Ability Starts with Attitude

Yes, I know I’m a little tardy writing this week’s post but sometimes inspiration’s schedule clashes with deadlines. Saturday afternoon I enjoyed a pleasant change in pace from my usual routine, tagging along to watch friends play paintball. Their chosen battlefield ended  up a rough terrain woods. While a rough terrain the average person can navigate the landscape rather easily. As you know though, I’m not average. I have cerebral palsy and my balance issues turn a hike through the woods into a team effort.

Coldfall Wood picture via Ewan Munro (Wikimedia)

With the right attitude, cerebral palsy and the woods equal a surprising good combination. 🙂 Photo: Ewan Munro (Wikimedia Commons)

One person walked ahead to discover exactly how much mud laid on the horizon. At times another person cleared large twigs and other obstructions from the path. Hand holding remained a constant. Throughout the adventure my one friend remarked on multiple occasions,

“Zach is going through the woods. He’s a trooper!”      

Honestly I found the comment a little silly yet amusing. I mean the thought to stay back didn’t occur to me. Why should I sit out on the day’s events? I’m just another member of our group. If my friends maintain a willingness to step up and lend assistance where needed, no reason exists to why I shouldn’t join them.

Upon deeper reflection however, I can appreciate the whole “He’s a trooper” mentality. After all I take my “just another member of the group” attitude for granted. Other people with disabilities may not exhibit such a demeanor. They might quickly play the handicap card or complain their friends pick activities too hard on them. Sure my legs felt like rubber by the time we left the woods, but a little soreness proves a worthwhile sacrifice in exchange for excellent bonding opportunities

Bottom line, ability starts with attitude. Keep an open mind. Try before you quit or complain. True friends will help you out. Reconsider that friendship label for anyone who gives you a legitimate hard time. Forget them losers. You deserve better. 😀


Film Review: Certain Proof A Question of Worth

Thought provoking, revealing, and emotional all accurately describe Footpath Pictures Inc.’s documentary Certain Proof: A Question of Worth. The film explores Kay (12 years old), Colin (nine years old), and Josh’s (five years old) lives in the American education system as students with severe cerebral palsy. All three children move around in wheelchairs and face incredible communication challenges, causing some ill-conceived assumptions regarding intelligence level.

Josh receiving speech therapy.

Teachers at Josh’s school hold doubts about his cognitive ability.

Now I’m honestly struggling to pick specific details to begin addressing because Certain Proof: A Question of Worth offers so much to discuss. Kay, Colin, and Josh’s age differences works well to capture a comprehensive look at educating students with cerebral palsy. Comparing Colin and Josh’s experiences illustrates exactly why society needs to avoid assumptions. An unaware person may carry the same expectations for Colin and Josh due to both being young boys in wheelchairs with next to no verbal communication skills. Yet Certain Proof: A Question of Worth displays a sizable contrast within their abilities.

Meanwhile Kay can speak but only in a slow, drawn out manner. Don’t mistake her speech though as a sign of lower intelligence. Selected classmates interviewed for the film admitted making such a mistake until the teacher posted the students”with straight A’s and they saw Kay’s name listed. Personally I connected to this since I carried straight A’s through high school freshman year. I believe in my book Off Balanced I partly credit my academic success to my social isolation, an isolation Kay also appeared to encounter.

The fact somebody with mild cerebral palsy like me can relate to the much more intensive cerebral palsy cases featured demonstrates two points. First, filmmakers Ray and Susan Ellis deserve props for their film making talents. Secondly, Kay, Colin, and Josh possess powerful personal stories which could touch many lives. Ultimately I consider Certain Proof: A Question of Worth a must watch for students with cerebral palsy, their family members, teachers, and classmates. If your television package includes STARZ, I encourage you to find the next television air times here. Or, order the DVD online at www.certainproof.com.

*Disclaimer- I received Certain Proof: A Question of Worth at no cost after interviewing filmmaker Ray Ellis for The Mobility Resource. Read that interview.     

A Challenge for Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

Seeing how I tout this blog as a cerebral palsy blog a post on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month seems overdo. Yep, here in the United States March means National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Today I wish to ask, what will you do to commemorate CP Awareness Month?

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

You may see green ribbon images similar to this on Facebook promoting Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

Okay, time for some raw honesty. Besides those with cerebral palsy and their loved ones, do you expect anyone else to acknowledge CP Awareness Month? Every month feels like it’s something. Who cares? For the average American to give a hoot about Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, we in the CP community must demonstrate the movement’s relevance.

To help accomplish the aforementioned task, I’m issuing a Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month challenge.  Get one person outside the cerebral palsy community to participate in one activity which will let him or her learn a little about CP. Recommend a CP related podcast, film, book, or what not.

Try to go beyond the simple cerebral palsy awareness approach too.  Attempt to connect with somebody on a different level. After all while we in the CP community have cerebral palsy, our diagnosis does not define us. Take my teen memoir Off Balanced as an example. Based off past feedback I can confidently say fellow writers may find value in my book because the story explores how writing can empower.

Do you want another example? If you know someone interested in joining the Navy or who served in the Navy, suggest he or she read fellow author John W. Quinn’s book Someone Like Me: An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral PalsyQuinn’s memoir transcends cerebral palsy to document a 20-year naval career.  

Personally, I plan to embark on my CP Awareness Month challenge by arranging a movie night with some college friends who currently work in the education field so we can watch the documentary Certain Proof: A Question of Worth. The film looks at three students with severe cerebral palsy and their journeys inside mainstream classrooms. Sound interesting? Read my interview with the filmmaker Ray Ellis, published last week on The Mobility Resource website.

