Friday, December 21, 2007


Dec. 7, 2007

I would like to thank everyone for all the emails and phone calls. I enjoyed the shared memories and appreciated all the support of good thoughts and prayers.

Did anyone hear a ringing of a bell today? If you did, I can assure you it was Andre receiving his wings as he went from my loving arms into God's. He has always been my angel and has certainly earned his wings.

Andre had always been about love. Everyone loved Andre. If you have a furry, four legged companion nearby, please hug him/her in loving memory of Andre. If you don't have a four legged friend, a two legged friend will do. We humans need hugs, too. That way his love will be passed forward and his spirit will live on.

Love and Blessings to all.


Linda Thompson
http://www.thechristmaspuppy.com/ ANDRE'S STORY
Proceeds will go towards the purchase and training of a new service dog.

Dec, 5, 2007
Dear Friends,

I feel that I may have to do the unthinkable within the next couple of days, so I need to write this now.

Andre got out of his crate Monday morning, laid down, and has not been able to stand or walk ever since. His hind legs barely support him and he can not put the right front paw to the ground. He has been in the hospital for 2 days and treated with an anti-inflamatory and antibiotics. The doctor felt he could have an inflamed or infected disk pressing on his spinal cord. The doctor has not seen any noticeable improvement and the disk theory does not explain the trouble with the front paw. He has a glassy eye stare and does not respond to his name. He doesn't seem to even recognize me. The doctor feels he may have a brain tumor.

He is now home with me. I will continue his medication a couple more days and then re-evaluate. If there still no improvement, I will have to do the hardest thing I've ever done---let him go. It is my biggest responsibility to him: to know when to let go. I've had pets all my life and have "let go" many times. When the time comes, whether now or later, Andre will be the hardest to let go. I have been truly blessed with his presence in my life. We became a team December 26, 1996.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

ANDRE! ONE GREAT SERVICE DOG!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This is a sermon written and given by me at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, on Accessibility Sunday.


ACCESSIBILITY--WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY?

From the Bible stories I’ve heard about Jesus seeking the company of prostitutes, tax collectors, and people with leprosy, I have always seen Jesus as an inclusive type of guy. He was not here to feast, drink and reside with the elite or, in other words, the people who “have.” Jesus was here for the “have nots.” He brought goodness and kindness to people who had none in hopes that they would share it with others. Jesus stressed we are all children of God and deserving the love of God and the love of each other. This teaching has not readily been accepted by humanity. There has always been groups of people who have felt more worthy than other groups of people. As a results, we have seen the groups in the last century rise up in an attempt to be recognized and counted. Women of the 20’s fought for the right to vote and then later in the century for equality. In the 60’s the African Americans fought for civil rights—rights for equal access of education, housing, jobs as well as the simple things like restrooms and water fountains. With the Stonewall riots in 1969, homosexuals began to break down the closet doors they were forced to hide behind. Amid all these groups emerged another group known as the “disabled.” Today the politically correct term is “people with disabilities.”

It is hard to imagine a group of people considered less worthy than women, African Americans, and homosexuals, but if there were such a group, I would say it would be people with disabilities. In the good old days, when a baby was born with a deformity to the Spartans, the child was considered unfit for battle and taken to the top of a mountain and left to die. Then we humans became more civilized and up to the late 1900’s we put deformed babies in mental institutions. Babies born with disabilities, such as myself were abandoned in institutions to live a mere existence. When they died, there bodies were donated to research labs, buried in mass graves, or buried with a number as a headstone in institutional cemeteries. Later, in the late 1900’s, even the number stones were removed. If people with disabilities were not left in institutions, they were often hidden away within the family home. Sight unseen—people with disabilities simply were nonexistent in society. As a young child, my mother dragged me everywhere she went, but I noticed I was the only person with a disability where ever I went. I never saw adults with disabilities. Since many of my school friends died due to their disabilities, I come to believe children with disabilities never made it to adulthood. It wasn’t until I tried to find an university to go to that I began to realize that the community in general and universities specifically were not open to people with disabilities. We were a society of curbs, steps, and narrow doorways.

The first four years, ’68-’72, I went to college and I took one or two courses a quarter at a university that had no services for people with disabilities. No disabled parking places. No ramps. No one to help me carry books to class. No one to help me take notes. No special testing arrangements. It was a case of do or die. Most of the times I thought I would die. I walked then, but my walk was not real functional. After about 20 steps I would have to sit and rest 20 minutes to walk another 20 steps. In an effort to park close to buildings where my classes were, I had to park in crosswalks and fire zones where I received parking tickets. In four years, I earned 40 credit hours. Then my sister informed me that Kent State University developed disabled student services. Needless to say, I transferred.

When I went to Kent State, I thought I had died and went to heaven. I was able to use a wheelchair on campus due to wide doors and ramps. I could have a note taker and extended testing times. I had door to door service to classes—a great service, especially in winter. I was able to take a full load of classes and graduated in three years.

