Spreading the Word

Special Olympics, Ending the R-word, Getting Involved

One Step Closer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an announcement to make! We are one step closer to ending the R-word! Last week, Florida passed a bill that would eliminate the use of the term “mental retardation” from all state laws and replace it with the term “intellectually disabled.”

By a unanimous house vote, Florida has now joined 43 other states who have also eliminated the outdated term.

“Sometimes the most simple of bills can be the most monumental,’’ said Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.

Moira Rossi, from Jacksonville, Florida has Down Syndrome and says the term “mentally retarded” makes her feel sad. Moira helped lead a group of supporters to pass the legislation at Florida’s state Capitol. Supporters say that the term is outdated and has gained negative stereotypes – which is in fact true.

Saying someone is “mentally retarded” even in medical terms still has negative connotation in everyday language. Along with the 43 states that have already eliminated the term from their state laws, President Obama ended its use in Federal law back in 2010.

Our biggest step now, is working towards ending the R-word in everyday speech.

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Boston Marathon: A Nation Coming Together

I know I usually focus on Special Olympics and ending the R-word but I thought I would step back today and focus on the bigger picture of what happened in my own back yard.

As most of you probably heard, there were two bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday. Three have died and hundreds more are injured. Something horrible has happened to our Nation on a day when people from around the country and around the word come together to complete one grueling task.

It truly saddens me and terrifies me that someone could do this to hundreds of innocent people. But, what gives me a sense of hope is all of those who jumped into help the injured and those who have opened their homes to people without a place to stay.

In a way, this does go along with my message. On Monday, it didn’t matter who you were, where you were from, how many miles or how fast you ran – if you were hurt or needed help – you received it. Everyone in the crowd put their personal differences aside to help each other and that’s what Spreading the Word is about.

Special Olympics is all about different people coming together for one reason. People with different levels of disabilities, coaches, teachers and volunteers all gather for one goal: to try your hardest and have fun doing it.

The Special Olympics oath is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” The men and women who jumped into action on Monday showed the utmost bravery.

If Monday’s events have taught us anything, it’s that we need to remember that at the end of the day, we are all people and we need to care for others as we care for ourselves. We need to put others first sometimes and not just in times of crisis and distress. We need to believe that if we act with the outpouring of kindness that was seen on Monday, everyday – the world may be a better place and tragic events like this may not happen.

In the last 24 hours, the entire Nation has come together. Even our arch rivals, the New York Yankees, are standing by Boston during this difficult time. Last night during their game against the Diamondbacks, the Yankees played Sweet Caroline – a tradition near an dear to Boston. A sign was also displayed at the entrance to Yankee Stadium

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

It’s nice to see a Nation come together to support each other, but it needs to happen on a daily basis, not just when something terrible happens. So, I ask you to pray for Boston in our time of need but also, pray for each other everyday. Don’t blame others for your mistakes, don’t judge others, accept others for their differences and help each other in times of need.

 

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Red Sox Stand Up for Autism

MLB Autism

Today was a great day to watch baseball. It’s April 15th, meaning every player in the MLB wore the number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson who made his major league debut on April 15, 1947 and forever broke the color barrier. It was also announced today that former Red Sox pitcher, Tim Wakefield, was named honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.

These weren’t the only exciting things taking place at Fenway this afternoon. While Wakefield was spending time with Jerry and Don he mentioned that the Red Sox Foundation and the Jimmy Fund were focusing more on Autism this year.

On April 2nd, Fenway Park was lit up blue for Autism Awareness day. In addition to shining blue, the Red Sox are hosting Autism Awareness Day on April 28th.

The April 28th game at Fenway against the Houston Astros will raise money for Autism  by donating a portion of each ticket sold to Autism Speaks.

So, if you’re looking to go to a Red Sox game this year, go to Autism Day on Sunday April 28th! See a great game and support a great cause! Game starts at 1:35 p.m.

Spread the Word!

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Donate to Autism Research

In my last post I told you 7 facts about Autism. Fact #3 told us that having a child or family member with Autism can cost up to an extra $60,000 a year. Because of this high cost and today’s economy, many families are unable to afford the necessary therapy and treatment that can improve social skills and functionality of a person with Autism.

Take a look at some of these organizations and pick one to donate to. Help give a child with Autism the chance to overcome their challenges and have fun!

