Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving Tribute to Roger McCarville of PBS Program 'Disabilities Today.'

I was honored to work with Roger McCarville, host of the PBS program Disabilities Today, now called A Wider World. He became a wheelchair user and tireless special needs advocate after a serious boating accident dramatically changed the course of his life. 

I first met Roger after he invited me to appear on his weekly Detroit radio program, and Roger later produced a television segment on RicStar's Camp, the popular music therapy camp I co founded in honor of my son, Eric. Unfortunately, Roger McCarville passed away last fall.

Today, I received notice of a well-deserved tribute to McCarville, introduced by his executive producer, Jim Saliba and created by the staff of Disabilities Today. The remembrance was first presented at the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame dinner in Royal Oak, Michigan in October 2009, and was incorporated into the beginning of the new season of A Wider World. You can find out more about this remarkable man by watching the moving tribute of him on YouTube.  It's worth your time. You can also find out more about which PBS stations air A Wider World here.

The disability community has lost a tremendous advocate; but we've gained much because of Roger's never-ending commitment to the cause, fueled by his generous and humble spirit. His work will live on; but I will miss his valuable advocacy.

Minute Vacations -December 2009


West Coast Sunrise
Santa Barbara, California
November 2009

California dreamin....

Photo by Judy Winter 09

Words of Wisdom from Woodrow Wilson -December 2009


"If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience."
-Woodrow Wilson

Photo by Judy Winter 09

Wheelchair User Takes Chance on Love & Wins- NY Times

Sunday's New York Times included a thought-provoking essay written by Gary Presley, a near quadriplegic as a result of polio, and the author of "Seven Wheelchairs: A Life Beyond Polio."The essay chronicles how Presley finally moved beyond his disability to take a chance on love,  and won.

You can read the heartfelt essay, "Would My Heart Outrun Its Pursuer?" here.

Honest and inspiring.

Photo by Judy Winter 09

Exciting News Alert! -Autism Treatment Works in Kids as Young as 18 mos (AP)

Early intervention is considered key in maximizing the potential of many children with special needs. Perhaps nowhere is this considered more critical than with children with autism, making the results of a new study on autism treatment as reported by the Associated Press just hours ago in the article entitled Autism Treatment Works in Kids as Young as 18 mos by Lindsey Tanner, especially exciting.

Read it

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Offers Tips for Gift Buying for Wheelchair Users

The terrific Paralysis Resource Center, part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, is offering a 2009 online Holiday Gift Guide for purchasing gifts for those who use wheelchairs.  For more, click here.

I love this organization, and I will be forever grateful to have interviewed Dana Reeve for my book.  Like her husband, Christopher Reeve, Dana was an amazing human being who did so much to enhance the lives of those with spinal cord injuries. Both are sorely missed; but their valuable work continues on through their foundation.

Photo from RicStar's Camp by Jenna Winter 

Good News! -Jack Passes His AKC Canine Good Citizen Test

Jack recently passed the American Kennel Club's AKC Canine Good Citizen Test, opening up the door for the final step required before becoming a working therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI). We will take that test early next year and hopefully, Jack will pass that, too. Then, we can work together to change the lives of kids with special needs. Fingers/paws crossed for this wonderful animal who has come so far since those early shelter days.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Compassionate Friends 2009 Worldwide Candle Lighting is Sunday, Dec. 13th

A reminder that the The Compassionate Friends annual worldwide candle lighting that honors and remembers children who have died, will be held on Sunday, December 13th at 7 p.m. local time. For more information on this organization that supports bereaved parents, and about this beautiful, healing holiday tradition born in 1997, click here. 

My candle remembering Eric will be burning brightly, too

Photo: Judy Winter 09

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs- Week Four

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week Four by Judy Winter / 2009/ All rights reserved

-Communicate! Don't assume others can read your mind. They can't. Instead, arrange family meetings to discuss your child’s needs and how to best address them. Provide needed training and brainstorm ways to include the child with special needs in family activities. For example, if a he/she uses a wheelchair, address accessibility issues and plan activities in locations that don’t involve stairs. Speak up now to help prevent bigger misunderstandings and hurt feelings later on. Family members, you can reach out and initiate problem solving, too. Our children are always worth our best efforts, and your support to these families is priceless. 

What would you want if the roles were reversed?

Photo: RicStar's Campo 2009 Judy Winter

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs- Week Three

Week Three's tip is a tad late, mainly because I just returned from a book/media tour in L.A. It was fab!
More about that trip later.

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week Three by Judy Winter / 2009/ All rights reserved

-Redefine your expectations. Throw all those visions of a perfect Hallmark family holiday right out the garland-draped window! Instead, ask what memories you want to create for all of your children. Having a child with special needs does not mean you must forgo memorable and fun holiday moments and traditions. Think creatively!

Photo by Judy Winter 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why some in Disability Community Are Not Happy with GLEE

For all those wondering why some in the disability community didn't fully appreciate the musical number and wheelchair-user's exposure on last night's Glee, here's a good article that explains why. 

I'm all for this valuable, prime-time exposure for special needs, and also for increased opportunities for employment for actors with disabilities.

Real progress will be realized when we recognize the value of doing both.