But in ’75 Kent State was an utopia for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, communities had not progressed at all. Restaurants, theaters, libraries, stores, and public buildings in general were not accessible to anyone with a disability. There were no curb cuts and no accessible public transportation. I once went to job interview. At the time, I was using a manual wheelchair and, as I entered the building, I was faced with 25 steps and no elevator. Again, needless to say, I did not get the job.

On October 20,1979, the Disabled Peoples’ Civil Rights Rally Day was held in Washington, D.C. But it wasn’t until 11 years later, on July 26, 1990, that the Americans with Disability Act, a federal law was passed and signed. It was a major breakthrough for people with disabilities in establishing meaningful, productive lives in the community. Its purpose is to end discrimination, reduce barriers to employment, and ensure people with disabilities access to education, communication, transportation, public buildings, housing, and the community. To put it another way, it took 1,990 years and a federal law to give people in wheelchairs the right to go the bathroom while participating in the community. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? It took federal legislation to provide facilities to answer a very basic human need. Now I know the real reason why I never saw others with disabilities in the community as I was growing up.

Have things improved since 1990? Yes, of course. You can hardly drive through any town without seeing one or more people with disabilities walking down the street. Curb cuts, ramps, and accessible public transportation has made it possible for them to navigate and live independently in the community. Fewer people are forced to do production work in sheltered workshops for $0.10 an hour and more have real jobs and take home real paychecks. Buses, trolleys, and trains are now equipped with lifts or ramps. Public buildings and businesses are usually equipped with disabled parking and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Does it mean we no longer need to advocate for accessibility? No, not by a long shot.

There are still many places that are not accessible. I have been half way across a busy street only to discover there was no curb cuts on the other side. When I have attended meetings at country clubs or places of worship, I have found them inaccessible because they are exempt from the ADA. Last year I attended a meeting for people with disabilities in a building in Old Town and found there were no wheelchair accessible bathrooms. On my trip to Ukiah, I purchased a disabled passenger bus ticket and was sent a bus with a broken lift, which was broken for over a week. Even as accommodating as Pilgrim is, I have never been able to participate in a dinner group for I fear the inaccessibility of some people’s home.

It is important to remember that accessible accommodations don’t necessarily mean thousands of dollars in structural change. Sometimes it is just a matter of thoughtfulness. To resist the temptation to park in a parking space designated for the disabled drive “just for a second.” Or using the only disabled bathroom stall when there are 10 other open stalls. A few weeks ago I helped Harry fold bulletins for Sunday service. After folding the standard bulletin that most of you are holding, we folded some large print bulletins. It wasn’t until Sunday service that I realized something was missing from the large print bulletin. If a person was unable to read the print in the standard bulletin the person would be unable to read the print in the hymnal. So I went to Madison and suggested we copy and enlarge the selected hymns as well. Well, in case anyone is wondering, you are all witnesses to exactly where that suggestion got me!

So whose responsibility is it to advocate and provide accessible accommodations? Some believe it is those who benefit from having the accommodation. OK, let’s look at who benefits. Children benefit from lower counters, pay phones, and light switches. And how would they slateboard across the street without curb cuts. Parents with small children, especially in strollers, benefit from curb cuts, ramps, elevators, and large accessible bathroom stalls. People who have operations or break a leg and have to use crutches or a wheelchair. And one thing we are all going to do is grow old and it is nice to have those grab bars when the legs and balance aren’t what they used to be. So whose responsibility is it to advocate and provide accessible accommodations? Everyone’s! Even though you may never need the accommodation, chances are someone you love will. When I go into schools to teach young students about disabilities and the people who have them, I point out the obvious barriers such as narrow doorways and stairs, but I tell them the biggest barrier to people with disabilities are other peoples attitudes—how they feel and think about people with disabilities. “Attitude” is the key that open the door to community accessibility. When people with disabilities are accepted as worthy, contributing partners of the community, there will be no need for a federal law mandating accessibility. The ADA building codes will become “standard” building codes and every building—including country clubs, places of worship, and private homes—will be built to be accessible to all.

Until that day comes, it is going to be one modification at a time. Jesus said that when you acknowledge and answer the need of a stranger you have acknowledged and answered his need as well. He could not do all the work himself and neither can the sole members of the disabled community. So pick up the hammer and jar of nails and let’s start building access. What’s that? You say your not good with hammer and nails? No problem. As long as you can speak, you can be God’s voice instead of God’s hands. You can spread the word on the importance of accessibility and who it benefits by telling your colleagues, friends, neighbors, family, and service groups. Justin Dart, the most renown advocate for people with disabilities, once said:

The notion that any one person is the single cause of any significant social change-that Abraham Lincoln alone freed the slaves-is a devastating stereotype which robs individuals of responsibility and credit, and actually inhibits social change. You can be a revolution of one. In your living room, in your family, in your community.
Justin Dart, 1998

So bring whatever God given talents you have to the table, join the team, and together, you and I, will build an inclusive community for all.

