vody/> RCM - Revitalizing Community Membership: Empowering Independence: May 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Night to Remember: Young Pennsylvania Teen with Muscular Atrophy Wins the Prom Queen Title

Two years ago, one incredible young woman was awarded one very special title from her senior classmates – and deservedly so. Brittany Chieze of New Castle, PA, a long time sufferer of muscular atrophy, took home the queen’s crown at her high school’s homecoming court.

“Brittany seemed healthy when she was born in 1996, the fourth child of Rochelle and Art Chieze. But her parents began to worry when she was slow to start walking, and fell down frequently as a preschooler,” reports the Edmond Sun. After repeated trips to a number of medical centers in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cleveland, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that inhibits the control of muscle movement and limits her to a wheelchair. 

“Brittany’s muscles continued to atrophy and, by age 8, when she was in third grade, she began to lose her ability to get around.”

Mrs. Chieze admits she panicked at first when she learned her daughter had been placed on Shenango High’s Homecoming ballot.

“I started thinking about the germs from being around so many people and how tired this would make her,” Rochelle said. “Even though she was thrilled — we all were — I went back and forth. I thought maybe we should say no.”

But Brittany, wise well beyond her 17 years, knew what she needed to do.

“Let me live, mom,” Brittany said resolutely.

And so it was that Brittany was able to spend two days that may turn out to be the most beautiful of her life — days that also likely will rank among the most beautiful of everyone’s lives who were lucky enough to be a part of it.

Brittany has not been able to attend High School since a debilitating neuromuscular disease left her fighting for her life three years ago.

But members of the school’s student body never forgot about the beautiful brunette who lights up a room with her smile, rallying around her during what would have been her senior year of school — first voting her onto Homecoming court, then showing their selflessness by naming her queen.

She was crowned during an emotional ceremony at halftime of Friday’s game against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, then reigned at Saturday’s Homecoming Dance.

Please Share Her Story!


Special Olympian Leaves Mark After Decades Of Competition

When Marty Sheets, who was born with Down syndrome, was about 4, a doctor told his parents that because of his disability he would never even learn to tie his own shoes.

Back home, Sheets learned how to do it that same day.

“He was a gentle person,” said his father, David Sheets. “But one thing about Marty, he had determination.”

Sheets went on to become one of the most prominent Special Olympic athletes in the world, winning approximately 250 medals in everything from downhill skiing to weightlifting. He chatted with President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, hobnobbed with celebrities and became one of the primary ambassadors of the organization.

“When we looked for a person to represent the Special Olympics around the world,” said Timothy Shriver, chairman of the organization, “someone with toughness, compassion, grit and love of sport, Marty would always surface to the top of the list.”

Sheets, 62, died May 21 at home in Greensboro, N.C. He had been suffering from dementia for the last five years, said his father, and recently contracted pneumonia.

He competed in Special Olympic events, where one of his specialties was power lifting, until about 2009.

To read more on this story, click here: Special Olympian Leaves Mark After Decades Of Competition


Google Commits $20 Million to Make the World More Accessible for People with Disabilities

The technology that enables people with disabilities to lead independent and fulfilling lives is rapidly improving, but not quite fast enough, according to Google.

That’s why the global tech giant is investing $20 million in grants for nonprofits that are working on groundbreaking solutions.

The company on Tuesday introduced the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, a competition that invites innovators to pitch their ideas on how to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities. That could involve a system that helps people with mobility issues get from place-to-place more seamlessly, or developing an app that lists the closest accessible restrooms, according to the site.

It will then choose the best concepts and help bring them to scale.

A winning innovation could be something as simple as Liftware, a stabilizing handle that attaches to utensils so that people with hand tremors can eat with ease, according to the Google blog post.


Stranger’s Act of Kindness for Little Boy with Special Needs Goes Viral

To celebrate Labor Day weekend, Ashley England went out to dinner with her family. As any parent will tell you, bringing kids along to a restaurant can be difficult — but Ashley is the proud mom of a son with special needs. For her family, going to a restaurant can be particularly challenging.

During dinner, 8-year-old Riley was getting a little too rowdy. He started hitting the table, throwing things, and raising his voice, and Ashley could tell he was bothering some of the other diners seated near the family. Riley suffers from a severe form of epilepsy that causes him to have seizures.

Then, Ashley’s waitress approached the table. She assumed the worst, and mentally prepared herself for a complaint about Riley. But it was just the opposite. The waitress had tears in her eyes, and a note in her hand.

“I’ll try to do this without crying,” the waitress said. “Another customer has paid for your bill tonight and wanted me to give you this note.”

The note read: “God only gives special children to special people.”

