Tag: people with disabilities

Bullying, Workplace Harassment and Sexual Harassment

INDEX has updated our Bullying, Workplace Harassment and Sexual Harassment fact sheet with new resources related to diverse populations.  We hope that you will find these resources helpful in school, work and personal life.  Stopping and preventing Bullying and Harassment are important in the US today.

Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It can be actions like name calling, hitting, kicking or spitting, telling lies and spreading rumors, taking things that belong to someone else, or forcing others to do things they do not want to do  The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. Children and adults with disabilities are 3 times more often to be involved with bullying or harassment than non-disabled peers.

Bullying, Workplace Harassment and Sexual Harassment  



A Beginners Course About Disabilities

My disability is one part of who i am.
Leading change in society Copyright 2015 Marines

My name is Scott Janz. I advocate for social fairness.

What is the plan?

My job focuses on disabilities in the community .

Disabilities are part of culture. What is a disability? A college course on disabilities can help. A beginner course could cover the following.

Carry out Plan

Areas of focus:

Why does this matter?

To create hope for change. Disabilities are rising in society. We have future leaders in colleges. We need to excite them to lead change. People with disabilities have rights. We should help them reach those rights. We need to advocate for change in the public.  I would like the public to learn more about disabilities. Everyone has a voice.

And the Blog goes on

With the changing of seasons, it is also time for change at INDEX. After three years as the Blog Editor, I will be leaving INDEX and moving on.

In the beginning

When first approached by INDEX to coordinate their new blog, I had no idea what a blog was; I had only heard the term. But since I loved to write, I thought it would be fun and maybe a new challenge. I was also encouraged by the staff at INDEX who were genuinely excited about the new venture.

I just never realized in the process how much I would learn.

The stories

There were the family members sharing their experiences of anguish and triumph. The community organizations addressing challenges with creativity and a commitment to change.

And most important, there were the people with disabilities themselves who inspired us with their personal stories. I may have worked in the field for over 30 years, yet I am still humbled by the perseverance and ability of those who truly make a difference.

With gratitude

To our guest bloggers and all those who were interviewed, my sincere appreciation. To the staff at INDEX who were such a pleasure to work with, you will be missed.

To you, the readers, thanks for listening.

Over the summer the Blog will go on hiatus with a new format introduced in the fall.

See you then.

“Living my Childhood Dream”, by Tracy Thresher

Tracy Thresher Vote HereTracy Thresher lives and works in Vermont as an advocate for people with disabilities. He has written:

“As a child, I struggled with no reliable way to communicate. I now live out my dream of traveling to other states to educate others on movement and communication differences. Primarily, I advocate to promote the Presumption of Competence. “ (Blog Post, October 30, 2012)

This week we are pleased to share the transcript of an interview with Tracy that was recently published in Autism Around the Globe .

I am Tracy Thresher from Barre, Vermont. I now live part of my childhood dream thanks to the support of facilitated communication. Master trainer, Harvey Lavoy, has been my primo facilitator since the early 90s. Harvey, master trainer Pascal Cheng and my pal, Larry Bissonnette, and I have presented to educate others for many moons. Since the release of “Wretches & Jabberers”, Gerry Wurzburg’s documentary about our lives and work, our travel calendar has been wonderfully and fantastically full of opportunities to promote the presumption of competence. Please read
my blog  to follow along on my journey.

Below is a transcript from my interview with the NLM Family Foundation featured in a video montage created by the Foundation titled, “In Their Own Words: Living with Autism in Adulthood.” I have had mind blowing professional growth thanks to communication. Communication opens the door to opportunity.

What are your hopes and aspirations for creating the adult life you desire?

My hopes are like a beautiful tapestry which I need to find the perfect combination of support to make into my own magic carpet. My wish is to create the life I see in my head on the mountaintop of my Green Mountains. To be true to the Tracy on the inside, I need to have people in the mindset of peaceful open-mindedness.

It is my desire to be independent to the best of my ability. I communicate more slowly than I wish to in this high-paced world but my thoughts are very quick. The touch of my facilitator must be one of peaceful calm. To build my dream of becoming an educator I pushed through many barriers of built up walls of enclosing people in institutions or encasing them in the trap of no outlet for their inner thoughts. It is more harmful to my soul to be in this stubborn body than I can type. To hope is to have faith in a future that includes professional growth and not the antiquated roles of paper shredding or stocking shelves but being respected for the knowledge this life has taught me.

My priority is to own or rent my own home or place with a good supportive roommate who is willing to be open to going through intensive training to get to see how my spirit relaxes with communication. I am not the person I appear to be upon a passing glance. To get to be the man I aspire to be is a lifelong journey. It is my vision quest to find more peace in my life. I think having my own home is the next step on my ladder of communication, as it is what I must have to be free of the encumbrances of others.