Linda Thompson
8/19/07
lthompson111@sbcglobal.net

Saturday, June 30, 2007

John Edwards is someone I have been following since before he ran for Vice President. I found him as I was channel surfing one day. He caught my eye. Maybe it was that $400 HAIRCUT. All I can say is that whatever he had to say that day he held my interest and has held it ever since.

I understand from the John Edwards website that Ann Coulter, a right winger, made a hateful remark about John on Good Morning America. She said, "If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot." If that wasn't bad enough, she was invited to be on Hardball the next day. Elizabeth, John's wife, called into the show and asked Ann to stop her hateful talk about the Edwards family and all other candidates. Ann became rude and combative. There is a recording on the website, www.johnedwards.com Also there is a blog for public comment. I could not help myself---I had to respond. This is what I wrote:

I have taught people with developmental disabilities about freedom and rights for 30 years and every one of them could tell Ann Coulter what is wrong with her "freedom of speech" defense. A person has no true freedom until he/she knows and understands the responsibilities that go with any particular freedom. Those who fail to live up to the responsibility of a "right" or "freedom" are often denied the freedom. There are many people in prisons that can testify to that. When a person kills another human being in anger, is he not using the freedom of expression? We all have a right to express ourselves, don't we? Yet, our society does not accept that behavior. Words can be just as damaging as a loaded gun pointed at someone's head and the behavior of people who use hateful words should no more be tolerated than the behavior of someone holding a loaded gun to someone's head.
Ann needs to grow-up and be responsible for her actions. Until she does, I hold the media responsible for giving her a platform to air her hateful, irresponsible behavior.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

video

I learned that I had the ability to make a movie without any fancy equipment, so here is a small story on my dreams and accomplishments. It is also posted on YouTube. Enjoy!

STRATEGY 9: REALIZING YOUR DREAM

In following the past eight strategies, hopefully you will find yourself close to realizing your dream. If you find you did well in the beginning but got stuck or lost along the way, go back to the point you felt successful. What changed? Did you hit a barrier? What stopped you from getting passed the barrier? Did the dream change or did you change?

Life is full of surprises—some good, some not so good. Life’s surprises can interrupt us to the point that we become stalled or propel us so far forward we can’t see where we are headed. Either way one must stop and evaluate where he is, where he is going, and where he wants to be. Life changes. People change. Dreams can change, too. What you wanted six months ago may not be what you want or need today. Don’t give up your dream—evaluate, modify, and proceed with your new found passion. Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Work to make your dream your reality tomorrow.

Besides following these nine strategies, there are many self help books to encourage and motivate the one that needs extra support in achieving dreams and goals. You can find people with like goals and dreams in classes, workshops, and conferences. There are CDs that address the sub-conscious with positive affirmations while you sleep. There are Yahoo groups to support and talk on any topic you can think of. Dreams deserve all the power you can give them. Dreams give meaning to life. Realize your dream and work at turning it into tour reality.

What’s my Dream? My dream is to become a nationally known public speaker and advocate for people with disabilities and to write a book about my life experiences to encourage others to reach for the stars and go after that “impossible” dream.
Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com
STRATEGY 8: GROW WITH YOUR DREAM

As you work the “steps” of your dream, you will find not only will your dream take a new shape as it grows, but you will also grow from the new experiences you have. Working on a dream can be a life changing experience because it can touch you emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. In working your dream, you can develop many different skills you may have never realized you had.

The one thing you can count on in life is change. Many try to resist it or deny it, but it still comes. Without life would be boring and we would have nothing to look forward to. Some become so determined to get the dream they have envision they refuse to “settle” for anything less. They are going to have it all or die trying. Determination is an admirable quality, but don’t let it blind you from achieving something greater than you can imagine. The detours in life can lead to bonuses you would never imagine. It doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t achieve the dream you had been pursuing. Detours can enhance your dream even though they seem to be completely unrelated to your dream.

When I was in high school, I learned my peers felt very comfortable telling me their problems. I decided I wanted to go into social work, but the powers-who-be thought that was an unrealistic goal because of my disability. I was sent to Goodwill for vocational assessment. After two weeks, it was decided that I had a high aptitude for math and it was recommended I go to business college and become a statistician. The powers-who-be encouraged me to follow this plan even though it was not my heart’s desire. I tried. I took business courses for two quarters and then announced I would never be a statistician. I eventually convinced the powers-to-be to send me to college to study writing. The Department of Rehabilitation would not finance an education in social work, but they were convinced of my writing abilities and financed my education in journalism. It was a compromise—I knew I would never follow a career working with numbers, but at least I had an interest in writing.

The irony was that after earning a degree in journalism my first full time job was teaching independent living skills to people with developmental disabilities. I was doing exactly the type of work I wanted to do, but I soon learned I would not go very far in the field with a journalism degree. I was repeatedly denied a promotion because I had “the wrong education.” After three and a half years, I quit my job, moved from Cincinnati to San Diego, and went back to school to get a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

I have worked 30 years in the social service field. What about my journalism degree? It has enhanced my work in the social service field. I have written articles, created newsletters, and have lead two teams of staff in writing and developing training materials for people with developmental disabilities. Just a few days ago, I committed myself to my lifelong dream—the dream to write a book. Don’t be afraid of taking the detours. It is an opportunity to explore something new that may lead to a new and different dream. If it doesn’t, you can stop going down that path and return to your original plan.

