Office of Disability Concerns
Will’s Corner, Oklahoma
(Serving the Disability Community of Oklahoma)
Volume 12, Issue 3
Oklahoma’s Best-Kept Secret
A private, non-profit organization exists in Oklahoma City since 2007 to provide information and legal representation to people who are seniors and/or people with disabilities. That organization is called the Senior Law Resource Center.
Let’s narrow that legal information and representation to what types of law the Senior Law Resource Center practices. They do not work criminal law or divorce law. They do not handle bankruptcies. They do not represent people in Social Security cases where the person is appealing a Social Security decision.
They do handle information and representation on many subjects which are of interest to people with disabilities. Some of those areas are adult guardianship, power of attorney, wills and estate planning, elder financial exploitation, end-of life decision making, Medicaid long-term care and grandparents raising grandchildren.
The Senior Law Resource Center also supervises volunteers through the CAAVA program to serve as a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem. The Guardian Ad Litem is the eyes of the court in an adult guardianship case or rarely a probate decision. The Guardian Ad Litem reports information back to the judge to help the judge render a good legal decision on a particular case.
Volunteers do not necessarily have to have a legal background. They receive training from the Senior Law Resource Center and supervision in writing reports to the court.
The resource center offers free legal information in the areas of law they deal with. The public can pose a legal question on their website, www.senior-law.org. They can also ask a legal question in the areas of law they deal with by emailing email@example.com. There is no charge for this legal advice and information, and staff set a goal to return contacts within 48 hours. (They will not give information or advice on criminal proceedings, divorce, bankruptcy or Social Security disability appeals.)
The resource center offers free information in small booklet form as well. Information is available for download on their website or hard copy if you call and request one of their publications. Here are some titles you may be interested in: Striking a Balance: A Guide to Adult Guardianship, Your Right to Decide: Oklahoma’s Advance Directive & Other Health Care planning Tools, Who Decides: Caring for Patients with Diminished Capacity, Grandparenting in Oklahoma: Laws & Resources for Grandparents & Other Relatives.
Staff is also available to offer presentations to groups of people all over the state. If your group is outside the Oklahoma City area, they ask that you have at least 20 members.
But the Senior Law Resource Center does more than offer information. They can actually represent you if your case falls in the area they work in. Presently they only offer actual legal representation in Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian, Logan and Lincoln County. They can refer you to other attorneys if you live outside this catchment area.
The Senior Law Resource Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, but they do charge for their services other than information. They refer to their costs as “low bono” rather than pro bono which would be absolutely free. They do allow people to make payments on their bills, and they charge absolutely no interest.
They are able to offer their clients such reasonable fees because they receive a number of grants from private foundations such as the Sarkeys Foundation and the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. Because they are a 501(c)3 organization, they can also accept tax-deductible donations from individuals.
Their office is fully accessible to people with disabilities. It is located at 600 N.W. 23rd Street, suite 106 in Oklahoma City. Catheryn Koss is the executive director.
The Temple Grandin Story
Autism is a scourge on individuals and families which harnesses them to unending stress and pain. It challenges schools to find ways to educate a growing minority of students and wreaks havoc with school budgets. And yet that may not be end of story. There may be a way to manage the symptoms of autism which could bring positive benefits to society.
We have at least one story out of a sea of stories which stands out and points to real results. That story is the Temple Grandin story which is told quite dramatically in the movie of the same name which has been on the new releases in your local movie rental store for several months now.
Temple attended an autism conference in 1981 and challenged the professionals in their conclusions. She spoke up and identified herself as an individual with autism in a full conference room. That in itself was a wonder that an individual with autism could express herself so verbally.
Temple boldly told the group assembled that the self stimulating behavior of a person with autism such as rolling and twisting the self actually calmed the person and substituted for the hugs and close physical contact which autism so avoided.
She visited her aunt the summer before she enrolled in college in 1966. Her aunt lived on a working ranch, and Temple witnessed cattle run through a staunchion where their heads were locked into place and the bars of the staunchion closely hugged their sides.
When she became frustrated, she found that having her aunt actually lock her into place greatly calmed her panic. She actually built such a machine to put in her college dormitory room which she could use to calm the anxiety.
Temple problem-solved with intense visual imagery that raced across her mind. She noticed that cattle traveled in circles and that this had a calming effect on them. She re-designed a chute which disgorged individual cattle into a vat of chemically-treated water to rid them of pests.
She designed long circular pathways to lead individual cattle to the vat. She noticed that cattle easily go into water down a slope to drink. She equipped the vat with steps into and out of the vat which mimicked what was natural to the animals. It cost more money to build, but it required less people to prod the cattle and resulted in much less drowning of panicked animals.
This amazing woman wrote papers with her research for major industry publications. She encouraged humane slaughter of animals using human touch and less trauma.
The story of how a child born in 1950 with autism who did not speak until she was four years old is the stuff legends are made of. The name-calling and taunting of other children and adults in the education system who did not understand Temple Grandin’s unique needs dogged her every move.
But Temple also had an articulate, Harvard-educated mother who spent years of one-on-one efforts to combat the social isolation and bridge the communication barriers which threatened her daughter with the only known response to autism in those early years—complete institutionalization.
Friends and advocates for Temple Grandin appeared throughout her school years and into her career. They believed in this amazing young woman, and they supported her efforts to be heard. They stood up against the heckling crowd convinced that this person with autism had something to give.
Google Temple Grandin. She has her own website, and there are other websites which will give you information. She has written several books about herself and her experiences as well.
