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Hard Times

May 4th, 2021

published in the Republican May 2021

We all go through difficult times in our lives. It is about how we cope with them that matters. Right now our nation is trying to recover from a paramedic, leaving many feeling anxious, sad and angry.
I deal with my feelings by writing regularly in a journal.  I write down my feelings as a way of bringing closure and expressing myself. In every situation I always weigh the positives against the negatives, making the best of what I have in life.


I also encounter anxiety every day. I use breathing exercises to keep it under control.  While breathing I place my hand over my heart and focus on my heartbeat. I let the power of love chase away the anxiety and negative emotions.


Meditation is a part of my daily life.  I like to practice visual meditation, where you focus on an object, leading you to be calm and peaceful.  You can also repeat a mantra, such as I am safe, and I am healthy.  My favorite one is love, peace and happiness.


I am very grateful to have my husband, family and friends to remind me of my strengths, give me support and never let me slip too far into anxiety. Now I wake up each day with a renewed positive attitude ready to take on new challenges.

Crip Camp

April 26th, 2021

published in the Republican May 2021

Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht produced a documentary titled Crip Camp, which was released on Netflix last March.  It is about the disability revolution, and was nominated for an Oscar Award.  Even though it didn’t win, the disability community still sees it as a win because it received recognition.
The documentary is based on Camp Jened, starting in 1971.  The camp in New York was considered to be a free spirited camp designed for kids with disabilities.  It focuses on campers who turned themselves into activists for the disability rights movement.
The camp originally started in 1951 but didn’t get involved in the disability rights movement until 1971.  The camp empowered political and social discussion about accessibility issues and how to be more independent in their communities.
The documentary has empowered people to learn more about the disability movement.  It gave voice to people with disabilities through their experiences.  One camper, Judy Heumann, said, “We spent our time at Camp Jened envisioning a world that was not set up in a way that excluded us.  We started to have a common vision and ask our own questions, like ‘Why are we denied an education?  Why is there no captioning for deaf people or audio descriptions for blind people and no access to public transportation?’  We came away from the camp knowing we wanted to make changes in society and recognizing lessons from the civil rights movement where people spoke on their own behalf to rectify injustice.”

Aging parents

April 12th, 2021

published in the Republican April 2021

As parents of intellectual and developmental disabilities grow older, they have many concerns about their adult child’s future. Many feel that the quality of support may go down once the parent is gone.
Many parents also feel that their child will be socially isolated and alone in the world with no support. There are also concerns that the adult child will end up in a place where they don’t want to be, such as a nursing home. A large majority fear that the child will be abused, neglected or financially exploited.

Researchers at Eastern Michigan University published a study in the medical journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. 320 parents over the age of 50 were surveyed. They were asked about their family situation, including the level of the child’s ability to communicate, socialize, and other behavioral issues.

The study found that behavioral issues were the biggest burden for caregivers, followed by daily living activities. Many caregivers also had concerns about their child’s independence, while a few reported physical violence to be a problem.

The study showed that there is a need for behavioral support programs where families can learn to plan for the future and help their child become more independent.

Writing

April 12th, 2021

published in the Republican April 2021

April has always been a month of reflection for me due to the anniversary of my column.  Over the years it has been a vehicle for my voice ranging from disability rights, personal experiences to self-help.  It is good to be reminded where it all began.

I have been writing in a journal every day since I was a little girl.  Whenever I was upset, my mom told me to write about why I was upset and after it was written there was no reason to be upset because it was in the past.

To this day I still follow that advice, feeling better after venting my feelings on paper.  It is like clearing your mind so you can see things in a new light.  Writing can also be a great way to brainstorm solutions to problems and track progress of resolutions.

Journaling can keep track of your goals, values and beliefs in your personal life.  In my journal I have pages where I have listed values and beliefs that I follow every day, like being happy, peaceful and positive.  I read this every day to keep me centered, focused and to remind myself of who I am.  Writing is a way of life for me.

Pilates

April 12th, 2021

published in the Republican April 2021

As someone with cerebral palsy, exercising can be very challenging.  Every day, I deal with stiff muscles and limited mobility.  I found Pilates to be a perfect companion to yoga since both are low impact.

My first experience with Pilates was the method Precision Toning by Jennifer Kries.  I really enjoyed this workout mainly because Jennifer took the time to teach proper form, which is especially important for someone who has physical limitations.

I had an opportunity to talk with Jennifer about Pilates and fitness.  Jennifer has been a ballet dancer since she was a young girl.  She took her first Pilates class at age thirteen.  At first, she was skeptical but her mother encouraged her to continue with it.  She was pleasantly surprised by how her dancing improved with Pilates.  It also helped her heal from dancing injuries.

Jennifer eventually began teaching Pilates and dancing where she was given the opportunity to create workout videos such as The Method Series and many others.  Jennifer’s philosophy is to connect to yourself while practicing mindfulness.  She empathizes the importance of loving yourself while using movement to cultivate positivity and joy.  Jennifer is inspired by mother’s advice of keeping your cup overflowing with love and happiness.

