A while back I read an article on the The Mighty about you coming out with the Zoom Soldier 8, a shoe for people with disabilities. As someone who has struggled with motor difficulties due to autism, I was intrigued to hear about your new offer for our community. As a basketball enthusiast who’s been following the sport since I was 6, it became a no-brainer.
After purchasing the shoes while I was away at a speaker conference, I came back this week to find them waiting for me at my job at Autism Speaks. I instantly opened the box and was incredibly impressed by the look and texture of the shoe. Not only stylish, the shoes having a zipper in the back of the heel made it so easy to slip on. While giving them a test run (Yes, I was so excited I ran in my office), I couldn’t believe the amount of support I was getting from them. I quickly took a photo to put on Instagram and to share with my family and friends on how amazing your shoes are.
Because of my motor difficulties, I couldn’t tie my shoes by myself until I was 13. Not only that, but trying to button my shirts was a daily struggle. Thanks to lots of hours of therapy, I’ve been able to overcome many of my motor challenges. Now though, when I think about the amount of people you will have an impact on — individuals growing up who have similar difficulties — all I can say is thank you for making these shoes a reality.
5. We can pack for a trip to the hospital with our eyes closed (which might actually be a good idea given we probably aren’t getting any sleep at home and for sure won’t be getting any in the hospital):
6. We spend more time trying to make the doctor’s office seem fun than millennial moms spend in tattoo parlors:
7. And we’ve become experts at turning incredibly complicated medical information into reader-friendly Facebook updates to keep friends and family in the loop:
8. When we say our kids are attached at the hip, we sometimes literally mean it:
9. We can add “matchmaker” to our long resumes because we rock at picking out perfect best friends for our sweet babes:
10. Our awesome kids are outside the box, so we’re constantly thinking outside the box:
11. Our homes look like one big therapy session, and we’re actually kind of proud of that:
12. There is nothing we won’t try if it means giving our child a chance to experience something they might love — no mountain we won’t climb, no ocean we won’t cross:
13. Life has taught us there are so many things we cannot control, so when we find something we can control (like a healthy, delicious diet) we control the heck out of it:
14. We’re raising the world’s most compassionate siblings:
15. And never taking anything for granted: nothing, nothing, nothing, never, ever, ever:
16. We know all too well how fragile this life is. Every single second, every single breath is a gift:
17. In between therapy sessions, doctors appointments, more therapy sessions, homework from therapy sessions, IEPs, cooking those amazing diets, fighting with insurance companies, finding the paperwork necessary to start the fight with the insurance company in the first place, researching new diagnoses, researching treatment options for new diagnoses and scouring Pinterest for new home therapy ideas, we still know how to make time for ourselves and live it up a little:
18. Part of what makes all this killing it possible is we have partners who are also killing it:
19. And we have an amazing village full of other special needs moms who are killing it too (it’s most likely a virtual village, but that is just fine; we’ve worked hard to find each other, and virtual villages are still villages!):
20. One of the beautiful things about the villages we’ve cultivated is the way we love each other fiercely in the hardest of times:
21. We haven’t just accepted this unexpected life we’ve been given — we’ve embraced it, big time. And we look pretty darn beautiful doing it, if we may say so ourselves!
What did we miss? Share your “killing it” pictures with us online using the hashtag #SNmomkillingit.
I don’t remember the exact moment my life was changed by someone with a developmental disability. The memories seem far away, blurry, as if they don’t belong to me. But this is what happens after you’ve been working with adults with developmental disabilities for eight years. You change.
They don’t tell you that when you’re filling out your application. Instead, they tell you about the hours, the health benefits, the 401(k) plan, the programs and the strategies. But they don’t tell you about the fact if you do it right, you’ll never be the same.
They don’t tell you it will be the most amazing job you’ve ever had. On other days, it can be the worst. They can’t describe on paper the emotional toll it will take on you. They can’t tell you there may come a time where you find you’re more comfortable surrounded by people with developmental disabilities than you are with the general population. They don’t tell you you’ll come to love them, and there will be days when you feel more at home when you’re at work than when you’re at home, sitting on your couch. But it happens.
They don’t tell you about the negative reactions you may face when you’re out in the community with someone with a developmental disability. That there are people on this earth who still think it’s OK to say the R-word. That people stare. Adults will stare. You will want to say something, anything, to these people to make them see. But at the end of the day, your hands will be tied because some things, as you learn quickly, can’t be explained with something as simple as words. They can only be felt. And most of the time, until someone has had their own experience with someone with a developmental disability, they just won’t understand.
They train you in CPR and first aid, but they can’t tell you what it feels like to have to use it. They don’t tell you what it is like to learn someone is sick and nothing can be done. They can’t explain the way it feels when you work with someone for years and then one day they die.
