Tag: disability resources

Free Tax Help and Income Tax Filing Resources 2023

Tax season is here. It’s time to file state and federal income taxes. Taxes are due by 4/18/23.

We have resources for people with disabilities, seniors, immigrants, and low income families. Please check each site for eligibility requirements. Income tax help is available in all areas of the state.

Many people need help with their taxes. You can get help and answers to your questions.

Free Tax Help and Income Tax Filing Fact sheet

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Linkages Program

The Department of Public Health’s Linkages Program evaluates, refers and links persons 18 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities to preventative health care and health promotion programs in their community.

Based off participants responses to a series of surveys and questionnaires the Linkages Program zeros in on common trends and remarks in order to coordinate an individualized plan of action for each participant. The Linkages Coordinator meets with potential participants either virtually, over the phone, or in-person to see what their health needs are and then works with the participant to link them with providers or other services.

The Linkage Program looks to remove barriers and hardships to healthcare access, health promotion activities, and mental health care needs. The program encourages participants to be confident, self-reliant, and knowledgeable about their rights and resources that are available to them.

As the Linkage Coordinator, Phelicha is committed to creating an environment that is inclusive, supportive and relevant. She aims to provide immediate one on one consultations that collaboratively prioritizes participants needs and goals. Thus, ensuring that each person alongside their support systems feel seen, heard and understood.

Please contact Phelicha!

-Phelicha Berdet, Linkage Coordinator, MA DPH Health and Disability Program

Email Phelicha.D.Berdet@mass.gov

Cell Phone: 617-279-3730

Tips for Getting Through Concussion Recovery

This week we are pleased to welcome Madeline Uretsky, the second guest blogger in our series from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA).

Madeline-Uretsky-BIA-MA
Photo courtesy of biama.org

 

Madeline is a BIA-MA Ambassador Speaker, still  recovering from a concussion she had in 2011.  Today she shares her tips for navigating concussion recovery. This blog was posted on their site on march 18, 2013.

When I began my day on October 13, 2011, I was a happy-go-lucky sophomore in high school looking forward to my afternoon soccer game. When I finished my day, I was a high school student who had suffered a life-changing concussion that would keep me out of school for a year. I have learned many things about myself and about my brain during this time, so I have decided to share some of my experiences of what has helped me to navigate my way through this. Although I am still suffering from many symptoms 24/7, I can say that there are some things that can help along the way.

1. Brain Rest – I was put on complete brain rest for the first three months of my concussion. I did not watch TV, read, use my computer, exercise, or use my cell phone. In fact, I did absolutely nothing but lie in bed and sleep. I know that this sounds almost impossible to do, but when you have a concussion, you really don’t feel well enough to do those things anyway, so for me, it was not as hard as it seems. I can say that the brain rest did provide me with a good foundation for my recovery, and to this day, when my symptoms become a bit too much for me, I take some time to rest and recharge my brain.

 2. Eating habits – Another recovery tool that was very helpful in clearing the fogginess that I had been feeling was to change my eating habits. When I was able to start reading, I asked my mom to buy me a book called “The Lean,” by Kathy Freston. I read a chapter each day, because I would become more symptomatic as I read, but I decided to change one eating habit daily, and before I knew it, I was eating things like broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, nuts and seeds, tofu, salmon and beans. I cut out all sugar, processed and fried foods, meat and poultry. In addition, I started to drink a lot of water each day. I noticed that after about a month, not only had I lost some weight, but my general fogginess had cleared by about 90%. I also just felt so much better, so I continue to eat this way.

3. Find a hobby – Once I had finished my three months of brain rest, I was anxious to do something – anything that I could do without exacerbating my symptoms. Since I still was suffering terribly from all of my symptoms, finding something that I actually could do was quite a challenge. Again, I asked my mom if I could help her in the kitchen. I really was not a fan of cooking, but there wasn’t much else I could do that didn’t require too much of me physically or mentally. So, that became my new hobby – helping my mom cook dinner every night. While I’m still not a fan of cooking, I did feel proud when each meal was done. I recommend finding some sort of hobby to fill the time and give a sense of accomplishment.

4. Find support – Finding other teenagers who were also recovering from severe concussions was another useful tool for me. It was not an easy task, but I managed to find several others like me, who had missed a good amount of school and were still at home recovering. We were able to commiserate with each other about how we were feeling, things we would do to pass the time, and how no one could possibly understand what we were going through unless they were going through it themselves. I am happy to say that I have made some very good friends in the US and Canada, and we continue to provide each other with friendship and support.

