Part of DTCC's mandate is to be a source of information for the disabled and those interested and concerned about the disabled community. To this end, we post on our website various articles, essays and videos of contemporary interest and concern to the community.
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The Seed of Hope
In memory of the late Robin Williams
August 13th, 2014
Springtime has dawned upon us. The time of renewal and rebirth. The season of hope and possibility. The world is beginning to wake up. The roots of all that live dig deeper into the ground, growing upward and stronger than ever before. Life has begun to breathe deeply again.
And yet I remain behind, caught between the icy winds, in a place devoid of nature and cultivation. I remain in the darkness of the cold, the frigidity of seclusion, and the emptiness of a place only the loneliest of us can ever know.
Why haven't the winds around me subsided? Why hasn't the sun shone on my skin? Why isn't the ground thawing beneath me?
The spring that awakens the living is infused only by the seed of hope; a seed that forbids surrendering; a seed that fights against the strongest pull of depression; a seed that perseveres even in the most trying of seasons.
The seed of hope is found in every single creation and in every single soul. It is a seed that recognizes our strengths, perpetuates our purpose, and adds to our value as precious beings on the earth.
It is the seed of hope that will finally liberate us from mental illness and allow for us to find solace of our own, one that will empower us to finally breathe deeply, again and again.
Can You Answer the Million Dollar Question?
August 5th, 2014
"What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?" Oh, that million dollar question. It is asked at every job interview, on every first date (or on the second), and even sometimes when there is a moment of self-reflection. Truth be told, it is a difficult query to honestly respond to, one that usually leads to a pre-determined answer or a flat out lie. But at the end of the day, why is it so difficult to pinpoint and express our fortes and our imperfections?
In a society based on being holistically perfect, it is no doubt that indicating our so-called "flaws" is a daunting task. One might even believe that admitting to these personal points, which do not coincide with the notion of faultlessness, is a sure admission of defeat. But does it really have to be that way? Not necessarily.
Take the latest pilot project in Calgary and the Canadian federal government's recent allocation of $150,000 to the Sinneave Family Foundation; the goal of this initiative is to ultimately hone in on how individuals with autism can use their strengths (or what societies sees as their so-called "weaknesses") in order to strengthen their presence in the workforce. People on the autistic spectrum are now being hired to conduct software testing as well as to supervise data authentication and oversee quality assurance.
One cannot deny that this unbelievable program is an amazing opportunity for people with autism. But at the same time, it is a life lesson that we all should internalize in regards to how we define the notion of "strength" and the concept of "weakness". Whether or not a person has a disability, it seems that human nature is always focused on separating our strong points from our weak ones. And that is essentially why answering that question is so difficult.
We need to take that fixation on what we feel we cannot do and transform it into the thought that we can. We need to step away from the idea of disability, and in its place, emphasize the Ability. And only then can we truly free ourselves from the subjective imprisonment of perfection and truthfully answer the question: "There is no difference".
The Power to Make a Difference
July 24th, 2014
If you were given a power, a power that costs nothing, that involves no commitment and no effort but can affect an entire world in the most extraordinary way, would you use it?
If your answer is yes, continue reading. If your answer is no, continue reading anyway.
There was a teenage boy in San Francisco who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He stopped taking his medication and decided that his life had no purpose; the only solution to his misery was to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. And so, he wrote a note to his parents and to his girlfriend at the time, clearly explaining his decision to end his life. After signing his name on both letters, he got onto a city bus and headed for the bridge.
As he was sitting on the bus, looking at the people around him, he said to himself, "If ONE person, just ONE person smiles at me I will not jump."
The boy travelled for over forty-five minutes and NOT ONE person smiled at him. At his final stop, the boy waited for all the passengers to leave before he exited the bus. He stood at the top of steps, in front of the driver, hoping that this one man would be that person to smile at him. Instead, the driver rudely asked him to hurry up as he was going to be late returning to the bus terminal.
