Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Will McCain Put His Money Where Palin's Mouth Is?

Gov. Palin has embellished her stump speech with a nice reference to the late Gov. Robert Casey (the pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania), who, she says, "was asked once how society should treat the most vulnerable among us, such as children with special needs. He said it's simple. He said, you put them first in line."

That's a pretty good applause line. But what does she mean? And has she talked to her running mate about what it would take to "put them first in line"? In Friday night's debate, Sen. McCain proposed a spending freeze on every federal program except defense and veterans. The National Education Association quickly reacted by saying such a freeze "would create a No Child Left Behind funding gap of $15 billion and put a crunch on millions of special education students, low-income students, children living in poverty, and the hiring of future teachers."

So we know McCain's not going to put his money where her mouth is. But what about Gov. Casey, apparently Gov. Palin's new role model? He didn't just talk -- he backed up his words with government programs that helped people. As governor from 1987 to 1994, Casey created school-based child-care programs that provided full-day services and before- and after-school care programs for infants and preschoolers, including poor children. That meant that teen parents could stay in school and poor adults could work knowing their children were safe. He was a strong advocate for universal health care. He invested money in breast cancer awareness and screening and required HMOs to cover annual mammograms. Harvard University pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton called Casey's multidimensional health care programs for women and children "a model for the rest of the country."

As a footnote, Gov. Casey's son, Bob Casey, Jr., is now a senator representing Pennsylvania. And way back in March, he endorsed Sen. Obama for president.

So Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin, parents with children with special needs are STILL wondering: What will you DO to support families like ours? We can read Sen. Obama's plan for Americans with disabilities. When will you share YOUR plan to back up your words and promises?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Should McCain Have Selected TODD Palin for VP?

Here's an interesting article demonstrating that "Not All Conservative Evangelicals Support Palin." It seems many conservative, Christian, home-schooling parents aren't so crazy about McCain (because he's not conservative enough) or Palin (because her focus is on her career and not her children, including one who's pregnant and one who has special needs). Some parents "are opposing Sarah Palin simply because they believe that she should stay home and take care of her family instead of getting involved in politics or who believe that it is wrong for a woman to have any authority in the public arena."

Since many evangelicals still believe a mom's place is in the home, maybe a safer pick for McCain would have been TODD Palin. You know -- let the man be VP and keep the wife at home to raise and teach the five young 'uns. And the possibilities for campaign slogans would be endless -- "Todd Was Sent by God." "Got God? Elect Todd." Or "This Will Show Those College-Educated Elitists."

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Candidates & Disabilities: A Teen's View

I like to present a range of perspectives on this blog, and I'm happy to share this thoughtful analysis of the candidates' positions on disabilities. The author, who writes a column called "Nicki's View" for Health News Blogs, is a teenager who is blind and has cerebral palsy. These policies will affect her for a long time, so she took a close look at both candidates.

Obama on ADA Amendments

Yesterday Sen. Obama issued a statement on the signing of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which he co-sponsored. He called it an important step and said "our government [must] to do everything it can to protect and respect the needs of these Americans."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Disability Czar for Obama?

Education Week reporter Christina Samuels links to a transcript of a conference call with two Obama representatives meeting with disability advocates. Samuels notes a proposal to create an "assistant to the president for disability policy" -- which would be the highest appointment ever in this area. I've mentioned before that Obama's disability proposals have been drafted under the leadership of two senior advisers who have children with disabilities -- Michael Strautmanis (who has three children, one with autism) and strategist David Axelrod (whose daughter has developmental disabilities caused by epilepsy).

An Inside Look at GOP Campaigning

Have you ever noticed how McCain-Palin supporters seem to speak off the same script -- like about Gov. Palin's "executive experience"? In this fascinating article in Salon, journalist Margriet Oostveen admits: "I Ghost-Wrote Letters to the Editor for the McCain Campaign." To get an inside look at the workings of the campaign, she volunteered in McCain's Virginia office. During her training with other volunteers, campaign worker Phil Tuchman told them honesty was not a requirement: "You can be whoever you want to be," he said. "You can be a beggar or a millionaire. A mom or a husband. Whatever. You decide!"

Even more interesting than her article are the guidelines, talking points, and sample letters given to her and other volunteers. Read them and observe political manipulation at work. One of the talking points is "In choosing Governor Palin, John McCain put Washington on notice that he is serious about shaking up the status quo." Does "shaking up the status quo" include asking volunteers to write fake letters?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Parents Speak Out

Oregon state legislator Sara Gelser, a disability advocate and the mother of a girl with developmental disabilities, examines the candidates' records and says: "Being the parent of a child with Down syndrome does not ensure that Palin will be an effective advocate for people with disabilities, any more than Dick Cheney being the parent of a lesbian daughter has made him an effective advocate for equality." Read "Empty Promises to Desperate Parents."

Blogger Liz from Illinois writes: "I am the mother of a special needs child. Republicans want me to feel understood by Palin, to feel a symbiotic connection with her because we are both mothers of special needs children. I am supposed to instinctively trust that another mother will do right by these children. Um. Not so much. Republicans have a nasty record of not supporting legislation that funds programming, education, or health care for this vulnerable group of citizens. Why in the world would I trust Sarah Palin or John McCain to help me secure my son's future because of some touchy-feely notion that 'we mothers understand each other'?"

How Do You Define "Fight"?

It's time for a fact check. Yesterday Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin spoke at a rally in Reading, Pa. It was a typical stump speech in most ways, but Gov. Palin made a claim that I haven't heard before -- and that I haven't seen backed up by any source, including her staff and supporters in Alaska.

She said, "As governor I’ve fought for these two years more funding for education for those with special needs for more opportunities." As I reported earlier, it is true that the budget for what Alaska calls "special needs" has increased since Gov. Palin took office. The general education budget was increased because of surpluses generated by oil profits, and the state automatically earmarks a certain percentage of the general education budget for "special needs." So by default, that budget grew as well.

BUT: Alaska's "special needs" budget includes expenses for everything from the "talented and gifted" program to a boot camp for high school dropouts. (The boot camp gets two-thirds of the funding.) And nothing I've seen -- nothing -- supports her claim that she has in any way "fought" or "pushed" or "advocated" or even "politely asked" for more funding or programs for children with special needs. If you can point to a source that supports her claim, please send it to me.

