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Teaching kids to be allies for disability inclusion

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Social inclusion is a key social determinant of health. Without it, people are more susceptible to anxiety, depression and poor health outcomes. Young people with disabilities often experience the consequences of stigma, but we can all play a part in changing that — even our kids.

There are at least 400,000 children and young adults up to the age of 24 with disabilities in Canada.

More than half of children with a disability have either one close friend or no close friends at all.
More than half of children with a disability have either one close friend or no close friends at all.  (Dreamstime)

At Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview) where I work as a senior scientist, our Dear Everybody campaign is raising awareness of the stigma kids and young adults with disabilities face. At my academic home, the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, a campaign called We All Belong calls upon the community to nurture an environment where people of all races, genders, sexual orientations and abilities feel welcomed and respected.

More than half of children with a disability have either no close friends at all, or only one. Young people with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities.

I lead the Transitions and Inclusive environments Lab (TRAIL) at Holland Bloorview’s research institute (the Bloorview Research Institute) where we develop programs and interventions to help foster welcoming and supportive environments for kids and youth at school, work and in the community. We’re especially interested in how young people transition between environments and from childhood into adulthood.

Earlier this year, we published a study involving young people with and without disabilities to outline a model for developing what is called disability confidence, the ability to include and work with a person with a disability. We identified four stages that led to the growth of this kind of confidence.

The continuum often starts with some discomfort, then moves into people reaching beyond their comfort zone to begin to understand and minimize differences between themselves and someone with a disability. This can lead to broadened perspectives and, ultimately, disability confidence — empathy, comfort and understanding the abilities of people with a disability.

Right now, much of my work focuses on improving inclusion and employment opportunities for young people with disabilities because their job rates are significantly lower than their peers who don’t have disabilities.

But inclusion starts early: kids can play a big role in helping their peers with disabilities feel welcome and valued.

An important first step is to encourage your child to get to know people with disabilities — they’re regular people just like everyone else. This can help eliminate stigma by opening the door for kids to learn what they have in common with their peers and to consider their perspectives.

It’s also a good idea to teach kids to be mindful of how they speak about disability, and to role model respectful language ourselves. Consider person-first wording — instead of saying “disabled person”, use “person with a disability.” It’s just one part of a person’s identity, and doesn’t define them.

Further, language like “suffers from” or “confined to a wheelchair” implies people with disabilities have less value than others. Ableist language like this feeds into the misconception that it isn’t “normal” to have a disability and contributes to stigma. Instead, use “has a disability” or “uses a wheelchair.” We shouldn’t view disability as being either tragic or inspirational.

Talk to your kids about the fact that although not all people are the same, we can celebrate our differences and find the things we have in common with others who have a disability. Talk to your child about how they can include friends with disabilities in a game — for example, maybe there’s a way to make it easier for a kid in a wheelchair to participate.

For younger kids, this could mean including a peer with a disability in a game or inviting them to a birthday party.

For teens and young adults, share the message that young people with disabilities belong in the community, in the classroom and workplace and have valuable skills to contribute. Encourage youth to invite their peers with disabilities to participate in social and community activities.

With a bit of guidance, your child could play an important role in making change — helping break down barriers for kids with disabilities, from childhood and beyond.

Sally Lindsay is an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. She is also a senior scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute. Doctors’ Notes is a weekly column by members of the U of T Faculty of Medicine.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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