Starting this May, Jennifer is starting a new program called Turning Pain Into Gold.  The purpose is to embrace pain while growing from it through mind and body exercises to let go.  She will use techniques like meditation and journaling along with Pilates and dance to find a balance for herself.  Visit her site at http://www.jenniferkries.com

Disabilities

February 28th, 2021

published in the Republican

I can remember always feeling overshadowed by my disabilities. For a short while, all I felt was the weight of being labeled disabled. It left me feeling isolated and very different from everyone else. Everyone has their strong and weak points even though it is important to improve our weak areas.
Fostering strengths can have many positive impacts in one’s life. For example, a positive self-image will help pave the way to growth in many ways. Another point is the importance of including the disabled child in determining what accommodations are needed to meet their needs. It may sound like a simple concept, but sadly I have run into people during my life who felt because of my disabilities I could not speak for myself. Everywhere in society, people with disabilities of all ages deal with stigmas that reflect negatives of having a disability instead of focusing on the person and their strengths. All people deserve to be treated with respect and to be independent.
There are many different things that define us and help create our identities. Our roles vary from our professional to our personal lives. In the past, people with disabilities have only been identified and classified as being disabled, and were often judged by their weaknesses and limitations, leading to misconceptions. Just like everyone else, people with disabilities have interests, talents and strengths. Their disability is only part of their life and should not consume their lives.
In recent years, there has been a shift in perception in seeing the person first and their disability second. The main purpose of viewing the person first is to focus on strengths to help them create who they are, which will lead to higher self-esteem, self worth and a positive self-image. The key is to use the positive energy to make accommodations for any limitations. When we view a disability as a challenge to overcome, this will defeat any frustrations or negative energy.
We all have unique gifts to be shared and valued. I am proud of the roles that create my own identity, ranging from wife, yogini, columnist and activist. My disabilities are a positive influence enabling me to be compassionate, strong, and fearless.

Accessibility

February 16th, 2021

published in the Republican February 2021

Last year, a lawsuit was filed against the Trump administration for not providing sign language interpreters at the press briefings regarding COVID.  The lawsuit was brought by the National Association of the Deaf.  Last September the court ordered the White House to provide interpreters at the pandemic briefings.

The Biden administration is dedicated to making its website and briefings accessible for people with disabilities by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.  An accessibility statement on the White House website declares that its “commitment to accessibility for all begins with this site and our efforts to ensure all functionality and all content is accessible to all Americans.”  The White House website also said, “These guidelines not only help make web content accessible to users with sensory, cognitive and mobility disabilities, but ultimately to all users, regardless of ability.”

As a part of being inclusive, all White House press briefings will have American Sign Language interpreters.  The administration wants to make America inclusive for everyone.

Everyone, regardless of disability, has the right to gain information that is put out by our government, especially information that concerns our well-being.

Love and confidence

February 4th, 2021

published in the Republican February 2021


Many people with disabilities go through periods of doubt and low self-esteem.  In order to have a positive self-image, you must learn to accept yourself.

There are several steps that can be taken.  The first one is to only worry about meeting your own expectations.  One key step is to not compare yourself with other people because every person is unique and different.

Everyone has a right to be independent in their own communities, from working, getting an education and connecting with other people.  It is always important to understand that we all need improvement in one way or another.  Thus, people should not be too hard on themselves.

We often get caught up in worrying about the future when we should be living in the moment.  Each day should be an adventure filled with many possibilities.

When we have positive energy, we can overcome or find solutions to any problem.  It is important to surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are.  I always like to remind people that a disability does not define.  It is only a characteristic.

Pandemic strategy

January 26th, 2021

published in the Republican February 2021

As President Biden takes office, one of his biggest challenges is to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.  His plan includes signing several executive orders, such as increasing access to vaccines and mask requirements in certain settings.

The White House is giving guidelines through the Centers for Disease Control to assist people with disabilities.  The focus will be providing assistance to immediate care facilities and community-based services.

Disability advocates have been asking for research on how COVID-19 is affecting people with disabilities.  They and the federal government feel that this research is needed to ensure that the needs of disabled people are met.

Another part of the plan is for the CDC to provide resources to help states reopen schools while providing information on how to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

As for vaccines, the CDC will establish new methods of ensuring that high-risk people will get the vaccine.  President Biden said, “We didn’t get into this mess overnight and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around.  But let me equally clear:  We will get through this.  We will defeat this pandemic.  Help is on the way.”  Many disability advocates are calling the plan a good first step.

New beginnings

January 26th, 2021

published in the Republican January 2021

One of the first things President Joe Biden wants to tackle is the COVID-19 pandemic and economicalfallout.  His American rescue plan will include $1400 direct payments to many Americans in need and will also include funding for vaccines.  His plan will also reopen schools and provide support to state and local government.  Another part is to extend unemployment benefits and paid leave.

President Biden’s proposal will not disinclude anyone from receiving stimulus payments.  It also calls for eliminating subminimum wage.  He said, “We can do these bold, practical things now.  If we invest now, boldly, smartly and with an unwavering focus on American workers and families we will strengthen our economy, reduce inequity and put our nation’s long-term finances on a more sustainable course.”

Disability advocates are concerned about one area that was overlooked, which is Medicaid home and community-based services.  In the past, there has been a push for extra funding due to service providers having to struggle with higher costs resulting from the pandemic.

Hopefully in the coming months, we will see some positive changes to make everyday living to be easier for those struggling with the pandemic.