See also "What Alaskans are Saying."

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's It Like to Raise a Child with Special Needs? Read This.

Especially if you do not have a child with special needs, please read this post by Margaret Storey, a history professor at DePaul University. Nothing I've previously posted better describes the emotions I've experienced raising a child with special needs. Maybe I just relate to Storey's experience because, like my daughter, her daughter is non-verbal with hard-to-control epilepsy.

She explains her mixed reactions to the nomination of Gov. Palin and notes the difference between giving birth to a child with special needs and raising that child.

"From our point of view...giving birth to a special needs child is no more God's work than having a 'normal' child....Once a child takes first breath, the responsibilities of a parent to nurture and protect take over with considerable urgency. Some undertake these responsibilities well; others do not. Sarah Palin may be a wonderful parent and have a loving family. But she has not earned the right to be regaled as exceptional simply for loving and caring for her youngest child. With the exception of those who adopt children with disabilities, parents of special needs children do not choose this 'vocation.'...

"It's true -- we aren’t like everybody else. But the difference is not a matter of heroism and sacrifice. And it's not just a matter of giving birth. It's the fact that raising a child with special needs is a life-altering experience in which one is initiated -- sometimes kicking and screaming -- into a largely unseen, or at least unacknowledged, world. Exposure to that world is fantastically transformative in terms of how one interacts with family, friends, neighbors and -- especially -- social and governmental institutions.

"Sarah Palin is currently at the beginning of this journey. She will, we suspect, soon discover that Hockey Moms have got nothing on Special Needs Moms who manage the schedules and transportation of their children: physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, primary care doctors visits, specialist doctor visits, medical tests, and on and on. As Trig grows, Sarah and Todd Palin may have to acquire arcane and specialized medical knowledge to understand and care for their son’s complex needs. Like other moms and dads, they will become experts in the health care industry as they advocate for comprehensive coverage, tests, medicines, therapies, and equipment that their child needs. And then will come school, and fighting for their child’s educational needs to be met by institutions that are underfunded and often ill-equipped to do the job....

"All that we do we do for her we do with help—and much of that help has been mandated by the often-derided 'big government.' The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that mandates fair and appropriate educations for people with disabilities, Illinois's 0-3 Early Intervention programs, the City of Chicago's grant program for housing modifications for the disabled, the non-profit foundations and organizations that provide us with resources and hope -- these programs and others like them have been put in place through the efforts of lawmakers and citizens who believe that we are all benefitted when the least of us is protected."

She concludes:
"Put your money where your mouths are, McCain-Palin. We don't need to be reminded of the 'great job' we're doing as parents of kids with special needs. We don't need 'heroes' to model sanctimonious double-talk. We need our country and its leaders to demonstrate a real commitment, not lip service, to the needs of the weakest and most vulnerable in our midst."

Baltimore Sun: "Friendship Isn't Enough"

In an op-ed titled "Friendship Isn't Enough," the Baltimore Sun's editors say, "What do families of children with disabilities need from the next president? Not just a 'friend' in the White House but a willingness to pay for services they need."

The op-ed points out that the proposed Community Choice Act would require all states and the federal government to make such services for disabled American more widely available. While Sen. McCain doesn't support the bill, Sen. Obama is a co-sponsor. It continues:

"There are any number of other government programs that are desperately in need of help from a friend in the White House. Special education is supposed to receive 40 percent federal financing and now gets closer to 17 percent. Personal care service providers, who are vital to keeping disabled people living independently, are chronically underpaid and, because of that, difficult to find and retain. The candidates' views on these matters are reflected on their websites. Mr. Obama's includes a nine-page treatise on his plans to help the disabled, including full funding for special education. Mr. McCain's 14 core campaign issues include the Second Amendment and the space program but not the disabled....

"Mr. McCain still has time to come around on these issues and offer specific remedies in the weeks ahead. Having a poster mom for families caring for a disabled child on the ticket is not enough -- particularly for aging seniors who can no longer care for middle-aged children. Friendship is nice, but families need a government willing to invest more in the future of children who require a little help if they are to live full and productive lives."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Autistic Author Questions McCain-Palin "Friendliness"

All the way from Australia, Donna Williams, a noted author and lecturer who has autism, asks: "Palin and McCain: Are They Really Autism-Friendly?" She received emails from people urging her to encourage people to vote for McCain-Palin because of Gov. Palin's personal connection with autism and Down Syndrome. Instead, Williams is encouraging people to view this video and "see past the rhetoric."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obama's Positions on Disabilities: An In-Depth Look

Several readers have requested more detailed information about Sen. Obama's stance on disabilities, so here's a third-party analysis that goes beyond his position papers. Way back in April, Michael Berube -- a Penn State professor who has written several books on disabilities, civil rights, education, and politics -- compared the plans of Sens. Obama, Clinton, and McCain, focusing mainly on Obama and Clinton. His article is titled Disability and Democracy. Of course, Hillary Clinton's positions at this point are less relevant, but the juxtaposition of their plans provides valuable context. This is very detailed -- and by detailed, I mean 2,500 words. But if you really want to delve into the issues, this is a great place to start.

Ironically, Berube starts his article by saying he wrote it because: "(a) no one knows that the candidates have policy positions on disability and (b) policy positions on disability are not as important as flag pins." At the time he wrote that, Berube, who has a teenager with Down Sydrome, never could have imagined how prominent these issues would become in this year's election.

Alaskan Mom Says Gov. Palin Is No Friend to Special-Needs Families

I just found this comment to a post I had seen earlier, from Katy. I hope she won't mind me cross-posting it, since she wants to share this information with families who care about disabilities:

“As an Alaskan mother of a 17-year-old young man who experiences autism and hydrocephalus, and the former Director of the Alaska Parent Training and Information Center (OSEP - AK PTI), I am pleading with America to really examine Sarah’s record in Alaska. The only 'special school' that received significant increases to its budget this year is the Alaska Youth Challenge Academy, which is a military youth academy for youth with behavioral challenges.

"There have been no significant increases to early intervention services (children have to wait for months to get therapy, clearly violating IDEA), programs for children experiencing FASD have been cut, and parents in rural Alaska wait months to see therapists in the schools. Intensive needs funding has increased thanks to the brave parents who have pushed by filing complaints, NOT thanks to Sarah. To date, she has NOT been a friend or advocate for families raising exceptional children in Alaska. In fact, today Alaska is years behind in methodology and access to services compared to most states.