What are the specific challenges that you believe you face or will face in your adult life (housing, companions who assist you, living in communities, relationships, employment, education, etc.)?

As I mentioned, my priority is housing or more difficult to find is a companion to be my assistant in the life of becoming more independent. The hardest part is envisioning what I need but being unable to find the perfect combination of nice and firm communication partner. The world moves quickly and I need open-minded people who slow down to listen to my typing.

To live in the friendly Central Vermont community is a blessing. We have educated many people in our community by joining forces in schools. We have also spoken to legislators to let them see our intelligence. Our social fabric is beautifully sprinkled with an eclectic mix of abilities. There is more to be done and my fellow self-advocates and our supporters are tirelessly trudging up the trail to higher thinking. Through my work I have met many wonderful people who enrich my life and feed my soul to the point I dreamt of as a lonely boy.

My family loved me to the max; however, life in school absolutely traumatized me. It became unbearable to be thought of as a child who could not be educated. Now I mentor students. It is my mission to inspire children and show neurotypical kids how to slow down to listen to typing. More importantly, how to be a friend is what kids need to learn. I am thinking friendship is the way to open pathways to learning. On the mountaintop of success people need to have a hand to pull each other up.

On the top of my bucket list is to continue to learn and teach. I graduated from the school of hard knocks; now I try to prevent other children from living through the pain of a life of misunderstanding. I have friends who have made me proud by pursuing higher formal education. I would say my education continues through my work on the circuit of presenting to schools and communities. My employment is one of typing to educate. Working on presentations is on my mind constantly. I write it on my brain, and then I need my facilitator to be at my side to push the words out. To come from a menial job to a professional career is my proudest moment.

What types of programs or services would enable you to achieve the adult life that you envision and/or desire?

It is my desire to, of course, be as independent as my abilities allow. I want the same for all people. The Vermont legislature is better at listening to my typing than most other states. I understand politics and the need to divide services as fairly as possible. Ideally, I would like my services to include funding that is more reflective of the housing costs necessary to put me on the path to independence. The primary obstacle in my experience though is training of facilitators.

Harvey Lavoy, Pascal Cheng, Larry Bissonnette and I work hard to cover the state of Vermont on our shoestring budget but it is tough to get to everyone we would like to. For Harvey, it is a juggling of priorities that need to be addressed. My mission in life is to have the home of peaceful independence to communicate in daily life across environments. More than anything, I want to create a world of communication for all, to have our voices heard loudly from the hills.

Tracy Thresher
Self-Advocate, Activist, and Documentary Film Star




Building Relationships: A Key to Employment Success

employment-supportYou may have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to getting good jobs, I believe in the power of relationships. I could never do my job alone; in fact, I had the help of others in finding my own job. My clients are no different – they will need others to help them find new opportunities and support them.

At the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), we form relationships with the people we serve as well as the local community. We do this because we know that it takes a team in order to find a job. We also rely on job seekers to make their own connections through volunteer work, going to community events, joining social clubs and attending job seeking skills groups.

Experience builds confidence

One of the programs I am most excited about in my work at MRC is On-the Job Training (OJT). The OJT is great for people who have the skills and interest in a job, but do not have a lot of work experience. As a counselor, I have worked with consumers who have difficulty communicating their strengths and skills by simply filling out job applications. They may be told that they do not have enough job experience to get hired.

However, if you give the same person a chance to actually perform on the job, they shine. That is why MRC develops relationships with local businesses who want to participate in the OJT program.

A team approach that works

Here’s how it works: As a counselor, I work with the job seeker to prepare to get a certain type of job. We work on a resume, interview skills and the application process. Then, we work with the MRC team to find an employer who is looking to fill a position at their company. If the job seeker gets the job, and the new employer agrees to become a vendor of the Commonwealth, the On-the Job Training period begins.

MRC supports the job seeker and helps pay the company for the training period. At the end of the training period if everyone is satisfied, then the employee remains as a permanent employee.

At the end of the experience, it is a true team effort.

Many businesses have been so impressed with MRC job seekers that they call us when they need a good worker. As you can see, building relationships makes a huge difference in employment. Building relationships is important for anyone’s job search…and as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I try to help my clients make positive and supportive connections to the world of work.

Employment Support Makes a Difference for People with Disabilities

Amelia Robbins-CureauMy name is Amelia Robbins-Cureau. I have the privilege of being a vocational rehabilitation counselor with The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Most people do not know what I mean when I say I am a “vocational rehabilitation counselor.” But when I say, “I help people with disabilities get jobs,” that catches their attention.

In today’s economy, we are even more focused on the topic of jobs than ever before because unemployment rates are extremely high. For people with disabilities, unemployment is around 80% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Yet in my job I meet so many people with disabilities who want to work, but are facing challenges that make it more difficult to compete with others for jobs.

