Saturday, February 26, 2011

Things That Make Me Think Spring

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Special Needs Shout Out! -James Durbin Makes Idol Top 24!

I'm a bit giddy because it's been a remarkable week for special needs awareness and big achievements on national television. In addition to Zach Anner winning his OWN Show on the Oprah Winfrey Network (see last blog post), rocker James Durbin made it into the
Top 24 on this season's American Idol. The Santa Cruz native has Tourette syndrome, an inherited, neurological disorder that appears in childhood, and Asperger's sydrome, a higher funcationing form of autism.

James also has a powerhouse voice and should be a favorite for making it a long way this season, if not taking the crown itself. Only time, and the voting, will tell.

Read the interesting article on James Durbin's journey entitled, 'The Amazing Journey of James Durbin to 'American Idol,' here.

Congratulations, James!

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Special Needs Shout Out (& Kudos to Oprah)! - Zach Anner Gets OWN Show on Oprah Network!

If you follow my blog, you know that I've been routing for Zach Anner to win YOUR OWN SHOW, a competition on the new Oprah Winfrey Network, I'm thrilled to report that last night, that's exactly what happened. (You can read my last ramble about Zach here).

Zach Anner first created big buzz and got himself known on YouTube where he quickly became a sensation after entering the initial OWN competition online. The 25-year-old Texan pitched O his travel show, 'Rollin' Around the World with Zach Anner,' to explore the challenges of traveling with a disability and/or financial hardship. Zach has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He's also clear speech, mucho charisma and confidence, a great television smile, and real talent, and when he turned the tables on his interview with Oprah Winfrey last week and asked her some big questions, the contestant also appeared fearless. Brilliant move.

Zach shared last night's top prize with his final competition, Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco, because Oprah had trouble deciding on just one winner, in part, because of her concern about Zach's physical stamina and a grueling, on-going television gig. She also challenged Zach to go beyond his obvious ability to be funny and share more of who he really is, the richness of which she stated she had already experienced during their interview together. As the program came to a close, Oprah admitted that she's never met anyone like Zach (loved seeing that lightbulb come on for a media giant no longer easily impressed). She said the young Texan had helped all the cast and crew to truly see beyond the wheelchair. Mission accomplished.

Zach stated his own concern that he not win this competition because he uses a wheelchair (no pity votes, please) , but because he deserved to be there. Zach skillfully proved his point and got his show, while helping change some outdated perceptions about disability each week. That's an honest win I can fully support.

My hope is that as Zach is now further interviewed by Oprah and other top media, people will also check out his family and get the story behind the story. I'm convinced that this talented, confident and smart young man did not get to be who he is and where he is today without good parenting and a great family. My hope is the lessons and positive special needs examples continue as we pursue the whole story of Zach Anner. There is much to learn and share.

My son, Eric, would have loved every bit of this story, and Zach Anner.

Congratulations, Zach on this remarkable accomplishment! Yours is a success story for the special needs history books that still need to be written and shared. Just sayin.

Watch the show pilot preview from last night's final competition here.

Photo of Eric Winter by Judy Winter 2011

Playing Photographer -Monthly Flower for March 2011

This time of year, I begin to long for fresh flowers from my own garden. Because neither the snow nor calendar is yet cooperating, I'm digging into my photo archives to satisfy my floral desire.

Final Reminder-Returning RicStar Campers!

Final reminder: Just a couple of days left for returning campers to register and hold a place in the very popular and 9th annual RicStar's Camp, a music therapy camp for individuals of all ages and disabilities and their siblings.

On Tuesday, March 1st, camp opens to ALL.

Holding a spot requires sending a check and registration form. As in past years, camp will most likely be full and have a long waiting list that rarely moves, so don't delay.

For more information, click here.
To view the camp video, click here.

We celebrate music and change lives- by focusing on individual abilities.

We have a lot of fun, too.

Photo Op! -Christopher & Dana Reeve 2011 Photo Contest Announced

Entrants must be living with paralysis. Details here.