Following your dream is an opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually. You will discover your life purpose and your heart’s true passion. Enjoy the journey. It is worth living.

_____________________________________________________________

Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com
STRATEGY 7: WORK YOUR DREAM

Ok, now you have announced your dream! Some people were supportive and said something like, “Well, if anyone can, you will!” Others may have offered, “Sure you will—when pigs fly!” And then there are those who want to believe you and say, “Great! When you figure out how to do that, you can teach me!” To which I hope you confidently responded, “I will—for a price!” Hey, you spend time, money, and effort in making your dream come true, so there is no shame in selling your knowledge of the experience. After all, the knowledge you have to offer will make it easier for someone else. Forgive me. My entrepreneur side is surfacing. Yes, I am a struggling entrepreneur who is determined to become an Internet millionaire!

We all know that a true dream does not come true by closing our eyes and rubbing a magic lamp. If it could, we would have more than we need and all we think we want. I live by the saying that “if it is worth having, it is worth working for.” Praying may help, but God is not a magic genie either. My mother used to tell me, “God helps those who help themselves.” I believe if I am faithful to my dream and do whatever it takes to make it come true, God will guide my journey. That is not saying it will come easy or will happen according to my plan, but it will happen in one form or another. Oops, my preacher side is showing. Yes, I have been known to write and give sermons—my personal favorite is Jesus on the Yellow Brick Road.

Now that you have announced your dream to friends and family, you need to turn your time and energy into your success plan. Use the encouragement you received to motivate you. If you received discouragement, use that to motivate you. How? Well, all anyone has to do is tell me “NO” or “YOU CAN’T.” I take that as a challenge. My mindset becomes “JUST WATCH ME. I NOT ONLY CAN, I WILL!” Oh no. Now I am giving my speech as a pageant contestant the night I was crowned Ms. San Diego Wheelchair Queen. My message was I CAN DO IT AND SO CAN YOU!

Have you created the steps to your dream mentioned in Strategy 3? If so, go back and look at your “dream step” plan. Have you completed any of the steps? If you have, congratulations! Go treat yourself to something you have been wanting—you deserve it! If not, there is no time like the present—if you have the time to read this, you have the time to work on your dream. The first step is the hardest—ask any child learning to walk. But have you ever seen a child after taking that first step? There’s no stopping him! That is how it is going to be once you commit to doing that first step. Remember, after completing that first step and each of the following steps, treat yourself to something special. When you feel good about yourself and what you are doing, it motivates you to continue going further. This is your dream and you need to do whatever it takes to maintain your focus.

Commit to the work and your dream will become your reality!!!!!



Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com
STRATEGY 6: OWN YOUR DREAM

The strategies up to this point have been used for you to internalize your dream by creating it, deciding a plan of action, learning and preparing for the journey, and visualizing your self as accomplishing your dream. Now it is time to claim your dream and make it real. Until now, it has not been too much more than a figment of your imagination and as fleeting as your own thoughts. Similar to a fetus that grows internally from a speck of an egg into a six pound human being, the dream must have a birth in order to develop and become the reality it is meant to be. To speak of your dream is to breathe life into it. You must tell people your dream, what it means to you, and how it will become an important part of your life. This may be the most important step, for this is the point where a dream will start to grow or die a sudden death.

Speaking your dream can be exciting and motivating. If you are surrounded by positive thinking people, they can encourage you and maybe even help brainstorm and build a stronger foundation on which to build your dream. However, if you tell people who do nothing to support you and tell you things like, “It is never going to happen,” you may feel foolish and decide not to go any further. People are robbed of their dreams everyday by thoughtless comments made by others. Accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe in your dream. That’s ok. They don’t have to. It isn’t their dream. It’s yours. The only one that can give it life or put it to death is you.

After working my first full time job teaching independent living skills to people with developmental disabilities in Cincinnati, Ohio, I decided it was too hard to commute on a daily bases in a climate of snow and freezing rain. If I was going to work, I was going to find a place to live where I did not have to navigate my manual wheelchair through the snow and ice. When Susan and her husband were relocated to San Diego, I quickly took vacation time to visit her during the winter. It didn’t take me long to decide that San Diego was the place for me. The move would mean leaving friends, family, and the only full time job I had known. It meant saving money for the move, locating an apartment that was wheelchair accessible, hiring a moving company, packing all I owned, and driving myself and three cats 3000 miles across the country. When I told my friends and family that I was moving to San Diego, I didn’t get much of a response. They didn’t believe it and they might as well patted me on the head and said, “Sure you are.” Perhaps I didn’t truly believe it in the beginning either, but I saved money until I felt I could afford the move and then asked Susan to help find me an apartment. Once an apartment was found and the deposit and first month’s rent was sent, everything fell into place. I gave my notice, hired a moving company, packed my belongings, and moved to San Diego. Friends admitted they did not believe I would go. One of my friends who came to terms that I was actually going to drive 3000 miles across the country with 3 cats fenced into the back seat of my Dodge Omni, convinced another colleague to help me drive across country. When people continued to hear the things I was doing to prepare for the move, they slowly understood that my dream was more than just wishful thinking. As I became committed to completing the steps in my plan, I, too, realized my dream was becoming my reality. As impossible and unlikely this dream seemed to be at the conception of the dream, it grew into a possibility and became my reality.