Advocating for employment

I joined the Commission because employment is something I am passionate about. I wanted to be an advocate for individuals with disabilities to achieve their goals. Having a job is beneficial in so many ways.

In my job, I often work with individuals who come in to my office feeling discouraged, confused and nervous about what is to come. They may not know what my role is or how I’m going to help them find a job. I like to start by asking what they hope to accomplish, what their strengths are and who is in their network.

Building on strengths

For so many people with disabilities, work seems out of reach.

Sometimes people are not sure what kind of work they want to do. People with disabilities are often told what they can’t do but they need to think about what they actually can.

Other times, they know what they want to do, but they need the skills and experience to apply for a job. At MRC we help individuals get those skills through things like participating in job training programs, 1:1 employment counseling, and job seeking skills groups.

Other challenges faced

Sometimes, because of mental illness, physical injury or trauma, my clients have had to leave many jobs to get healthy again. Their work history may be scattered, and they are not sure how they will ever get hired.

At MRC, we work with individuals to create a resume that reflects their talents, experience and accomplishments, not their limitations. I work together with clients to make sure they are allowing time to care for themselves and talk with mental health counselors or doctors in order to stay healthy and ready for the job search.

As you can see, my job at The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is to help people with disabilities gain the skills and connections they need for employment. We work together to figure out what kind of work they want to do, and what kind of skills and experiences they need to become qualified for the job.

Then we help people go out and actually get a job.

For me, there is no better feeling than helping a person with a disability become more confident, get a job, and feel proud of the work that they do.

Emergency Preparedness Training Makes Great Impact On Individuals With Disabilities

Nate, Mary and Brian sharing their " to go" bags at Minute Man ArcThis week’s blog entry includes comments from Mary Blauvelt, who attended an emergency preparedness training given by self-advocate Nate Trull in 2010. Read on for more of her thoughts.

As a Board Member for Minuteman ARC based in Concord, Massachusetts, and co-president of its internal group SAFE (Self-Advocacy For Everyone), Mary Blauvelt understands the challenges that individuals with disabilities can face. One of the biggest involves being prepared in case of an emergency. Emergencies can take any form at any time, and knowing what to do may save someone’s life. To that end, the ARC invited self-advocate Nate Trull to present a workshop in May, 2010, and a follow-up in October 2010.

Why we need to be prepared

“I hadn’t really thought about emergencies before, except when the weathermen would say a watch or warning was coming”, Blauvelt said. “But Nate’s training really taught me about why it was important for people with disabilities to be prepared. What if someone uses a wheelchair and can’t leave independently? What if someone cannot hear the news reports telling them to leave? There need to be plans, so that people with disabilities can help themselves.”

A “go bag” for everyone

GO Bags
Blauvelt especially liked Trull’s recommendation of a “go bag”; that is, an easily portable bag of items that you can just “grab and go” when an emergency hits.

“That was really fun and I learned a lot. We all made our own go bags during the training, and Nate helped us realize what should go in them. We put in things like a portable radio, non-perishable food and water, a list of any medicines we take, a phone with a cord, manual flashlights and batteries.”

Being prepared is helpful for all

Trull’s training covered other topics as well, like developing an emergency plan, and making a list of people who could help out in an emergency. Trull’s interest in emergencies and assisting others dates back to his time as a “Life Scout” in the Boy Scouts organization.

“Doing these emergency preparedness trainings really means a lot. I truly enjoy helping people, advocate for themselves, and increasing their knowledge when I’m done,” he said.

Blauvelt agreed, especially in her case. “I feel much better prepared for emergencies now. Nate’s presentation was very helpful, and I hope information like his will help many more people.”

Emergency Preparedness: An important topic for all

Patrick Gleason and Nate TrullThis month I am pleased to introduce Patrick Gleason, Shriver Center Staff Writer, as our guest blogger. Patrick will be introducing us to the topic of Emergency Preparedness for people with disabilities.

Nobody’s ever asked me to be a victim before.

That sentence resonates in my head as I pull my wheelchair up next to a backboard. I am participating in a mock decontamination drill at a local hospital. These drills are yearly requirements, but I will be the first individual with an actual disability to participate for this hospital (instead of someone pretending to have a disability.)

As I am gently transferred from the chair to the backboard and sent down something like a conveyer belt with two individuals dressed like Star Wars storm troopers on either side, I can’t help but think, What have I gotten myself into?

Understanding the need for being prepared

That experience marked my first true understanding of emergency preparedness and response (EP/R) for individuals with disabilities. Prior to that, my only real exposure to emergencies involved downed trees or the occasional power outage.

Since then however, over the past few years I have been forced to come up with my own solutions during several emergencies.
• Using the light from a cell phone keypad to shut off my house alarm during a storm; the power was out, my parents were gone , and I couldn’t find a flashlight.
• Borrowing a security guard’s cellphone to locate my mother; we were separated at the mall during an unexpected fire drill.

