January 20th was International Day of Acceptance. International Day of Acceptance is a day where people celebrate differences, focusing on people with disabilities. People have parties on January 20th and generally spread the word on that day that people who have disabilities are living not living disabled. The organization behind this is 3E Love. 3E Love is an organization that empowers and encourages people with disabilities to live life to the fullest. Stevie Hopkins is the man behind the empowerment. According to 3Elove.com, Stevie is a 28 year old from Chicago who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2. After his sister died from medical complications, Stevie kept her dream alive by creating 3E Love. With his knowledge of the financial industry, music business, and web startups, Stevie was able to give 3E Love life.
Stevie took the organization’s mission a step further when he made January 20th International Day of Acceptance. January 20th was the day his sister, Annie passed away. Instead of marking that day as a day to mourn over his sister, Stevie made it a day to celebrate differences and to encourage people with all abilities to live a vibrant life. Stevie is a social entrepreneur who works tirelessly to keep 3E Love alive. You can meet Stevie at an expo for people with disabilities or ask him to speak at your event! To learn more about 3E Love, you can go to: http://www.3elove.com
I have a confession to make. I have watched The Bachelor very single season and every single week. It’s my guilty pleasure. Most seasons, viewers see able-bodied contestants get out of the limo, hoping to meet their Prince Charming. Sean Lowe, the current bachelor has Sarah Herron as a contestant. This beautiful woman comes from Colorado and is an advertising designer. Sarah is successful and gorgeous just like any other contestant. There is one thing that makes Sarah different from any other contestant, however: she has amniotic band syndrome. This has left her with only half of her left arm, but this does not stop her from doing anything! She bikes and does other physical activities. The producers put Sarah on the show and focused on her positive attitude during her formal introduction on the season premiere. To see her talk to Sean for the first time, you can go to: http://bit.ly/13MXRIV
If you have been paying attention to the criticism of The Bachelor, you know the show gets criticism for lacking diversity. This is a step in the right direction. Sarah represents people who are brave enough to showcase their differences and she chose to do it on a national platform. On her first date with Sean, she applauds him for taking her on a date that was physically challenging. By physically challenging, I mean going down a 400 foot building in a harness together. She was fearless! Afterward, Sarah shared a story of people not letting her zip line because of her missing limb and how his attitude towards her disability touched her. This is how people with disabilities should be portrayed in the media. This is a step in the right direction. I think the next step is Bachelorettes rolling up to the bachelor…but that’s just me! For now, let’s hope Sarah gets the ring and that Sean is her Prince Charming!
There are many frustrations that come with being a parent of a child with special needs. One of those frustrations can include getting your child involved in organizations that they want to be a part of. I was talking to a mother of a child who has special needs and she was expressing that she wanted him involved in her church just as his siblings were. He would be welcomed in the choir but could not sing. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a child who cannot sing sitting with the choir just so he is technically included. This child happened to use a communication device. I suggested that this young individual read from the Bible during mass. He could still sit with the choir but I felt like his unique talents should be showcased.
In college, I got very involved in the Catholic Church. I had to show my church how I could contribute during mass and even beyond mass. During mass, I would volunteer to read one of the gospels for the day. The congregation and leaders of my Church appreciated the fact that I was open about what I could do and how I could contribute to their church. In return, I felt valued and not just “the woman in the wheelchair.” I was asked to speak about my strong faith to the high school group at my church. People started seeing me as parishioner who could give not just receive in the church. I feel very blessed to be a part of a congregation that values my individual talents.
This example happens to be about participation in a religious service. We can be leaders and articulate our needs anywhere. For example, I went to a theater summer camp. I could not sing but I could play Tinkerbell when they sang all of the Disney songs. I was also Franklin Roosevelt in Annie…the wheelchair looked pretty real! If you have the right people, right attitude, and can articulate your unique skill set, you can be appreciated and included in any community!
This is the time of year when New Year resolutions are made. Everyone aspires to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, and the list of stereotypical resolutions continues. As of early March, most people forget about them as they get busy with the demands of life. However, clients at Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region work on their goals throughout the year. Their goals all are steps towards achieving maximum independence. They cannot forget about them because their goals are critical to their success and our devoted therapists help them achieve these milestones. The therapists at Easter Seals have the knowledge to set goals for their clients at the right time. This way each goal is attainable and the client can experience the feeling of success.
Being a client at Easter Seals, I appreciate when I get asked for input on my goals. I can express what is important to me. Celine Skertich, a physical therapist at Easter Seals seconds my opinion when she says,
“I see my role as more of a facilitator to empower clients to be the best and the most independent they can be. That is why I always ask, “what do you want to work on”? Also, I say “it really doesn’t matter what I want to work on, it’s your life”! If I feel clients are being over enthusiastic with their goals then we talk about breaking things down into more realistic pieces.”
When a client reaches a goal that he or she wanted reach as an individual, it will mean more to the client. His or her success will be that much more significant. This is due to the fact that the client genuinely wanted to reach a certain goal instead of being told their goal by their therapist. Collaborative efforts can produce wonderful results.
I encourage you to keep New Year resolutions like the clients of Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. We will be working on goals to keep us healthy and happy all year long. What are your goals or New Year resolutions for the coming year? Post them!