The boy slowly walked to the middle of the bridge and jumped. As he plummeted towards the waters, 220 feet below, he thought, "God, I don't want to die!" The boy hit the water in a seated position and virtually broke every single bone in his body. He could not swim to shore and expected to drown in pain. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, sea lions swam to him and hoisted him above the water so he could breathe. John Kevin Hines was one of 29 people who have ever survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Many of us have been told that saving one life is like saving an entire world. For some reason, blame it on storybooks and entertainment, the concept of "saving" tends to be associated with the most perilous acts; running into a burning house, climbing to great heights or jumping hundreds of feet. The truth is, saving doesn't have to be so complicated, so dangerous or so heroic; it doesn't require dedication, exertion or even money. The ability to save is a simple smile…a power that we have all been given regardless of our wish to receive it. Let us all make a world of difference and smile.
July 7th, 2014
In my eyes, dictionaries have consistently fallen short. Despite their thoroughly organized structure, I have always found that their oversimplified definitions never seemed to suffice. The word "fighter", for example, is plainly defined as someone who does not give up, a person who continues fighting and trying.
I cannot deny that a fighter is persistent and perseverant; a person who battles with the determination to win. But there is so much more to being a fighter than the simple act of making an effort and prevailing with pride.
Gino Odjick, a former Vancouver Canucks hockey player, has recently made shocking news headlines. Born on a native reserve, Odjick was recruited by the NHL in 1990 and was known to be much more effective as a fighter on the ice than a player. After retiring from the league, Odjick became a business leader in order to aid in the obliteration of poverty among the aboriginal people. Later on in his life, he battled with depression and struggled with substance abuse. Now, after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, Odjick is fighting for his life.
What then defines a true fighter? I cannot deny the notion that it is about never giving up, continuing to battle and ceasing to try. But a fighter needs so much more than that. Odjick personifies this term as he not only faced them all, fought them all, but continues to exhibit no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his motivation, no dulling of his drive and his strong mind. He has, even in the face of death, embraced his trials and tribulations as a means to conquer and prevail. Odjick was a fighter for his team and for his people. He was a fighter for mental illness and for substance abuse. And now, he continues to fight for his life with optimism and positivity.
"It is what it is but I'm not going to lie down and die. I'm going to make a difference. They're telling me one thing but I'm going to fight with what have. I believe I'll live until I'm 150." - Gino Odjick
ADHD and the Brain-Friendly Classroom
July 1st, 2014
There is no doubt that we live in a fast-food frenzied world; a place where instant gratification, quick fixes and immediate responses are expected in all aspects of our lives. It seems as though our society has abolished the notion of exertion, perseverance and effort and instead, strives to find the least taxing route to the final destination. Thus, it is no surprise that parents and professionals working with children with ADHD have opted for a less demanding course as well.
Over the past decade, there has been a surge of ADHD diagnoses in North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, 11 precent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which comprises approximately 6.4 million children in the United States alone. In other words, every single classroom across Canada and the United States has between one and two students with an official ADHD diagnosis.
As the numbers soar, so have the complaints among teachers. As an educator working in the field for over seven years, I have come to notice the increasingly strong intolerance that educators possess towards children with ADHD. I am ashamed to admit that staff rooms have become the complaining haven, a place where teachers can express their frustration about (what they dub as) their "ADHD kids" and simultaneously confess that the solution to these behavioral issues lies with the pharmaceutical industry.
Can educators' "relief" be found in stimulant drugs? Will teachers be more successful with the help of an industry with US sales of $9 billion per year on ADHD drugs alone? I beg to differ. Indeed, it is the simpler choice, the easier route, but it is not the solution. From my experience, I strongly believe that pharmaceutical stimulants are not needed when educators know how to stimulate the brains of their students through their teaching. Children, even if they do not have attentional issues and/or hyperactive tendencies, will always be more successful in a "brain-friendly classroom".
Brain scans have undoubtedly proven that a person's attention is in constant flux, whether or not an individual has been given an ADHD diagnosis. Studies have also shown that the brain is wired for survival, an alert system that attends to its surroundings whenever something worthwhile hails attention to it. Therefore, to ensure that students with ADHD remain focused and attentive, teachers need to revolve their curriculums around the wiring of the brain.