"It wasn’t this way when my son was a baby in the early ’90s. He didn’t have to wait for early intervention services, and I am convinced that is one the main reasons why he will be attending college in two years and studying abroad in Sweden in four."

Read the orginal post and comments: "Sarah Palin: Special Needs/Autism Advocate or Savvy Speaker?"

Christopher Reeve & Sarah Palin: A Father Makes a Case for Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is an emotional and often divisive issue that I wasn’t going to raise until I came across this excellent post from Don Reed, sponsor of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999 and founder and co-chair of Californians for Cures. The Roman Reed Act was named for his son, who at 19, broke his neck in a college football game and was paralyzed from the shoulders down.

This legislation helped created the nation's first state-funded embryonic stem cell research, and Don Reed writes: "Today, we have hope. But it would all be swept away by Sarah Palin. Embryonic stem cell research would quite literally become against the law if Sarah Palin and the GOP get their way. The official Republican platform calls for the complete prohibition of embryonic stem cell research, both public and private; even George Bush did not take such an extreme position.

"Not only paralysis cure is at risk. We are fighting for relief from cancer, which killed my mother and older sister. Embryonic stem cell research is crucial in the battle against Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke, diabetes, blindness -- and Down Syndrome. In England, where the government supports it, embryonic stem cell research led to a clearer understanding of the causes of Down Syndrome, an important step towards cure."

Reed also points out that scientists overwhelmingly support stem cell research. Just recently, inspired by Christopher Reeve's advocacy, a bipartisan bill was introduced to expand stem cell research policies. And 518 health organizations, patient advocacy groups, research universities, scientific societies, religious groups, and other interested institutions and associations supported it. On the other side, opposing the legislation, were just 17 groups -- all of them conservative religious and ideological groups. I'll list those 17 here, but for the whole list of 518, you'll need to visit Reed's blog post and scan through about 14 pages of organizations like the American Medical Association, the National Down Syndrome Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, the ARC of the United States, and more, and more, and more.

17 opposed:
National Right to Life Committee
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Family Research Council
Christian Coalition
Concerned Women for America
Focus on the Family
Christian Medical Association
Eagle Forum
Traditional Values Coalition
Southern Baptist Convention
Susan B. Anthony List
Republican National Committee for Life
Cornerstone Policy Research
Culture of Life Foundation
Religious Freedom Coalition
Coral Ridge Ministries
Center For Reclaiming America

And now you can add to that list Gov. Palin, our potential vice president (who recently claimed that Sen. McCain would put her in charge of innovative research to find cures for diseases). I know this is a sensitive ethical issue -- but if we are serious about finding cures, I'm more inclined to listen to 518 expert organizations that do research and seek cures for a living rather than 17 religious/ideological organizations that want to impose their beliefs on the scientific community. What about you?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Education Week: Palin Still Light on Plans

I like to cite credible sources, and I consider Education Week a pretty good source on education issues. Christina Samuels, an Education Week reporter on special education, notes that in Gov. Palin's recent speech in Colorado, she talked about the needs of people with disabilities but offered no solutions -- only talking (vaguely) about the need for research.

Samuels writes: "Just like with McCain's speech at the Republican National Convention, I'm left wondering why there was no mention of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. The opening was right there, but Palin made a quick pivot from talking about people currently living with disabilities to curing diseases. Also, the disability advocates I've had the opportunity to interview seem to care less about government obstruction, and more about just having enough funding to explore the topics they consider important." Read more.

Which Children's Needs Are Most Important?

Here's a perspective I haven't seen yet, and it's a question worth considering: Are children with what we call "special needs" more deserving of government support than children living in poverty? In an op-ed in the Philadelphia City Paper, New York University professor Jonathan Zimmerman asks "How Special Are Your Needs? What Separates One Needy Child From Another?"

Zimmerman notes: "We now have a strong bipartisan consensus on a simple principle: Children with special needs deserve special help. Through no fault of their own, they begin life with a set of challenges. So it's the duty of all of us -- through our government -- to lend them a hand. Somehow, though, poor kids don't elicit the same sympathy. Remember that 8.1 million children in our country still lack health insurance. But Republican lawmakers — including Sen. John McCain, Sarah Palin's running mate — blocked last year's reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which would halve the number of uninsured children by 2013.

"Think about it: The same people who cheered for Trig Palin -- and for his mom's pledge -- have blocked public health insurance for America's poorest kids. If you're born with a physical disability, the government is required to assist you. But if you're born into poverty, you're often on your own. Why? To many Americans poor people are responsible for their own fate. But even if you grant this premise, how can you fault the children of the poor? Shall the sins of the parents simply be visited on the young? The more you blame their parents, indeed, the more poor kids would seem to merit help."

He concludes: "Rather than asking Sarah Palin about abortion or stem cells, then, let's ask her about the larger role of government in the lives of children. Who should get help, and why? I'll be eager to hear her answer."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Disability Advocates Press Both Parties for More Housing

ADAPT, a national disability advocacy organization, set up a tent at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and sent volunteers to Sen. MCain's headquarters and the Democratic National Committee to deliver their proposed platform for affordable, accessible housing.

According to Barb Toomer of the Utah chapter of ADAPT, "The DNC was cordial, and accepted our housing platform, and invitation to visit 'DUH City,' which is HUD spelled backwards. HUD told us they had no authority to make decisions....Sen. John McCain's campaign staff not only refused to even look at our housing platform, they had eleven of us arrested." Read more.

Obama Video from Primary

Long before Sen. McCain selected Gov. Palin as his VP candidate and started talking about autism and other disabilities, Sen. Obama released this video that outlines his vision for Americans with disabilities.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Best Analysis I've Seen -- Share It

If you have friends who care about disability issues, I would love for you to tell them about my blog.

But if you only circulate one article this election season, consider making it "What Kind of Advocacy Do Americans with Disabilities Really Need?" In this article, Paul K. Longmore, director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, provides a detailed, balanced analysis of the candidates' positions -- not just on disabilities, but the various issues that affect people with disabilities, including health insurance, employment, and education.