  • The American Autism Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing low-income children with Autism and their families access to recreational programs such as summer and after school programs, speech therapy and even scholarships to Autistic schools – all for FREE (with help of your donations, of course!) The American Autism Association also creates programs specifically designed for individual children so they can get the right service that will best benefit them.
  • Autism Speaks was founded in 2005. The organization has grown immensely over the years and is dedicated funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. They also work to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Even if you can’t afford to donate money right now, you can always donate your time! Visit their website to find ways to volunteer!
  • The Children’s Institute is a state-approved private school in New Jersey with programs specifically designed to help children and young adults with Autism reach their full potential. TCI accepts all ages, from pre-school to the TCI Center for Independence for people over 21 years old.  Tuition is free for families and every little donation helps!
  • The Autism Society is dedicated to improving the lives of those with Autism and their families. They focus on increasing public awareness, they advocate for appropriate lifetime services for individuals with Autism and provide families with the most up-to-date information regarding treatment, education and research. Find a way to donate today!

Now that you have some information about each leading Autism Awareness organization. Please help them help those who can’t afford treatment or the right education for themselves or their children. Donate doesn’t always mean you have to give money – volunteering is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

The easiest way to help it to SPREAD THE WORD about Autism Awareness!

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7 Facts About Autism

Hi everyone! As you saw in my last post – April is Autism Awareness Month, so what better way to spread the word than to educate people!

Here are 7 facts that you may not know about Autism (I learned a few things too!)

1. Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1.5 million individuals in the United States

2. Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.

3. Autism costs a family $60,000 a year, on average

4. Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding for childhood diseases

5. Boys are nearly five times more likely to have Autism than girls – Boys: 1 in 54, Girls: 1 in 252

6. In a study conducted at the Institute of Education in London it was found that 28% of people with Autism have an IQ between 85 and 115 (average) while 3% of people have an IQ of 115 or higher (above average)

7. While there is no cure for Autism, many children and adults can greatly benefit from Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) as well as occupational, speech and physical therapy.

Don’t wait for April to come around before you think about those with Autism and their families. Stay tuned for my next blog about ways to donate to Autism research.

Most importantly, don’t just practice awareness….practice ACCEPTANCE!

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Autism Awareness Day

We all know that Monday was April Fool’s Day but what you are about to read is no joke. On Monday April 1, 2013 the White House issued a press release announcing a Presidential Proclamation.

President Barack Obama said,

“Today, public health officials estimate that 1 in every 88 children in America is growing up on the autism spectrum. It is a reality that affects millions of families every day, from the classroom to the job market. And while our country has made progress in supporting Americans with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), we are only beginning to understand the factors behind the challenges they face. On World Autism Awareness Day, we recommit to helping individuals on the autism spectrum reach their full potential…NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2, 2013, as World Autism Awareness Day. I encourage all Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.”

You all read my story about my friend Joe, so you know that he is the building block to my passion for Special Olympics and all that I do.

I am happy to finally say that we have reached a point in society where we can actually move forward and make a difference right here at home.

So, you heard Mr. President – learn something new about Autism today and do something to make a difference in the lives of those living with Autism.

As always, keep spreading the word!

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Teacher for a Day

As a journalism minor I have to take a Feature Writing class and one of my assignments is to write a self-involvement article  about something I have always wanted to do. As I sat in class trying to think of something that I have never done and could write an article on – the usual “bucket list” ideas came to mind: skydiving, competing in a triathlon, going on a safari. But they I thought, “What could I do that I know I will enjoy and be able to help someone else?” The answer was a no-brainer. I decided to be a special education teacher for a day.

I got in touch with one of the teachers at my high school and spent the day in the post-secondary special education class. The students in this class were between the ages of 17 and 22 and getting ready to leave school to go onto work programs. I learned that most of the students were not born with their disabilities and that many of them are living with traumatic brain injuries.

The teacher said she uses a method called “decontamination through humor” if anyone ever gets upset or a topic gets to heavy to handle – they make a joke and lighten the mood.

The classroom is like a therapy session, the teacher told me. “What is said in here stays in here.”

During a speech session, we talked about the way we are treated and how it makes us feel when people push us away or ignore us. One of the students became overwhelmed with past experiences so immediately, one of the teachers played LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” Everyone jumped up out of their seats and started showing off their dance moves. It was just the kind of break we needed so everyone had a chance to unwind from such a heavy topic.

