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MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas — Nikki Heiman was excited to learn that the state was sending a job counselor to work with her son, Trenton, a high school student with Down syndrome.

But that excitement fizzled when Heiman learned the specialist could only meet with Trenton once a month — and only for 15 minutes. That’s all the time the counselor could squeeze into her schedule while handling a large caseload that forces her to shuttle between multiple counties.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Students at Raytown's Westridge Elementary School were educated about autism spectrum disorder thanks to 9-year-old Mariah Turner.

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The parents of a Maryville, Missouri, teenager with autism have asked for a new trial after a jury declined to find the police officers who tased him liable for damages.

In a motion filed Friday, Ernest and Ella Kramer say the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence, “resulting in a miscarriage of justice.”

The motion states that the officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop then-18-year-old Christopher Kramer in the first place and that his detention was unconstitutional.

Segment 1: Protest at the University of Missouri - Kansas City highlighted struggle universities and their students face over First Amendment right to free speech. 

The University of Missouri-Kansas City recently made headlines after an encounter between a protestor and guest speaker occurred on campus grounds. Two students present during the incident with opposite views shared a civil conversation about free speech, hate speech and where to draw the line.

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Jurors who declined to find two police officers liable for tasing a teen with autism were willing to consider holding the city of Maryville, Missouri, liable – but the judge took that decision out of their hands.

One of the jurors who served on the seven-member federal jury told KCUR this week that the jury was never told why the city was removed from the case.

Jasonesbain / www.gunnewsdaily.com

The parents of a teenager with autism who was shot multiple times with a Taser after he stopped to tie his shoe on the lawn of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper have lost their lawsuit against the city of Maryville, Missouri, and two police officers.

The parents had sued for wrongful detention and excessive use of force. On Thursday, after a two-day trial and about 10 hours of deliberation, a federal jury of four men and three women found in favor of the officers. The jury declined to speak afterward.

MH Cameron Barrett

Children's book author Jenn Bailey wonders whether her middle son would have had an easier childhood if his classmates had a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder.

"He was frequently labeled by his peers as, well, 'He's the weird kid,' 'He's the shy kid,'" she remembers.

Seg. 1: 3.2 Beer | Seg. 2: A Friend For Henry

Apr 3, 2019

Segment 1: 3.2 Beer.

As of April 1, grocery and convenience stores in Kansas are permitted to sell full-alcohol beer. In this conversation, we find out why the 3.2 alcohol limit was instituted in the first place and share memories of the infamous brew.

Tia Crowe

A gymnastics studio in Gladstone, Missouri, that refused to admit a child with autism has agreed to provide programs for children with disabilities under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The studio, Creative Arts Academy, agreed to the settlement after the department found it had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it declined to enroll 3-year-old Bella Crowe.

Segment 1: Autism in adults, from diagnosis to intervention.

Many of the therapies available for people on the autism spectrum are geared towards children, but what if you weren't diagnosed until you were 60? One woman's story sheds light on the challenges that arise for adults diagnosed with autism later in life.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / KCUR/Kansas News Service

Five-year-old Ridley Fitzmorris sits at a picnic table in his backyard in Lawrence, one leg dangling and the other tucked beneath him. His eyes are focused on a row of Hot Wheels that his therapist asked him to count.

“One, two, three,” he says in a whisper, his finger hovering over each toy car until he reaches the last one. Turning to an iPad that he uses to communicate, he clicks an icon. “Eight,” the computerized voice announces.

“Good job!” cooes therapist Ashley Estrada, a specialist in treatment for children with autism. “You did it by yourself."

Across America, gentrification is pricing people out of the communities they grew up in. Today, we look at alternatives to avoid raising the cost of living in existing neighborhoods.

Then, we learn how Jamie Sanders, the lead actor in the KC Rep's latest play about a young boy with autism, forged a connection with his character through his own experience with Tourette syndrome. 

Guests:

jasonesbain / www.GunNewsDaily.com

A federal judge has given the go-ahead to a lawsuit filed by the parents of an autistic teenager who was shot multiple times with a Taser after he stopped to tie his shoe on the lawn of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan this week denied dismissal motions filed by the five law enforcement officials named as defendants in the case by the parents of Christopher Kramer.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR-FM 89.3

In the last few years, professional sports teams have begun to realize that noisy stadiums can be hard on people with autism and other special needs. Among them are the Kansas City Royals, whose front-office officials happen to include several fathers of such kids.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt was in Kansas City Tuesday to promote MO ABLE, a new savings program for people with disabilities.

“Look, when my son was born, we opened up a college savings account. You have all those hopes and dreams,” says Schmitt. “Emotionally, psychologically, that’s tough for families.”

Schmitt's 12-year-old son is nonverbal on the autism spectrum.

The tax-advantaged accounts function similarly to Missouri’s 529 college savings plan and can be used to pay for assistive technology and long-term care.

Courtesy Jill Wagner

Jill Wagner’s life changed the day her then-10-month-old son, Dean, was hospitalized after a series of seizures.