The GOP and the Disabled

Tom's a dad with two kids -- one with autism and Down Syndrome. I recommend his blog, "Random Thinking," and love his slogan: "The windshield was broken, but I love the fresh air."

Tom has a new post called "The GOP and the Disabled" that examines McCain's record.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Working Mom with a Child with Down Syndrome: "I Want to Shriek"

In the Phoenix New Times, Amy Silverman writes eloquently about raising three children, including one with Down Syndrome, in McCain's home state. And she explains why "As a Working Mom with a Child with Down Syndrome, Sarah Palin Makes Me Shriek." She says of her 5-year-old daughter:

"Sophie's one of the smartest kids with Down Syndrome her teachers have ever seen, but the reality is that she'll never be completely independent. And if something were to happen to me and my friends and family, Sophie would have to rely on the kindness of strangers -- namely, the government. I don't know if Sarah Palin would create a safety net strong enough to catch Sophie."

She adds: "Just last month, I met a mother with a 6-year-old son with Down Syndrome. He's pretty much never had any therapy at all; he's not speaking, he isn't potty trained. The mom gave up after someone told her there was a waiting list for services (not true) and several of her calls went unreturned. All you need to do is drive to the center of any large city in America and watch homeless schizophrenics push shopping carts to see the effects another social conservative — Ronald Reagan — had on another disenfranchised group, the country's mentally ill."

Disability Faculty: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Two distinguished professors at the University of Kansas Beach Center on Disability (and parents of a 41-year-old son who has intellectual disability, autism, and bipolar disorder), explain "Why the disability community should fear Sarah Palin." An excerpt:

"When a young governor line-item-vetoes six appropriations for community disability services or for accessibility modifications to public accommodations, that governor gives us reason to be skeptical about promises and prospective performance. When the appropriations totaled $749,000 in a state that has a huge budget surplus, and when the governor apparently knew at the time that her nephew has autism, that governor gives us special reason to doubt her commitment to people with special needs."

This is one of the best comparisons I've seen of Obama's "community organizing" and Gov. Palin's record -- and their impact on people with disabilities.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do We REALLY Want to Exploit Our Children This Way?

Now I've seen it all -- a button and t-shirt that say, "My special-needs daughter would vote McCain-Palin." That offends me. If my daughter were not 4 years old and was able to make this type of decision, you know who she'd vote for? Whoever she wanted to.

In Alaska, Palin Draws a Crowd -- of Women Protesting Against Her

In a year their popular governor has been chosen as a vice presidential candidate, 1,400 Alaskan women turned out for one of the largest political rallies ever in the state -- to say NO to the McCain-Palin ticket.

Finding Palin in a Game of Smoke and Mirrors

In the International Herald Tribune, Albert Hunt of Bloomberg News comments on how difficult it is to get clear answers from Gov. Palin, when her record is in direct contrast to what she suggests are her positions. An example:

"Her decision to have a Down syndrome child this year and pledge to be an advocate for families with special needs kids was inspiring for any family with such children. Why then did she veto a bill passed by the Alaska Legislature increasing funding for the Special Olympics?"

And I'll ask again -- what does she think are the challenges that these families face, and how does she plan to be an advocate and friend?

McCain Makes This Teacher Cry

In a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, this schoolteacher says she is offended by Sen. McCain's assertion that teachers need to do a better job. She writes, "Public schools are doing everything McCain asks of us with inadequate funding, facilities, textbooks, and technology. Sitting in public school classrooms are students with autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, and a host of physical and mental challenges. There are abused children, drug addicts, pregnant girls, clinically depressed adolescents, gang members, and students with myriad social and emotional issues....We teach them all."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A "Yawning Gulf" Between Palin's Words and Actions

BREAKING NEWS: Not all women support Gov. Palin's candidacy. If you don't believe it, hop on over to Women Against Sarah Palin, where I found this post:

"In all the fuss about Sarah Palin’s moose hunting, religious views, and beauty pageant career, something has been lost: whether her words match up with her record. [She said families of special-needs children will have a "friend and advocate in the White House."] "Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don't have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid—the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.

"You can search in vain in any of her speeches, or budgets, for any evidence of her newfound 'advocacy' for the things that people with disabilities in Alaska and our country really need: equality. Rather than fight for the educational services which the law says children with disabilities are entitled to, she has cut them. Nor has she fought for, or even shown an interest in, promoting the integration of people with disabilities from institutions and into our communities. Governor Palin shouldn't be judged on how she looks, how many children she brings on stage, or whether she kills her own food. Americans want to know if her words match her actions, whether she is the real deal. And on disability rights, there's a yawning gulf between her talk and her actions. That is something that should give us cause for alarm."

Posted by Fraser N., Salt Lake City, Utah

Help Me How?

A mother of twin boys with special needs writes in a letter to the Kansas City Star that she doubts Gov. Palin or Sen. McCain will do anything to improve her life.

"How is she going to be an advocate? Just because you have a child with special needs doesn’t mean you’re an advocate. I haven’t heard anything from the GOP about how they are going to make private insurance pay for therapies. It’s all about money, folks. The last thing an insurance company wants to do is pay for a therapy for a special-needs child. My husband and I have had to fight for every type of therapy. Our insurance hasn’t paid a dime, and they never will until it is a law."

Could YOU Live at 17% of the Median Income?

In response to a Washington Post column by Bush partisan Michael Gerson, "Rob" posted some stats that illustrate the challenges that people with disabilities face. Government already does so little -- when will Gov. Palin or Sen. McCain tell us if they will increase funding? Her interview suggested that veterans benefits are "off limits," but everything else is fair game for cuts. Here are Rob's comments:

"No parent is prepared for the birth of a child with a disability, nor is a parent prepared for the lack of support by our state and federal governments for their child. The federal government provides many persons with a disability Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration. SSI amounts to about $800 a month depending upon where you live.

"It means that a person with a disability is living at roughly 17 percent of median income. You cannot afford an apartment anywhere in the country on 17 percent of median income and still have money to pay for food, medical expenses, and utilities. Is Sarah Palin going to increase housing subsidies, aide services, and heating and utility assistance for persons with disabilities so they can have a decent life? Not likely."

Posted by: Rob | September 12, 2008 10:29 PM

Friday, September 12, 2008

People Are Asking Questions

Was Palin Patronizing Parents? A letter to the Dallas Morning News.

