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."

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."

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: "
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