Monthly Archives: August 2012

More Than Steps

The official Easter Seals Dupage and the Fox Valley Region Blog welcomes Amy Liss, who works in the Development department in the Villa Park center.     

                                                                                                                                                                                             

Most of you reading this may not realize how much work is involved in taking a step when you have spastic cerebral palsy.  At Easter Seals, the therapists get it. My therapists have worked with me for more than 25 years and this week we all experienced a new thrill.  A new piece of equipment called the walking track was recently installed in our building.  The therapists received some training on using it and an hour later I was walking with it!  You can see an amazing video of my first flight here.

Thanks to Easter Seals, I have been able to use a lot of cool equipment to help make my body stronger but nothing like this. It’s so hard to describe the feeling, but the first time in it, the walking just seemed to come so easily. I have had a walker for more than two years to use in therapy. However, when I take steps with my walker it happens after much stretching in therapy and I really have to think about the movements for each step I take. With the new walking track, my feet just seemed to go on their own and it felt like I was running at some points (that might have been excitement).

After posting the video on Facebook, I have read so many wonderful comments from people I don’t even know personally that are impressed by Easter Seals and are amazed to see me upright and moving. After 29 years of therapy, this is as close as I’ve ever come to feeling like I’m just walking like everyone else. My twin sister Kelly said it was the very first time we took a picture standing together and my little sister, Lindsay, said she cried watching the video and seeing me walk. My therapists, Kathe and Diane, should be equally as excited because they are the ones who got me to this point. I loved watching their faces especially because they had just learned how to use the track an hour before I was on it. I was so impressed with their willingness to use a piece of equipment so readily after just being introduced to it. The whole experience was really emotional for me because I really felt like I was walking down the hall with my friend, Kathe. And I was.

I’m excited to see other clients use this equipment but will always be thrilled that I was the first one in it!

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College…really? Yes!

We all know how important education is in the United States. Education is the pathway to a good job, making a decent living, finding out about yourself, etc. The list that education brings to one’s life is endless. However, being physically disabled can jeopardize getting an education. This is particularly true when it is time to start thinking about going away to college.

Yes, being independent when you’re physically disabled can be a significant challenge, not to mention nerve-wracking for parents. As a college graduate myself, I can tell you that it is completely worth it. During my collegiate years, I was welcomed into a sorority, deepened my faith, changed the way I think about the world, and my college experience ultimately made me a woman. Now, I have to recognize that I am not medically fragile, do not have the incredible challenges of a learning disability, or need to go to the doctor frequently. We all have different abilities and we should make the decision to go to college based upon our personal abilities. As I said, the personal benefits are countless but there are other benefits too.

Some facts to consider:

“A typical college graduate earns roughly $650,000 more than a typical high school graduate over the course of a 40-year career, according to the Pew Research Center study” (dailyfinance.com).

“Employment opportunities are far better for someone with a college degree, as employers are assured that this person has working knowledge of their business and can cope with a competitive work environment as well. The skill set owned by the individual will also be higher than someone who does not have a college education” (buzzle.com)

“Other benefits of going to college that don’t necessarily show up in the earning statistics are the experience students who attend college gain. People who go on to do higher education tend to be healthier and a generally more rounded person than someone who has just got a high school education” (importanceofcollege.com).

Speaking of personal growth, I had so many fun opportunities. I mentioned it before, but I joined a sorority, Phi Mu. In high school, I didn’t really have friends. When I joined Phi Mu, the women in the sorority embraced me. They didn’t see the disability; they only saw me offering friendship and humor. We went to parties and philanthropy events together and they didn’t shelter me because I was disabled, I was just Hannah to them. I can relate to typical a college and soroity experience. The experience of my participation in a soroity can be compared to college academics, dorm life and so much more.

I realize those facts cannot necessarily change your mind if you are scared to go to college but if anything, I urge you to do more research.  I found a good place for you to start researching here.

Also, I’ve been through the highs and lows of college life. Stop by the Development office, I would love to chat!

Back to School

If the mass of commercials hasn’t told you that it’s time to go back to school, the Easter Seals blog will. It’s time for pencils, notebooks, and glue! As exciting as the start of school can be, it can be nerve-wracking also. Any kid has a right to be nervous but a child with special needs has several more reasons to be nervous. Children with special needs may encounter some unique challenges as they go back to school because of their invisible or visible disabilities. Dennise Goldberg, Special Education Advisor has ten tips for parents who have children going back to school with special needs.

  1. Talk with your kid about school and get them excited.
  2. Go school shopping with your child. This helps your child feel a part of the process of the transition of going back to school.
  3.  If a family member is not driving your child to school, get them excited about the school bus or the mode of transportation they will be using.
  4. Summer is over…begin a new routine! Preferably, this should include an earlier bed time.
  5. Know grade level standards so you can talk to your child about what they will be learning. If your child’s education is modified, know the differences so that you know the differences.
  6. Provide a copy of your child’s IEP to your new teacher.
  7. It may be a good idea to have a copy of the IEP on the first day of school. The school is overwhelmed with the new school year, why not help them out?
  8. If your IEP meeting is scheduled earlier in the year, make sure school assessments are done in a timely manner.
  9. Schedule a parent teacher conference to establish a relationship with the teacher and so your teacher feels comfortable with your child’s needs.
  10.   “Create a service log of your child’s services so that you can track compliance and periodically ask the School for their logs to double check accuracy. Always remember that you have a legally binding contract with the School District and if your child does not receive their services, you have a right to ask for replacement hours” (specialeducationadvisor.com).

Personally, I think communication is crucial with the teacher, parent, and student. If communication lines are open, the school year will go smoothly. You will learn things from each other and become a team!

