Regional News in Review - July 2011


There’s an app for that



Let’s say you aren’t sure how to start a conversation. Or give a compliment. Or get through a first date. For kids with Asperger’s syndrome, these can be big challenges. But now there’s an app for that.

Fraser, a child development center in Minneapolis, has created QuickCues to help guide autistic teens and young adults through tricky social situations. Essentially, they’re a series of tip sheets that are designed to be used on iPads, iPods or iPhones for handy reference. When they need a little help, students can pull out their mobile devices and read a script about how to act in a way that’s socially acceptable. There’s one guide, for example, for “apologizing for unintentional mistakes.” Another is called “Bullies—How to handle.”

Several years ago, Fraser got a grant to help teenagers in its after-school program design their own tip sheets—also called “social stories”—and put them on iPods. “Young people with autism have a tough time picking up social cues. “A social story gives them some rules and information how to do that,” said Drew Benson, a counselor at Fraser.

In the past, students would write notes on paper, but manywere reluctant to use them. “It makes you look really different to have to pull [out] this big laminated piece of paper,” Benson explained. But with an iPod? They look like any other teenagers, flipping through a screen.

The project proved so popular that Fraser decided to create a standard set and sell them through Apple’s app store, said Benson. Fraser offers QuickCues for four different skill sets: Communication, Life Skills, Socialization and Coping, each priced at $4.99. So far, only about 1,200 have been sold since they were introduced last year. [Source: Star Tribune]



Gaps remain in Minnesotans’ care



A report from MN Community Measurement shows that while disparities are narrowing in quality of health care for low-income Minnesotans, significant gaps continue. Overall the quality of health care provided by managed care plans to people covered by public health care programs continues to lag when compared with care provided to patients who have insurance through an employer or Medicare, according to the annual report by MN Community Measurement.

“Although the report shows that there has been some narrowing of disparities in quality of care, serious gaps still remain,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

“Reports like this are vital both for helping us focus on where we need to improve as well as for helping the public keep us accountable for that improvement. As we move forward with our payment and delivery system reforms, tracking improvement in disparities reduction will be an area we keep our eye on.”

The 2010 Health Care Disparities Report for Minnesota Health Care Programs is the fourth-annual report produced by MN Community Measurement in collaboration with DHS, which contracts with managed care plans to provide health care services for approximately 536,000 people enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. The report includes performance rates on 12 specific measures, from preventive care, such as cancer screenings, to care for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Looking at rates over time, there is some narrowing of gaps, with the biggest improvement being in cervical cancer screening. Overall performance, however, still showed nine of the 12 measures significantly lower for people with public program coverage versus private, with the widest gaps appearing for colorectal cancer screening, followed by optimal vascular care and breast cancer. The 2010 report is available at www.mncm.org  [Source: Department of Human Services]



Woman convicted in attack on autistic boy



Justice continues in an attack on a 16-year-old boy with autism. One of five people involved in last year’s attack was convicted June 22 of first-degree aggravated robbery and kidnapping. On Dec. 23, 2010 a group of people including Tiffany Clock followed the boy while he was at Sun Ray Shopping Center in St. Paul. They lured him to a nearby park, then beat, taunted and robbed him of a CD player, a digital camera, a cell phone and $8. At one point the boy has shot in the head with a BB gun.

Sentencing of Columbia Heights resident Tiffany Clock, 22, is set for Aug. 4. Clock’s attorney, Christopher Zipko, told news media after the verdict that Clock suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and has been in and out of foster homes. State sentencing guidelines call for four years’ imprisonment but that could be increased at the judge’s discretion.

Clock had a relationship with one of the other defendants, Anthony Martin Ramos, 25. Ramos was sentenced in May to four years’ imprisonment. Clock will be the final defendant sentenced in the attack.

Two juvenile defendants also have been sentenced but their punishment is not public record. A fifth defendant, Trenton Eugene Johnson, was found incompetent to stand trial. [Source: Pioneer Press, KSTP-TV]

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