Words of Wisdom from Me/Judy Winter -March 2011

"Believe in your child's value, no matter what." -Judy Winter

Photo: Self Portrait by Judy Winter 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Challenges of Dealing with Staring & Special Needs

Staring is one of the most unnerving things that many families of children with special needs, and those with the disability, experience each time they venture out into public. Here's my take on Dealing with Staring from my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs as shared on Terri Mauro's popular special needs website.

It may give you a new perspective on why some people stare, making it a bit easier for you to venture out.

Photo Jenna Winter 2011

Register for 2011 RicStar's Camp!

Final reminder: One week left for returning campers to register and hold a place in the very popular and 9th annual RicStar's Camp, a music therapy camp for individuals of all ages and disabilities and their siblings.

March 1st, camp opens to ALL.

Holding a spot requires sending a check and registration form. As in past years, camp will most likely be full and have a long waiting list that rarely moves, so don't delay.

For more information, click here.
To view the camp video, click here.

We celebrate music and change lives- by focusing on individual abilities.

We have a lot of fun, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Playing Photographer -Fun Photos/Snow Pup

The snow came down yesterday very quickly. I took this shot when Jack had only been out five minutes. He was sad because the grass was suddenly gone and he couldn't find his favorite outdoor ball!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Special Needs Shout Out! -Zach Anner in Finals for His OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) Show

I admit that I'm psyched because Zach Anner is now a finalist for getting his own show about inspirational travel on Oprah's new network.

The YouTube sensation may have first gathered big attention and support for being on YOUR OWN SHOW in part because of his disability, but since then, I think Zach's made it based on his contributions, personality and abilities. That I can support wholeheartedly.

The 25-year-old Austin Texan with cerebral palsy is funny, smart, charming and even at ease interviewing Oprah herself, no small feat. He's charmed and impressed all the judges on the show including Oprah's best buddy, Gail King, who's no easy audience.

Zach may have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair to get around, but he's also clearly got the IT factor, something more and more critical in television success. My son loved to travel, which makes Zach's program concept of documenting challenges presented by traveling with special needs especially exciting for me to witness. The fact that Zach's regular presence on television would represent a real, positive face/voice of the disability community is long overdue, and would of course help created greater positive awareness of those with special needs. On the Oprah Winfrey Network no less.

Zach's competition Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco is okay, but I've already got my food favorites covered with Giada and Ina and the Food Network and nothing I've seen so far makes me think this is a show I'd be likely to watch or that Kristina has star quality. Nothing new there.

I think you know who I hoped is crowned the winner, for more than one reason.

Check out Zach and full episodes of the YOUR OWN SHOW here.

Photo Virgin Islands welcome by Judy Winter 2011

Special Needs Shout Out! -ESPN Spot About Villanova Student Team Managers with Cerebral Palsy Scores Big

I've been a champion for those with special needs for two decades plus, a role chosen for me by my late son, Eric who had cerebral palsy and was a wheelchair user. The work has been incredibly challenging (understatement) and equally rewarding, but seeing an ESPN national profile of two team student managers for the men and women's Villanova basketball teams by Tom Rinaldi this morning, especially in the hallowed world of sports, helps make all those on-going efforts worthwhile.

Perhaps we have come a long way after all, at least in media coverage.

Briefly, the spot profiles Villanova sophomore, Frank Kineavy, who helps manage the men's team, and freshman, Nick Gaynor, who adds his support/input to the women's team. Both men have cerebral palsy and are wheelchair users, but they are valuable contributors to the program, not simply team 'mascots', which is sometimes an argument against such involvement. Nick has the gift of clear and valuable speech, while Frank uses technology to share his important thoughts. In addition to their valued roles on the basketball teams, both students excel in the classroom and made the Dean's List last semester.

"....It's what their teams gain that can't be measured in points and wins," Rinaldi states of the men's roles.

Profiles like this one reenergize me for all the special need advocacy that still remains. The awareness created this all-too-rare and surprisingly good profile that showcases the dignity and human value, and the successes/struggles of these two young men with disabilities is truly priceless.

Beautifully done, and worth watching by everyone. Thanks, ESPN!

View the profile by Tom Rinaldi
here and share it with everyone you know.

