What: Telling Our Stories is a monthly webinar series that hosts people with disabilities sharing their stories of success and challenge. This month our guest speaker is Anthony Tusler, author and disability advocate.
Guest Speaker: Anthony Tusler is a writer, consultant, trainer, and advocate on disability issues related to technology access and policy, alcohol and other drug policy and training, and disability culture. He was the Coordinator of the Technology Policy Division at the World Institute on Disability for three years and the founding Director of the Disability Resource Center at Sonoma State University.
He helped to start the Institute on Alcohol, Drugs, and Disability and Community Resources for Independence ILC in Northern California. He has taught at Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.He is the author of the book, How to Create Disability Access to Technology: Best Practices in Electronic and Information Companies. His web site AboutDisability.com is the home for The New Paradigm of Disability Bibliography.
Link: Teen Nick Betsoleiman gripped the knobs on the 30-foot-high climbing wall with the few fingers he could control as a team of teachers guided him toward every edge and toehold, propelling his slight frame upward.
He was pouring sweat, but wasn't about to quit. For an 18-year-old with cerebral palsy who downhill skis and once flipped his power chair playing soccer, the wall at Glenbrook South High School was one more hurdle, one more step toward redefining what he's capable of.
Link: Special Olympics When 17-year-old Aleshia Monforton began her junior year at Manhattan High School last fall, she had no idea she’d be helping a first-grader achieve Special Olympic greatness.
As part of a mentoring program for kids with special needs, Monforton visits Joe Vander Vos twice a week at Manhattan Elementary School.
“I work with him learning signs and numbers,” Monforton said Sunday afternoon. “He gets really excited when I come. When we play games, he gets so excited for winning.”
Joe has apraxia of speech, a condition that makes forming words and communicating difficult for him, but that hasn’t stopped him from qualifying for the Special Olympics this year.
Link: Teacher At the start of her day at Sprayberry Education Center, Pam Miller pulls out picture cue cards for her students. Because seven of her eight students can't communicate verbally, Miller, the autism K-5 teacher at Sprayberry, relies on the picture cards and sign language to interpret her students' needs.
This is Miller's second year at Sprayberry, but throughout her 18 years in teaching-previously she worked with special education students at Holt Elementary School-she has worked with a number of autistic children.
"I love working with children with autism because everyone is so different," Miller said. "They all have such unique and wonderful personalities. There are no two that are the same. They're each a mystery, and you have to figure out what makes each one work." In teaching children with severe autism, Miller deals with students who may experience difficulty communicating, often exhibit repetitive behavior and can be easily upset by small changes in their environment.
So, before she can teach her students their ABCs and 123s, Miller has to first learn about her students' lives and what makes them tick.
Link: Full Story Kimberly Goss taught her sons how to crawl their way to success -- literally. Benjamin Goss, 26, and Christopher Goss, 23, suffer from learning disabilities.
When the two were children, Kimberly and her husband, Bill, took them to be tested at an area learning center and were told that neither boy would ever develop the intellectual capacity to attend college.
Refusing to accept that assessment, Kimberly took her sons out of public school, where they were in special education classes, and taught them at home.
"What I did was pull them out of a situation that was damaging to their self-esteem," Kimberly said. "We did a lot of praying, let them know they were smart and just believed in them."
Ben suffers from dyslexia and an auditory processing affliction that inhibits his ability to recall instructions. Christopher has dyslexia and dysgraphia, which is a deficiency in his ability to write.
Ben and Christopher credit their mother for putting them on a path to academic excellence.
Link: UT Grad History major Clayton Tauscher is achieving his goal of getting a college degree, but he's had a long list of hurdles to overcome. Clayton was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, then later ADHD, as well as other learning and speech disorders.
"All the specialists and the people that we encountered said that Clayton would never get this far, and he's gotten this far, and I'm just incredibly proud of him," Clayton's father Karl Tauscher said.
Clayton started going to the Pediatric Language Clinic on the UT campus, then worked his way through several different schools. He was among the first graduates at Grace Christian Academy in 2005. Clayton is now among GCA's first students to achieve a college degree.
Link: Athlete Alfredo Castaneda reaches out with both hands and grabs a baton. He studies it with his fingers, learning its weight, its texture, its shape.
"Is it hollow?" he asks softly.
"Yes it is," comes the reply.
"How do you pass it?" Castaneda asks.
Two Glencoe High School runners search for the words to explain what they are unable to demonstrate for their teammate.
Castaneda is blind and hears only with hearing aids.
Assistant track coach John Carter steps in to describe the technique for one runner passing a baton to another. Castaneda tilts his head and smiles. He gets it.
"Do you see?" Carter asks, recognizing that Castaneda has made a mental picture of the movement he has described.
"Yeah." Castaneda, a 15-year-old freshman, came out for Glencoe's track team this spring. The 5-foot-4-inch 100-pounder runs and throws the discus. Teammates and coaches marvel at his outsized determination to be like everyone else.
Link: Autism Law Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my life would take me down this path. Growing up, I always dreamed that I would get married, career, two kids, dogs, the whole package. I was certainly not overly interested in politics. Everything changed the minute I had a child with autism. I have always been a fighter, and now I was fighting for something the meant more to me than words could ever describe, our son's future. Our oldest son, Brandon, was diagnosed with autism two years ago at age 3. We have seen firsthand the amazing progress he has made with appropriate therapies. We were fortunate in that we could pay for his therapies out of pocket because our insurance did not. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most Montana families. It seemed so fundamentally wrong that hard working Montanans who pay insurance premiums still could not help their children. I was determined to do something about it.
Senate Bill 234,"Brandon's Bill," which requires insurance companies to cover medically necessary therapies for children with autism passed the 61st Montana Legislature.
Link: Story When Joan Ryan of Ross started to write her new book, "The Water Giver," she thought it would be about her son and his near-fatal skateboarding accident. It turned out to be more about her.
Her son Ryan's accident helped her stop fretting over his lifelong learning deficits, where her goal was to "fix him, fix him, fix him," and to celebrate instead his gifts as a person - "his courage, his persistence, his sunny nature." "It's like a second chance to raise him all over again," she said. "What a great gift to see my son in a completely different way."
Son Ryan Tompkins is now 18 and will head off to college next fall. Ryan expects to follow him there - Mitchell College in New London, Conn. - and get an apartment nearby during his first semester to make sure he is taking his medications. But she will no longer try to run his life.