Remember, the life or death of your dream will depend on your desire and determination to see it through to the end. Own it and breathe life into it!



Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com

Thursday, May 24, 2007

STRATEGY 5: KEEPING AN EYE ON YOUR DESTINATION

You must see where you want to be! If you want to be an astronaut, you need to see yourself inside the space ship launching into space. If there is something you want to accomplish, picture yourself achieving it. Athletes see themselves throwing, jumping, running, skating, and swimming faster or better than anyone else. If they didn’t, they would be content to watch from the sidelines. To be a winner you must see yourself as a winner. Paint a beautiful picture of your moment of achievement within your mind. Visit it often. It belongs to you. No one can see it, criticize it, or destroy it. Use it to energize you, excite you, and motivate you to take the steps in your journey to bring you to that moment when your dream becomes your reality.

As a child, I wanted to do all the same things my non disabled friends did. My friends, like most children, liked riding bikes, so I rode a bike. No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to balance a bicycle on two wheels, so my bicycle always had a sturdy set of heavy duty training wheels. This was acceptable to my friends, who were just glad to have me along. However, by age 12, my greatest hope was that when I turned 16 I would be able to get a driver’s license. When I shared this dream with my orthopedic doctor, I was told I would never drive a car and would always depend on family, friends, and taxicabs for transportation. I refused to believe him. I was going to drive a car someday. I was resigned to the possibility that it may not happen at age 16 and that I may have to wait until I was of legal age, but I was determined that someday I would have a driver’s license. Surprisingly, at age 18, I was told by the same doctor who said I would never drive that he thought it was time for me to try to get a driver’s license. It took a very courageous mother, 2 driving instructors, and several failed driving tests before I was award my first driver’s license.

It is important to note that the year was 1967. Only people who were paraplegic and used hand controls were considered for a driver’s license. I suppose no one in their right mind would enable a person who walked on her tiptoes with her knees bent and her arms flailing through the air to legal become a driver. At the time, I failed to see it as a small step forward in the disability movement. To me it was a personal victory—my driver’s license was my key to achieving the independent life I wanted to have. It was just the beginning of a long road paved with endless possibilities.

No matter what your dream is, there are people who will say it will never happen. They be right. Certainly, if you choose to listen to them they will be right. No effort equals no success. Even if you only manage to achieve a small part of your dream, that part may lead you in a different direction in which you achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.

Try, evaluate, decide, and go forth. Life is an endless road of possibilities. Live to discover them!



Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com
www.liveforthepossibilities.blogspot.com

Monday, May 21, 2007

STRATEGY 4: ENJOYING THE JOURNEY

You now have a dream, a vision, and a path to follow. In making the commitment to move forward, it is important to remember this is your dream. It is a process you should want to embrace and even enjoy. It will mean dedicated hard work, but if it is definitely something you want you won’t see it as work. After all this is what you want. It is not something you are required to do as in a job. You are doing it because you choose to change your life. Though the path may be rocky and long at times, keep your eye on the reward and celebrate each step, small or large, you complete. Believe in your dream, and, most of all believe in yourself.

When I was in high school, I pretty much decided I wanted to be a social worker and help people work through their problems. I knew I needed a college degree to do the work I wanted to do, but when I graduated in 1967, I found the doors of universities not only shut, but locked to people with disabilities. There were steps going into every building, multi-floored buildings were often without elevators, building were sprawled across large campuses with no easy access to get from one to another, there were no disabled parking spaces provided, no disabled student service offices to assist with registration or note taking, and professors were not educated in alternate testing methods often needed by the person with a disability. Since it appeared I would not be going to college, I went into a sheltered workshop and earned $0.10/hour counting nuts and bolts and stringing turkey needles. After four days in that place, I vowed I would not spend the rest of my life there. I would go to school and get a good paying job. I didn’t know how or when, I only knew I would. Believe in your dream!

Long story short: I have a BA degree in journalism from Kent State University and a MS degree in rehabilitation counseling from San Diego State University. I have worked in the disability field since 1977. Today I develop curriculum and training materials and do presentations to teach people with developmental disabilities how to increase their independence and live satisfying productive lives. My highest pay rate to date is $50/hour—and I felt I short changed myself. Believe in yourself!