I think you'll be glad you did.

Photo of NCAA Final Four Detroit by Judy Winter 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dr. Oz Show Discusses 'What Causes Autism?'

Good discussion yesterday on the Dr. Oz Show among respected physicians and an audience filled with families impacted by the challenging diagnosis of Autism.

Watch the videos from the program What Causes Autism? and access valuable links, here.

Love Dr. Oz.

Photo from RicStar Camp by Eric Taylor Photography 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did You Know? -Bullying of Students with Special Needs

Did you know kids with special needs are bullied at three times the rate of other students?

That's why I'm so pleased to share this important discussion on CNN about the silent epidemic of the bullying of students with special needs. It's a conversation too often ignored, and one long overdue. Great job by Tim Shriver of Special Olympics and Lauren Potter of Glee and CNN in bringing this to world's attention.

Special note: Replace the word retard with the word RESPECT. Click here for more on this March 2nd Special Olympics effort.

Photo Courtesy of Special Olympics. Used with permission.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remembering Eric's Death and Honoring His Life.

Today is the 8th anniversary of my son's death. I've since learned that a parent never really 'gets over' losing a child (no matter how uncomfortable that may make others), and time alone heals nothing. It's what you chose to do in each moment that grants you permission to keep on breathing, and helps you find treasured peace and purpose.

And I'm convinced Eric sent Jack to me, too. :)

I'll love you forever, Eric, and I'll never forget you, ever. Promise. xoxoxoxoMom

Here's a
great resource for those who have lost a child. Wish I'd known about it much earlier in my grief journey.

Judy Winter

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House Bill Threatens Special Olympics' Programs

Funding of Special Olympics programs supporting health, education and employment of those with intellectual disabilities is being seriously threatened by proposed cuts in the House Appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR) Bill for 2011.

According to Special Olympics, "Through on-going partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Federal Government, Special Olympics has been able to provide critical services to people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the areas of health, education and employment. The proposed House Appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR) Bill for 2011, schedule for vote as early as February 17, proposes dramatic cuts, if not total elimination, of the Federal money that serves as the majority of funds that allow these programs to operate."

Find out more details and how you can add your voice
here. But act now.

Photo courtesy of Special Olympics. Used with permission.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Hearts Day!

Wishing you all a lovely Valentine's Day filled with love, and lots of good chocolate.

Photo Detroit Public Library Judy Winter 2011

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

AM Inspiration: Blind Athlete Completes Ironman Competition

Looking for some a.m. inspiration to help jump-start your day? Jack Chen, a 36-year-old athlete and Google employee who completed an Ironman competition in Florida last November, can provide you with just that.

Chen is blind.

Get your dose of a.m. inspiration here.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Special Diet May Ease Kids' AHD Symptoms

Dutch researchers have found that a specialized diet may help ease symptoms in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Sounds like the kind of dietary restrictions that could help improve the health of many people, with or without special needs.

Read the details here.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Dates of 9th Annual Sprout Film Festival Announced

Dates of the 9th Annual Sprout Film Festival held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City have been announced: Friday, April 29th through Sunday, May 1, 20011.

This year's film festival will feature 50 films from 16 countries, all showcasing individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Learn more here.

"Making the invisible, visible."

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ten Key Tips for Working with Special Needs Families

