October 13, 2017

Adding to Her World

The most influential person with a disability I have ever worked with was named Teri. She was a lady who lived in the first group home I worked at, in Emporia, Kansas, many years ago. Teri had Cerebral Palsy, and used a communication device that she controlled with a single red button that she hit with the side of her head. We would have full conversations, her using that button with a vengeance to get the words out. Teri also regularly added words to her device, and I remember being so in awe of her as she added each new letter, each taking at least half a dozen button taps, but when she had that new word added to her device, she opened up her world a little more, and was able to communicate that much more with her friends, family, and staff. I also played countless hours of matching […]
October 10, 2017

James, and Our Impact on Each Other

Sometimes with individuals who do not speak regularly, we pigeonhole them or decide what their specific interests are. Because their verbal communication is “limited,” it seems, we decide that their interests are as well. When we open ourselves up to seeing people with disabilities as people, no more or less than we are, we can learn a lot. When I first started working with a young man named James, I was told “He likes Taco Bell and pancakes with peanut butter.” Can you imagine being introduced to someone and being defined by the two food items that you like?” “This is Vincent, he likes fajitas and chili.” Somehow that just doesn’t encapsulate my full personality. The first few times I worked with him we made pancakes and peanut butter and had Taco Bell. After a little while, however, I started saying, “Let’s try something new today!” I figured he would […]