Would McCain/Palin Really Be Advocates for Disabilities? From the Well Alarm blog.

What's YOUR Plan, John McCain? From 411 Mania.

Is Sarah Palin Really a Friend for the Disabled? From Mother Talkers.

From Warm to Icy: Alaska Women's Views on Palin

NPR features an interview with a consultant who used to support Gov. Palin, before she took the national stage and started misrepresenting her record. An excerpt:

"Palin told Americans she will be an advocate for children with special needs. 'In fact,' Libenson says, 'just this summer she cut funding for Alaska's Special Olympics.' Libenson cites the governor's line-item veto trimming the Special Olympics budget by $275,000. Palin also slashed funding for statewide independent living centers and transition housing for homeless young adults, Libenson says."

Libenson also points out that in a state with one of the nation's highest substance abuse rates, the governor denied funding -- about $325,000 -- for a substance abuse education and prevention program aimed at young people. And she reduced the state's support for a Fairbanks community food bank, a dropout-prevention program, and an rehabilitation facility.

The article concludes with this:
"There is a tradition in Alaska, Libenson says, that when people see something wrong, they come right out and say it. 'When something happens, you step forward and do something,' she says, 'especially when someone is going around saying things that aren't true.' "

Thursday, September 11, 2008

McCain's Health Care Tax Increase

When you consider the issues that impact parents raising children with special needs, health care is pretty high on the list. In direct contrast to the McCain-Palin soundbite about being a friend to these parents, he is proposing a tax on health benefits for the 71 percent of Americans who have insurance through their employers.

Joe Klein explains it pretty simply: "This plan will do little or nothing for those who do not have insurance now -- unless they are young and healthy -- and it may well hurt a fair number of workers, especially unionized workers, who get gold-plated benefits from their employers. It will certainly do nothing for families with members who have pre-existing conditions or children with special needs."

This blogger on Stand Up for Health Care asks, "Would Sarah Palin Be Covered Under McCain Plan?" She notes that insurance companies see autism, Down Syndrome, and other chronic conditions as profit-killers, and McCain's plan would allow them to keep denying services.

A Look at Autism Services in Alaska

Blogger Michael Petrelis reports on a lawsuit against Gov. Palin for inadequate services for people with disabilities. The suit is on behalf of Billy Olson, "a 16-year-old with severe autism, whose parents are suing the governor and the state because Alaska lack 24-hour residential programs for severe-needs autistic children and adolescents. Billy is currently living in an out-of-state residential facility, thousands of miles away from his family." Petrelis includes a link to the 46-page filing. (It's hard to read unless you select "full screen" in the top menu.)

One of the comments includes some other interesting links:

- A profile of Alaska's autism services, June 2008

- Early Intensive Intervention Services for Alaska Children with Autism: A Policy Analysis, a 16-page report by the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education, 2007

What Alaskans Are Saying

From the Anchorage Press, here's a pretty balanced look at Gov. Palin's record on disability programs. In his article "Sarah and the Kids," Brendan Joel Kelley reports that many people in the state were surprised to hear her promise to be a national advocate for people with disabilities.

State Senator Bill Wielechowski: “I can tell you she wasn’t a champion for disabled children as governor. I was surprised to hear her say that in her speech.”

Representative Les Gara: “The state has a very average -- very inadequate -- policy for families with disabilities. Average because lots of states have rotten policies towards families with disabilities....I think [Governor Palin] believes in the Republican ethic, which is that there’s very little role for government to go out and help people get access to opportunity."

Jim Beck, executive director of Access Alaska, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities: "She’s never elucidated a health care plan or vision or any kind of connection to the disability community. We’re really suffering from not having a big plan. It’s not as though we’re stagnant, we just don’t have the big vision."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"...Passed Around Like a Football"

From the associate editor of the American School Board Journal, who's covered special-needs education for 12 years:

"...I found myself in a conversation with four other women about balancing work, child care, and how to maximize a maternity leave. One of the women has a 9-month-old child, three of us are pregnant, the fifth is a pediatrician. I didn’t know any of their political affiliations, but I quickly learned that they were not impressed with Palin....

"I kept coming back to my conversations with parents of children in special education, and the sacrifices they made -— sometimes, they didn’t have a choice -- in their careers and personal lives to raise a child with special needs. We all know the early months and years are critically important to administer therapies and interventions that can help a child’s development, and seeing images of Palin’s 5-month-old baby being passed around like a football at the GOP convention convinced me that she doesn’t understand the responsibilities of parenting a special-needs infant or the responsibilities of being vice president."

Experienced Mom Says Palin is No Friend to Kids & Adults with Disabilities

Writing in the Beacon Broadside, Jane Bernstein, who has written several books about raising children with special needs (and the mother of a 24-year-old with developmental disabilities), discusses the lack of services for disabled children who are no longer children.

She says, "I would like to be heartened by Palin's words, because I believe that disability is part of life. What Palin and her supporters fail to understand is that babyhood passes in an instant. If Palin truly believes that 'every baby...has potential,' she needs to spread the word that in a democracy, we care for those who need support. We do that by making sure that Medicaid funding is adequate and social services available to all who need them. Republicans have consistently cut these programs. This ticket, with Palin as vice president, has pledged to reduce government spending, and thus continue these devastating cuts. No 'friend or advocate' for those with disabilities can make these unconscionable pledges."

Read more from Jane at janebernstein.net.

Divorced, African American Mother Asks GOP: What About ME?

If you want a sense of how "regular" moms struggle to raise children, including those with special needs, you must read this post from Afrodescendiente. Read the whole thing, but here's the gist:

"Has anyone come to my house to ask me about how I balance things? I have children, I work. My oldest child is autistic. My first husband and I divorced when my children were 5 and 3. The combination of youth and autism can be devastating to a marriage. Autism (or any disability) is no walk in the park.

"So at the age of 27, I was on my own with two children. I had no job, no money, and no car. It took me six months to get straight, then I went back to college. For the first year, I had no car of my own. For the first nine months, I had no daycare for the younger child....

"Finally, I got the younger one in daycare. I was so broke...I went without books the first month of classes. My children’s schools were on different schedules, so they didn't have the same breaks and holidays. I went to school sick many times because I couldn't miss any days. I was already missing too many trying to manage when the kids were on spring break, etc.

