Tips For Supporting People With Disabilities Through Holidays!

The holiday season often brings wonderful memories of joyful times with family and friends. However, for some people with special needs – such as those on the autism spectrum – the holidays can actually bring feelings of stress and discomfort. And who can blame them? Changes in routine, different demands, new foods, sounds, textures — it is all a challenge! Below are some tips to help create a positive holiday celebration for everyone in the family.

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Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

 

  • Try to keep to the usual routine as much as possible. That will keep everyone calmer.
  • Holidays can bring sensory over-stimulations with lights, sounds, smells, and even relatives who want to give hugs. Eliminating or minimizing these stimulations are your best bet. Plus, you may want to talk to your family about how to greet your child or your relative when they arrive.
  • And while you are at it, talk to relatives about the best way to behave with your child’s unique sensitivity and needs.
  • Instead of limiting the holiday decorations, some families wait until Christmas Eve to put up their tree and decorate. It keeps the stress down and also builds up some fun anticipation of Christmas Eve. You can spend the month preparing for this big day.
  • Or, some families let everyone participate in the decorating. The decorations may end up in a line or stacked rather than in the traditional way, but so what. Let them enjoy the activity in their own way.
  • Generally, people with special needs do better in the morning when they are less tired, rather than the late afternoon or evening. It may be better to schedule Christmas events at these times.
  • And finally, realize that you are probably not going to have perfect food, perfect decorations and perfect gifts. Your holidays may not be celebrated the traditional way, but it can still have real meaning.

Happy Holidays!

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Thanksgiving Thoughts…

Thanksgiving is a holiday that includes traditions established in childhood. We know what’s expected. It might be an annual Turkey Trot 5K, a family game of football, delicious turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, lots of pies from Grandma’s secret recipe, and a nap on the couch while the Lions or Cowboys play on TV. But what makes all of these routines memorable and important is the people who participate in them with you. Without family and friends, Thanksgiving — and really all holidays — wouldn’t be nearly as special.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

 

I’m sure many of you have participated in the Thanksgiving cliché of going around the dinner table and asking what each person is thankful for that year. So often, many of the answers are similar — thankful for family, thankful for time together, thankful for siblings. I used to think that I needed an original answer when it got to my turn. I didn’t want to say the same thing someone else had already said!

But looking back, I think those simple yet repetitive answers are some of the best things to be thankful for.

So this year, I don’t care how cliché it might be: I’m thankful for family. I am thankful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog. I am thankful for everyone who reaches out and tells me that these blogs made an impact on them. Finally, I am thankful that I have so much to be thankful for! 🙂 What repetitive or original things are you thankful for this year? Don’t worry, both are completely acceptable!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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How To Stay Positive When Living With Disability?

Let’s be real, we all have expectations on our shoulders; responsibilities and obstacles that shape the way we live our lives. However, for those living with disabilities, these pressures can feel much more difficult. That is why a positive, healthy outlook is essential for day-to-day life with disabilities. Here are some tips on how to live positively!

  • Surround yourself with positive people. A few good, understanding and reliable friends are better than a large circle of acquaintances. Find the honest ones that see past your disability; the ones that give straight advice and call you out on issues. Making new friends when living with a disability is another challenge to overcome, but it can be rewarding. You never know what relationships you might form and the impacts they will have on your life.
  • At the same time, make sure to connect with people in a positive way. There are always going to be people that are unsure of how to approach you or talk to you. Disability, especially a physical, visible one, can be intimidating to people. They may want to engage in conversation and be social, but a part of them will be left doubting themselves over the best course of action. If you sense some intimidation on their part, reassure them with a funny joke or a smile. Helping them to be more comfortable will create a positive connection between you.
  • Be careful setting expectations. This is true of both the expectations of others and the ones you place upon yourself. Don’t measure yourself against others. You know your abilities and limitations, and you know what you need to work on with them. Push yourself to achievable goals that you set yourself, which will improve your situation. However, there will always be those that assume you can’t do anything because of your disability. The satisfaction of proving them wrong cannot be understated. Don’t push yourself to unreachable heights just to appease others and fit in.
  • Make the most of what you have. You can choose to look at your physical limitations or your physical abilities. Everyone has something they cannot do and something they are great at. Show the world what you have to offer, and you will increase your sense of self-worth while living with a disability. Choose your abilities.
  • Finally, live in the present. This final tip for living with a disability is perhaps the most important of all. What does the future hold for you concerning your disability and prosperity? Nobody has an answer to that. All you can do is work on your present self and enjoy the moments and victories as they come. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and we must all enjoy each day for what it is.