The mystery diner’s act of kindness made Ashley begin to cry, too. “To have someone do that small act towards us shows that some people absolutely understand what we are going through and how hard it is to face the public sometimes,” she said. “I felt like out of all the rude negative comments that we are faced with – these outweighs them. Little did he know what struggles we had been facing lately and this was surely needed at that moment.”


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stephen Wiltshire Was Mute When He Was Diagnosed with Severe Autism at the Age of Three: He is One of the Most Renowned Artists in the UK

Stephen Wiltshire was mute when he was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three. He began communicating through his drawings after being sent to Queensmill School in London, and with the support of his special-needs teachers, gradually learned to speak.

It was during those school years that they discovered Stephen's special talent, when he drew the ornate Albert Hall following a class field trip -- without the aid of a photograph. Wiltshire has the uncanny ability to draw and paint detailed landscapes and cityscapes entirely from memory.

Wiltshire can look at the subject of his drawing once and reproduce it accurately with photographic detail, down to the exact number of columns or windows on a building. He memorizes their shapes, locations and the architectural flourishes, and will do so with New York City after a brief helicopter ride.

Having tackled the iconic cities of Tokyo, Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem and London, Wiltshire is more than ready to take on The Big Apple and has already begun drawing the cityscape in pen.

To learn more about Stephen Wiltshire, click here: How Autistic Artist Stephen Wiltshire Made it Big


Friday, May 29, 2015

Try-Athlon Helps Disabled and Able-Bodied Elementary Students Develop Strong Bond

Silver Spring, MD - Nearly 100 students at a Silver Spring elementary school took part in a special triathlon on Friday.

This event came together after Martha Zanger, a physical education teacher at Forest Knolls Elementary School, found that able-bodied students did not know how to interact with students with disabilities during physical activities.

“I noticed that in school, in patrols, in chorus and all the inside activities, the kids that had physical challenges were included,” said Martha Zanger. “But once they came out to recess, they were kind of off to the side because the other students didn't know how to play with them.”

She decided to start training them for a "Try-Athlon" to help bring them all together.

“The kids who have physical disabilities are just kids and they want to be included in sports and everything else,” said Zanger. “What I'm trying to get our students to understand is that we are all just people. When you see them having this much fun, I think they will get that.”

The event has made a world of difference for the kids.

“You feel like you have a lot of energy, and the other kids over here watching us, they can [understand] what kids with disabilities feel like,” said Kasper Syski, who is confined to a wheelchair.


Meet Trinity Palmer, She Was Born with Down Syndrome: This Little Girl with the Big Bright Smile Let’s Nothing Stop Her!

I have never met Trinity Palmer, but I can tell you that from her pictures and videos, this little girl with the big bright smile let’s nothing stop her.

She resides in West Palm Beach, Florida, with her family.

I met her mother, Jacquelyn Palmer, on facebook, and wanted to share her story.

From Trinity’s Mother:

Our daughter Trinity Palmer was born with Down Syndrome. When trinity was in the womb Doctors stated that she would "NOT" be able to function in different areas of her body! Just to name a few: eat, walk, be normal ect... "But God"... Doctor asked if we wanted to abort the baby we both said "NO"! We knew in our heart that..."God will not put no more on us then we can bare"!! When Trinity was two she had surgery on her heart (not open) God brought her out! fast forward to today.... Trinity Graduated from Roosevelt Elm. She will be going to the 6th grade next year! Tell me what you know about Jesus!! So when you see me crying.. it's tears of joy..Thanking God for all things.. Because you don't know our story! God bless you all.

Please Share Trinity’s Story

Posted by Jacquelyn Palmer on Thursday, May 28, 2015


Honoring the ADA with the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival ADA: 25 Years of Disability Rights and the Kennedy Center’s 25/40 Celebration Honoring the History, Art, and Culture of the Disability Community

The weekend of July 24 through 26, 2015 brings a nationwide celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26th, 1990, capping decades of legal efforts and activism to end discrimination against people with disabilities. To honor this historic event, leaders in the disability rights community, advocates, community members and politicians will gather on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History to mark this historic moment and highlight the ADA’s ongoing legacy in American life.

The Smithsonian Institution’s celebration will start on Friday, July 24, 2015, on the terrace of the National Museum of American History with a large discussion stage where topics such as the passage of the ADA, legal issues, advocacy, employment and the future of disability rights will be explored. Also on hand will be exhibits by federal agency partners and workshops in theater, dance, music and visual arts. Visitors can view a modified Corvette race car. There will be a number of hands-on activities and demonstrations. The museum store will host a trunk show of items from artists with disabilities. The celebration will start winding down on Sunday at noon with the ADA birthday party and a reading of a letter from George H.W. Bush along with a visit from the legendary ADA25 Legacy Bus, which has been traveling the country.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Study Casts Doubt On Rising Autism Rates

In the largest study of its kind, a Swedish group has determined that actual autism rates probably have not changed in recent years, even though diagnoses of autism cases continue to climb.

