Thursday, May 31, 2012

Google Custom Search - Special needs services in Minneapolis and St Paul

Some years ago I put assembled a Google custom search engine for special needs topics in Minnesota and particularly in the MSP region. I tried it out recently and was disappointed in the results.

Happily, I've learned a bit more about tuning these Google services and in a few minutes I had a new and improved version. If you have a special needs topic, and you live in Minnesota, you should give it a try: Google Custom Search - Special needs services in Minneapolis and St Paul.

Add a comment to this post if you find a problem or there's something you'd like to see added. There's an embedded version of this engine at the top right side of this blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motivation and creativity: Adolescent special needs and crime

Number one proudly showed mother a bag of candies. The facility went to DEFCON 2 - on Mother's day morning. This was his way of confessing to a hot crime.

These are the mornings where we are reminded that, even in difficult economic times, society has ample housing for special needs adults

Not that he's doing all that badly. In mid-adolescence his behavior is much improved on years past, and quite a bit better than when he was three to five years old. Alas, the room for error is also much less; a 15 yo doesn't get the latitude of a 5 yo. It probably helps to register with the local police [1], but overall the stakes are higher. Of course.

So, DEFCON 2 it was. Fortunately, we're professionals. Mother calmly asked how he'd come across the candy on a Sunday morning bike ride. He had a ready answer. A construction crew friend gave it to him. Of course this would violate the no-accepting-gift rule, but it is true that he's gotten gear from the construction guys he "supervises" during the work season. Candy on Mother's Day Sunday though? Even he knew that wouldn't fly.

There were two places he could have picked 'em up from, and I hit the managers at both. One didn't carry the candy sample, but the other had jackpot. The good news is he'd paid for 'em, and the clerk remembered how much he pulled out. Stealing from my wallet is more of a learning opportunity than a crisis. Heck, a friend of mine did much worse as a kid and he's a judge now.

Still, there were bad things to rule out. Stealing from my wallet was a problem, but getting paid off by an adult would be far worse. We needed to know where the money came from. Fortunately we were set for the real third degree. The best way to corner a perp, after all, is start with the answers. 

Good cop, bad cop again. The method that works best is calm silence and some leading questions - "We know you know we know". Repeat back what he confesses, guiding him along. Take breaks when he stalls; let him spin out the alibis until they crack. Let him choose who to talk with.

That's where it got interesting. His second alibi was quite creative. It built on a friend's story and through in a bunch of persuasive detail. It only had two big fractures. One was that he got a trophy so big it wouldn't fit in our car -- so he left it at home. He forgot to claim that he'd won a cash prize, thus suggesting he'd stolen cash from the till. Lastly the event took place a week ago -- and there's no way he could hold onto cash that long.

Still, it was the best creative story he's ever told. I didn't know he had it in him. Even as the interrogation proceeded I took mental notes; now I could raise the bar for his creative school work.

Eventually he confessed. He put the remaining funds back in my desk drawer -- easier than handing it over to me. I said owed me $4, so we mowed the neighbors lawn and I called that even. The hardest thing for him was the idea that despite paying me back he didn't get to keep the candy. So I came up with a way for him to earn another $1.50 from his piggy bank and some work and we retrieved one candy box from the garbage.

A good days work overall. I'd already ordered a cash box, but I don't want to remove temptation entirely. Instead I'm going to put my wallet in the cash box, but leave $5 in my drawer. When the money goes, I'll know we have a learning opportunity. If he passes on $5, I'll move it to $10. 


[1] In our community the police like to know which teens are special needs. This won't make any difference under emergent circumstances, but if they're called for shoplifting or they pick a kid up it can.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Alternative housing for special needs adults - the MEDCottage

This was setup for elderly parents, but there are obvious implications for special needs adults (emphases mine)...
In the Backyard, Grandma's New Apartment -
.... a MEDCottage — a prefabricated 12-by-24-foot bedroom-bathroom-kitchenette unit that can be set up as a free-standing structure in their backyard. It’s more than a miniature house — it’s decked out with high-tech monitoring and safety features that rival those of many nursing homes....
... The Australians, who began building simple backyard homes for the elderly in the ’70s, call them granny flats. In the United States, these self-contained units have earned another nickname: granny pods...
... the Pages will become the first family in the country to take delivery of a high-tech MEDCottage. The cottage is laid out as an open-plan apartment with a kitchen area (equipped with a microwave, small refrigerator and washer-dryer combo), a bed area and a bathroom large enough in which to maneuver a wheelchair. The utilities and plumbing connect to the primary residence....
... The cameras sweep an area 12 inches above the floor, so normally all they transmit are images of feet and ankles...
... Currently about half of the states allow these accessory dwellings for a family member, according to Mr. Dupin. (Several additional states, including New York, are considering legislation explicitly permitting granny pods.)...
... The cottage costs about $85,000 new; Mr. Dupin’s distributors will buy it back for about $38,000 after 24 months of use...
... For caregivers in the tristate area who like the idea of aging in place, there’s another prefab alternative: P.A.L.S., short for Practical Assisted Living Structures.
... Attaching a portable pod didn’t cost much more than retrofitting his home, and the unit could be set up faster and with less mess. So last year he contacted Henry Racki, P.A.L.S. creator and a Connecticut home builder who also is a certified aging-in-place specialist... 
... Though each P.A.L.S. unit is customized to the client’s needs, the standard 20-by-14-foot bedroom and bathroom unit starts at about $67,000. Homeowners can also lease a unit. A five-year lease runs about $1,700 per month, after which you own the unit.
The pod comes with phone and TV cable lines built into the wall (no wires to trip on), a closet with levers that lower the clothes to wheelchair level, motion detectors that automatically turn the knee-high night-light system on, showers with grab bars and various types of no-step entries, wheelchair-accessible sinks and comfort-height toilets.
So far, Mr. Racki has set up 10 of these mini-homes in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Zoning in Connecticut doesn’t usually allow for full kitchens, Mr. Racki said, but they can be included. He helps clients get all the permits and zoning approvals needed.
None of the P.A.L.S. purchasers so far have requested high-tech medical monitoring. But a system similar to the MEDCottage’s can be added for $16,000...
I didn't realize there was so much innovation in this area. Astonishing that similar devices have been use in Australia since the 1970s. There will be enormous pressure to find a way to care for demented elderly over the next 30 years; systems like this will be made legal in every state.

In my own case, when I'm demented I expect my daughter to build one on the side of a very steep cliff (which is what I personally would want).

For my son however, something like this may be needed for a longer term, presumably as a form of rental unit.