Many thanks,

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Why I Am Thankful To Be An Amputee!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about what we are thankful for in our lives! I was thinking of the many things that I am thankful for this year – my big, healthy baby, my loving husband, my awesome, fun job, my ability to continue to run, my opportunity to inspire, and many many more! But, my list never includes being thankful for my missing limbs. I mean, why should I even be thankful for that? So… I decided to change my perspective, think positively and list the reasons why I am thankful for my disability!

  • I am thankful for not having feet – because you know, it’s winter and I don’t get cold feet! I know, you’ve heard this joke many times from me. Guys, it never gets old!

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  • I am thankful that I get to educate people about prostheses and our many differences!! We have so many questions and not enough answers.
  • I am thankful to help other amputees who struggle mentally and physically! It’s the best feeling knowing that they are not giving up because I’ve helped them!
  • I am thankful for laughs and jokes that I get to make because of my disability! If you know me, you know that I love telling those cheesy amputee jokes!
  • I am thankful for all the modern technology that makes our prostheses look awesome – this reminds me to be thankful for all of our prosthetists and doctors who help us be active and independent!
  • And finally, I am thankful for life, a life full of adventures. Every day is a gift full of ups and downs, love and loss, smiles and tears, accomplishments and setbacks – you know, life and every moment is beautiful!

So, look at your life and find the things you are thankful for in your life’s challenges. The change and perspective might surprise you.

Happy Almost Delicious Turkey Leg Day!

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Dealing With Winter As An Amputee

Guys, we are getting snow today – in November? Is that even legal? So yes, winter is basically here! Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can make going out and about a challenge for everyone, especially amputees. However, proper care is the key to keeping your prosthetic legs functioning at their best through winter’s worst. Here are some of my tips to stay safe, cozy, and comfortable.

Invest in Good Traction

Just as winter tires can keep a car from sliding, high-traction footwear can help your prosthetic leg get you around somewhat more safely. Choose rubber-soled sneakers, snow shoes, winter boots, or cleats to keep you on your “feet.” And of course, avoid heels, sandals, and dress shoes, especially on snow and ice.

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Protect Against the Cold

Cold temperatures, moisture, and wind add up to a painful experience for your skin if you do not take precautions. Be sure to always wear your prosthesis when heading out in chilly conditions. Neglecting to do so could result in pain, soreness, and even irritation. No matter the circumstances of your amputation or your body weight, it is imperative to keep your prosthesis and the rest of your body warm and insulated. Wool or fleece clothing, multiple layers, waterproof winter coats, and proper-fitting footwear will help you overcome the challenges that winter presents.

Move with Caution

Slow and steady is the key to safely navigating snow, ice, and other wintry hazards. Follow footsteps whenever possible, and do not try to force your way through snow mounds. Canes, walkers, and crutches can make an enormous difference in helping you safely navigate slippery, slushy surfaces. Specialized cane tips and grips can minimize your risk of slipping, as well as prevent joint and nerve pain.

Let’s hope an early start to winter means an early end. In the meantime, stick to these tips to help you navigate through the worst of it. Happy snowfall, y’all!

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Iron Adaptive Goals

Last Friday I was invited to work out at Boost Physical Therapy and Sports Performance with a few other athletes who have some physical limitations.

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Each of us was given the same workout, but it was adapted to each individual’s abilities and needs.

I met Zac Craig, who is a strength coach and athlete trainer, as well as Travis Neff, a physical therapist, athletic trainer and strength coach. These two guys have big goals, including their collaboration in opening a non-profit program to provide physical therapy and exercise to all levels of adaptive athletes. The estimated opening date for their new facility is January 2020! Hey, that’s right up my alley. I think this is such a wonderful idea for adaptive athletes to get in shape and build confidence! I sat down after my workout for a question and answer session with Zac.

Rite On Point: What inspired you to make a gym for adaptive athletes?

Zac Craig: We all have a story, and I’m really no different. I survived cancer for the third time. The last time they had to put in a titanium scapula and humerus (shoulder blade and upper arm bones). I had to start adapting my own workouts out of necessity due to limited range of motion of that arm. I had been a strength coach from the NFL to high school levels, as well as a strongman competitor. I thought it was pretty cool how creative I had to be with the workouts. I originally wanted to help strictly cancer patients, but then I saw a few gyms that were training adaptive athletes. I knew I had to do that. I thought of the most progressive person I knew in the strength and conditioning world and contacted him about my idea (Travis Neff). Little did I know, he had the same idea. We met the next day and it all started that day. 