The research, led by Sebastian Lundstrom and colleagues at the University of Gothenburg, found that about 1 percent of those in an ongoing study of twins met the criteria for having autism, even though the number of officially diagnosed autism cases in the country’s national health registry had climbed steadily over a 10-year period. The power of the study, published last month in the British Medical Journal, comes from the fact that Sweden has comprehensive health records for its population, and the research covered nearly 20,000 twins whose families were asked about their symptoms, along with diagnostic records for more than a million children born between 1993 and 2002.

Because the study counted autism diagnoses of children up to age 10, it covered a period up until about 2012.

In a recent telephone interview, Lundstrom said there is no reason to believe the Swedish experience with autism is much different from that in the U.S. or other nations, and he said there is no evidence to suggest that twins have a different rate of autism than the general population.

The national registry in Sweden includes all the official diagnoses for autism spectrum disorder, which more than doubled from 0.23 percent in 1993 to 0.5 percent in 2002. That rate is lower than the 1 percent prevalence found among the twins, but that may be because the national registry uses a conservative definition of the disorder. In another Swedish study last year that looked at all diagnoses for autism among teens living in Stockholm County, the autism diagnosis rate was about 2.5 percent.

To read more on this story, click here: Study Casts Doubt On Rising Autism Rates

Special Olympics DC: "Time for a #UnifiedRelay Fun Fact

Why do you ‪#‎PassTheFlame? Stay up-to-date on the ‪#‎UnifiedRelay!

From Special Olympics: "Time for a #UnifiedRelay 

FUN FACT: Did you know when one lit torch passes the Flame to light another torch it's called a "Kiss"?

Here's to thousands of more kisses as we #PassTheFlame across the country on the way to Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015!
You can #PassTheFlame at www.bankofamerica.com/passtheflame"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Apple Store Welcomes YouTube Sensation Christopher Hills with Assistive Tech

At just 18 years old, Christopher Hills is already a YouTube sensation and master video producer and editor.

The Sunshine Coast teenager - who likes Doctor Who, Marvel movies and Star Wars but is most passionate about aviation - will give his first presentation on video editing at Brisbane's Apple store on Thursday night.

Hills will speak specifically about the impact that Switch Control, an accessibility program built into iOS and OS X, has had on allowing his career to flourish.

Hills lives with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, and relies on technology and software he can control with a button located at the back of his wheelchair headrest.

Tapping the button with his head allows Hills to toggle through screens, surf the web, and edit video content.

"Whenever I get to show people what I'm capable of and I see their absolute amazement and help them see that it is also possible for them to be more capable, it inspires me to keep on going," he said via email.


Service Dogs Help Children with Epilepsy, Autism and Other Disabilities

When Alyssa Howes was 4-years-old, she lost her sight and started having seizures. Her grandmother stayed in the girl's room at night, monitoring her for attacks. That ended three years ago when Alyssa got a service dog named Flint.

When the golden retriever moved in, life changed for Alyssa's Los Angeles-area family. He gives the 11-year-old a more normal life by alerting her family to seizures, guiding her so she doesn't fall and allowing her to have a bit more freedom.

"It gives her a companion to enjoy the moments when she is doing things she likes to do," said her mother, Juliette Palomaki. "And if she is having a bad day, she will call him and they will just be together."

But not enough dogs are being trained for children with epilepsy, autism and other disabilities, said Karen Shirk, founder of 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit that breeds and trains service dogs. Other agencies train dogs specifically to help people with seizures, but Ohio-based 4 Paws is one of just a few that does not exclude young children.

Most require a minor to be 16 so they can handle the dog alone in public. Because a younger child cannot do that, 4 Paws trains at least two adult caregivers, such as parents, teachers and baby-sitters.


At Bread, Our Clients Become Community Leaders…. Watch, Enjoy and Share!

Bread for the City Good Hope Gala 2015 - Client Leaders


Bread for the City Needs Your Help: We Are Seeking Volunteers to Help Plant Sweet Potatoes and Strawberries – May 27th and 29th / and June 3rd and 5th

We are seeking volunteers to help plant sweet potatoes and strawberries at City Orchard–Bread for the City’s fruit orchard in Beltsville, MD. All of the fruit grown and harvested at City Orchard is distributed to Bread for the City clients through our two food pantries. This is a special, seasonal opportunity to help feed our neighbors in DC.CO volunteer

Bread for the City will provide on-site volunteer training and transportation for some volunteers. All experience and skill levels are welcome!

To learn how you can volunteer, click here: Bread for the City Needs Your Help


Teen Model with Down Syndrome is the True Meaning of Beautiful

Maddy Stuart is no regular teen — she wants to change the world's view of people with Down syndrome, one pose at a time.