5. Education – My last recovery tool that I found very important was education. I was so confused about all the different things that I was feeling – headaches, sharp shooting pains all over my head, fogginess, ringing in my ears, light and noise sensitivity, balance problems, memory loss and so many other things – that I had to learn about what was happening to me. When I was up to it, I would read whatever I could, and talk to whomever I could, about what a brain injury was all about, and what recovery from brain injury would entail, so that I could give myself the best chance for recovery.

Recovery from a brain injury is a long and difficult process, but if you arm yourself with some helpful tools, and explore various treatment options, you will find that although extremely slow, there can be some relief.

The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts provides support services to brain injury survivors and their families, offers programs to prevent brain injuries, educates the public on the risks and impact of brain injury, and advocates for legislation and improved community services.

For a listing of all support groups sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, call the Information and Resources Department at (508) 475-0032 or visit our website.

To see other BIA-MA Blogs go to  “An Instant Can Change Your Life Forever”

Finding Support: Join a BIA-MA Group

This month we are featuring four blogs from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, a valued member of our Massachusetts Network of Information Providers.

The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts provides support services to brain injury survivors and their families.  It also offers programs to prevent brain injuries, education on the risks and impact of brain injury, and legislative advocacy for improved community services.

Support Group at BIA-MA
Photo courtesy of biama.org

Today’s blog was written by Sandra Madden, brain injury survivor and administrative assistant at the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, dated March 29, 2013

When I was diagnosed with Post-Concussive Syndrome, I did not understand what a traumatic brain injury was, let alone understand what a support group was. Then, it was suggested that I attend a support group meeting with a group called BABIS (Boston Acquired Brain Injury Support Group) – I wish to this day I could remember who suggested this to me, as I would bestow a very big hug upon this wonderful person. At BABIS, I felt understood, in ways my family and friends could never understand, and I felt a sense of appreciation for all that I still had, despite my brain injury.

I have found many benefits in joining a support group – there is a sense of belonging when a sense of isolation can be so dominant, long-lasting friendships are formed, and coping skills and other valuable lessons are learned. Even on the simplest level, being surrounded by others like you provides a sense of calm and belonging.

The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA) has over 33 support groups in the state of Massachusetts and these support groups serve survivors, family members and caregivers of all ages. The purpose of BIA-MA ‘s support groups is to provide support, information and social recreation opportunities. However, according to Barbara Webster, the Support Group Leader Liaison for BIA-MA , “The most important function a support group provides, the most important value, is finding out you are not alone.”

These support groups are both large and small, and the size of the group can drive the focus. Small to medium groups can address individual needs and issues while larger groups host speakers such as doctors and authors. “There are so many needs in the groups, trying to adjust and adapt, be understanding and be patient, yet meet everyone’s needs” is the focus of all support groups, says Barbara.

If you are newly diagnosed or have been living with a brain injury for some time, and you have yet to seek out a support group, I would urge you to consider contacting the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts for a listing of the support groups in our state. I believe you will experience a sense of belonging and understanding, and if you are fortunate, you may make some friends along the way.

To see other BIA-MA Blogs go to “An Instant Can Change Your Life Forever” at https://braininjuryma.wordpress.com . The blogs offer inspirational personal stories, information & tips for caregivers and survivors.

For a listing of all support groups sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, call the Information and Resources Department at (508) 475-0032 or visit our website.

Accessible Museum & Sporting Venues in Boston

Boston-SkylineThere are wonderful museums & sporting events in Boston for those of all ages and abilities to experience.

The following are links and contact information to plan your outing. Be sure to call numbers listed beforehand to address your individual access needs.

Museum Venues

Museum of Science
Everyone can participate at the MOS equally in the excitement of science and technology learning.

Accessible Museum Offerings
This very handy tool  displays many cool accessible offerings at the MOS! Use the filters on this link to display museum offerings that meet your individual access needs.

Contact Nora Nagle, Museum Accessibility Coordinator with any questions or concerns regarding visitors with special needs at 617-589-3102.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

MFA‘s Access Programs

  • Access to Art Program
    Interactive tours designed for groups with physical and cognitive disabilities, dementia, or those undergoing medical treatment. Also offers individual tours with care partners for those with Alzheimer’s and those undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Beyond the Spectrum – Adventures in Art for Children with Autism
    Special program designed for children ages 8-12 on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome, accompanied by parent or caregiver. Program meets the 1st Saturday of each month from 10:30am – 12pm. Call 617-369-3303 for further information.
  • Feeling For Form – Blind and Low Vision Visitors
    Intro Series is available on the first Sunday of most months at 10:30 am.
    Pre-registration is required for all tours.
  • Hand’s Reach to Art
    Throughout the year, a selection of gallery tours, performances, and demonstrations are presented in American Sign Language (ASL) or are sign-language interpreted. On the second Wednesday of each month there is a tour in ASL at 6 pm.