The Waiting List
The Developmental Disabilities Service Division (DDSD) of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services serves children and adults with a cognitive disorder. It maintains Medicaid waivers which permit services in the community where people live.
The program is popular with families because it supports families who have elected to keep their children at home rather than place them in an institution. The program is popular, and there is also a waiting list for services.
“Every summer I have to quit my job to care for my daughter who is home from school because I have no one to watch her.” “My son has been on the waiting list for five years.” “Sometimes my child is out of control.” The stories of three parents are vivid.
DDSD meets with parents with family members on the waiting list four times per year to share information. The last meeting was on June 9, 2011 in the underground concourse below the Sequoyah State Office Building in Oklahoma City.
The DDSD director was present. Three Oklahoma legislators were also in the audience of thirty-three including parents, providers and children with developmental disabilities. They were there to get information.
As of April 15, 2011 there were 6100 people on the waiting list for DDSD waivered services. Those figures were broken down by county and by age. DDSD even knows what generic services families on the waiting list are receiving and that there are 1621 people on the waiting list with no services at all.
The DDSD budget for this year is level funding. The budget in 2010 resulted in a cut of 25% of staff positions. Provider rates which are crucial to service delivery have not been cut. DDSD is going to request special funds in fiscal year 2013 to address the waiting list.
They are preparing a letter to everyone on the waiting list to let them know their number on the list. They also want to find out if these people still want services. Many may have moved out of state.
Parents drove to Oklahoma City from across the state to attend the quarterly Waiting List Meeting. Some requested satellite hookups closer to their homes, and DDSD will look into it. The next meeting for families with members on the waiting list will be September 8, 2011.
Anyone with an interest in the waiting list is welcome to attend. If you want to know more about the Waiting List Meeting, go to www.oklawaitinglist.org. You can also contact Wanda Felty on her cell (405-488-4424) or her work number (405-271-4500, ext. 41004).
Wanda Felty says the purpose of the meetings is to let families know they are not alone. They also want to let Oklahoma legislators know who’s on the waiting list for services.
If You Need Home Modifications
In disability jargon, modifications to make your home more accessible are called “architectural modifications.” They include installation of grab bars, raising commodes, widening doorways and building ramps.
Rebuilding Together in Oklahoma City does all this and more. They do things that have nothing to do with accessibility like repairing roofs and heating systems as well as simple painting.
Rebuilding Together can be a wonderful resource if you fall within their criteria. You must be 55 years of age or older. You cannot have income over 200% of poverty. You must own your own home and live within the parameters of South 89th Street and Danforth Road on the north and Post Road and County Line Road on the west.
Rebuilding Together is a national private/nonprofit with affiliates in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman. The organization began in a church in Midland, Texas way back in 1979.
A parishioner needed home repairs, and volunteers from the church obliged. The organization spread nationwide and was first called Christmas in April. It later began to do repairs year round and became known as Rebuilding Together.
I ask Tim Reardon what building code they use, and he replies they use the ADA Accessibility Guidelines specifically for ramps. Their ultimate standard is to build in such a way that a person will be able to function well in their own home.
The Oklahoma City Rebuilding Together has an application. If the application demonstrates the applicant falls within criteria, a Program Coordinator will visit your home and evaluate needs in every room.
The reviewer comes back to the office and puts all this information into a database. The reviewer prioritizes things that need immediate attention and those that do not. They also recommend whether this would be a good job for Rebuilding Together or not.
This last fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010 ending June, 2011 Rebuilding Together OKC had 627 applications for service. Two hundred thirty of those applications were approved and received some kind of work on the home.
Volunteers do most of the work although there are certain trades such as plumbing and electric and HVAC which require a licensed individual. This licensed tradesperson may charge or they may volunteer their services.
Rebuilding Together began in a church, and churches continue to provide teams of volunteers to do the work. However, many teams originate outside a church as well.
Many organizations contribute money to Rebuilding Together. The Masonic Charitable Foundation and Sears Holding Corporation donate funds to run the organization. Lowes Home Improvement and Cricket Communications are also national sponsors.
The mission of Rebuilding Together is to keep people safe, warm and dry. They want to allow people to age in their own home rather than have to go somewhere else to meet their needs.
An elderly couple is on the July schedule to improve their home. The homeowner’s spouse is on dialysis, and their bathroom is in shambles. Rebuilding Together has secured volunteers who will demo the bathroom and rebuild it back to handicapped-accessible status. That will include a new shower, handicapped toilet and new hot water tank. Rebuilding Together has built a new ramp, and Oklahoma Roofing has installed a new roof.
If you would like to know more about Rebuilding Together in Oklahoma City, check out their website at www.rebuildingtogetherokc.org. If you would like to make a contribution or volunteer, you can also do this. Neighbors helping neighbors improves all our lives.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
July 24-29, 2011 Make Promises Happen camp for campers over 18 with
neuromuscular disorders, call 800-299-2811 for more
information and costs.
August 11, 2011 New Hope Autism Support Group meets between 6 and
7:30 p.m. at Tahlequah Bible Church in Tahlequah, Okla-
homa, no reservation required.
September 10-11, 2011 Modern youth with disabilities camp for campers
between the ages of 6 and 16, call 800-299-2811
for more information and costs, campground near
September 21, 2011 Mindfulness for Clinical Intervention and Self Care
training all day at Great Plains Technology Center,
4500 Southwest Lee Boulevard in Lawton, Oklahoma.
For more information contact the Oklahoma Depart-
ment of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at 405-
If you have an event coming up relating to disability, let us know at 800-522-8224, and we’ll help you publicize.