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Showing posts from December, 2011

Just The Way You Are - What We Owe Our Children

               Would you ever dream of allowing your son or daughter to receive an education that is less adequate then his or her peers? Would you deny your child something that would allow them to be successful now or as adults? The answers to these questions are obvious to anyone, but all too often it happens to children who have a disability without their parents ever having any intentions of letting it take place.                 Often times when parents learn of a child’s disability, especially in the case of mental impairments that don’t present themselves until later into adolescence, they are warned to “be realistic” when it comes to the child’s abilities and future potential. This precept is, however, very flawed. If you as a parent don’t have big dreams for your child, who will? Children thrive on the encouragement and support of their parents, so you are in a prime position to influence your child to be the very best and to succeed. If you have low expectations for your

Just The Way You Are - Special Education - IDEA

               Our kids have to go to school, and as parents we want them to do well, learn all that they can, and have some fun while they’re at it. When dealing with kids who have a disability, a normal classroom setting may not be appropriate, however. This doesn’t mean, though, that they do not deserve an equal education. Tennessee follows the federal guidelines of a law known as IDEA, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provides funding to states who follow its guidelines in educating children who have a disability. Its purpose is to ensure that everyone gets a “free appropriate public education.”                 The idea of IDEA (pun intended) is that each special child has a written plan in place that is specific to their needs and detailed to ensure that they get the best possible education. A student with a mental impairment will need something very from a student with an auditory impairment, so this law lays out a path for schools, teachers, and parents

Just The Way You Are - Disability Etiquette

             Quite often, I am approached in public about Christian. People ask questions and they want to know more about him, about his condition, and about his abilities. Sometimes when I get approached, people apologize for being intrusive, or they ask me if I mind them asking questions. And many times, when young children approach Christian, they ask questions that make their parents feel very uncomfortable! I have received many apologies from embarrassed parents. But honestly, I don’t mind.   Most adults who ask do so because they are concerned, because they see an innocent little baby, and I think they just want to know that he is ok. Once I tell them how healthy he is, and they see him smile, the questions turn into conversations about my amazing son! And children, well, they are just being kids! Curious, intrigued, and confused. One little girl, no older than three, saw Christian one day and walked right up to me and said “What happen?” I have done this plenty of times, so

Just The Way You Are - Caring for the Caregiver

             Hearing that your child has a disability is hard, but having to live day by day with a child or family member who has a disability is probably one of the hardest things anyone will ever have to do. It presents unique challenges, unwanted hardships, and daily frustrations. A caregiver, such as a parent, can get discouraged and tired when dealing with the struggles that come along with having a disabled family member. I can attest to the difficulty. I spent the first four months of my son’s life making 2 to 4 trips to Vanderbilt per week, have spent his whole life fighting the Social Security office to get him SSI, make weekly trips to physical therapy, and have watched him have major, life-threatening surgery on more than one occasion. This is definitely not what I expected or wanted when I found out that I would be a mother, and this is the case with anyone who has a family member with a disability. No one signs up for it, and yet, there they are, forced into a positio

Just The Way You Are - October 6, 2011 - Dealing with the Diagnosis

               I will never forget the message left on my phone the day my doctor found something wrong on my son’s ultrasound. He was “concerned” about the results. He called three times that Thursday, each time sounding a little more urgent, but never giving details. I didn’t get the messages until Saturday evening, and by Monday morning I was ringing his phone off the hook trying to get a hold of him. When I finally heard the news, I came unraveled. The next few months leading up to and including Christian’s birth were a rollercoaster of emotions. It was hands down the most challenging thing I have ever had to face and I can think of few things that would be harder. I am not alone in this experience, however. This experience happens more often than we’d like to hope. Dealing with the grief and other emotions that comes along with hearing your child’s diagnosis can be very challenging. So where do we turn for help? I have found a wonderful site that discusses how to deal with hav

Just The Way You Are – September 29, 2011 - People First Language

                 I was sitting in my Employment and Labor Law class a few weeks ago at Nashville School of Law when a guy that was close to my age stated, “My wife is an architect. One of the burs in her side when designing, say, a hospital, is that she has to design it so that a blind, deaf, and wheelchair ridden person can get around by themselves in it.”                 My jaw dropped. I glanced at the guy to my right, who happened to be in a wheel chair, to see his reaction, then I looked at my friend to my left and said, “How dare a blind, deaf, wheel chair ridden person need to find their way around a hospital!” As you can tell, I was upset by this comment. It was uncompassionate, bred from ignorance, and flat out rude. The guy to my right never even flinched at the remark, which puzzled me for a second, because it was all I could do to keep my composure. As I thought about it later, I wondered why he didn’t react, then it hit me. This probably isn’t the first time he’s heard

Just the Way You Are – September 6, 2011 - Toys R’ Us Differently Abled Toy Guide

                Some disabilities hinder children from playing in certain ways. For example, a child who can’t walk will not be able to play with a push and pull toy, at least not in the traditional way. A child who is deaf will get little pleasure from a toy whose main function involves music or noise. A blind child will not enjoy a toy such as a mirror. But one thing that disabilities do not do is stop children from playing. Despite any disability, children are still just children who learn by playing and exploring and a disabled child’s need to play is even more important to their development because of the propensity of the disability to slow or prevent their normal progress. When raising a child with a disability, it is a full time job to try to encourage the child to develop those skills that the disability might delay or prevent. Using the right toys is vital in that development. Although some examples as I have listed above are obvious to anyone, it can be hard to determine ex