"Once, in a three-week school period, I had 12 meetings for IEPs and other Special Ed things. And, I was still a single mother struggling to finish school. When my courses were available only at night, I had a split schedule taking classs in the mornings and evenings, so I was only home with my children for an hour or so a day, they were alseep when I returned....

"And when I was poor, struggling, bedraggled, tired did anyone rush to my defense? Nah. Did they praise me for my valiant efforts to mix parenthood and a career? I dealt with the same stigma most of us single non-white mothers deal with....

"So you know, I’m trying my best to care about Sarah Palin. I am. But you know, she has a husband and money and her kid is disabled for sure, but only for seven or so months. When she has done it for 15 years, alone with no money, THEN I will praise her. But I’m feeling sort of selfish. Until I get my parade, I can't cheer in hers."

Trig a Political "Prop"?

Readers Have Opinions...
Lots of News Blaze readers react to Robert Paul Reyes' op-ed "Sarah Palin is Exploiting Trig, Her Son With Down Syndrome," which I linked to previously. In response to these comments, Reyes clarifies: "My main objection is not that Palin lugs her baby around on the campaign trail, but that she holds him up like a prop."

Yes, They Exploited a Disabled Child. But What Great PR!

As a communications professional, I say "bravo" to this manufactured "news." As a voter, I say "shame on you" for deceiving Americans with this manipulative PR stunt -- featuring the exploitation of a girl with Down Syndrome. In short, after Sean Hannity featured a caller who described meeting McCain and Palin during a campaign stop. The next day, that same caller just happened to get through to Rush Limbaugh's show and even sent Rush photos of the candidates posing with his daughter with Down Syndrome. Politicians have sought out babies for photo ops for years -- I guess Palin's making an extra effort to find the ones with disabilities.

In the Huffington Post, former radio host Taylor Marsh says, "When Hannity has a caller on, then that same caller suddenly and miraculously appears on Rush's show, which evolves into a big PR event, it's not by accident. Manufacturing these events is what the right-wing does best. Using a Down Syndrome child to help their candidate get votes is just their latest low."

WWPD? We Want Specifics

From a Fox News "Election Headquarters" interview with Denise Brewitt, executive director of the Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions.

FOX: What are you hearing from other mothers who are in your situation about their take on Sarah Palin given that she said, "You will have an advocate in the White House"?

BREWITT: I think they want to know what she really means. It is one thing to say that you have a child with special health care needs, but it's another to know what you are planning to do about it, especially being in the position that Sarah is in.

FOX: OK. What specifically would families like to hear from her?

BREWITT: Everyone wants their child to have access to the healthcare that they need, for the support and services. And I think we all know that Sarah Palin is in a position that she probably has all the resources available to her. But unfortunately, that isn't the case across America. There are many families who are not able to receive the services that their children need.

Full interview.

Trampling the Weak

Marianne Leonne, whose quadriplegic child died in 2005, recently came across a shirt targeted to hockey players -- and presumably hockey moms -- that said "Trample the Weak. Hurdle the Dead." Writing in the Boston Globe, she says, "In the warrior culture espoused by self-described 'pit bull' Palin, there is no place for the weak." And the records of McCain and Palin on disabilities show they "are more likely to continue the brutal and failed Bush policies of trampling the weak and hurdling the dead."

How to Win the "Stay-At-Home-Mom" Vote

A mother of a child with autism (and another with a speech delay) advises the candidates how to win the "stay-at-home-mom" vote. "Wanna win my vote? It won't be as easy as simply nominating a 'hockey mom,' or even taking down the 'maverick' image of John McCain. But women -- and particularly mothers -- may help decide this election, and it's obvious that the McCain campaign picked Governor Palin to appeal to women like me. In order to put Barack Obama in the White House, Democrats must compete successfully for these votes."

She offers some pretty reasonable tips:
- Don't engage in mommy wars.
- Don't talk about the parenting of your opponent.
- Talk about what type of future you want for your children.
- Make the attacks about the issues, not the persona.
- Talk about the mom-economy.

The Real Numbers: Special Needs Funding in Alaska

Thanks to Momocrats for obtaining clarification on the special needs budget question directly from Eric Fry, an information officer at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development.

FY 2007 Special Schools Budget:
Alaska School for the Deaf - $956,400
Special Education Service Agency (SESA) - $2,072,300
Alaska Psychiatric Hospital - $146,000
Alaska Challenge Youth Academy - $5,091,600

FY 2008 Special Schools Budget:
Alaska School for the Deaf - $956,400
Special Education Service Agency (SESA) - $2,054,600*
Alaska Psychiatric Hospital - $146,000
Alaska Challenge Youth Academy - $5,709,000

*This budget item decreased because the number of K-12 students went down.

The bottom line? Gov. Palin kept funding for students with disabilities about the same, and about two-thirds of what her supporters are calling "special needs funding" actually went to boot camps for high school dropouts. Don't get me wrong. I support programs that benefit high school dropouts, but it sure looks like she was a better "friend and advocate" to dropouts than she was to students with disabilities.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain's Own Disability

The issue of McCain's own disability surfaced when he released his 2007 tax return and disclosed a tax-exempt annual pension of $58,358. Campaign staff told the Los Angeles Times this was a "disability pension," explaining that he was "technically disabled" and "tortured for his country -- that is how he acquired his disability." The campaign further explained that McCain was "retired as disabled because of his limited body movements due to injuries as a POW." McCain's disability pension is 100 percent tax-exempt based on the seriousness of his disability.

Mary Lynne Kelley, a member of the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns, wrote in the Detroit Free Press that "McCain Should Show More Courage on Disabilities." Kelley states: "For a man with a disability who has received a disability pension for many years, disability issues rarely come up in McCain's campaign. McCain has never spoken on the campaign trail about his disability or identified himself as having a disability, but rather takes great pains to describe his vigorous health."

While McCain is a veteran, his commitment to veterans issues is questionable at best. Did you see that Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) gave him a D+ when they scored his voting record? (Obama got a B+.) And for someone who is disabled himself, his record on disabilities is practically non-existent.

