Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, respectively.  Sensory Story Time events will occur monthly and will include books, music, and sensory activities for children with an ASD and their caregivers.

Project: Sharon Baptist Church Victory Club

The Sharon Baptist Church Victory Club will help this faith-based community to create a welcoming environment for families of individuals with an ASD and increase awareness of ASD through education and training programs for the congregation and the surrounding community.  Specific activities include: educating parents and caregivers on how to navigate the school system, making parents and caregivers aware of the medical and therapeutic resources that are available, and helping to provide families with respite.

Project: Voting on the Spectrum

Voting on the Spectrum is a program designed to assist adults (ages 18 and over) with autism to understand the voting and election process, including voter registration. The project will involve group meetings to explain the importance of voting, discussions about candidates, and field trips to register to vote and to procure proper I.D.

Project: Walnut Street Theatre School Class for Children on the Autism Spectrum

The Walnut Street Theatre will implement a new six-week theater class for adolescents with ASD.  The class will teach the fundamentals of acting in a safe and controlled environment, helping attendees to develop social skills and self-expression. This funding will help to produce a program that will create welcoming environment for individuals with autism and their families, while also increasing opportunities for meaningful community participation and expanding the potential to implement similar programs at this and other theaters in Philadelphia.

Project: Video Series: Autism in African American Families and Autism in Hispanic and Latino Families

T he Philadelphia Autism Project is also proud to support Karen Krivit in her development of a series of ground breaking family focused films that will be launched at Philadelphia area libraries.  These videos and screening events further support our goal of impacting underserved and underrepresented populations living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the city of Philadelphia.  A series of ground breaking family focused films will be created and then debuted at Philadelphia area libraries.  The films focus on the emotional reality of dealing with a diagnosis, how it affects the family unit, and the unique challenges that families from diverse cultural backgrounds face.  The goal of these videos is to increase awareness, in order to help children from underserved families to become better armed to obtain equal services.  Two screenings of “Autism in African American Families” are scheduled at local library branches.  The first screening will take place on Saturday, May 30th and a second screening will take place on Saturday, June 13th.  Visit www.phillyautismproject.org for more information.

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Respectful Language Essential to Dignity

I introduced and passed Bill No. 130723 to rid the Philadelphia Code of the words “mental retardation” and replaced them with “intellectual disabilities.”  R-Word (1)

Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities. However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the word “retard(ed).” In our ongoing effort to create communities of respect where all people are valued, it is important to change the language of our laws.

This meaningful legislation honors those with intellectual disabilities and the valuable contributions they make to our City. Advocates and individuals with intellectual disabilities have rightfully asserted that the term “mental retardation” is language that is both disparaging and hurtful. It is language that does not recognize the abilities of those individuals that make us all better by who they are and what they do every day. This change is a celebration of those abilities. Also, this legislation pulls the city into line with federal and state governments as both use the more appropriate term of “intellectual disability.”

I believe this ordinance, which took effect January 20, 2014, highlights how far Philadelphia has come in advancing civil rights for individuals with disabilities and it demonstrate that the city does not accept language that is exclusionary and we publicly challenge our citizens to think differently about those with intellectual disabilities.

Increasing Neighborhood Blight Removal

I introduced and passed Bill No. 130418 in an attempt to eradicate blight from our neighborhoods by expanding the City’s “door and windows” ordinance to include mixed-use properties whether they are on the corner or anywhere else in the block. This expansion includes not only the doors and windows requirement but also expands the fines penalties to mixed use buildings as well.blight

This legislation enhanced the already effective anti-blight ordinance in the Property Maintenance Code referred to as “Door and Windows.” The Doors and Windows Ordinance requires all structures on blocks that are at least 80% occupied to have actual doors and windows where they’re supposed to be in place. Unfortunately, some property owners leave open door and window frames and others install unsightly plywood to board-up openings. Neither approach is deemed sufficient under the ordinance. Owners who fail to comply are subject to fines of up to $300 per opening, per day. From the date of first inspection, it takes L&I about 90 days to send the violation to court.

The enforcement particularly worked well for entirely vacant properties. However, the original language prevented L&I from enforcing these requirements on mixed-use properties, such as corner commercial establishments. In many of our neighborhoods we have blocks with corner bars, stores or other commercial establishments on the ground floor, but the upper floors remain boarded-up with plywood. These properties have a negative psychological impact on the neighborhood and its residents. Additionally, it can have a profound impact on how a block is “judged” causing a detrimental effect on property values and deters investment, particularly in struggling or transitioning commercial corridors. And to be blunt, it just looks plain terrible and uninviting. This legislation took effect in the fall of 2013.

Increase the Investment in the DA’s Office & Focused Deterrence

Below are my floor remarks from today’s City Council Session.

Thank you, Mr. President. 

In the last month, more than eleven hundred violent crimes were reported to the Philadelphia Police Department.

This number includes five homicides, 165 gun robberies and 167 aggravated assaults with a gun.

David Kennedy is the author of Don't Shoot and helped implement Focused Deterrence in Philadelphia with the DA's Office and Police Department.
David Kennedy is the author of Don’t Shoot and helped implement Focused Deterrence in Philadelphia with the DA’s Office and Police Department.

Just yesterday, three men in their twenties were shot on North Sixth Street. One was killed after suffering multiple gun shots to his head, neck and midsection. The other two men were also shot multiple times.

Since the start of 2015, 74 families lost a loved one due to violence in our city.

Despite yesterday’s violence, our violent crime numbers are down from this time one year ago and I hope this trend continues into the warmer weather months.

With that said, I believe we can do better.

On Tuesday, District Attorney Seth Williams and his team came in to discuss their budget with Council.

The DA also believes we can do better as he continues to implement effective, smart and time-proven methods like focused deterrence to reduce the violence in our neighborhoods.