They can’t explain the bond direct service personnel develop with the people they are supporting. I know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who has been labeled non-verbal or low-functioning. After working with someone for awhile, you develop a bond so strong they can just give you a look and you know exactly what it means, what they want and what they’re feeling. And most of the time, all it boils down to is they want to be heard, listened to and included. Loved.
When you apply for this job, they do tell you you’ll be working to teach life skills. But what they don’t tell you is while you’re teaching someone, they’ll also be teaching you. They have taught me it’s OK to forgive myself when I have a bad day. There’s always tomorrow and a mess-up here and there doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. They have taught me to slow down, to ponder, to take the time to just look around and take in this beautiful world and all of the simple joys we are blessed to encounter every day.
So when did I change? I realize now there wasn’t one pivotal moment. Instead, it was a million little moments, each important in their own way, that when added together changed me. And I’m grateful for each one.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell a story about a time someone helped you and/or your child when you needed it most. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.
Every two years, Special Olympics athletes from across the globe gather to compete at the Special Olympic World Games. This summer, from July 25 through August 2, more than 6,500 athletes from 165 countries will be in Los Angeles for the games, along with 350 staff, 30,000 volunteers and 4,000 team leaders. Despite these numbers, a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions exist around Special Olympics.
To clear this up, The Mighty and Special Olympics asked our Facebook communities: What’s one thing you wish others understood about Special Olympics? We heard from more than 500 people, including athletes, volunteers, fans and family members.
Here are 25 things everyone needs to understand about Special Olympics.
1. “Special Olympics athletes are real athletes who train with real coaches.” – Amanda Michelle
2. “We are more than our disabilities. We can [do] anything anyone else can. Special Olympics gives us the opportunity to be ourselves and make friends [who] we will have the rest of our lives. Special Olympics is one big family.” – Melissa Ann Schopp, Special Olympics athlete
3. “Special Olympics is truly a legitimate sports league that combines heart, spirit, friendship and competition into [its] tournaments.” – Daniel Montero, former Special Olympics athlete
4. “It’s so much more than the athletics; it’s an event that brings everyone together to celebrate the spirit and determination that drives every athlete.” – Kate Hoffman
5. “Special Olympics is the true, genuine love of participating in a sport.” – Mary Williams
6. “It’s not about medals and league tables; it’s about opportunity, self esteem and inclusion.” – Caroline Playle
7. “Spirit is defined by perseverance, and Special Olympics is the embodiment of that.” – Kevin M. McDermott
8. “Special Olympics provides not only an environment where athletes can learn sports and compete but also fosters a community for the athletes and their families. The relationships we’ve made through Special Olympics are profound.” – Julie A. Kennedy Concepcion
9. “The coaches, volunteers, parents, siblings, etc., get as much out of the experience as the athletes do.” – Heather Jones
15. “Our athletes are just that – athletes. They train, practice, sweat, even bleed.” – Kimberli Holm, Special Olympics coach
16. “Special Olympics isn’t about ‘special people’ getting to play ‘special sports.’ It’s about people being able to compete on a level playing field and compete their hearts out like all athletes feel the need to do.” – Lin Rubright
17. “Those [who] participate in Special Olympics are athletes – true athletes who are dedicated to their sport as much as any other athlete.” – Marci A. Ruderman
The Mighty has featured so manytouching stories about typically-developing children being there for their siblings with special needs. But we know children with special needs are often there to help their typically-developing, too. It goes both ways — that’s why siblings are the best.
We asked our Facebook readers to share a moment where they’ve witnessed their loved one with special needs helping out his or her sibling. The wonderful responses shared ranged from kids teaching their siblings everyday skills — like how to tie their shoes or ride a bike — to leaving a sibling love notes and telling them they’re beautiful when they’re having a rough day.
Here are some of the beautiful moments you shared.