Offering "False Hope" to a "Vulnerable Population"

From Salon.com, here's a post from blogger Becky Blitch, a 28-year-old whose neuromuscular disease has prevented her from ever walking. She points out that "Sen. Obama, whose father-in-law lived with multiple sclerosis from his late 20s until he passed away in 1990, is the first presidential candidate to make disability rights a central plank of his platform."

By contrast, she examines McCain's weak record on disabilities. (The Association of Americans with Disabilities offers a comparison of Obama and McCain. McCain chose not to answer their questionnaire.)

But she reserves her most critical commentary for Gov. Palin: "Sarah Palin is, of course, a very smart politician....She must know that every time she talks about her son Trig and vows to fight for 'special needs children' she is taking advantage of a very vulnerable population, people who are tired of fighting with insurance companies and schools and employers, people who desperately need to know that they are not alone. She is shattering their invisibility -- but in doing so, she's only offering false hope. This is fundamentally unfair, and outrageous."

And a post from a man with spina bifida who encourages people to read Obama's nine-page plan for people with disabilities. "If you're like me," he says, "it might make you work a little harder to make sure Sarah Palin's pretty face doesn't steal this election."

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Note from a Republican Mom

I got this nice note from Barbara, the lead blogger and creator of RepublicansforObama.org:

"Thank you so much for putting this blog together. My son is profoundly handicapped, missing a chromosome. He's 7 years old, non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and with a seizure disorder. He functions at about a 9-month-old level.

"My friends (having perfectly normal, healthy kids) have been angry with me over the way I've discussed Ms. Palin and her son. They think it's totally inappropriate for me to wonder if her son is being used by the McCain campaign for political gain. But the truth of the matter is, with Trig being only 4 months old, Palin still doesn't know what it's really like to be a 'special' parent. She's never had to negotiate early intervention plans (EIPs) or independent education plans (IEPs). She still hasn't taken her kid to Wal-Mart and watched all the kids stare and the parents avoid eye contact. She's never had to fight to procure services that are denied. She's never seen first-hand how many programs have been hurt by the shift of our budget priorities toward national security.

"I have to say that I'm happy that we have disability in the national dialogue for once. But on the other hand, I think it's silly to automatically assume that a McCain-Palin administration would advocate for special needs, or, frankly, that either one of them even knows what that means. The truth is that the Republican Party's record in this arena is just awful.

"So I'm just really appreciative that there's someone else out there like me that's not afraid to tell the truth, even if all the other special-needs parents are frustrated or even horrified that we'd be willing to criticize the politics of one of our own."

Thanks, Barbara!

Sarah Palin: Lipstick or Lip Service?

Blogger Emily Elizabeth, who has a 4-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, has written a well-crafted analysis on Gov. Palin's statements, record, and positions on issues affecting people with disabilities.

Reacting to Gov. Palin's mocking of Sen. Obama's support for government programs, Emily says, "I fail to understand how a candidate who disavows Big Government will be able to advocate successfully for the disability community -- a community that has historically lobbied for more government, not less. The disability community has spent decades trying to pass more legislation protecting the rights of those with disabilities; to create more publicly funded programs to provide support of and access to those rights; and to increase budgets allocated to self-sufficiency programs."

About Gov. Palin's promise to be a "friend" for special-needs families, Emily says, "So Sarah, if you are the pitbull in lipstick you say you are, put the lip-service away and bring it on. Because we need more than a friend. We need an advocate."

If any of the candidates want to help people with Down Syndrome, they should take a look at the National Down Syndrome Society's legislative priorities. These are the real issues and programs that need attention -- and specific plans.

Disability Advocate Weighs the Facts

This "non-politically savvy" disability advocate (and mother of a girl with physical and mental challenges) examines the candidates' positions on issues affecting children with special needs and their families.

"Families with children and/or adults with special needs would like nothing better than the government to stay out of our business, because I've witnessed some incidences where it is more of an intrusion and hurt more than helped. However, in most cases we don't come from wealthy families and need financial help. Most of us with family members with special needs are hard-working 'regular' people, who may not live in a small town, but who are willing to pull up our sleeves and do what's necessary to enhance the quality of life for our special needs children and ourselves. Yet, many of us can't work because there's not adequate and qualified day care for our children. And what about healthcare, among the many issues in this area that need addressing, one is that many of us have our own health challenges."

She concludes, "I am even more dissuaded that the Republican party has my family's interest at heart."

Working Women Have Questions for McCain

This article asserts "It's About Time Working Women Get Straight Answers from John McCain."

Among the questions:
- Why do he and his running mate oppose legislation that would ensure equal pay for men and women?
- Why has he -- twice -- voted against the State Children's Health Insurance Program, when many other Republicans have supported it?
- Do you disagree with the Children's Defense Fund's 2007 scorecard that ranked your voting record on children's issue THE WORST among all senators?

According to the article, his record suggests he thinks women should earn less than men, should accept unsatisfactory child care and health care for their children, and women, and should not have limited access to contraception. And the strange thing? He's not saying anything to dispute any of these points.

Good Backgrounder on Down Syndrome

Journalist Patricia Baer offers an insightful Q&A about Down Syndrome and the impact Gov. Palin's experience may have on our nation's policies. It's an objective, balanced look at a lot of medical and social issues.

Question 7: Since John McCain picked a running mate who has a child with a disability, should we assume the McCain campaign is going to make a lot of expensive promises to the disability community?

Answer: That doesn't seem likely. Advocates for people with disabilities and their families tend to be looking for universal health care and adequate funding for Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security -- not the traditional domains of the Republican Party. While the Obama campaign website has an extensive section devoted to issues of concern to people with disabilities, the McCain campaign site does not.

"Palin's Pitch to Parents of Disabled Raises Some Doubts"

From the Wall Street Journal: "Palin's Pitch to Parents Of Disabled Raises Some Doubts: Support Is Pledged, But the GOP Ticket Seeks Spending Cuts"

A Perspective from the OTHER Great White North

Canadian blogger Harold Doherty raises a point I wasn't going to make, but since he states it so well, here goes:

"...As the father of an autistic boy, I know that my wife and I have both had to devote vastly more time to his care and well-being than we do for his older brother who was able to speak, converse, read, and understand life at very early stages. I am not attacking Governor Palin, but I find it difficult to understand her decision to take on the VP nominee challenge when her Down's Syndrome child is only 4 or 5 months old. And yes, I would say the same thing if she were a man.