Photo of Lauren by Jenna Winter 08/ RicStar's Camp 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs- Week Two

  • Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week Two 
  • by Judy Winter / 2009/ All rights reserved
Inclusion is the name of the game!

Kids with special needs are children first, with big dreams and long holiday wish lists, just like other kids. Whenever possible, include the child in holiday festivities and activities like tree trimming, baking cookies, shopping for gifts, and attending church services (use the cry room if needed). Include that child in family holiday photos and videos, too.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Messenger- a new book about Mattie J.T. Stepanek's life by his loving mom, Jeni

"Remember to play after every storm."
-Mattie J.T. Stepanek

One of the highlights of my career was interviewing Mattie Stepanek, the charming, talented, young poet and peacemaker who had muscular dystrophy and passed away in 2004. His mother, Jeni, whom I also had the pleasure of interviewing, recently informed me about publication of her new book about Mattie's life entitled "Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs," with the foreword by Maya Angelou. You can find out more at the official Mattie Stepanek website.

Seems like a great antidote to yesterday's horrific Fort Hood news.

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs- Week One

Back by popular demand, and also to support new visitors to my blog who haven't seen these before, I am repeating my Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs  tips (with new photos) for the next seven weeks, beginning today. 

I hope these strategies help make your holidays just a bit brighter, whatever your seasonal traditions. 

When it comes to holiday magic and special needs, good communication and planning are key. 

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week One ( 2009/ All rights reserved)

Address food allergies and noise/touch sensitivities and make allowances for them. The seasonal bounty this time of year can result in overload for many children, especially those with sensory, auditory and food issues. Kids with food allergies may not be able to eat all the traditional goodies most of us eagerly gobble up. Discuss alternative choices and inform family members about any life-threatening food allergies so they don’t offer the offending food to the child.

Photo by Judy Winter 09


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Stunned by the Shootings at Fort Hood

Having recently returned from speaking to the wonderful special needs families and their terrific support staff at Fort Bragg, NC, I am especially stunned and saddened by today's deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. My thoughts and prayers are with all the military families who serve our country, while we go about our daily lives with such blessed freedoms.

I am much less naive about the tremendous  challenges facing military families than I was when I first drove on the base, and increasingly grateful for their sacrifices.

Photo of Josh and his dad during sibling panel presentation at Fort Bragg 09.  Used with permission.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Powerful New York Times Essay and Perspective by Dad Joe Blair

'For the Boy Who Makes Waves' is a powerful essay that appeared in the Oct 9, 2009 issue of the New York Times.  No sugarcoating this story. Just one dad's raw parenting observations interwoven with solid commitment and deep love for his challenged son.  As long as the paper keeps running these pieces, I'll keep sharing them. 

This one is worth the read.

Photo of my son at age two with his devoted dad. Rarely easy. Always worth the effort.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Celebrating Ability and Ricochet the Surfing Dog

This is a terrific story about the power of focusing on ability in light of facing significant physical challenges resulting from a car accident.  

Patrick Ivison was only 14 months old when those injuries left him paralyzed. Ricochet is a 19-month-old Golden Retriever first bred to become  a service dog.  What they've created together is magic.

All my dog friends give this story two paws up. It will make you smile, too.

Photo: Judy Winter 09

Awesome Aussie Update

For those of you who've enjoyed my blogs on my awesome Aussie/Bernese/Border Collie, Jack, here's a brief update.

Jack recently completed step one in becoming a certified therapy dog (Canine Good Citizen Test). There are two more hurdles to jump before Jack and I can 'officially' begin working with kids with special needs. 

Truth be told, this amazing critter has been serving as a therapy dog since the day we first brought him home, making people everywhere we go smile, and allowing them to stop and enjoy a bit of loving canine therapy. 

He's helped heal my broken heart, too. Plus, Jack's been an outstanding ambassador for shelter dogs everywhere. Please, adopt from your local shelters! So many great animals are waiting for good homes. 

Best dog ever- and so photogenic, too!

Photos: Judy Winter 09

Words of Wisdom from Maya Angelou -November 2009

Words of Wisdom-November 2009

"If you don't like something. Change it. If you can't change it. Change your attitude."

Minute Vacations -November 2009

Minute Vacation-Nov. 09 -Serenity.

Savoring healing moments of silence in the beautiful Duke University Chapel. Durham, North Carolina.

Breathe out.

Photo: Judy Winter 09

Love This! Ten Reasons to Hire Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

If you're a regular visitor to this site, you're aware that I've been missing in blog action for the past month, and my October analytics prove it, too!  
Reality is, I've had too many demands on my time recently involving speaking gigs/prep time and the resulting travel, including to Fort Bragg to present for their wonderful Exceptional Family Member Program.  I'm about to hit the road again for keynotes/book signings/media in Santa Barbara and LA (more about those later).

So, while I have a moment to breathe, here's my effort to get back on a blog track just a bit with this great link that includes Top Ten Reasons to hire individuals with Developmental Disabilities, from the We Include page of the website of the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver. Thanks, Maria and Arnold, for your support of this terrific population, and for the great info/page.  

This link/info is worth passing on.

Photo: Some of the great kigs from the terrific siblings panel I moderated as part of my presentation on meeting the needs of sibs at Fort Bragg.  These brothers/sisters rocked it and taught us all something of value. Photo used with permission.