Habilitation: “Life-Changing” for People With Disabilities Jeanne Wilcox, professor of speech and hearing science at Arizona State University and director and founder of the ASU Infant-Child Research Programs, spoke passionately on the importance of habilitative services at a June congressional briefing designed to highlight for policymakers the value of rehabilitation services and devices. At the briefing, ... On the Pulse
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On the Pulse  |   September 01, 2011
Habilitation: “Life-Changing” for People With Disabilities
Author Notes
  • Carol Polovoy, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at cpolovoy@asha.org.
    Carol Polovoy, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at cpolovoy@asha.org.×
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Development / Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / On the Pulse
On the Pulse   |   September 01, 2011
Habilitation: “Life-Changing” for People With Disabilities
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 43. doi:10.1044/leader.OTP2.16092011.43
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 43. doi:10.1044/leader.OTP2.16092011.43
Jeanne Wilcox, professor of speech and hearing science at Arizona State University and director and founder of the ASU Infant-Child Research Programs, spoke passionately on the importance of habilitative services at a June congressional briefing designed to highlight for policymakers the value of rehabilitation services and devices.
At the briefing, “The Importance of Rehabilitation in America’s Healthcare System,” several speakers addressed the positive impact of rehabilitation on the health, functional status, and ability of Americans with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions to live independently in their homes and communities.
“Habilitation is not about waiting for an individual to fail to develop essential skills,” said Wilcox, who serves as ASHA’s vice president for academic affairs in speech-language pathology. “Rather, it is focused on making sure that at-risk individuals develop foundational skills to enable acquisition of more complex functional skills throughout their lives.”
In illustrating the value of habilitation services, she cited adolescents with autism who struggle with social interaction and communication skills that form the basis for getting along with others, learning to live independently, and seeking and keeping employment. “Should we wait until they are socially isolated and totally dependent upon their families for care,” Wilcox said, “or should we provide habilitative services that promote their ability to interact appropriately with others, teach strategies for compensating for their disability, and provide access to assistive technology that will promote their learning and independence?”
The briefing was hosted by the ITEM Coalition, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Health Task Force, the Coalition to Preserve Rehabilitation, and the Bipartisan House Disabilities Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). Several health care provider and consumer groups, including ASHA, co-sponsored the event.
Other presenters included Gerard Francisco, chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann and the attending rehabilitation physician for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Paul Tobin, president and CEO of United Spinal Association.
In her remarks, Wilcox noted that Congress has included habilitative services as an essential benefit in the Affordable Care Act. “We do not know how many employers include this as a current benefit,” she said, “but these services can be life-changers for individuals with developmental disabilities. Well-timed services—at any age—can mitigate the impact of a developmental disability; reduce the need for subsequent, more costly services; and promote overall independence, success in higher education, and employment.”
Research on lifespan development for individuals with developmental disabilities indicates that timing for habilitation services is critical, Wilcox said. “We want children, teenagers, and adults to have the opportunity to acquire key functional skills that form the foundation for participation in life activities, and we also want them to have access to ongoing supports and services that enable them to continue to participate in activities throughout their lives.”
Wilcox concluded by stating that “habilitative services aren’t a luxury. They are a wise investment in human potential for about 43 million people, or 14% of our population.”
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September 2011
Volume 16, Issue 9