Charge it! The brain is stimulated through emotion, or emotionally charged stimuli. This means that attention will be activated when children emotionally connect to what they are learning. Lessons and activities should be designed around the interests and preferences of all students, especially those with ADHD.
Make it a Broadway Production! Evidence shows that the neurons in the brain are fired when music, laughter and movement are involved. Studies further indicate that laughing increases oxygen to the brain while movement creates new connections between the neurons. Add a little humor, throw in some tunes and get them moving and distractibility will diminish considerably.
Keep it stylish! Everyone processes and learns information differently. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner, there are seven different types of learners. For instance, some individuals may learn visually (think powerpoint presentations); others may be auditory learners (think lecture tapes); and some students may learn kinesthetically (think moving around a classroom). Once a teacher compliments the learning style of a child with ADHD, their span of concentration will no longer be as problematic.
Make it "sense"-able! The brain is a parallel processor that responds when its senses are prompted. Educators need to consider the neurological strengths of a student with ADHD: is the child logical or creative? Is the student focused on details or does he/she see the big picture? Honing in on their sensory faculties will lead to increased concentration and attentiveness.
Keep it short and sweet! Studies have revealed that the brain can only process up to seven pieces of bite-size information at a time (ever wonder why our phone numbers are 7 digits?). Moreover, an elementary school-aged child's learning potential can last up to a period of ten minutes, which means he/she cannot efficiently process new information from that point on. With that said, educators need to avoid giving long-winded lectures and replace their lengthy tangents with shorter, rotational increments.
There is no doubt that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a challenge for the child, the parents and the teachers. There is also no question that for every challenging situation presented, there are many possible solutions. As an educator, I strongly believe that teachers need to choose a "brain-friendly" path that incorporates knowledge, expertise and skill in dealing with children with ADHD. Educators need to use their proficiency and creativity to capture the heart, mind and soul of every child and in doing so, ensure that they will intrinsically reach their full potential.
It's All About Perspective
June 16th, 2014
At one time, actor and director Christopher Reeve was seen as the poster man for superhuman, the symbol of extraordinary, the icon of supernatural. While the world marvelled at the powers of this paranormality, his unfortunate and tragic horseback riding accident, which left him completely paralyzed from the neck down, put the world into a state of shock and disbelief; his riding mishap was a harsh dose of reality, a lesson to all humans that we are not supermen but mundane individuals whose lives can change in the blink of eye.
In the (unsuccessful) attempt to put myself in Reeve's shoes and to see life from the perspective of a quadriplegic, I couldn't help but believe that, like Reeve's shattered vertebrae, his accident led him to a shattered outlook on life as well. In essence, the actor went from a state of "flying high" to the incarcerated confinements of a wheelchair... How can he possibly see anything in a positive light?
And so, in this effort to empathize with Reeve, and all people suffering from paralyses, I quickly came to the following conclusions:
They will never be able to stand up.
They will never be able to use shoes to walk.
They will never be able to look at anyone in the eye.
They will never be able to walk.
They will never be able to run free.
Wrought with these emotions and feelings, how was able I stop there? Can one just accept their fate, or do they have the power to change it? And so, I decided I needed to redefine the term, without the superman icon in tow.
Power comes when you stand for what you believe in.
Power is about creating footprints to make a difference.
Power is seeing the world eye to eye.
Power is being able to walk in another man's shoes.
Power is freeing oneself from their own limitations.
At the end of the day, superman is not the person himself, but the person's perspective; it is about the supernatural ability to see the positive at all times, to forever "walk" with one's head held high. It is about re-dreaming and re-experiencing; it is about re-exploring and re-discovering; it is about seeing the forest through the trees and learning to see the hope and light in even the darkest of moments.
Take a moment to check out ReWalk, a commercial bionic walking assistance system, using powered leg attachments to enable paraplegics to stand upright, walk, and climb stairs.The system is powered by a backpack battery, and is controlled by a simple wrist-mounted remote which detects and enhances the user's movements. Designed in Israel, the ReWalk is marketed by Argo Medical Technologies, a device underwent clinical trials at MossRehab in suburban Philadelphia.