Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Humpday Hint: HUD Housing Wait List Tip

Contributing Author: Roxie Marten

Most income-based apartments managed or owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development also known as "HUD", have a waiting list. It is not based solely on "first come first served," but there are also other requirements that set your place on the list.

One additional factor is health issues. If you have a legitimate reason to be in that particular location due to its proximity to your health care providers or to mass transit to get you to your doctor, let HUD know. You will need to have your doctor write a letter stating why he/she feels you need to be living in the place you are seeking. This may have a positive effect with your standing on the list.

This is not a golden ticket to a new place to live, but it may help you get moved in sooner.

Image Source: Pixabay

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March is Developmental Disabilities Month

Contributing Author: Alice Krueger

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Here are some answers to common questions about Developmental Disabilities.

What are Developmental Disabilities?

The term “Developmental Disabilities” is a generic grouping that includes a range of chronic conditions detected before adulthood and which persist throughout life. These conditions cause a variety of cognitive and/or physical symptoms. They limit three or more of the following major life activities:
  • understanding and using language
  • self-care
  • self-direction
  • learning
  • movement
  • economic self-sufficiency
  • capacity for independent living
Such impairments often mean the individual with a Developmental Disability will need some level of sustained support or assistance.

Are Developmental Disabilities the same as Intellectual Disabilities?

Intellectual Disabilities are the most common type of Developmental Disability. Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities have an IQ below 70. They have difficulty with independent living and socialization because they have poor intellectual functioning and limited adaptive behavior. Intellectual functioning includes learning, solving problems and reasoning. Adaptive behavior includes everyday practical life and social skills.

What problems do persons with Intellectual Disabilities face?

Persons with Intellectual Disabilities have trouble learning, processing and remembering new information. This leads to academic difficulties. They have trouble with abstract thought and planning, and function better at the concrete directed level. They also have problems with social interactions; they have difficulty making friends, communicating, and making sound interpersonal judgments. Many have trouble with practical functions, affecting self-care or employment.

Intellectual Disabilities may be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the impact on the person’s daily life. A person with a mild level of Intellectual Disability may be able to learn to read at an elementary level, and may be able to function in social settings. About 85% of persons with Intellectual Disabilities have a mild level of impact.

What are some other types of Developmental Disabilities?

Cerebral palsy impacts a person’s muscular control, affecting movement, balance and posture. It is the most common motor disability identified in children. Cerebral palsy is not an Intellectual Disability.

Individuals with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in the nuclei of their cells. They have a range of limitations that may be physical or cognitive, and may cause from mild to severe impact on independent living.

Fragile X syndrome is a rare genetic condition usually found in males. It is thought to be a cause of autistic-like behaviors, ADD and other forms of Intellectual Disabilities. Physically, individuals with Fragile X syndrome are distinguished by long faces, prominent foreheads and large ears.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are caused by the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. In addition to significant learning and behavior problems, persons with FASD have characteristic facial features and low height or weight for their age.

Persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have significant communication, behavior and social difficulties; their cognitive abilities may range from severely disabled to gifted. Some people with autism spectrum disorder need support in all aspects of their daily lives; others do not.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spinal column fails to develop normally during pregnancy. The impact of spina bifida depends on both the position of the defect and its severity.

What are IDDs?

IDD is the abbreviation of “Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.” Since many Developmental Disabilities involve multiple body parts and intellectual functioning, the use of the combined term IDD can be appropriate.

However it is important to note that definitions of what constitutes an IDD vary anong different service providers and authorizing legislation.

How common are Developmental Disabilities?

The prevalence of Developmental Disabilities worldwide is unknown. The National Association of Councils of Developmental Disabilities estimates that over five million people have Developmental Disabilities in the US.

The United Nations Development Program estimates that the incidence of Intellectual Disabilities worldwide is between 1-3%. They also indicate that Intellectual Disability is more common in persons living in low-income countries.

What causes Developmental Disabilities?