Cell Phone Accessibility

I want to raise an issue with the Easter Seals community. Cell phones! Any phone beyond the flip phone is difficult to either access for people with mobility issues or presents visual issues for others. I have athetoid Cerebral Palsy meaning my tone fluxgates constantly and I can’t use touch screens without a plastic key guard because of my multiple movement disorders. So, for now I have a prehistoric Motorola RAZR flip phone. Granted, it’s pink which helps a little but in all honesty, I would like an iPhone.

The problem is that I could not work one. The iPhone has such a dynamic screen that a key guard would not work. I’m on Facebook, I text like a “normal” 22 year old, I have an extremely busy work and social calendar and I take pictures like crazy. I am the perfect candidate for the iPhone but I can’t use it. That is a paradox if I have ever heard one!

So, what do we do as a community? We have to write to Apple, Motorola and all cell phone companies (because we can’t call them) and tell them to make adaptive equipment for current cell phones. To contact Apple, go to: http://www.apple.com/support/. To contact Motorola, go to: https://motorola-global-portal.custhelp.com/app/home/. We love people who help us and care for us but we should be able to be independent on our cell phones!

In the meantime, we have to acknowledge the fact that these companies are making assistive technology such as text to speech programs on their tablets and phones.  Apple has been making augmentative communication apps since 2009. Their first app was Proloquo2Go which is nearly identical to the DynaVox which is a communication device that uses text to speech software.  This opened the world up to people with speech impairments and changed the lives of many who have been diagnosed with autism.

So, the world—in particular, the technological world is becoming aware of people with disabilities. They just need to take it one step further in recognizing that many users have limited use of their hands and need adaptive tools to make modern communication accessible to everyone.

Push Girls

Easter Seals is all about giving people of all abilities independence. The reality television series Push Girls is all about having independence and strength despite incredible obstacles. The progressive TV series is about five women in wheelchairs and how paralysis affects them. They all have different stories, attitudes, and beliefs about being paralyzed. The show delves into the issues, challenges, and victories each of these four women have. Let’s start with Tiphany.

 

Tiphany was paralyzed at age 16 from a drunk driving accident. She was in a coma for numerous weeks. When she finally woke up, she was devastated to find out she would never walk again. Along with being heartbroken about her new limitations, Tiphany’s heart shattered at the thought of never being able to dance again. However, like our Easter Seals clients, Tiphany went after her dreams. After a few years in rehab and living at home, Tiphany was able to move to L.A. and follow her dreams of becoming a model. In her free time, she speaks to schools about drunk driving and participates in adaptive sports. Her family gave her enough support to be independent like our Easter Seals families support their loved ones. The second push girl is Angela, her roommate.

 

Angela was paralyzed in a car accident. She got thrown through the window of a car. She suffered from a broken neck and severed spinal cord. Doctors gave her a 3% chance of ever feeling or moving anything below her neck. Years later, she is able to manuver a manual wheelchair and feed herself, paint, and put on her own make up. Angela is an aspiring model and while she struggles to find “normal” modeling jobs, she models for Quickie Wheelchairs and Ti-Lite Wheelchairs. Our next push girl is Auti.

 

Like the push girls above, Auti almost died in a car accident. This left her paralyzed from the waist down. Auti danced for a career and performed for well known hip hop artists before her accident. After seven years of turmoil, Auti turned to God and got her life together. She is now the first professional hip-hop dancer in a wheelchair. Her husband is very supportive of Auti much like the families of Easter Seals. She also started Colours ‘n’ Motion, a hip-hop dance group for people in wheelchairs and is vigorously working on her acting/singing career. Next, Mia!

 

Mia has a different story of how she became paralyzed. One evening she found herself unable to move her legs. Within 12 hours, doctors discovered that an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) had ruptured in her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. An overwhelming attitude of determination allowed her to graduate high school on time, rush a sorority, and receive a degree in Media Production from the University of Florida. She currently lives in L.A. and is a graphic designer.

 

The youngest push girl is Chelsea. Chelsea left a party with a drunk driver and the SUV she was in veered off the road and crashed into a tree, snapping Chelsie’s back. She was paralyzed from the waist down. Despite her new obstacles, she graduated on time with her class and started college in February of this year. Her father and her started a not-for-profit called The Walk and Roll Foundation which helps people with spinal cord injuries. Chelsea’s family not only supports their daughter but many people who are similar to their daughter.

 

 

As you can clearly see, these strong women embody the mission of Easter Seals. They are living with maximum independence. They are living independently with the support of their families. At Easter Seals, we know for individuals with disabilities being supported by family, friends, and organizations like Easter Seals is crucial. Push Girls is on the Sundance channel on Mondays at 10 p.m. I hope you watch and comment on this site. What are your thoughts on these women who push independence to the max?

To meet the girls, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C–6tZGVDAs&feature=relmfu

Welcome to the Official Easter Seals Blog!

This is the official Easter Seals blog! I am Hannah Thompson, a recent graduate of Elmhurst College and the new intern for the Development department. As an organization, we thought a blog would be a great way to connect with our Easter Seals community and the greater community that we serve. Why did I get to write the blog? I was lucky enough to get an internship here after being a client here for the past four years. The blog is my primary responsibility and I will do my best to give you an insight into Easter Seals and its families, therapists, and clients.

 

We will look at clients and their extraordinary stories. We will get an in depth look into the history of Easter Seals via interviews with therapists. Also, we will explore how the community of people with disabilities is portrayed in the media. Throughout the posts, we will talk about Easter Seals events and fundraisers that you can attend and help Easter Seals continue to make individuals with disabilities reach their full potential.

 

I sincerely look forward to blogging for this wonderful organization. Let’s see what this year holds in store!