Tests revealed that Dean had a rare genetic condition that put him at risk for a host of medical issues. By the time he was discharged, little Dean already had a handful of diagnoses, including one for autism. Doctors weren’t sure if he would ever walk, talk or read.

For the next eight months, Wagner, a businesswoman and former professor who lives in Salina, Kansas, tried to navigate the complex world of health insurance for applied behavior analysis, or ABA.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Roy Alcorn shot pool with friends last week as sunlight streamed through the open door of a small building at Equi-Venture Farms.

A month earlier, Alcorn was living at Osawatomie State Hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Alcorn’s new arrangement is part of a pilot program spearheaded by Ben Swinnen, executive director of Topeka-based Equi-Venture, and Tim Keck, head of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Paul Andrews/paulandrewsphotography.com

For the past six years, Jyoti Mukharji has opened her home kitchen to teach Kansas Citians about Indian cuisine.

But to her fans, her classes are more than just about cooking. Mukharji peppers her talk with personal stories and health tips, then the class ends in a dinner party around her dining room table.

File photo

Judy Talbot is trying to get her daughter out of a state facility for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Zack Zbeeb is trying to get his son into one.

But both ultimately have the same goal: to do a “medication washout” to determine whether the prescription drugs their autistic kids take are helping to control their recent dangerous psychotic episodes or actually causing them.

Zbeeb, from Wichita, wants his 15-year-old son to be weaned off his medications at a place like Parsons State Hospital and Training Center.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

In a small, windowless room at the University of Kansas Child and Family Services Clinic, Julie Boydston put on a few sock puppets and explained that they’re more than just toys.

Like the dollhouse and costumes in the room, the puppets are tools that help student counselors get children with behavioral and mental health problems to open up.

“They can’t talk to you about their feelings,” Boydston explains. “But maybe they can say what ‘Mr. Duck’ thinks or ‘the frog is sad’ and why is he sad.”

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Like most moms, Judy Talbot has photos and videos of her daughter on her smartphone.

But some of the images Talbot keeps on her phone show her daughter smacking herself in the face repeatedly or strapped to a bed, writhing against restraints with bruises up and down both legs.

“From her kicking,” Talbot explained.

Talbot’s daughter, Jill, is 32 and has autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mongrel Media

It's not just temperatures that are rising this weekend. From a controversial examination of the connections (or lack thereof) between vaccines and autism, to the absurdist drama of adults finding a mate before they literally turn into animals, Up To Date's indie, foreign, and documentary film critic Steve Walker's suggestions will get a rise out of viewers, too.

Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, Unrated

Is autism a culture, a disability ... or maybe both? We explore the community around autism, and if that “disability” is truly disabling.

Guests:

 

Autism is often talked about as a checklist of different challenges and deficits, but how can we approach autism in a more balanced way? Author Barry Prizant explains how to see these so-called deficits as normal human behaviors. 

Guest:

  • Barry Prizant, Ph.D. is the and author of Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism.

Having a sibling with autism can be challenging, as kids with autism often struggle to connect with other children. These frustrations inspired actress Holly Robinson Peete to co-write a book with her daughter, Ryan Elizabeth, about Ryan's twin brother, R.J.. The book, My Brother Charlie, won an NAACP Image award.

Guests:

Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that Missouri had levied its largest fine ever for insurance law violations against two Aetna companies.

Nixon said Aetna Life Insurance Co. and Aetna Health Insurance Co. had agreed to pay $4.5 million for violating a 2010 state law that requires insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

If Aetna complies with the settlement agreement, $1.5 million of the fine will be suspended, a news release from Nixon’s office said.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Parenting is a tough job for anyone, but raising children with autism, who often have behavioral or communication problems, can be especially demanding.

Research has shown that parents of children with autism are at increased risk of depression.

But in Kansas City, some of these mothers and fathers are finding a measure of respite, and sympathetic ears, through comedy.

On a recent Thursday night, a handful of parents with kids who have autism took a break from parenting and faced down their latest challenge: stage fright.

Comedy can come from unexpected sources, for example, parents of children who have autism. It can be hard for these parents to talk about their particular parenting experiences, and to laugh about the funny (and even challenging) moments. During an event called An Evening With The Rents at the Gem  Theater, KCUR announcer and newscaster Jenny Whitty shared her experience about parenting kids on the autism spectrum.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Just after picking him up from day care, Wendy Santillan serves her son, Raoul, milk and cookies.

Raoul, a 3-year-old with a crew cut and big brown eyes, happily devours his snack. But Wendy says she noticed early on some unusual behavior in her son.

“When he was 18 months, he starts to play with the toys in a different way,” she says. “He used to pass the toy (along) the corner of his eye, and that wasn’t normal at all to me.”

The Kansas House member who last session championed a bill that expanded insurance coverage for autism treatment said it may be adjusted in the upcoming legislative session.

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican who was re-elected last week, said he will propose changes to House Bill 2744, which was a compromise struck between insurance companies and autism treatment advocates.

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