The different types of Developmental Disabilities have distinct causes, all related to disruptions of normal brain development. For some forms, for example Fragile X Syndrome and Down Syndrome, the cause is known to be genetic. With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the problem occurred during pregnancy. For other types, such as cerebral palsy, the brain damage occurred near or during birth.

Other causes of Developmental Disabilities are diseases of the pregnant mother (such as infection with Zika virus), exposure of the pregnant mother to environmental toxins (such as PCBs), early childhood illness or injury (including abuse), and poverty and cultural deprivation.

In many cases, the cause of a Developmental Disability is unknown. This is true for two-thirds of children with Intellectual Disabilities.

How are Developmental Disabilities diagnosed?

Some Developmental Disabilities can be diagnosed in utero or by physical examination at birth. The existence of a Developmental Disability in other children is suspected when childhood developmental stages, such as sitting up, walking and talking, are missed. This is followed by physical examinations and genetic tests seeking causes for the developmental delays.

What are dual diagnoses?

Many individuals with a Developmental Disability also have other physical and/or mental health issues. Due to these associated health issues, life expectancy for a person with a Developmental Disability is generally about 20 years below the national average.

People with communication difficulties might have problems explaining their health needs. Some persons with Intellectual Disabilities may need assistance recognizing the need for and obtaining health care. This can result in obesity, poor dental health, and impaired vision or hearing. Similarly, mental health issues are more common in people with Developmental Disabilities than in the general population, and are more difficult to treat.

Some specific developmental conditions result in physical health issues; for example, persons with Down syndrome often have poor cardiac function. Some persons with Developmental Disabilities display challenging behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, or stereotyped behaviors that can result in additional diagnoses.

Where can I find out more about Developmental Disabilities?

A display on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island in Second Life provides additional detailed information about Developmental Disabilities. You can visit the display here:

Many support organizations exist at national and local levels. Consult the ones closest to you. Here are a few links to national organizations that may prove helpful:

American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:
The ARC:
Easter Seals:
Goodwill Industries:
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities:
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities:
National Association for the Dually Diagnosed:
University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities:

Contact a Family:
Together Trust:
Clear Helper (list of organizations in England):

Inclusion Australia:
Australia Federation of SPELD Associations:
Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders:

Canadian Association for Community Living:

Special Olympics:

Image Credits:
Boy with Down Syndrome: Boy with Down Syndrom, Wikimedia Commons
Healthinfo Island Display: iSkye Silverweb

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Healthinfo Island: Virtual Health Awareness Displays

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Not only does Virtual Ability have a vibrant, active community in Second Life® (SL), there is a sim that Virtual Ability, Inc.® owns, called Healthinfo Island. The displays are frequently updated, thanks to the efforts of community member Mook Wheeler, with themed interesting facts and information on different awareness topics.

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Other exhibits and displays on Healthinfo Island during March:

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month

Poison Prevention Week

Brain Injury Awareness Month

World TB Day

Burn Awareness (remaining from February)

What do you call people with disabilities? (remaining from February)

In order to visit these displays, if you don't already have a Second Life account, you will need to download and install software on your computer. To get started, sign up for Second Life. If you have questions or need more information, you can contact Virtual Ability, Inc.

Images Credit: iSkye Silverweb

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and March 5-11 this year is MS Awareness Week. Here are some answers to common questions about Multiple Sclerosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system is the brain and spinal cord, but does not include the nerves that run throughout the body. Nerve cells in the CNS have fibers called axons that are coated with a fatty insulation known as myelin. The myelin insulation allows nerve messages to travel properly along the axons.

What is an Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immunity defense system mistakes the body’s own tissues for “enemies” and destroys them. In Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system randomly attacks the myelin coating of nerve cells in the CNS. Damage to myelin leads to scars in the tissue of the brain and spinal cord. These scars or lesions disrupt transmission of nerve messages. Distorted nerve messages lead to a variety of symptoms in the body and mind.

