Press Releases

Summer 2013 Making a Difference Magazine Published

GCDD Finds Welcoming Recreation Programs, Grades Georgia's High School Diploma System and Plans new Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Options  in Making a Difference Summer 2013 

ATLANTA, GA, July 29, 2013 - The summer edition of Making a Difference magazine, the quarterly news magazine recently published by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), opens the dialogue on how to find recreation programs that are welcoming to all, provides an overview on Georgia's high school diploma process and covers the latest Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) opportunities in Georgia.

Step Up to the Plate & Challenge Recreation Programs to be Welcoming to All

Reaching out and approaching an organization that doesn't make a point to advertise programs specifically geared to disabilities can be daunting. But what many parents are discovering is that a warm reception is more likely to be the norm rather than the exception.

"Parents should not be afraid to call us up and say, 'What can we do to get my child involved and make this a successful experience?'," says Bobby Harris, camp director of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Camp Coleman, an overnight camp in Cleveland, GA that welcomes children of all abilities.

Sounds easy, but how can parents find programs and activities that are welcoming to their child? Just ask.

Approach the organization with the assumption that your child will be welcomed. Chances are they will be. For Aarti Sahgal, mother to 13-year-old Angad who has Down syndrome, she saw many doors open for her son just as soon as she was willing to walk through them.

"I heard negative things from another parent about the YMCA's programs not being inclusive. But finally I went there myself and was pleasantly surprised," said Sahgal.

While it's always important for parents to form relationships with the leaders and instructors who work with their children, it's especially important for families of children with disabilities. This article offers first-hand experiences from parents of children with disabilities and organization leaders about finding and participating in recreation programs that are welcoming to all, plus shares practical tips for parents to keep in mind when approaching a program for their child with a disability.

A Matter of Pride - High School Diplomas Are More Than Just a Piece of Paper

More than 1,400 students receiving special education services in Georgia are leaving high school each year without receiving a high school diploma, according to the Georgia Inclusive Post-Secondary Education Consortium and the Georgia State University Center for Leadership in Disability. Advocates believe this is a number that needs to change.

There are two assessment tracks for students - the state required, End of Course Tests (EOCT) or the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA). Although both can lead to a high school diploma, each has its different challenges.

"If students complete the GAA they get a diploma," explains D'Arcy Robb, GCDD Public Policy director. "But one of the problems with this type of diploma is that it doesn't open the doors that a real diploma does. It will not be recognized if the student wants to pursue opportunities such as college, the military or technical schools after college."

As for the other track, though the EOCT track can be helpful for students with disabilities who can keep up with the regular coursework, it does add pressure for students who may struggle in certain areas or need more support to keep up and not fall behind.

There are still too many kids, both with and without disabilities, slipping through the cracks. Navigating the high school diploma system in Georgia for students with disabilities is often tricky, and this article gives a glimpse into the process as well as some of the challenges students with disabilities could face.

Georgia to Expand Post-Secondary Education Options

With the close of the 2013 General Assembly, Georgia's disability advocates pushing for IPSE opportunities celebrated a victory for receiving $100,000 to expand IPSE programs in the State.

Half of the funds will be given to make enhancements for the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth (AILSG) at Kennesaw State University (KSU), which is a two-year program that provides students with intellectual disabilities a college experience and is currently the only IPSE program in the State. The other half of the funds will be put toward the development of a similar IPSE program at a university in South Georgia.

"These types of programs could be very beneficial in the long run," says Senator Jack Hill (R-Dist 4), who was instrumental in getting the funds approved along with Senator Butch Hill (R-Dist 49). "It is about giving students an opportunity to experience what life has to offer and helping them look for sustainability over the long-term."

The push for more IPSE has been going on in Georgia for several years now, and this article offers an overview on the process for choosing and implementing the new IPSE program, as well as the enhancements to be made at the AILSG program.

The summer 2013 edition of Making a Difference also offers insight into the much talked about Ava's Law, a bill that would require insurance companies to cover autism therapies for children with disabilities. GCDD provides a balanced breakdown on the proposed law and offers the perspectives of people on both sides of the controversy.

Mark your calendar for GCDD's next quarterly meeting to be held October 24-25, 2013 in Atlanta, GA. All meetings are open to the public.

Making a Difference is available online in accessible PDF and large print format, as well as on audio by request.

Making a Difference is published quarterly by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). Current and past issues can be accessed online at and hard copies can be requested by contacting the GCDD Office of Public Information. The mission of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities.