Friday, February 29, 2008

Inclusive Theatre

Working Logo - large block letters WORKING with people on top of the letters showing different types of work Tonight I saw the musical Working at Dominican University. I love Studs Terkel's books, and this production was very enjoyable. What was particularly cool was that this musical was signed. One of the interpreters was an ensemble performer - she danced and signed- and the other was in the traditional American Sign Language role, a little off to the side of the stage interpreting what was spoken and sung. This is the first time I have ever been to a play or musical that was signed, and it was great to see it at my college!

There's one more performance tomorrow at 3pm. For anyone who lives in the Chicago area (Karen?), it would be a great way to spend the afternoon. Tickets are only $15. The show is about 1 1/2 hours long.

The logo above is from Working the Musical website.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Carnival Day!

The 32nd Carnival is up! Shiloh at Sunny Dreamer is hosting, with the theme, Standing Outside the Fire. Lots of links to a variety of great posts. Hope you'll head over!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dave's Faves

Dave's Faves
A few good reads:

Another study on the employment of people with disabilities -

"In a first-of-its-kind study unveiled to Chicago-region business leaders on January 28, a team of researchers at DePaul University discussed research results that found employees with disabilities from the healthcare, retail and hospitality sectors in the region were just as dependable and productive as employees without disabilities. In addition, researchers also discussed research results that showed accommodation costs associated with workers with disabilities were often minimal and well worth the expense."

I got that link from Access Living, which also had a link to a story about Marca Bristo, being honored as a Chicagoan of the Year.

Another great read from Steve Kuusisto: How to Write Able-ist Prose.
It starts with,
"I once knew a disabled (insert "Man" "Woman" "Child" HERE)."

And, a new blog: Crimes Against People with Disabilities, It's time to speak up... Yes, indeed.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Book Meme

Connie tagged me awhile ago in the book meme, and I'm finally getting to it. Here are the rules:
Go to page 123 of the nearest book.
Find the 5th sentence. Write down the next 3 sentences.

I have a lot of books near me, and several are textbooks. Who wants to hear sentences from A Sequence for Academic Writing? So, I thought I'd pick up my fellow blogger friend, Steve Kuusisto's book, Planet of the Blind. It's Steve's memoir, and it's a great read.

"'The brave one sleeps for a time/Of course the past is with her, /Beauty
dissolved into thingness, narrow streets/Where she goes disguised.'
He pauses.
"Oh please!"

Good thing the meme doesn't ask for the next sentence, as this is a G rated blog.

Now I tag Josh Winheld, Emma, Andrea, Karen Putz, and Seahorse.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Caught in the act!

Be careful ... you never know when Dave Hingsburger might be watching!

"Oh, God, I'm going to read about this in your blog aren't I. Oh, God."


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Josh Winheld on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Josh Winheld has been sharing his thoughts about living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in yesterday's New York Times and also the Philadelphia Inquirer. Check out Josh's blog for the links and his views on the NYT story and the Inquirer coverage. You can also learn about Josh's recently published memoir, Worth the Ride: My Journey with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

31st Carnival!

Head on over to Emma's blog, Wheelchair Princess, to see the latest carnival, Superman. Lots of great stuff on this interesting topic. Enjoy!

From the carnival:

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

I’m more than a bird:I’m more than a plane
More than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I’ll never see

It may sound absurd:but don’t be naive
Even Heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed:but won’t you conceed
Even Heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me

Up, up and away:away from me
It’s all right:You can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy:or anything:

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me

It’s not easy to be me.

Emma says,

"To me, that song is a song that sums up disability. Or at least the way in which we can appear to the people who don’t take the time to get to know us properly, to get beyond our exterior and see who we really are inside."

So, go to the carnival and see more wonderful insights!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Man dumped out of wheelchair by police officer

Check out this CNN story with video of a quadriplegic dumped out of his wheelchair because the police officer apparently didn't believe he was disabled. Incredible!

Update: Brian Sterner, the man who was dumped out of his wheelchair, was on the Today Show this morning. I didn't see it, but here's the link. Other links to coverage of this abuse can be found at Scott Rains' blog.

Another update: Ruth at Wheelie Catholic shares her stories of people not believing her disability and being abusive, including one time when she broke both her wrists. Her incidents just weren't caught on camera.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A positive employment story

ABC World News had a story tonight about the Walgreen's Distribution Center in Anderson, South Carolina.