It is these scars in nervous tissue that the disease is named for. There are numerous (multiple) scars (scleroses) seen on MRI scans when the disease has been active.

Is Multiple Sclerosis contagious or fatal?
It is important to note that MS is not fatal. It is also not contagious. Symptoms of MS can be managed medically. However, MS is a chronic progressive neurological disease for which there is no known cause or cure. It is a highly individualized disabling condition, due to the randomness of the scarring on nerves in the CNS.

What does it mean that MS is chronic and progressive?
Chronic progressive diseases persist throughout the person’s lifetime, and tend to cause more problems over time. MS follows different courses of progression in different people. Most people who are first diagnosed with MS have the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. For them, the progression is uneven. After an initial set of symptoms appear, leading to the diagnosis, the symptoms may go away entirely or may continue to be present at some level. The disappearance of the symptoms is the remission phase of MS. People with MS who are in remission may not appear to be disabled.

When the same or different symptoms reappear at a later date, that is the relapse phase of the disease. The reappearance of symptoms is also called a flare or exacerbation. It is impossible to predict when exacerbations will occur.

Over time, almost all persons with MS experience an increase in the number and/or severity of symptoms. This means the disease is progressing. In some people the progression begins or becomes steady, without the acute relapses and remission phases.

You can view an llustration at showing the different types of Multiple Sclerosis.

How common is Multiple Sclerosis? Who gets it?
It is estimated that about 2.5 million people have MS around the globe. The prevalence of MS is approximately 90 in every 100,000 people in a population. In the US, about 400,000 people have been diagnosed with MS. Most are between the ages of 10 and 80.

Multiple Sclerosis can affect people of any age, gender or ethnicity. However, some people are at a higher risk of getting MS. Women are three times as likely to get MS as are men. Caucasians are more likely to get MS than Hispanics or blacks, and MS is rare in Asians. Persons who have a close relative with MS have an increased risk of also having MS.

The incidence of MS increases the farther north you go from the equator. In the United States, northern states (above the 37th parallel) have twice as many cases of MS as southern states. Nobody really knows why this occurs, but it may be related to lower amounts of sunlight at higher latitudes.

What causes MS?
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis remains unknown, although scientists who study the disease believe it may result from a combination of several factors. In addition to an abnormal immunological reaction, viruses or other infectious agents, inadequate vitamin D, environmental factors or genetic defects may lead to the development of MS in a susceptible person.

Is there a cure for MS? Are there treatments?
Unfortunately, since it is not known exactly what causes MS at the present time, there is no cure. However, there are two kinds of treatments.

Disease-modifying drugs, mainly available as injections, slow the progression of MS by altering the functioning of the immune system. They typically control the inflammation characteristic of the early stages of relapsing-remitting MS, and are not thought to be as effective when the disease becomes more neurodegenerative. Side effects of disease-modifying medications can be significant. While they can not cure MS, disease-modifying drugs do lower the frequency and severity of relapses and slow the development of new brain lesions in many patients.

Symptomatic treatment is available for individual problems such as spasticity, tremors, urinary incontinence, and gait abnormalities. During a relapse, steroids or other treatments are used to deal with the symptoms. Each symptomatic treatment brings additional side effects that must be taken into account in creating a treatment plan.

What is it like to have MS?
Multiple Sclerosis destroys nerve cells randomly in the brain and spinal cord. This results in highly individualized and unpredictable symptoms in the body, senses and mental capacity.

What kind of symptoms can MS cause? One of the most common physical symptoms is fatigue. A person with MS may have spasticity, tremors, muscle weakness, or impaired coordination and balance. Other physical symptoms are bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunctions.

Sensory input is often altered with MS. A person with MS may feel numbness in various body parts, or have burning, itching, or painful sensations. Cognitive symptoms can include memory loss, inability to make decisions, depression, confusion, or difficulty finding a desired word in speech or writing.