For general access information, call 617-267-9300.
For MFA‘s Access Program Tours, contact Hannah Goodwin at 617-369 or Valarie Burrows at 617-369-3302.

Boston Children’s Museum

  •  Offers information on ASL programs, assistive listening devices, quiet spaces and times. The Exhibit Accessibility Guide uses icons as a guide to navigate the museum based on child’s learning style.
  • The Morningstar Access Program offers children with special needs the opportunity to visit the museum at a time when guests are limited to 100.  During these times, children and their families can explore the Museum with less concern about infections and large crowds. Pre-registration required.

For  further information call 617-426-6500

Free Fun Fridays

Thanks to the Highland Street Foundation, be sure to take advantage of Free Fun Fridays to explore museums and cultural venues across the state for FREE this summer with your family.  Fridays run from June 28th-August 30th featuring parks and venues such as the Museum of Fine Arts (July 12th), Boston Children’s Museum (Aug. 2nd) and others!!

Sporting Event Venues

Boston is one of the finest sport’s towns in the country.  Enjoy rooting for your favorite team.

Disability Accessible Seating at Local Arenas &  Stadiums
This MNIP Fact Sheet, created by Patrick Gleason, offers handy tips and strategies for those buying tickets for accessible seating at arenas and stadiums in New England.

 

Exactly Where I Want To Be

Bruins Seat ViewThis week we are pleased to introduce guest blogger, Patrick Gleason.

Boston’s TD Garden crackled with emotion on April 21, 2013. The hometown Bruins were looking for their first win since the bombings at the Boston Marathon just six days before.

Fans were out in force, many wearing black and gold “Boston Strong” shirts that mimicked the team’s jersey colors. The Bruins had already punched their ticket to the playoffs, but needed positive momentum for the postseason.

As I looked out from my manual wheelchair in Balcony section 307 celebrating my 33rd birthday with my longtime friends Nicole and Michael I thought, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Experiences With Disability Seating

I’m a veteran of attending events through disability seating. It has been a regular part of my life since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. Red Sox games, rock concerts, comedians; I’ve been fortunate enough to see them all.

I bring up those examples because society hardly ever talks about the idea that individuals with disabilities may want to attend these events. The opportunities to attend are there, and they may be easier than you think.

ADA Guidelines

First, the ADA mandates that disability seating must be available in every seating area and price range, so patrons can choose their location. Second, virtually every venue has a dedicated ADA line where you can order tickets directly from a live operator.

Third, many venues only allow disability seating to be sold by the box office, so you don’t have to worry about scalped or fraudulent tickets.

Lastly, many venues don’t sell the row in front of disability seating, so views are often unobstructed.

Absolutely Worth ItPG-NC-Bruins

It can sometimes be a maze to find your seats. For the Bruins game, we parked in an accessible spot, took three separate (but clearly marked) elevators, got searched by security, and sat down about ten minutes before puck drop.

Was it a hassle? Maybe a small one. But after watching the B’s pitch a 3-0 shutout and literally give the shirts off their backs to first responders in attendance, I didn’t mind at all.

The Museum of Science Offers Accessibility for All

Aerial View of Museum of Science
© Dave Desroches

This week we welcome back Nora Nagle, ADA and 504 accessibility coordinator for the Museum of Science, Boston.

The Museum of Science shares a lifelong appreciation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with over 1.5 million diverse visitors each year. We hope that you will join us!

Universal Design

The Museum understands that true accessibility goes way beyond compliance with architectural access codes. For over 25 years, the Museum has been committed to Universal Design (UD), the design of products and environments for use by all people, to the greatest extent possible.

In the late 1980s – well before the Americans with Disabilities Act — the Museum began to incorporate universal design principles in creating its exhibits, shows, and programs.