"Though the job market continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise
troubled economy, with the unemployment rate still just 4.7 percent, the national unemployment rate for disabled Americans is more than 44 percent.
Almost two decades after the first President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, disabled Americans continue to face enormous barriers in the workplace. But in this building, abled and disabled workers do many of the same jobs and earn the same pay."

This Walgreens is different. 700 employees and 40% have a disability. Check out the video or the written transcript. It's well worth a look. I would have liked to have seen more about the training, accommodations, and profitability of the employment. It looks like the employees are very satisfied, and I imagine turnover is very low.

Walgreen executive Randy Lewis speaks of the success of the effort and says that any company could do what Walgreens is doing. He says,
"This building is not about charity. It's about opportunity."
This is so much better than how Walgreen's competitor addresses employment and disability issues. Way to go, Walgreens!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Where is the outrage?

The hate crimes against people with disabilities continue. Last month, two teens and 1 young adult were sentenced in the U.K. for the brutal murder for sport of Brent Martin.

Today, it is reported in a Cleveland newspaper that 3 12-year old students, 2 boys and 1 girl, beat their 12 year classmate, who has cerebral palsy.

“A 12-year-old boy who has battled cerebral palsy and seizures his entire life couldn't fight back last week when three students attacked him after a tutoring session.
The sixth-grader felt pain in his groin after the attack and had to have a testicle removed the next day, his mother said.
East Cleveland police are investigating the attack, which happened Jan. 31 at Prospect Elementary School.
Detectives are waiting for a doctor to determine whether the beating
caused the injury, Commander Dan Heglaw said.
Three sixth-graders - two boys and a girl - kicked the 12-year-old in the back and smacked him in the head about 5 p.m., an hour after school security left the building, police said.”

This was not the first time this child was hurt by students.

“The boy is often targeted by other students because of his medical condition, a neurological disorder that impairs people's ability to control their movement and posture. He was struck by another student in November, his mother said. The school implemented a "no-bullying policy" after that attack, she said.”

This beating occurred on school property after a tutoring session. This student has been targeted more than once by his classmates. The paper reports Superintendent Myrna Corley’s response to this latest beating,

“It's an unfortunate situation.”
UNFORTUNATE?!! Better words might be: Outrageous! Will not be tolerated in my school! A hate crime that will be fully prosecuted!

The 3 students have been suspended, but that is not enough.

Where oh where, do 12 year old kids learn that violence and abuse of those that are different than them is acceptable? I just don’t believe that children are born hating. Our society is teaching the dehumanization of people with disabilities. It happens all the time in many, many forms – from our language, to our lack of inclusion, to the lack of coverage and outrage about this physical violence. Violence against with disabilities is a hate crime.

And, I think this boy deserves a fully paid transfer to another school where he will be safe and where he can do what he is supposed to be doing at school - learn.

Related posts -
Disability Rights: Why it is YOUR problem
And more violence...
Respect and Disability Advocacy

"ADA Authors Rebut Critics of ADA Restoration"

Reunify Gally is full of links and information about the ADA Restoration Act. The most recent post shares a letter that Representatives Hoyer and Sensbrenner wrote in response to points raised in opposition to the ADA Restoration Act. These representatives were part of the drafting of the original ADA and are now leaders in the bipartisan work on the Restoration Act.

Here's a portion of the letter:

"The clarification of the definition of the ADA is by no means a “radical change.” Moreover, it will ensure that those who “are deserving of” the ADA’s protections will be covered by the law. We hope you agree that people “deserving of the ADA’s protections” include the many people with epilepsy, diabetes, heart conditions, depression, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and intellectual disabilities who have been told by the courts they are not “disabled enough” to gain protection under the ADA."

"Finally, passage of this law will not overwhelm the EEOC and cause it to be unable to do its job. The statistics on the number of charges filed with the EEOC, and the number of findings of reasonable cause, are closely comparable to other civil rights statutes protecting our citizens. As you are aware, any individual who charges discrimination under any of the civil rights laws must prove that the discrimination occurred because of an illegitimate factor."

Check out this post at Reunify Gally for both the criticisms and the full response to the criticisms.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

For parents: my cerebral palsy

I have decided to share a little about my cerebral palsy because I see that parents of young children with CP have so many questions. I had been reluctant to share too much personal information, because I don't want it to detract from what's really important - namely, that people are people, disability is part of human diversity, and that I think loving your child is the most important thing you can do as a parent. Working to reduce the societal barriers to inclusion and respect comes second. I know that the parents whose blogs I check out now and then get that. So, this is for you parents. I hope it helps in some way.