Symptoms also can appear and disappear randomly. A person with MS may not know from day to day what capabilities he or she will have, and what difficulties he or she will need to face. The unpredictability of the disease is one of its most troubling symptoms.

How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is not straightforward. In fact, in addition to showing that there are scars (lesions) in the central nervous system that occurred at different times, a variety of other diseases and disorders that can mimic the symptoms of MS must be ruled out before the diagnosis is confirmed. Neurologists use the detailed patient history and the results of tests such as MRIs, spinal taps and evoked potential exams in providing evidence for the diagnosis.

With no single test or combination of tests that always results in a clear diagnosis, patients are often left in limbo. It is important for persons with symptoms that might indicate MS to consult neurologists who are very familiar with MS, and to persist in seeking a correct diagnosis.

Is MS the same as MD?
No. MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis; MD is an abbreviation for Muscular Dystrophy. Although the symptoms of MS can be similar to those of MD, the diseases are completely different.

Muscular Dystrophy is a set of genetic diseases that affect muscles, not nerves. It is a rare disease, affecting mostly males. Although the causes of the various types of MD are known, there is still not a cure, although there are symptomatic treatments.

Where can I find out more about Multiple Sclerosis?
A display on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island in Second Life provides additional detailed information about Multiple Sclerosis. You can visit the display here:

Many support organizations exist at national and local levels. Consult the ones closest to you. Here are a few links to national organizations that may prove helpful:

National MS Society:
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America:
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation:

MS Trust:
MS Society:

MS Australia:

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada:

MS International Federation:

For a listing of other national organizations supporting persons with MS:

Monday, March 6, 2017

The "Why Not?" Attitude

Contributing Author: Slatan Dryke

During our lives, we must deal with some challenges. They may be physical or mental disabilities. In others, they are simply a lack of trust in our energy and perspective. To take up challenges can be good for personal improvement. You can do it to break down some barriers created by wrong rules and ignorance.

So why do we accept a challenge? Doing this is a means to generate the energy and the impulse to create a custom-made life. Everyone should discover or invent an "extraordinary obsession” that motivates us to create better lives for ourselves. It does not matter how complex it can be; for many people, it can be just to make some physical progress or have a positive thought.

We must find a challenge for the following reasons:

  1. Never wait for happiness, build it!
  2. Never wait for the right opportunity, cause it!
  3. Learn to do something for yourself to beautify your life, then it will be easier to do the same with others’ lives.

For many the fear of failure is stronger than the wish for success. Self-confidence becomes an attitude to develop: a small victory leads to a bigger one. Confidence is an essential outlook for good health and better quality of life.

Optimism comes from a Latin word, "optimum", that means the greater good, and in some people, it is not just an inclination but also a philosophy focused to find the better aspects, the promising opportunities in their lives.

We should learn how to develop a positive self-talk, even if it is only to think, "I cannot change my situation." Every one of us holds a continuous inner dialogue. With time, what we say to ourselves creates a strong foundation for our subconscious and it feeds into our deepest thoughts and feelings. "I am capable, I like myself, I am valiant." The subconscious reacts positively and we become better able to face the daily challenges and the future goals we want to reach.

An optimistic statement is a declaration full of emotional intensity, able to inspire the changes we want and seek. There are so many examples of people who have flipped things from a personal benefit to a global radical change: "Why not, I can do it" or "I did a lot, I cannot stop now."

So, whatever it is that you wish, whatever the challenge you set yourself to accomplish, once you have achieved it, this will be a renaissance. Every person has the desire for some renewal, small or big, while being able to have the right perception on what we are and which are our best qualities, yet also ready to accept our limitations.

You CAN change the circumstances. You CAN deal with a challenge, when you have a "why not?" attitude.

View this YouTube clip for an inspiring story about Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon:

Images from the public domain: Alan Turing, Amelia Earhart, Artemisia Gentileschi, Edward Jenner, Emmeline Pankhurst.