Iowa Advocacy Connection - 2018 Issue 1

Issue 17, 3/28/2018

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Articles in This Issue:

Autism Awareness Month: Barefoot for Autism

Guest article by Kris Steinmetz, Autism Society of Iowa executive director

Tyler Leech standing barefoot on carpet.

Children and adults with autism can have a reaction to noise, light, clothing, taste or temperature. Their senses take in either too much or too little information from the environment around them, which can sometimes create behaviors that can be avoided if the caregiver is aware of their sensitivities.

When someone is oversensitive to sensory experiences, they might cover their ears when they hear loud noises, only eat food with a certain texture or only wear certain clothes. Noise cancelling headphones or wearing clothes without tags and heavy seams can be helpful to avoid behaviors that can result from this oversensitivity.

When someone is undersensitive to their environment, they might use a weighted blanket, continually rub their arms and legs on things, chew on items or go barefoot. Creating activities for sensory input can assist the person and help keep them focused.

The most beneficial way to learn about the sensory issues for those with autism is to learn directly from the person who has experience. This April as we celebrate Autism Awareness Month, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn more from Tyler Leech and the Barefoot for Autism Project he has created. Keep a lookout in the coming weeks for a video of Tyler as he describes why going barefoot is beneficial to him and his autism.

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Capitol Days

Last month, individuals from the Iowa Family Leadership Training Institute and Child Health Specialty Clinics Family Advisory Council took to the Iowa State Capitol for an ID Action Capitol Day. The day began with an advocacy training at the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council office, and then everyone headed to the Capitol where advocates met with legislators, sat in on committee meetings and watched a floor debate from the gallery.

Read what some of the advocates had to say about their experience and what they learned.

“It was very enlightening to learn more about the legislative process and how there are many different bills being submitted that affect the lives of individuals with disabilities. What was most impactful to me was how many bills are submitted at the beginning of the process and the funnels they go through to become what is eventually brought to a vote…It is important to keep our eye on which bills are being voted on and keep our voice strong for families and individuals with disabilities.” Rachel Charlot, Family Navigator, Carroll Regional Center

“A highlight was visiting with a representative who gave us feedback on our presentation of concerns and insight into the current budget process. I felt encouraged by being given her time and attention that it is possible to advocate for policy change and that there are many legislators that share our concerns about cuts to essential programs.” Kate Thompson, Iowa Family Leadership Training Institute graduate, Des Moines

“This was a wonderful, empowering experience. I have to admit, I feel like I have not been exercising my rights as a constituent. I will definitely be returning again next year, God willing. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of the solution with our voices and action.” Shelley Brichta, Child Health Specialty Clinics Family Advisory Council member, Spencer

“I felt that showing up in Des Moines was a step in the right direction to relationship building and finding commonality with members of BOTH parties.” Gabrielle White, Iowa Family Leadership Training Institute graduate, Decorah

As a reminder, your advocacy efforts should not happen just at the Capitol or during the legislative session. Your legislators are available to you year-round. You can email, write, call or invite them to your community to talk to them about the issues that are important to you.

Five individuals standing with Iowa legislator Iowa House Chamber

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Vote Grant Deadline Extended!

Take Action. Be Heard. Create Change.

We have extended the deadline for ID Action Voter Education Grant applications to Monday, April 16. The grant provides funds to local advocacy groups that have a plan to take action in their community to increase voter turnout among Iowans with disabilities. Activities and initiatives of grant recipients must be nonpartisan and encourage individuals with disabilities to register and to vote in the 2018 primary and general elections and educate elected officials and/or candidates about disability and disability-related issues.

To apply, download the guidelines and application here.

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Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is nationally recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The month is devoted to raising the public’s awareness of developmental disabilities, teaching the importance of inclusion within every aspect of life and sharing stories of individuals with disabilities to show that a successful life in the community is possible! ID Action encourages all individuals with disabilities to find a way they can actively participate in their community to not only increase awareness but to demonstrate the important contributions that individuals with developmental disabilities make.

See Me for Me was the focus for this year’s Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The theme meant to shine a light on looking beyond someone’s disability. It encouraged the importance of seeing someone for who they are versus simply as a person with a disability.

“It is important to recognize the person and not the disability. By placing the person first, the disability is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual but one of several aspects of the whole person. It eliminates generalizations and stereotypes by focusing on the person rather than the disability,” said Rik Shannon, Iowa DD Council public policy manager.

ID Action shared stories, videos and information throughout the month that detailed the See Me for Me effort. You can look back at the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DDAwareness18.

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MYM Conference logo

Are you ready for another great Make Your Mark! Conference? We are excited to announce that the Make Your Mark! Conference will be returning to Honey Creek Resort in Moravia, Iowa, again this year! The conference will be held Thursday, September 27 – Friday, September 28, 2018. We will host a welcome reception the evening of Wednesday, September 26 for those who would like to join us early. Mark your calendars now and look for more information in the coming months.

Have an idea for a session or speaker? Email us at to let us know.

Four women posing for photo at MYM! Conference

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