Many challenges faced

My examples are obviously small-scale. However, people with disabilities often experience devastating impacts during emergencies and disasters, including separation from critical adaptive equipment and assistive technology, service animals, support from family, friends and caregivers, and critical services. The American emergency response system traditionally has not taken into account the needs of people with disabilities, as they are not often part of the emergency planning process.

We at the Shriver Center are working to change that.

Self Advocates take role in training

Nate Trull, a longtime self-advocate who also serves as a consultant to the Shriver Center, is also well-versed and committed to educating individuals with disabilities on EP/R. Beginning with his experiences at the rank of Life Scout, his interest blossomed to include serving as chairman of his own advocacy group Powerhouse, and offering free, ongoing, EP/R training and tips to advocacy and provider agencies throughout Massachusetts. He was also invited to attend a 2011 EP/R conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I love focusing on EP/R work for people with disabilities because I help them take charge of their own lives and help themselves,” Trull says with a trademark smile. “There is nothing I would rather do.”

September is Emergency Preparedness month; we hope these blogs will help you think about your personal emergency preparedness from a variety of perspectives!

Personal Story of Road to Alternative Healing

Kathy KopitskyI again found myself sitting opposite Dr. Maria Broderick in her offices in West Concord. The tone and texture of the space was soothing. The light from the sun was again beautifully illuminating the room. Today I wanted to know why.

Why have a practice that was focused on children and adults with disabilities? That seems so specific to me. I figured there might be an interesting reason why Dr. Broderick, has dedicated her life to this meaningful work. So, I asked her to share her story. It began with her childhood, before she was a doctor and simply known as Maria.

Personal story offers insight

When Maria was six years old she had appendicitis and spent time in the hospital. While in the hospital, she developed pneumonia and spent a longer than usual time there. Thinking this was a horrible experience, I asked Maria if she remembered being alone all that time she was in the hospital. Did she remember being lonely?

I was quite surprised when she told me she did not remember being alone or lonely. She remembered being one of many children in one large room. Not only were there some really sick children in the room, there were also children to play with once Maria felt well enough to play.

Listening makes a difference

There was one child that has never left Maria’s mind. He was an older child, maybe 13 years old. He had some sort of disability that required the use of a wheelchair. Maria remembered lying in bed in the evening when everyone else in the room was asleep and listening to this 13 year old young man talk to one nurse.

“He would ask her what kind of life could he could possibly have when he grew up. I do not remember what the nurse said, but I remember watching her listen to him. She really listened. How she spoke to him…her tone and manner…it really helped him. Even at six years old, I knew that was what I wanted to do for everyone.”

Six year old Maria dreamed a dream where all children were listened to in such a way that, regardless of their condition or station in life, they would find a way to their best selves. And now, Dr. Broderick does just that through her work in integrative health care, helping families with members on the autism spectrum.

Wellness Center offers Alternative Healing to People with Disabilities

Reservoir Family Wellness CenterI sat on the couch opposite Dr. Maria Broderick in her new offices. The red and brown earth tones in the room released my concerns of the day. The room glowed in the hue of the light of the setting sun. It was an appropriate setting to discuss Dr. Broderick’s approach to health and healing, in which she adds alternative therapies to more traditional ones.

I was interested in Dr. Broderick’s work at the Reservoir Family Wellness Center. Dr. Broderick directs the art of acupuncture and herbal medicine for families. She focuses especially on families and their children with disabilities.

An integrative approach that works

From the beginning of a child’s life, if that child is born with a disability, parents often receive mixed messages. Dr. Broderick has dedicated her life to helping these families and children by using an integrative approach to caring.

Dr. Broderick specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum and has been successful in addressing a common issue with these children: sensory impairment. One of the ways she treats sensory impairment is through a method called Qigong.

Qigong offers a new method of healing

Years of research show that Qigong Sensory Training can reduce sensory impairment. It can also improve adaptive behaviors in children. Dr. Broderick explains.

“Through Qigong Sensory Training, parents can realize the opportunity to direct their love for their children and their desire for closeness into an intervention that requires only their hands, their heart, their persistence and a few simple instructions to deliver.”

Very simply, qigong provides a way of touching that is not corrective or punitive. Caregiver and child do specific exercises together as a way to expend energy, bond more deeply and grow beyond the developmental delay. This method of healing helps parents learn how they can contribute, through their healing touch, to the health of their child.

Making life more joyful

“My purpose in life is to help anyone whose life is touched by autism and special needs…I want to help find the latest and greatest information available. There are so many ways to save time, money and frustration while making life easier, better and more joyful.”

Dr. Broderick is someone you can count on to help you to support the best vision of the healthy development of our children; all of our children.