No doubt about it, the DA’s Office is contributing to the downward trend of our violent crime numbers. The amazing thing is that the DA and his team are doing so with a chronically flat line budget.

Like the DA, I too, believe the focused deterrence strategy can help us drive those numbers down even lower.

I believe we need to utilize smarter ways stop the senseless end of so many lives and the destruction of families across our city.

The focused deterrence strategy has repeatedly demonstrated that serious violence can be dramatically reduced when law enforcement, community members, and social services providers join together to directly engage with violent street groups to clearly communicate three things.

(1) A law enforcement message that future violence will be met with clear and predictable consequences.

(2) A community moral message that violence will no longer be tolerated.

And (3) a genuine offer of help to those who want it.

I believe we need to increase our investment in the District Attorney’s Office and I believe we need to invest in the sustainability and expansion of the focused deterrence crime reduction strategy.

Thank you, Mr. President.

One Less Empty Threat

Demo5The demolition of a large vacant commercial and industrial building began at 730 Rising Sun Avenue earlier this morning. This decaying and dilapidated building was identified as an imminently dangerous threat after the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) and the Fire Department conducted a joint inspection.

Last year, I introduced the legislation that established a protocol for dealing with large vacant commercial and industrial properties in the city. I am grateful for all of the efforts invested to get this pilot off the ground and to make Philadelphia a safer place.

Today is a meaningful day in many ways, but it is important to look back. It is important for us to reflect upon what brought about this demolition.

Large Vacant Commercial and Industrial Properties are empty threats.

Fires in large vacant buildings are killers – in more ways than one.

Demo1Not only do these blazes cause more firefighter injuries and deaths than in any other property classification, they also damage nearby homes and businesses and destroy the fabric of the community. Whether the buildings are abandoned or vacant, more than 70% of the fires occurring in them are incendiary or suspicious. They’re targets for kids, vandals, squatters, drug-users and the homeless. Large vacant buildings put firefighters at extra risk. Stripped of wiring, pipes and other components for scrap, they often contain open shafts or pits, becoming mantraps and allow for the rapid spread of fires.

The legislation I introduced is a comprehensive response to the 2012 fire at York and Jasper Streets that killed two Philadelphia Firefighters and the threat presented by Demo3large vacant buildings. It will reduce firefighter and community risks presented by large vacant commercial and industrial properties by inventorying, inspecting, securing, marking, and systematically tracking such structures across city departments.

On April 9, 2012 at 3:13 AM, a fire broke out in an abandoned, five-story, 80,000 square feet, hosiery warehouse at York and Jasper Streets. The warehouse covered more than half a block. The original structure was built in the 1880’s and had several additions added over time. The unsecured, dilapidated and abandoned building was a known home to dozens of squatters.

The Philadelphia Fire Department pulled five alarms and the fire was placed under control after a little more than two hours. 29 minutes after the fire’s start, four firefighters, battling an extension of flames into an adjoining furniture business, became trapped in a collapse. Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of the Fire Department’s Ladder 10 Station, died when a wall collapsed and buried them. The two other firefighters survived, but were injured in the collapse.NearySweeney

Today shows that lessons were learned from the tragic events of April 9, 2013. Today also shows that we will never forget the courage, sacrifice and commitment of Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney.

We can never forget

Please keep the Neary and Sweeney families in your thoughts and prayers today.NearySweeney

On April 9, 2012 at 3:13 AM, a fire broke out in an abandoned, five-story, 80,000 square feet, hosiery warehouse at York and Jasper Streets. The warehouse covered more than half a block. The original structure was built in the 1880’s and had several additions added over time. The unsecured, dilapidated and abandoned building was a known home to dozens of squatters.

The Philadelphia Fire Department pulled five alarms and the fire was placed under control after a little more than two hours. 29 minutes after the fire’s start, four firefighters, battling an extension of flames into an adjoining furniture business, became trapped in a collapse. Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of the Fire Department’s Ladder 10 Station, died when a wall collapsed and buried them. The two other fire fighters survived, but were injured in the collapse.

We can never forget the tragic event and sacrifices made on April 9, 2012.

Do not let cancer end anyone’s story

Earlier today, the below email came in from friend Dr. Wendy Ross regarding her husband’s brave battle against colon cancer. Please give it a read and consider supporting Michael.

From: Wendy Ross

Sent: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 1:53 PM

To: Denny

Subject: Regarding Michael Ross: Please Share

Many of us know someone who has cancer or has been touched by cancer. If you are receiving this email, there is a chance that you know Michael Ross.Ross-8K-04

Michael is a 43 year old husband, father, cyclist, athlete, physician, photographer, magician, author, and lulu lemon ambassador.  While working a sports medicine physician at Rothman Institute, Michael helps people reach their potential at his remarkable performance center.  In the rest of his life, Michael serves as an inspiration and role model for the rest of us.

Michael was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 4 colon cancer in September of 2014. Over the past few months, he has had part of his colon removed and undergone intensive chemotherapy. Michael continues to work as a physician, and to work out as an athlete regularly. While the cancer has given him pause, it has not stopped him.

With this in mind, Michael, encircled by friends, ran the Rothman 8k sporting a shirt with a semi colon on it. The semi colon represents the fact that he now literally has a semi colon, and that, although the cancer may have made him pause, his inspirational story continues.

In May, Michael will have further surgery to address his cancer. We are asking you to support Michael, and anyone else you know with cancer, by wearing a semi colon shirt. We are hoping that people will share photos of themselves wearing their shirts the week of Michael’s next surgery. Proceeds from the shirts will benefit the Colon Club, who inspired them.

Do not let cancer end anyone’s story.

Thank you for considering.

Wendy Ross

Here is the link to get your shirt: http://store.exosports.com/index.html