Ultimately by going beyond the simple cerebral palsy awareness approach, people can connect to CP beyond the condition’s medical nature. Thus creating awareness for an important CP fact, people with cerebral palsy are first and foremost people.

Will you accept my Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month challenge?  Those nodding yes, please share how you plan to by commenting below!

Introducing Special Education Guide

If you need answers to special education related questions, consider visiting www.specialeducationguide.com. Special Education Guide launched this week and features content written by talented scribes knowledgeable in the special ed realm, me included. The site comprehensively covers the topic at hand, containing sections on everything from the disability categories defined under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to the parent-teacher partnership and individual education plans (IEPs).

Now I hope the above doesn’t come across as too much self-promotion. I always try to respect the line between sharing projects I’m involved in and obnoxiously touting such works. After all, do you really like someone who blabs on about his or her self-declared greatness? I think not. 😉

Special Education Guide

PrtSc capturing Special Education Guide’s homepage.

However, I am incredibly excited to see Special Education Guide up and running. As I previously mentioned the site maintains a comprehensive look at special education. Tailored to parents and mainstream educators, Special Education Guide possesses the potential to positively impact lives.

For example, a general education teacher might experience uncertainty on how to handle a student with an emotional disturbance. Too embarrassed to express anxieties to a co-worker, he or she can alternatively seek  a few pointers by browsing Special Education Guide. This will relax the educator and create a better learning environment for the student.

Or, take parents overwhelmed by how their child’s learning disability will influence their son or daughter’s academic pursuits. Rather than surfing several websites to piece together information, Special Education Guide allows the mother and father to garner helpful knowledge all by visiting one cyber destination.

Overall a major motivation behind why I write so much about disabilities involves the chance to meaningfully guide a reader’s life. Let me assure you I know the amazing affects words can carry due to the feedback I continue to receive on my book Off Balanced. I sincerely believe Special Education Guide can collect similar reader responses.

Tracking New Year Resolutions: February ’13 Recap

To maintain accountability and increase my chances at successfully accomplishing my 2013 goals (stated in January 30th 2013’s post “New Year Resolutions“) I will write monthly recaps at the beginning of each month reflecting back on the previous 30 some days. Through publicly tracking my own progress I hope to inspire you to remain accountable too, helping you to reach all the goals you set.

Resolution #1- Utilize My Youtube Channel Via Vlogging
Specific Goal- Vlog Twice a Month
Accomplished? YES

Learning my lesson from January, I avoided putting off recording my two video blogs until the last week in the month. Instead I posted my first video “A Fan’s Prediction- The 2013 Cleveland Indians” halfway through the month. This removed pressure, allowing me to get February’s second vlog “What is Cerebral Palsy?” done without needing to meet a quick turnaround time.

Resolution #2- Post Here on a Weekly Basis
Specific Goal- Post every Friday
Accomplished? NO

February started off well, posting twice in the first nine days. However, from there I struggled. After a post on my Off Balanced marketing efforts and one about Facebook messaging changes I wanted to ensure my next topic focused specifically on cerebral palsy or at least disabilities in general. I saved three or four different drafts but feeling uninspired I failed to finish any of them. Now to compensate for the two posts I didn’t write I will do a bonus entry both March and April, todays post representing March’s.

Resolution #3- Keep to Due Dates
Specific Goal- Don’t Receive Any Inquiries About ETAs.
Accomplished? NO

Technically I could give me a “YES” here because the only ETA inquiry I received occurred coincidentally while emailing my client an update on my assignment. Hence I didn’t display unprofessional neglect, my main concern linked to resolution three. Yet I’m not one to declare victory over a technicality. Well, besides the time in college I beat my friend in pool off a scratch. 😉 Anyways let’s return to the matter at hand. I recognize the two elements needed to enable me to triumphantly handle due dates. First internally I need to stay honest about how much work I can finish in a day. Secondly, I must establish a consistent schedule so I can best maximize my time management.

Three Disability Related Stories Worth Checking Out

Over the past week a few stories really captured my attention, stuff you may enjoy too. Take a look and give your feedback with a comment below. Also feel free to make your own recommendations.

New Travel Show Armed & Ready
Sunday while watching an episode of Man Versus Food I saw the following TV promo.

Armed & Ready, which premiered this past Tuesday, follows the legless Kevin Michael Connolly as he embraces his thrill seeking desires. I believe Armed & Ready possesses great potential to get people to rethink rigid disability perceptions. Admittedly I missed the series debut this week but I do plan to hunt down the reruns.

Sportsmanship Reigns Supreme in High School Basketball Game
A friend shared this link on my Facebook timeline Tuesday. Aiming to honor student manager Mitchell Marcus’ dedication to the team, Coronado High School basketball coach Peter Morales decided to offer Marcus something probably previously unthinkable, action on the floor. You see Marcus’ mental disability kept him on the sidelines. However Coach Morales insisted on providing the student a moment to shine. Certainly what occurred next seemingly left everyone involved beaming with pride.

Marvel Comics Creates Hearing-Impaired Superhero
The final story I wish to mention in today’s post I actually came across Thursday by accident. Searching through Fox 8’s Facebook page for a news story I saw broadcasted Wednesday night, I became diverted. A piece titled “Hearing-Impaired Boy Inspires Superhero” intrigued me. After reading the article I felt incredibly moved. Honestly I can’t justifiably sum up the news story in a few sentences. I will say the coverage resonated with me because it reminded me why I wrote Off Balanced.