To start - my childhood was a happy one. The fact that kids with disabilities have happy childhoods should not be a surprise, but to some it may be. Here's a study confirming that point.

I have spastic and athetoid quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Over the years, I have met many other people with CP, and one thing is for sure - cerebral palsy is different in each one of us. I have high tone and spasms in my legs and arms, and low tone in my trunk and neck, and athetosis in my arms and hands.

With CP, life is full of complicated decisions. I've learned that every decision has a positive and negative. Every choice has a positive consequence and a negative consequence. Sometimes the consequences are short term, sometimes they are long term. And, often, when making a choice, you just don't know what the consequences will turn out to be. As I now weigh decisions on my class schedule, exercises, rest, and fun activities that challenge me physically, I understand more how difficult it was for my parents to make decisions for me when I was younger.

As a child I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Mainly, I have had a lot of physical therapy. My physical therapists worked out of Children's Memorial Hospital (and are now at La Rabida Hospital). Their philosophy entails an emphasis on prone work to strengthen core and trunk muscles. I still do physical therapy, and I am still making progress. Yes, you heard that right - at 22 years of age, I am continuing to make progress. While I have worked many hours with professionals, my parents were the key people. A great deal of work was done outside of “therapy time” – work with my parents and also on my own. When I was younger, my parents had exercises and stretches that they did with me as part of a routine - like each time they changed my diaper they would stretch my hips and hamstrings. The biggest part of my work was spending huge amounts of time prone (lying on my stomach). "Prone lifts" - reaching for toys, playing with blocks, pointing to pictures in books, lying prone in my stroller were just a normal part of my day. When I was younger, I spent a great deal of time on my stomach, and had sitting time and standing time as much smaller parts of the day. I played prone with my cars and trucks and played prone in the swimming pool; it was just part of my life. For a time, I even went to school prone. When I played while lying prone, I didn't prone in the strollerknow I was strengthening my back and trunk muscles and gaining head control. At my house, it's just how we did things. I never had walkers or gait trainers because my therapists felt that I would use my tone to operate those things and that would limit my abilities more than help them. My parents carried me around a lot, brought things over to me, and I explored the world on my stomach. I did have a stander when I was younger.

Today, I’m most comfortable lying on the carpet where I can roll from my back to my stomach and change position on my own. And now, I take time throughout my day to do prone lifts on my own. While I do not like doing the lifts, I notice that when I take time off from them, my trunk and gluteal muscles get much weaker, and I have more trouble sitting and standing and also more pain in my back and legs. When I return to doing the lifts, my muscles get stronger again.

I wish I didn’t have to do so much bodywork – I think my parents and therapists were smart to mesh as much of it as possible into our daily life. But, I really got sick of the formal therapy work. I hated (and still don't like) the time it takes in my life, but the benefits of working on my body are so great. I used to think that I was going to walk - therapists and doctors told me that it was possible. But, it didn't happen. I've realized though that the primary benefit of taking care of my body is not about walking. Walking isn't that important. The real benefits are in helping my body do the best it can for me. With a stronger body and less pain, I can travel (like family vacations here and here and my trip with MIUSA to Costa Rica); go to college; sing; blog; and just do more and have more fun. Without the work, my hips and back would be pulled out of alignment by my spasticity, and that hurts. In the long run, doing therapy takes less time and is less hassle than the alternatives of pain, decreased function, and multiple surgeries. Because of my work, I have good head control and I can sit in my wheelchair for several hours at a time. Those two things are really important to my functioning. Also, because of my work, I can do a standing transfer with the assistance of one (knowledgeable) assistant. This is really important, because without a standing transfer, I would have to be lifted from one place to another - say on and off the toilet. My mother is no longer able to lift me, and without a mechanical lift, my options to go places would be very limited without a standing transfer. Now, my mother (or someone else who is trained) can help me transfer. While I'd rather be totally independent, this assisted transfer is extremely helpful to my daily life. I know that without all my work, I would not be able to do that.

AFOs/Casts/ splints
AFO’s – I have had AFO’s all my life. If made properly (and that usually takes quite a few annoying, time consuming adjustments), I don’t find them uncomfortable. I think it was harder when I was growing than it is now. I do find that the AFO’s get very cold, so I like to have a warmer pad inside the AFO on cold days. (Cold feet increase my spasms.)

For most of my life, I slept in a night body cast for several hours each night. This kept my trunk straight, my hips intact, and my legs abducted (apart). As a young child, I didn’t mind it; as an older child and teen, I hated it because it was very uncomfortable to sleep in that position since my spasticity was so great while I was growing. I could have tolerated it when awake, but sleeping was another story. But, it met the important physical goals that it was designed for; my scoliosis is minimal and my hip sockets are well formed. I have mixed feelings about using the cast.