If you have done any traveling at all, you know that things don’t always go as expected. There are potholes in the road, detours, dead ends, flat tires, missed directions, and many unknown obstacles that stand between you and your dream. You always have a choice—quit and continue what you have been doing or accept the challenges and move forward. Learn to enjoy the rough spots as well as the smooth sailing—it is all a part of your journey to success!



Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”
www.empoweringusall.com

Sunday, May 13, 2007

STRATEGY 3: DECIDING THE JOURNEY

OK, you have a dream, you know where you are now, and you know where you will be and what you will have when your dream comes true. You have begun your journey. Yes, I said journey. None of us go anywhere without putting one step in front of another or pushing the toggle switch forward on our power chairs. It is sometimes hard to know what lies before you, but one thing is for certain—you will never know until you move forward.

Think your dream. Feel your dream. Picture your dream. That’s the easy part. Now comes the harder part. Commit to your dream. It would be wonderful if all we had to do was twitch our nose and whatever we needed or wanted would simply appear. But unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. It tries to teach us that anything worth having is worth working for. That is how we learn to appreciate what we have. We all want to be successful and in order to be successful we need to commit to the journey. Success is not an event—it is an ongoing process only achieved by the willingness to keep going forward. However, before you move forward, you need a path to follow. Even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had to decide on a path. She knew where she wanted to be and she wanted to be sure she took the best path in order to get to Oz and then back home. What did Dorothy do? She found a consultant. True, the Scarecrow’s was a bit confusing, but she didn’t have much choice since she left her GPS and cell phone at home (ha, ha).

Get yourself a large pad of paper or a roll of butcher paper, color felt pens, crayons, poster paints, or whatever supplies you like to use when you want to express yourself. Write, draw, paint your dream. If you are a writer, describe your dream. If you are an artistic person, draw or paint your dream. Give your dream vision—give it life! When you are done, put it on the bathroom mirror, over your computer, on the refrigerator, or anywhere you will see it daily. Now write down what you feel you must do to make your dream a reality. Do you need school? Training? People? Money? What will it take to get you from here to that vision in front of you? When you have your list, draw a simple side view of stairs. Decide what needs to be done first and put it next to the bottom stair. What should be done next goes next to the second stair and so on and so forth. It is best to remember that each step may take a series of smaller steps. Education, for example, would take research on where to get the needed education, applying for admission, registration, financing, and attending classes. A step may take a month, a year, or several years to complete, but once completed, you will actually be one step closer to your dream. With each step, you are rising up to your own expectations and closer to the reality of your dream.
www.empoweringusall.com


Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the “labels” of disabilities. “People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

STRATEGY 2: Know Your Dream

You have a dream! Good for you—you are on your way! Having a dream is like going on a journey. Think about it. Could you pack a suitcase if you did not know where you were going? You would not pack the same clothes for Phoenix, Arizona, as you would for Denver, Colorado, in the middle of January. Right now your dream is a great idea. It makes you happy to think about it. It may even excite you to think about it, but now it needs to become a great plan if it is ever going to become a part of your life.

Before a dream can come true, you truly have to believe it is possible. I believe there is a scene in Peter Pan where Tinker Bell becomes sick and the only thing that can save her is to have everyone say, “I believe.” The positive affirmation of all the children present restores Tinker Bell back to health. Belief is a powerful tool when you have a dream. Unfortunately, it is not as magical as it was as a child. As an adult we often let doubts and fears get in the way of our beliefs. That means we have to work harder and do more than just say, “I believe.”

A dream is more than a wish. It needs work. It needs to be nourished and receive attention in order for it to grow into a possibility. It takes more than a day to grow from an idea to a possibility and then into a reality. When I was about 14, I planted pumpkin seeds on the backyard. Shortly, sprouts appeared, then leaves, then vines, then flowers. Some of the flowers had little green balls under them and I naturally assumed that someday those little green balls would become big, orange pumpkins. I watered them and cared for them waiting for the pumpkins to appear. It never happened. I later learned that the pollen of the male flower had to pollinate the female flower—the one with the green ball—in order to produce a pumpkin. The bees had not done their job. Neither had I. Lack of a step in the process prevented getting the end product. I could simply blame the bees, but it was my lack of knowledge that failed to produce a pumpkin. The following summer I planted pumpkin seeds again. This time I did not leave it to chance—I pollinated the flowers myself and got pumpkins.
Dreams, like life, have no short cuts. Dreams have a process that needs to be acknowledged and followed. Omitting one small step can doom the dream to failure. Exam where you are and what you have now to help you turn your dream into a reality. Picture where you will be and what you will have when your dream becomes your reality. Then you will know it is time to celebrate your success.
_______
Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the "labels" of disabilities. "People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second."
www.empoweringusall.com
www.liveforthepossibilities.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 19, 2007

STRATEGY 1: You Got to Have a Dream!