The class curriculum focuses mostly on life skill development, listening skills, how to follow directions, how to communicate with others and how to treat each other.

One of the lessons that day was, treat everyone with respect. It was a conversation that everyone today should have heard. We talked about how to act towards someone you may not particularly like – you have to be nice and respectful anyway.

I never thought that I would learn so much in one day. It was one of the most rewarding days of my life. All of the students were wonderful – they were sweet, funny and had such uplifting personalities. My day in that classroom has made me re-think my future. I even contemplated changing my major and career path but I have decided to get even more involved in Special Olympics instead – maybe as a coach.

There are so many stories that I could tell but I just don’t have the space to do so. But what I can say is, spending the day with these 15 students made me look at life in a whole new light. They have changed me for the better.

Lloyd, Danny, KorinaAyoub, Dennis

KamishaJacob

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Take me out to the ballgame

Baseball is America’s favorite past-time and thanks to the Challenger Division of Little League, kids with intellectual disabilities can take the field too!

Challenger League has over 900 divisions world-wide and more than 30,000 players.

When I was in high school, I volunteered with the Challenger League for 3 years.  I looked forward to it every single Sunday. Each player was teamed up with a Buddy volunteer who went up to bat, played the field and ran the bases with them. We were there for encouragement and support.

Every week I had a different partner. One week, my partner was Andrew. Andrew has down syndrome and is probably the cutest kid ever! Our first time up at bat, Andrew hit a a single to shortstop and as soon as we stepped on first base I went to give Andrew a high-five and he turned to the side, pointed at his cheek and asked for a kiss!

I also partnered up with the catcher, Robbie. Robbie came to the field every Sunday, ready to play! He even came into the high school’s athletic office just to talk baseball with us.

I volunteered with the Challenger League because I love these kids, but I know I have made a difference when I came off the field after my own softball and field hockey games to see Alex cheering me on from the sidelines. Alex, is in a wheelchair and  doesn’t talk but that doesn’t put a stop to his love for sports. Alex and his parents came to almost every one of my high school games, and nothing made his face light up more than when I gave him a high-five after the game.

Special Olympics offers so many great opportunities. Here is a video of the 5th Annual Medford Invitational Challenger Day Tournament.

http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/17760499/medford-invitational-tournament-challenger-day

Video Credit: www.myfoxboston.com

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SPOTLIGHT: Kenneth Faried

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was just recently awarded the “Kia Community Assist Award” for Februray. He supports acceptance and inclusion in many ways. This year, he was an honorary coach at the 2013 NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game in Houston.

Kenneth Faried is the recipient of the Kia Community Assist Award for his outstanding community efforts to promote acceptance and inclusion. Photo Credit: nba.com

Faried is extending his efforts by participating in the Denver Nuggets Special Olympics clinic where 125 Special Olympics Colorado athletes will participate.

By winning this award, Kia and the NBA will donate $10,000 in Faried’s name to the Lupus Colorado fund and Special Olympics Colorado Project UNIFY.

Great Job Kenneth! This is awesome, keep up the good work!

For more information about Kenneth Faried’s outreach and inclusion efforts go to www.nba.com.

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How it all started

When I was in the 5th grade I did the Walk for Autism with my family and my neighbors. We formed a team called Joey’s Journey. Joey is my neighbor, he has autism and he is responsible for my passion and love for Special Olympics.

When my mom started teaching in the special needs class at the high school, Joey was one of her students. I used to go there every Wednesday after school to play with the kids and help her out in the classroom. Joey and I used to have so much fun doing whatever activities they were working on that day and through Joey, I met so many other incredible people. By the time I was a freshman in high school all of the kids in the special needs (PACE) class knew me. We would see each other in the hallway, at lunch and after school – give each other hive fives and hugs – it was the best part of my day. I built friendships with them.

The friendships I built with the PACE kids prompted me to get involved with Special Olympics. I couldn’t be happier! Joey and the other kids I met in high school have inspired me on so many levels. Working with them had taught me to be more patient and to look at life in a positive way. When I’m around them I don’t worry about tests and money and life’s everyday problems, I’m just happy.

What started as Joey’s Journey 10 years ago has turned into my journey to become a better and happier person.

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Special Olympics, Ending the R-word, Getting Involved

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