Splints – I do have a splint that keeps my legs separated that I sometimes use during the day now. I don’t mind using that splint, and I feel the benefit of not having my legs cross.

I had botox on my hamstrings, and for me, it didn’t help at all.

Serial casting:
I had serial casting twice. The first time was when I was about 8, and it was successful in lengthening my Achilles Tendon. The casts didn’t hurt; it was just annoying to wear them and to have weekly appointments for months on end.
The second time I had serial casting, I was 16 years old and I had been having pain in my feet with standing. This time the casts helped a bit, but they hurt a lot. My bones had shifted over the years, and casting could only address the muscle and tendon issues. After the casting, I had bone surgery on both feet.

My experience with surgery (my own and my friends) is that it’s ALWAYS harder than what the surgeon says. Based on my personal experience and that of my friends and acquaintances, I would work and do work very hard to avoid a bone surgery.

I had muscle lengthening surgery when I was 6 years old on my adductor muscles. (These muscles were tight from all the tone pulling my legs into crossing.) Physically, this surgery wasn’t that tough, but I did an intensive physical therapy program afterwards to help me retrain how I used my legs. It all felt time consuming to me, but I know it was very helpful. I made a great deal of progress being able to stand without crossing my legs.

I had my second surgery when I was 16 years old. As I said, my feet were hurting and it was getting hard to put weight on them. This was a major event – rearranging the bones of my feet. It was extremely difficult with long-term pain and an increase in horrible back and leg spasms. I would say it was about a year before the painful spasms of my legs and back reduced back to the pre-surgery level. I went to a pain management clinic for help with the pain, and that was helpful.

Now, I see a major, major benefit of bodywork as avoiding bone surgery – it is so painful, affects the whole body, and takes so much time out of your life. It's mentally very exhausting. (I recall some school aged kids with CP having a major surgery every summer. Yuk!) I would do a lot of bodywork to avoid bone surgery! I've also learned that surgery only straightens out the bone, it doesn't change the CP. So, after the surgery, the CP is still causing the problem that led you to the surgery in the first place.

Also, I wore an eye patch for several months and had 2 surgeries for strabismus (eye muscles).

I had lots of respiratory infections as a baby and young child. They were very debilitating. This changed after about age 7 – I worked with Mary Massery on respiratory exercises. She taught me to take a deep breath, hold it, and then cough. My parents also learned some respiratory physical therapy techniques that were helpful in preventing a cold from turning into a full blown respiratory illness. I also started singing in a choir about that time. My respiratory problems dramatically decreased as my diaphragm got stronger. Now, I still sing, and I know that that is really helpful to my body. Plus, unlike other bodywork, it's fun!

CP affects my GI tract big time. I’ve had trouble with weight gain, severe reflux and vomiting, and constipation. There have been no “magic pills” to solve these problems, but with some effort they are managed to the point of being livable. The severe reflux is one problem I’d really like to get rid of.

Stamina issues
I tire very easily, both mentally and physically. Sitting well, standing well take a lot of cognitive work. My low stamina is a big frustration for me. I need a lot of rest each day. If I don't get it, I really pay the price with increased pain and tightness.

For me, the high tone itself is somewhat painful. It's more limiting than painful, because I can't move so well and I don't feel like I have good control over my body when it's tight. The effect of the spasticity on my hips and back can be painful - the constant pull (to cross my legs) on my hip can be painful in my hip. I've found heat to be very helpful in reducing both the spasticity and the discomfort. I like to keep my legs warm. I use little heating inserts in my AFOs, and when I am lying prone, I often have a heating pad across my butt or legs. A warm bath also relaxes the tightness. Being cold and shivering increases the tightness. Positioning my legs in a way that separates them while simultaneously applying heat helps. Also, actively using the spasming muscles helps to decrease the spasms; if I stand well and actively use my gluteal and leg muscles, the spasms decrease. But, that's hard - it takes a lot of cognitive work to get it right.

A problem with pain that can be overlooked is that pain, even mild pain, is distracting. It takes my attention away from focusing fully on something else. And that is sometimes a problem, more so than the actual discomfort of the pain.

Technology is so very important for kids with cerebral palsy. I cannot handwrite at all, but I can use my computer to send emails, write papers, etc. My Permobil wheelchair lets me change my position on my own - sitting, standing and lying down. Without the Permobil chair, I'd have pressure sores, a lot more pain, and much less function.