ROP: What are your goals?

ZC: To get people to see things in themselves that they may not necessarily see. To have each athlete look in the mirror after their traumatic injury and smile. We all have self-talk and sometimes that self-talk turns into self-doubt. The “new normal” doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I think anyone who has suffered a traumatic injury has probably gone through that a least a little (myself included). 

 The other goal is to create an environment where an adaptive athlete can come in and talk with someone who has experienced the same thing or close to the same thing they are going through. How you learn, grow, and adapt is through each other and “real world” experience. If you can chat with people who know where you are coming from, I believe it can help propel you to whatever your next goals are. Therefore, our goal is to create the gym where if you are an adaptive athlete, you are the norm and not the exception.

ROP: Are any adaptive athletes welcome or are you limiting to certain athletes?

ZC: No, all adaptive athletes are welcome. You just have to be willing to work and have a goal(s) in mind. We can modify anything except your work ethic and grit. 

ROP: How was it working out with a girl born missing legs and deformed hands (Me!) ?

ZC: It was awesome! You have a great work ethic and your self drive to better yourself is obvious. To see someone who doesn’t limit themselves in anything and can be a great athlete, mom, wife, etc is really cool to see. It just proves if you train the mind, the body will follow. I am thinking we need to create a Para Spartan Team!

T: Challenge Accepted! 😉

 ROP: What is your favorite part about working with adaptive athletes? And what is the most challenging part?

ZC: My favorite part is seeing self-confidence rise up. When they can start doing things they haven’t done in years or ever, there is no better feeling.

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The most challenging part is the adaptation of workouts. You have to really think in a biomechanical mindset and usually on the fly as to what other exercise will work for them. You have to make sure it hits the movement or muscle group you want and keeps their body in a stable and minimal risk position.

ROP: What do you want the outcome to be from the athletes you train?

ZC: The outcome that we really want the athletes to achieve is whatever their goals are. That will range on each person. Some people may want to run a marathon, climb mountains, play with their kids or grand-kids, and some people may want simple bladder control. We want to be there to help facilitate goal achievement anyway that we can. For us, training is the one thing we know and believe that if you can train the body, you train the mind.

ROP: How can future athletes find you or reach you?

ZC: As we finalize our website, they will be able to reach us on there. Until then, they can email or fill out the Google form to be contacted if they want to know more or to train with us in the future.

ROP: Finally, how can we help you?

ZC: You can help by volunteering, giving referrals, and/or donations to get this started. We are always looking for people who believe in this mission, and want to be a part of it!

I am really excited to see Zac and Travis’s ambition come alive! And I won’t have to wait long since January is around the corner! See you at Iron Adaptive in 2020!

thanks,

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Things You Should Stop Saying And Doing To Disabled People

Hi friends. Let’s be real. Even if you have the best of intentions, it’s possible to get it wrong when trying to help someone with a disability. So… Here are a few “don’ts” to help you navigate through a world consisting of differently-abled people.

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Don’t disqualify my beauty.

People think that if you have a disability, you shouldn’t associate yourself with anything to do with beauty. I honestly think that in many people’s perception, disability means “ugly” or “unattractive”. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Who said being disabled disqualifies you from being beautiful? Whether a disability is visible or invisible, people with disabilities can be fabulously attractive on so many levels.

Don’t call me ‘brave’.

If you know me well enough, you know that I hate when people marvel at me, saying I must be “brave” or “inspiring” – just because I am out shopping on my own. “You must be so brave.” I find this phrase very patronizing. Don’t say this to me unless I have wrestled a tiger or a crocodile, or done something extraordinary – like fly to the moon and back. I really don’t see how I can be inspiring by getting on with life.

Don’t assume that all disabled people look the same.

I wish people would stop thinking that the world is made up of purely able-bodied individuals, and that the tiny minority who are disabled are easily recognizable. Broaden what you believe in. We don’t all look the same – just as able-bodied people don’t.

Don’t use baby-talk.

When I was younger, it was irritating when people talked to me as if I was a child or I wasn’t able to hear them. Or what about my friend who wears hearing aids. People suddenly think they need to revert to loud, slow baby-talk for my hearing-impaired friend to understand them. It’s okay. We really understand and hear you well at your regular volume and adult speech pattern!

I hope this blog helps you to understand some of the many “don’ts” that differently-abled people would prefer you just avoided.

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