Accessibility at the Museum

Here are some of the Museum’s accessibility features:

  1. Wheelchair accessibility
  2. Multisensory interactives
  3. Audio labels
  4. Captioning
  5. Sign Language interpreters, with 2 weeks’ notice
  6. Sighted guides, with 2 weeks’ notice
  7. Family restroom
  8. Loaner wheelchairs and scooters
  9. Assistive listening Devices

As a person with a disability myself, I understand visitors often have individual questions or concerns. We welcome such questions and will try to make it easy for you to find the information you need.

Finding Accessibility InformationNora-Nagle-MOS

Accessibility at the Museum of Science is not limited to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We strive to create an environment that is inviting, engaging and accessible for everyone. If something is accessible, it should be easy to approach, reach, enter, interact with, understand or use. That is our goal.

We understand the need to “know before you go” and have made accessibility information available in a variety of ways:

The Museum has an accessibility page on its website. This page contains a search engine that enables visitors to search for the accessibility features desired.

If you prefer to speak with a person, or have questions that the website does not answer, please call me directly at 617-589-3102 (voice or relay). We can discuss your concerns and find answers to your questions.

You can also email us through the website or at accessibility@mos.org.

Accessible Fun in Boston

Museum of ScienceIs accessibility an issue for you when making plans? For many of us, the answer is yes, whether it be due to our own disability, or physical issues for a family member due to aging.
Well the good news is Boston offers many accessible cultural attractions and fun sporting events for those who require accessibility.

Coming Up This MonthTD-Garden

This month we will feature two previous INDEX bloggers, Nora Nagle and Patrick Gleason, to share their personal and professional experiences with accessibility.

Thinking about exploring and discovering what the Museum of Science has to offer? Be sure to read next week’s blog by Nora Nagle, the Museum of Science’s Accessibility Coordinator. The Museum of Science offers an accessible building, parking and programs/services for people with disabilities. Nora will answer questions and concerns for all visitors needing accessibility.

The following week we will feature Patrick Gleason, an avid and passionate fan of the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. Patrick will share his story of attending a wheelchair accessible Bruins hockey game at the TD Garden. You may not know that the TD Garden, home to Bruins hockey and Celtics basketball games, offers ADA wheelchair space seating for patrons with disabilities and their companions.

New ADA Ticket Requirements

In addition, the ADA 2010 revised requirements for Ticket Sales went into effect March of 2011.

These new and updated requirements address ticket sales, prices, identification of available accessible seating, purchasing multiple tickets, ticket transfer, and hold and release of tickets for accessible seating. This provides the opportunity for Boston sports fans with disabilities to enjoy the American pastime of rooting for their favorite teams.

Join us this month to learn more and get ready to make plans to have some fun in the months ahead.

The Massachusetts Act Early Campaign: Because Early Identification is Important to Us

Female and baby girl reading book, baby is pointing at bookThroughout the month of April, we’ve heard from members of the Massachusetts Act Early state team who have shared heartfelt stories about why identifying autism and other developmental disorders matters to them.

Who We Are

Our team is made up of parents, medical professionals, educators, autism resource specialists, human services program managers, public health practitioners, university faculty and many others.

We lead an interdisciplinary, collaborative statewide effort “to educate parents and professionals about healthy childhood development, early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, the importance of routine developmental screening and timely early intervention whenever there is a concern.”

What We Do

Our statewide coalition works to strengthen state and community systems for the early identification and intervention of children with signs of developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders.

The coalition envisions a future that uses a family-centered model that overcomes geographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic barriers to assure equal access to developmental screening for all children in the Commonwealth. This mission and vision drives every action Mass Act Early takes to make a critical difference in the lives of children and their families.

Our current goals include:

    1. Public outreach to increase awareness of autism spectrum and related disorders.
    2. Training for early childhood, health care, and educational professionals.
    3. Shortening the wait times between screening and diagnosis as well as diagnosis and intervention.
    4. Developing culturally competent autism screening materials and training curricula for early childhood educators, community health centers and pediatric practices across Massachusetts.

How We Do It

Our web site at www.maactearly.org  contains free downloadable materials about healthy developmental milestones in young children for families, early childhood professionals, and health care providers.

Most of these materials were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC developed them for the national “Learn the Signs. Act Early” public awareness program, of which the MA Act Early initiative is the local state chapter.

Additionally, the CDC‘s online Autism Case Training (ACT) course covers identifying, diagnosing, and managing autism spectrum disorders.
There are three modules, which can be taken separately or together. They are based on real-life scenarios and include up-to-date information, illustrative videos, and pertinent references and resources.

Free continuing education credits (CME, CNE, and CEU) are available for each of the modules.