Do you remember being a child? Children know how to dream. They don’t have any stumbling blocks. They don’t know the words, “I can’t.” The world is full of unlimited possibilities. If you ask a child what he/she is going to be when grown up, chances are the child will answer without hesitation “a doctor,” “a teacher,” “a fire fighter,” or “a police officer.” They know of nothing that could prevent them from becoming what they want to be. And yet, many 18 year olds enter college without a clue as to what they want to be when they grow up. What happens to the dreams of the 6 year-old child? Where do they go? How are they lost?

On January 11, 1949, Irene Thompson gave birth to a stillborn female child. A nurse informed the father as the doctor said a prayer and baptized the lifeless child. As the doctor prayed, the child showed definite signs of life. Even though the child was alive, it was not expected to live through the night. That child was named Linda, who is now 57 years-old and is writing this article. Of course there were effects caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain. I was diagnosed about 18 months later as having a condition known as cerebral palsy, which affects the muscle movements in both my legs and arms, as well as my neck. But I was alive and that was all that mattered to my mother. She was determined I would have as much of a life as my sister and brother before me. And she made sure I understood that.

From the 40’s through the 60’s, people with disabilities were hidden from society Children with disabilities were bussed to segregated schools. There were no “inclusion” or “mainstreaming” programs. If a child made it through the eighth grade—as far as the schools for the “disabled” went—he was sent home until he was old enough to go to a sheltered workshop where he would be paid 10 cents an hour to separate and count nuts and bolts. There was no public access to high schools or colleges. A person with a disability was not expected to become a productive member of society.

My mother was light years ahead when it came to visualizing the possibilities in my life. She drove positive affirmations into me, “You can do anything you put your mind to,” “If you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,” and “Anything is possible.” She made me feel if I wanted something bad enough and was willing to work hard, I could accomplish anything.

When I was eight, we drove my older sister to her dorm room at Kent State University. I was impressed and excited as I blurted out to my mother, “Do you think I can come to Kent State someday?” I was oblivious to the roadblocks that stood between me and that possibility, but I am sure mom knew what they were. Not wanting to destroy my dream, she answered, “Anything is possible.”

I graduated from high school in 1967—one roadblock down—but there were very few universities in the country that accepted students with disabilities and none were in Ohio. However, five years later, in 1972, Kent State University established a program to support students with disabilities. I started at KSU in the fall of ’72 and graduated with a journalism degree in 1975.

If you don’t have a dream, find a safe place, search for the child within you, ask your childself what he/she wants to be or do when it grows up. If you rediscover your dream, hold on to it and don’t let anyone steal it from you. Like the song from South Pacific says, “You have to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream, how you going to make a dream come true?”
_____

Linda Thompson, MSRC, has 30 years professional experience serving people with disabilities as instructor and advocate. As a keynote speaker, she addresses audiences of parents, professionals, care providers, students, congregations, and business administrators/employers on the importance of recognizing the individual and abilities rather than the "labels" of disabilities. "People with disabilities are people first. Our disabilities are second."
www.empoweringusall.com
www.liveforthepossibilities.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I have been doing disability awareness in elementary schools since 1990. I was a coordinator of Keys to Introducing Disabilities in Schools (KIDS)for a couple years. When grants became scarce, KIDS merged with another disabilty awareness group--Disability Awareness Network (DAWN). A few years ago, Sue Racanelli, the coordinator, asked us to write what disability awareness means to us. I have been asked to read my mini essay at the annual luncheon this year. Here is what I wrote:

Disability awareness means...
... entering a class room of students ages 5 - 11 and seeing the wide-eye anticipation, the elbow nudging, the whispers and pointed fingers as I position my power chair in front of the class.
...catching that fleeting look from those students who have been taught that it is impolite to stare, yet finding it difficult not to look at the oddity before them.
...having the room of small individuals struggling to sit quietly as I, the person in the wheelchair, explain how I am more alike than different from them by sharing the need to have friends with whom I can talk, listen, and have fun.
...seeing cold stares of bewilderment melt into intent looks of interest and amazement as I inform them that I live alone in a mobile home (with my service dog, Andre, and my Himalayan cat, Pearl), work a full time job, drive a car, and like to snow ski.
...sitting before a sea of high, outstretched arms with waving hands as the students, who are hungry to learn more, insist on being acknowledged so they can ask their burning questions: how do you get in bed?; how do you take a shower?; what size shoe do you wear?; or, what is your favorite color?
...closing the presentation with the students eagerly circling around me to thank me for coming by shaking my hand or giving me a hug and telling me they want to be my friend.
...that the room I once entered as an oddity I am now leaving as a friend.
...being recognized and greeted by a student six months later in Walmart and have the student introduce me to the accompanying parent.
...the small people with whom I share my life experiences will in the future be parents, neighbors, doctors, teachers, architects, employers, and community leaders. My hope is that I have done something today to bridge the gap of understanding between people with disabilities and the people that may enter their lives tomorrow.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Please read the article below and nominate a Woman of Worth.