This is a big issue. I've written a little about my school experiences here and here. Between my sisters and me, we've tried full-time public school, part-time public school, full and part-time private school, and homeschooling. We did different things at different times. My parents came to view the school system as one tool of many in their toolbox. They learned that it wasn't always in my best interest to do things a certain way, just because things had always been done that way. I've found the low expectations and the challenges of finding capable assistants to be the biggest hurdles in the school system. Interestingly, and wonderfully, I am finding college easier to navigate than k - 12.
I think that it is extremely important to not have one's time filled with bodywork and schoolwork and no time for fun. That's part of the tricky balancing act that families have to figure out.

Pursuing strengths
I see it as so very important for kids with CP to pursue their strengths. It is very easy to focus on everything that needs improvement. But, for me, my strengths are what helped me fit in with other kids, what gave me confidence, what gave me fun, and what now may help me to be employed or have fun as an adult. I am so glad that my parents helped me to have singing lessons and choir experiences. I am glad I didn't focus on handwriting in elementary school. It was a good decision to take higher level Spanish classes in highschool and skip some math classes; my strengths are auditory and my learning disability is visual.

Parents/Making decisions
There are things I wish my parents had done differently. For example, I wish I had homeschooled more in elementary school. I think it would have been less stressful to me, and more efficient for my time. I think school took up too much of my time, particularly when the way things were done didn't match my learning needs and simply wasted my energy. I wish my parents had intervened sooner with one of my problem school aides. And, I wonder how life would have been with less therapy time. There were plenty of times that I hated going to therapy.

I am very grateful that my parents were able to go against the culture or the "way things were always done". I am so glad they were strong advocates for me. They tell me that they learned that over time. They didn't start out that way.

I also now appreciate how very difficult decisions for me really were. As I have taken over more and more responsibility for these decisions, I realize that there are not easy answers. My parents did the best they could. And, I have learned from them to not dwell on the mistakes or the things I wish I had done differently, but to keep learning and move on. I think if my parents were wracked with guilt and fear about making mistakes, I'd pick up that attitude also. And that attitude could paralyze future decision making.

This post was a joint effort with my mom. I hope it is helpful to parents. Again, these are my personal experiences; everybody is different. Let me know if you have any other questions.

So, my summary points - love your child, promote strengths, do the best you can with the complicated decisions, think "outside the box", and don't be too hard on yourself.

It's very important that we all work to change society so that those of us with cerebral palsy can be full members. Support the ADA Restoration Act, model inclusive attitudes and advocate for a better world.

UPDATE: My parents and I continue to think of many other things that could be helpful to a family with a young child. Here are a couple more.
-During the years when I rebelled against formal therapy, (in addition to meshing the work into my day like I described above), my parents tried to make therapy fun. I had books read to me or played guessing games or various things to help me "enjoy" the time more. It didn't really work, but it did help. Also, when I was about 4 years old, something that worked was a "reward" for "working hard" in therapy. I got to do an art project that was only done after a session during which I cooperated (so the reward was not based on "what" I did, but just that I gave a reasonable effort). My mom had a stash of paper plates that I decorated with glitter, paint, felt, whatever, and then she put them on display on the wall. Whenever someone came over, they would ask (with some prompting by my parents) about all the art on the wall. I would feel proud of my accomplishments. My parents never wanted to punish me for not cooperating with something that was inherently unpleasant, so they just used rewards or lack of rewards. And, I did get a time out if I would bite the therapist or do something really nasty. ; ) No art project on those days!
But, I do think the best way to work on my body was just having it be part of my day.
-Also, my parents came to learn that no "expert", in health care or education, was more expert than they were. They used "experts" like consultants, weighing what they would say against their own experience with me and against their gut feel. (And, by the way, they didn't get the hang of this until after they were misled a few times.) They also learned to be very creative as they weighed different choices, starting with what their goals were for me and then deciding how to use others' advice.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Disability and God

Check out Ruth's post, "Disabling Theologies: Having a disability is not a punishment from God." Nor do I believe that having a disability gives one a special "in" with God. Disability, like ethnicity and gender, is simply part of the diversity of humanity.

"Bob's House"

If you missed the Super Bowl yesterday, here's a link to the Pepsi commercial which highlights a popular joke from the deaf culture and also an interview with the Pepsi worker who stars in the commercial. Here's a Pepsi link showing the making of the commercial. Enjoy! It's a fun commercial and highlights the commonalities and diversity of people.