1. “My sweet daughter has learned unconditional love, compassion and acceptance from her brother, who has autism. To her, [he’s] is au-tastic! She’s 23 and is now an autism specialist showing others just how au-tastic they are!” —Jamie Stephanie Richards
2. “My son with developmental delays taught his sister to ride a bike! He was the only one with enough patience to handle her.” — Joy W Gutos
3. “We witnessed our 9-year-old with autism help his brother up after he fell in the yard. Although a small feat, empathy is something kiddos on the autism spectrum sometimes lack.” — Shelly Dennison
4. “When my older daughter, who has dyspraxia, global developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, was in kindergarten, she started learning to read. This was amazing because she’s so delayed in most [areas]. One day, I heard her 3-year old typically developing sister asking her if she would help her read a book. There may have been a little dust in my eyes just then.” — Stephanie Bruttig Brander
5. “My son gets impatient about many things, especially when he gets overwhelmed, things don’t go his way or when too much information is coming at him at once. Yet when it comes to teaching or showing someone what or how to do something, he’s always patient, calm, and determined they can learn it. He taught his little sister how to ride a bike and tie her shoes when no one else could. Go figure.” — Kathryn Jacobs Wessell
6. “A few months ago, my 9-year-old daughter was upset over an incident with her teacher and began obsessing over her looks and how she smelled. My 6-year-old son, who has sensory processing disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and is a cancer survivor, started putting notes in her backpack. Our favorite one said, ‘Melanie, I lik you a lot. You are the best sistir. I lik the way your har smels. I lik your smyl. I love you more than Legos.’ She still has several of his notes and reads them when she’s struggling with her self image.” — Traci Born
7. “My 6-year-old who has Down syndrome tells his big sister, who’s 15 and not very confident, that she’s beautiful.” — Kerry-Ann Fender
8. “My daughter with Down syndrome taught her younger sister everything she learned, including how to read. Her love of books carried over to her sister, and the time she spent reading to her as a baby helped create the special bond they have today.” — Carol Teitelbaum Croll
9. “My youngest daughter, who has a disability, is my wild child. My oldest is typically developing and very reserved. It wasn’t until our youngest entered the picture with of all of her mischievous ideas and bold personality that our oldest started to be more confident and started taking risks. [She’s] taught [her big sister] to be a little more assertive and that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.” — Ali Schmeder-Cummins
10. “My 8-year-old son with moderate autism usually ignores his 1-year-old brother, which is a good thing. But if [my youngest son] cries, [my oldest] runs to him and sings ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.'” — Tracy Boyarsky Smith
11. “My oldest son, who’s 6 years old, is on the autism spectrum. His little brother is 4 and always seems to reach milestones before his big brother. But when it comes to Legos, he’s always helping his little brother build and fix things.” — Erin Post Bowman
12. “My 8-year-old son, who has a disability, has taught my 12-year-old typical son to approach and interact with all people who have disabilities.” — Holly Werenko
13. “My son, 3, has autism. He always holds his 1-year-old baby sister’s hand, helps her walk and makes sure she doesn’t get too far from me when my hands are full.” — Leidy Jesse Garcia
14. “[My daughter] is 6 and has Down syndrome. She helps her little brother, who is 3, take his shoes off. She even puts the socks inside the shoes and puts them on our shoe shelf.” — Danielle R Copello
15. “I’ve had my twin boys, who both have autism, help me change their siblings’ diapers, feed them, dress them and make them snacks. When I had hand surgery, they helped wash their siblings’ hair. They did all of this without asking.” — Amanda M. Marshall
16. “One day, my 7-year-old granddaughter was upset because her friend didn’t want to play with her and was calling her names. Her sister, 21 months, who has mild cerebral palsy, walked up to her and gave her a hug and kiss. Then, she got two coloring books and crayons and gave her one. She then took her hand and walked her over to their table, and they began to color together.” – Lisa Boulden
17. “[My son with autism] tried to help his little brother put on his shoe. ‘I understand how hard that is, I can help you.’ It melted my heart.” — Sra Jennifer
18. “My 13-year-old son has Angelman syndrome and is nonverbal, but he’s great at helping his three younger siblings open cabinets or get something down from up high, especially when they know they’re not supposed to have it! I’ve heard them say, ‘Can you get [insert object] for me please?'” — Jamie Stewart
Toy Like Me, the social media campaign calling on toy companies to create more toys with disabilities and health conditions, is still working tirelessly to create better diversity in the toy box.
The initiative was co-founded in April 2015 by Rebecca Atkinson, a mom and journalist in the U.K. who’s partially deaf and vision impaired herself. She and several other parents began encouraging other parents of children with disabilities to modify their toys to help create better disability representation. The campaign quickly went viral, and the parents behind Toy Like Me began turning to toy companies to try to get them to manufacture toys with disabilities and health conditions.
So far, the British doll manufacturer Makies, Playmobil and Lottie dolls have responded positively to the campaign, Atkinson told The Mighty in an email. But now, the group has its sights set on the leaders in the toy industry — namely Lego and Hasbro.
Atkinson is urging Hasbro to create a real version of her updated toy.
“Every day, four deaf babies are born in the U.K. alone. These kids are growing up with a toy box that never includes positive representations of deafness or disability,” the Facebook post reads. “What does that say to these children about who they are? What does it say to their peers? Mr. Potato Head has glasses. Why can’t he have a hearing aid or cochlear implant, too?”
“Oh Lego, where are your basket-balling wheelsters? Baseball-playing duplo folk with hearing aids? White cane-using Lego Friends off to the gym? In fact, where is your positive disability representation at all?” the petition reads.
“We can’t change disability. It’s part of the spectrum of human life. But we can change the world these kids are born into,” the Toy Like Me team wrote on Facebook. “Make them feel more welcome by normalizing, including and celebrating disability in the toy box.”
Take a look at some of the parent-modified toys submitted to Toy Like Me below.
To learn more about Toy Like Me, visit the campaign’s Twitter and Facebook pages or search social media for the hashtag #ToyLikeMe. Sign the Toy Like Me petition to get Lego to start manufacturing toys with disabilities here.