Women of Worth

Women of Worth: "
45
DAYS
LEFT!NOMINATE A WOMAN OF WORTH Tell us about a Woman of Worth whose volunteer work is making a beautiful difference.
Nominations are due by May 24, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

HBO: Yellow Brick Road I almost cried when I saw this. Boy, it brought back a piece of childhood memories. When I about 10 years old, I started organizing backyard shows with the neighborhood kids. The first year we just sang along with 45 rpm records. The second year we did music from South Pacific and the third year we did music from the Gay 90's. When I was 13, my family moved from Cleveland to Cincinnati. But the next year I was back in business with a new group of kids. I decided to go big and do the whole show of The Wizard of Oz.

I could not find a script, so I bought the soundtrack and the book and wrote the script myself. I wrote, casted, directed, and played the Tin Man. We charged 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. We made $100. We went on a local children's tv show and donated the money to United Cerebral Palsy---that was the group's decision.

I would love to see the film they made of this production. If anyone knows how to get a copy, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


MAR. 25, 2007-- I was asked to give a moment of concern at Pilgrim United Church of Christ today. My subject was "labels."

A few weeks ago, our pastor, Madison Shockley, gave a mini sermon on the politically correct terminology on referring to his race and culture. You see Madison is of a minority status in our congregation. In an effort to improve communication with his 90% white congregation, he ended his mini sermon by saying that he preferred being referred to as an African American or Black Folk. I wanted to yell back, "I prefer to refer to you as Madison!" When I told him I would like to respond with my thoughts about labels, he agreed to let me address the congregation.

Here is what I told the congregation:

Labels are for jars, not people.

Labels are intended to describe who we are, what we have done, or some other characteristic. However, labels never tell the whole story. At best, they only speak of a small part of who we are. They can be based on fact or perception. I am white. Madison is black. Those are facts. You can tell that from a distance without ever meeting us. Some people refer to me as "disabled." Am I disabled? Well those who are visiting today would no doubt say, "Yes, of course you are!" But those who have known me for years would probably argue with you by stating all my life accomplishments. Am I disabled? It is a matter of perception. I have a disability, but does that make me disabled? Some will think it does, but others won't.

In the 80's, a small group of people with developmental disabilities living in an Oregon institution formed a new self advocacy group. They needed a name. Judy Cunio, a severely physically disabled woman, said, "We are people first. Our disabilities are second." That was the birth of People First, a self advocacy organization that is now an international organization. If anyone here would like to know what it means to 400 individuals who are constantly labeled to be considered "people first," I invite you to come to the San Diego People First Conference at the Marriott in Mission Valley on Mother's Day weekend. We have volunteer opportunities and I guarantee it will be an unique learning experience.

There are many labels people can or have used on me--disabled, amazing, sinner, lefty, and a label given by one young member of our congregation, Sam. He calls me "the lady with the dog" (Andre is my service dog). But there are only two labels I accept. One is my name "Linda." The other is "child of God." As a child of God, I know I am loved, accepted, and forgiven no matter how others perceive me. With God, I am always a person first.
Note: I received a standing ovation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

www.liveforthepossibilities.com : 'Superwoman Linda Thompson, Born With Cerebral Palsy, Reveals Breakthrough Strategies For Living
Large Without Limitations...!'

In this Powerful FREE E-Course, Linda reveals to YOU 9 powerful lessons for living a life of possibilities not impossibilities. Linda has inspired many to turn their dream into reality. Take advantage of this amazing information that will lead you down a journey of discovering new possibilities in your life and achieving all your dreams!"

Home: The Christmas Puppy, an e-book. "This is a heart warming story about a puppy in a pet store who has only one wish--to find a home and someone special to love and who can love him. All the puppies, except for one, have been promised a new home on Christmas Eve. Being passed over time and time again, the puppy feels he is too old and too big to ever be adopted, but he learns Christmas is a time for miracles.
The Christmas Puppy is a story that touches lightly on differences that can lead to discrimination and how that can feel. It also shows how an encouraging word can help build confidence. And, last but not least, when things seem to be as bad as they can get, it is possible that someone will enter the picture and convincingly show that differences don't only not matter, but also may be beautiful.
A life lesson and story on love and differences for children of all ages."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Creating Your Own Path

Creating Your Own Path: "If you are a person with a disability, a parent who has a child with a disability, or a professional who works with a person with a disability and you are looking for an inspirational role model, you have found her. Linda Thompson, 58, born with cerebral palsy, has successfully created a productive, independent life for herself. Taught by her mother who was light years ahead of society in her vision of accomplishments for her daughter, Linda managed to forge through the inaccessible barriers that existed the first forty years of her life. Her story is a must to hear for anyone who faces a life of extraordinary challenges in their life.
For the last three years, Linda has created training materials for people with developmental disabilities on self advocate mentoring and how self advocate can become involved in community service. She has traveled throughout California presenting the trainings to People First chapters. Descriptions of the trainings Linda can provide are provided through this website. Can't find what your group needs? Contact Linda and she will create a Power Point presentation tailored to meet your needs. She is also known to be a motivational keynote speaker."