"...If Governor Palin would put that challenge ahead of dedication to her own young child I am very doubtful she would actually put the interests of special needs children high on her list of priorities."

And while we're on the topic, Boston Globe columnist Penelope Trunk, a successful businesswoman and mother of two special-needs children who writes on the work-life balance, says "Palin's children should take priority over being Vice President."

"Parents of Special-Needs Children Divided over Palin's Promise to Help"

From an article in the International Herald Times :

"To those in Alaska who work with children with special needs, Palin's pronouncement was surprising; the disabled have not been a centerpiece of Palin's 20 months in office or any of her campaigns for office. She signed legislation that would increase financing for children in Alaska with special needs — though she was not involved in its development — yet that state is the subject of two lawsuits that allege inadequate services and financing for those children, particularly those with autism."

According to the article, when asked what Gov. Palin will actually DO as an advocate for children with special needs, her spokesperson answered cryptically: "She is going to be an advocate in the White House on multiple levels, because she understands the issue, what's needed, and what works."

What are Trig's Palin's "Special Needs"?

I love the Slate Explainer. Here's Slate's answer to the question, "What special needs does a special-needs baby really have?" This is not political at all -- just a peak into the challenges facing parents raising a child with special needs.

Alaska's Special-Needs Funds Going to "Boot Camps"?

Blogger Tomclash examines Gov. Palin's record on funding for special needs education. While many people claim she increased funding, it turns out that two-thirds of "special needs" money goes to a boot camp for high school dropouts. It sounds like a good idea -- but it has nothing to do with special-needs education.

Digging deeper into the websites that are supposed to serve Alaskan parents who have kids with special needs, I was interested in reading these sections of the Alaska education site, but the links don't go anywhere:

Developing Your Child’s IEP
Be a full participant in developing your child’s IEP! This Parent’s Guide tells you how. It looks in detail at the IEP and discusses how to work effectively with schools to help your child get an education tailored to his or her needs.

General Information On Disabilities
Read the definitions of the 13 categories of disabilities under which a child with a disability may qualify for special education services under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Questions Often Asked by Parents about Special Education Services
This publication explains in easy to read terms how students with disabilities access special education and related services.

Your Child’s Evaluation
This publication describes the steps the school system will take to evaluate your child to determine if he or she has a disability and is eligible for special education.

As a service to those parents and kids, I emailed the webmaster to ask him/her to fix these links to make these valuable resources available to the people who need them.

A Tale of Two Websites

Researching these issues gave me a chance to dive into both the Obama and McCain campaign websites, and I found one thing fascinating. Both have a section called "Issues," but what's there (and not there) is very revealing about their priorities and perspectives. Many of the issues are similar (the economy, energy, homeland security, Iraq), but it's notable that Obama's site spells out his position and plan for these items that McCain does not address, like civil rights and disabilities.

Of course, it makes sense that the candidates may choose to categorize their issues differently. So while Obama has an explicit position on disabilities and autism, Sen. McCain's position on special needs must be in his education policy, right? Uh...no. Read it for yourself.

Maybe Gov. Palin will influence his policy position in this area. If Sen. McCain's education policy is revised to include a plan for expanding services to children with special needs, I'll be sure to let you know.

UPDATE: After I was unsuccessful finding an autism position with the campaign website's search function, I somehow unearthed this two-paragraph statement. Compared to Obama's position paper, it's light on specifics.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

McCain's Record on Autism

Sen. McCain has served in Congress since he was elected in 1982. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "between 1994 and 2006, the number of 6- to 17-year-old children classified as having an ASD in public special education programs increased from 22,664 to 211,610." So in his 25-plus years of leadership, during a time when the number of students classified as autistic rose by at least 900 percent, what was Sen. McCain's record on autism?

His website is full of information about his accomplishments, and yet a search for the word "autism" on his official U.S. Senate website (as of Sept. 8, 2008), yields just four results -- all of them in reference to "objectionable provisions and pork" in appropriations bills.
-- "$1,000,000 for the Geisinger Health System, Harrisburg, PA to establish centers of excellence for the treatment of autism." (2003, this accounts for three search results)
-- "$490,000 to the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana to expand and enhance services at the autism clinic." (2001)

That's it. There's nothing else there. Is his Senate website just really bad and missing lots of information, or is there no record to report on?

Obama's Record on Autism

From Sen. Obama's position paper on Supporting Americans with Autism Spectrum Disorders:

"As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama sponsored legislation that became law to create an ASD diagnosis education program, an initiative designed to promote the implementation of evidence-based practices. The goal of the project is to offer educational opportunities at all levels of care, including physicians, early intervention specialists, psychologists, teachers, day care providers, parents, respite workers, and speech and language therapists. Obama has personally worked side by side with Illinois families affected by ASD to support efforts to build the Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research. This school and research center will bring together education, academic research, early intervention programs, and training to prepare its students for independent living.

"In the U.S. Senate, Obama is a cosponsor of a measure that would expand federal funding for life-long services for people with ASD, authorizing approximately $350 million in new federal funding for key programs related to treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD."

Gov. Palin and me...

Gov. Palin and I have a few things in common. First, we're both hockey fans. She is a self-declared "hockey mom," and I play ice hockey with a bunch of other old guys. (And by the way, one of my favorite hockey movies is "Mystery, Alaska," which I highly recommend.)

Second, and more important, we both have a child with special needs. Her youngest son Trig has Down Syndrome, and my only child is a girl with autism and epilepsy. My daughter is 4, so I know that Gov. Palin and her family are in for both great joy and challenging struggles in the years ahead, and I wish nothing but the best for Trig and the entire family.

Gov. Palin's candidacy as vice president has put special needs in the spotlight, and she expressed her support for children with special needs at the Republican National Convention. Specifically, she said: "To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you: For years, you’ve sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. And I pledge to you that, if we’re elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House."

So I wondered what the McCain-Palin plan was for children with special needs. And after doing a lot of research, I still wonder. In the right column of this blog are links to the Obama-Biden positions on disabilities and a specific plan to increase support for autism. I can find no similar plans from the McCain-Palin campaign, and if you can, please provide a link so readers and voters can compare the candidates' positions.

Disability Scoop

Special Ed News (Education Week)

Special Education Law