(Copyright Judy Winter 2011/ all rights reserved)
  • Remember –children with special needs are PEOPLE FIRST! Try not to define them or their families by disability. Use people's names.
  • Avoid use of limiting labels and outdated terminology. Words are mighty powerful-be careful how you choose them and how you use them. Would what you are saying or doing would be good enough for your own child/family? Be sensitive to the fact that you are talking about someone’s child/sibling/grandchild, etc.
  • Highlight the strengths of a child or family before addressing the challenges at hand. Focus on the needs and potential of the child. Look beyond disability to focus on individual ability. It can make a difference in how you view and interact with that child, and on how you problem solve.
  • Check for personal biases regarding individuals with special needs and work hard to change them. Avoid judging families, especially when you lack accurate, balanced information. Work instead to better understand and respect the needs of diverse families in an increasingly global society. The only person we have the right to judge is ourselves. Through your own actions, model necessary change.
  • Recognize the importance of open, honest and respectful communication between professionals and families and model it accordingly. Work hard to become a more skilled listener. Avoid using emotional, condescending language like ‘false hope’ and ‘dealing with reality.’
  • Include parents in important decisions regarding their children whenever possible.Teamwork is vital to the success of children with special needs. Work hard to promote and model dynamic partnerships between professionals and families; share your ideas with your peers. Remember the important role/needs of siblings in the family unit.
  • Adhere to the laws protecting the rights of individuals with special needs, including the right to privacy. Avoid water-cooler talk that is not productive, positive or factual. Don't open yourself up to possible libel or slander.
  • Model leadership designed to help all children and families succeed, no matter how small the gain. Ask yourself what you have to learn from a particularly challenging situation.
  • Advocate for needed change within your own profession. Uphold the highest professional standards and be proactive, not reactive in your daily actions. Do your profession proud. Recognize that one person-YOU- can make a difference in a child’s life. Do that honor justice.
  • Never lose your sense of humor! Humor is a terrific stress release and a great coping tool.
SPECIAL NOTE: Feel free to copy, distribute or refer to these special tips, but please credit Judy Winter author of Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.

Photo by Jenna Winter 2011

Judy Winter

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jack!

It was two years ago that we adopted our wonderful Australian Shepherd/Bernese Mountain Dog/Border Collie mix from a local shelter.

Jack has now lived with us twice as long as not. He has brought us great joy and laughter, sloppy kisses, and many wonderful moments. Now, I can't imagine life without him.

Shelter dogs rule. Please consider adopting one of your own.

Happy Birthday, Jack!!! xoxo

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Say What??

Signs that give me pause.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Vanessa Williams Supports Special Olympics At People's Choice Award.

I'm a little late with this post to support Special Olympics, but I like this spot, oh yes, I do.

Kudos to Vanessa Williams.

I am NORM Campaign

If you haven't already done so, consider checking out the NORM campaign I've blogged about in the past. Worth the time.

Including Samuel in India

An update regarding my friend Dan Habib. His ground-breaking film Including Samuel, about his family's efforts to fully include their son with cerebral palsy in school and society, was recently screened in India, helping take his important and timely message worldwide.

Find out more about Dan's valuable work, including how you can support it, here.

Dan and I agree that when it comes to true inclusion, much work remains. You can be part of the solutions required for much-needed change, change that impacts us all.

Photo courtesy of Dan Habib.

Winter Survival Tips for Those Living with Paralysis

'Top 23 Winter Survival Tips for Those Living with Paralysis' comes via my friends at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Given all the mighty storms of late, the tips are especially timely.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

UPDATE-Calling all Young Artists with Special Needs for CVS-VSA Compettition

UPDATE: Deadline extended to February 7th!

Two of my fav resources, CVS Caremark’s All Kids Can CREATE program and VSA (the international organization on arts and disabilities) have joined together to offer young artists another great opportunity to see their work in action.

Here's the scoop: CVS Caremark All Kids Can is calling all young artists to participate in the 2011 All Kids Can CREATE program with their partner VSA. This year’s theme, Imagination Across America, invites children to share their favorite daydreams through art.

Artwork submitted before the February 4, 2011 deadline will be featured in an online gallery and considered for a national touring exhibition debuting in Washington, D.C. in June. Each week the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Facebook page will feature a
Submission of the Week from all 2011 entries. Find out more about that here.

Attention all art teachers: By submitting your students' artwork to the VSA and CVS Caremark All Kids Can CREATE call for art, you're eligible to receive $1,500 for use in your classroom. Up to five teachers will receive $1,500 each, based on the number of submissions from your class or school, the number of submissions from students with disabilities, and your answers to two short questions.

Submissions are open to children, ages 5-15, living within the United States (all 50 states and the District of Columbia.) For complete details and sample activities, click here.

I love it when good people join together to make great things happen for kids with special needs. Kudos CVS and VSA.