Our Priority: Cultural and Linguistic Equity in Massachusetts

The MA Act Early state team has set a priority of reducing early identification disparities for families who are from culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly if their primary language is not English.

To that end, we have developed the “Considering Culture in Autism Screening” guide and toolkit which includes a clinician’s tips guide, a Massachusetts resource sheet “Referrals at a Glance”, and the validated M-CHAT screening tool in five languages. It also comes with instructions, a scoring sheet and the follow-up interview.

Make Early Identification Your Goal Too!

Visit the MA Act Early website often. “Like” us on Facebook and help spread the word!

Early identification may be important to any of us. It could be due to skyrocketing prevalence rates, a beloved family member living with an autism spectrum disorder, a sense of profound professional purpose to improve the quality of life or any number of other reasons.

Whatever raises your own concerns about early identification, please join us in making a lasting difference. Positive outcomes are within our reach!

About the AuthorElaine Gabovitch

Elaine Gabovitch, MPA serves as state team leader for the Massachusetts Act Early program and as one of 25 national ambassadors appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” public health program in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.maactearly.org . She is also the Director of Family and Community Partnerships for the UMass Medical School-Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, family faculty in the Shriver Center’s LEND program, and an instructor in the UMMS Department of Family Medicine & Community Health.

Early Identification Makes a Difference: An Educator’s Perspective

ToddlerThis week we are pleased to introduce Jason Travers PhD, BCBA-D, an Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Jason will share his personal experience with early identification and the impact it made on his life.

My Work Begins

I began my work in autism while studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Special Education at UNLV in 2000. I had quit a construction job to return to college and the decision was taking a financial toll on me and my new wife.

There were many fliers in the hallways of the College of Education requesting candidates to help with early intensive behavior intervention in home-based programs for children with autism. I figured it would be a great way to get some experience and make a little money.

Soon I was working for and with three families which included sons with autism. It was a decision that would come to define me as a professional.

Meeting Alex

Perhaps the most influential moment was my experience with Alex and his family. Alex had recently been diagnosed with autism when his parents contacted me about starting up an intervention program.

A couple of weeks later, I arrived at their home with a few other behavior therapists and an experienced consultant. The family was desperate for help and needed support.

For several months prior to our arrival, Alex struggled to communicate with his parents and relied primarily on inappropriate behavior to get his needs met. I could tell they were a loving family, but they were also unsure of what to do to improve the situation.

Beginning Our Treatment

I was eager to begin our effort and over the next couple of days we began teaching play, communication, and other behaviors. Initially I found it very challenging as Alex refused hand over hand prompting.

The other children I had been working with had established these skills before my arrival. I was unsure what to do and so were Alex’s parents.

The consultant, however, continued with the procedures and by the morning of the second day things had changed dramatically.

Making A Breakthrough

There were six of us in a small bedroom when Alex began to respond to our spoken directions. We spread around the room and took turns asking him to “come here.” We cheered every time he went to the person who called him and he loved our cheering.

A few minutes later he completed a puzzle, played with some blocks, and said “buh” to request bubbles. Alex’s parents were overcome with tears of joy as they felt they were witnessing nothing short of a miracle.

Just two days before their son was unable to answer to his name, had never “asked” for anything, and couldn’t follow simple directions. I was amazed at the quick transformation and still get emotional whenever I think about it.

Committing To Help

I was immediately convinced that day that I would base my career around autism and began planning accordingly. I continued to teach Alex for 9 months and documented his progress before leaving to start a job as a special education teacher.

During those months, Alex began speaking to communicate, drawing and writing, playing appropriately, and went to the movies and other places in the community with his family.

Goals for the Future

This experience was a defining moment in my life and has fueled my career. While working as a special educator for students with autism, I earned my Master’s degree in special education with an emphasis on autism and developmental disabilities. Eventually I earned a PhD in special education. I now conduct research and teach courses related to behavior analysis and autism at UMass Amherst.

After 13 years, the memory of those first days with Alex remains vivid and powerful. Alex and many other children like him have inspired my professional goal: to help all families affected by autism gain access to quality services that will allow their child to achieve their full potential.

Early identification and early intensive behavior intervention is critical to this goal and the reason why I am involved with Massachusetts Act Early.

About the author

Jason Travers, PhD, BCBA-D is an assistant professor of special education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He researches the efficacy of technology to prevent contextually inappropriate behavior and promote early literacy skills of learners with autism. Jason also investigates the disproportionate representation of diverse children with autism.