The 18-year-old Australian aspiring model is using the platform of social media to spread her message. With 322,000 Facebook fans under her belt, Stuart writes on the page: "Modelling will help change societies view of people with Down Syndrome, exposure will help to create acceptance in life.


Beautiful Story: Teacher Shares Lessons in Love from Son with Rare Disability

Jeff Wright stoops to lift his 92-pound son out of a wheelchair. "And up," he groans. "Oomph!"

Adam dangles from his arms, dead weight. Wright plods up the stairs in their home, carefully swinging the boy's head over a banister. "Don't want to bump your noggin," he says with a smile, cradling the helmet on Adam's head.

Wright once had dreams that his son might play football. Now Adam wears a helmet to protect him from himself. He was born with Joubert syndrome, a rare combination of genes that only about 450 people in the world have. It left him gasping for breath —180 times a minute, three times a second.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

You Have Never Heard the National Anthem Sang Like This: Meet Marlana Vanhoose, Who is Blind, and Was Born with Cytomegalovirus…Her Beautiful Voice Will Give You Goosebumps!

Be prepared to marvel! What an amazing voice! Hear 17-year-old Marlana sing the American National Anthem flawlessly.

Marlana Vanhoose is a Johnson Central High School student in Eastern Kentucky who is blind, and was born with Cytomegalovirus. As she says, "God gave her a talent to sing."

And when she sings - it moves everyone who hears it!

First, we present her singing the U.S. National Anthem at the UK vs. Ole Miss game.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell said "the standing ovation that she got was the longest I could ever remember." As a bonus we added a clip of her singing that American standard, "My Old Kentucky Home," at another game.

One of her dreams, we're told, is to sing the National Anthem at Bristol Motor Speedway!

Every one of us has magic inside us!

To learn more about Marlana, click here: Marlana’s Story

Her dream comes true! 


When Your Child Has an Invisible Disability

Summer is that magical time when the kids are out of school, the days are more relaxed and there are often opportunities to take a special family vacation. But for families with children who have less obvious disabilities -- a mental health or emotional or behavioral disorder, for example -- a trip can spell disaster, particularly if there is an airport involved.

Jade's 7-year-old son Anthony has autism, and he functions best when there is plenty of structure built into his day. During the school year, the regular routine makes things easier, but unstructured time during the summer is always challenging for Anthony.

Last July, Jade decided to go to Colorado to visit her sister. Even though Anthony was excited to see his cousins, Jade knew it could be a challenging situation. She did her best to prepare him for the journey and packed a few of his favorite foods and toys in her carry-on bag. They arrived at the airport early and made it through security without a hitch, but when they reached the crowded gate area, Jade could see her son was struggling to stay calm.

At first glance, it's difficult to imagine that this little blonde-haired boy with the deep blue eyes could be anything other than angelic. While Anthony does display certain tell-tale signs of autism -- the way he flexes his hands awkwardly when excited, the rigid posture, the darting eyes that never quite look at you -- in a crowd, he looks quite "normal." The other passengers waiting for the flight to Denver had no idea that Anthony could erupt at a moment's notice.

To read more on this story, click here: When Your Child Hasan Invisible Disability


Man with Autism Becomes First Student at Cal Western to Pass Bar Exam

Erik Weber continues to prove people wrong.

In May, he became the first student with autism not only to graduate from Cal Western School of Law, but the first to pass the bar exam too. He did it on his first try.

“When I first opened it up on May 15th, I closed it down and checked it again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating,” Erik said.

He was at Starbucks checking his score on his laptop.

“When I found out, I really did pass my keyboard got wet with tears of joy,” Erik said.

The road to becoming a lawyer wasn’t an easy one. Erik was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. When he was 5, doctors told his parents his autism was so severe, he’d have to be institutionalized the rest of his life.

Sandi Weber, Erik’s mother, refused to put her son in a home.

“You have to grieve the loss of the perfect child. What you thought you were going to have, is not going to be the same,” she said.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Meet Dave Kengen: A Shining Example that People with Disabilities Can Do Everything!

At the World Championships in Tokyo 2014 Dave, Nikki, Nouhayla and Lana gave a demonstration. This showed the true spirit of Budo and the guiding light of the JKA.

It was a shining example that people with disabilities can do everything!

A true warrior, Dave Kengen demo at 13th Funakoshi Gichin World Karate Do Championship Tournament.

These young people are members of JKA Netherlands and karate school Do Weng.

Thumbs up for this performance.


Even Tiny Updates to Tech Can Be Obstacles for the Disabled

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago, it was intended to usher in a new age of accessibility. It promised recourse from discrimination in employment, transportation and communication—in other words, greater access to the physical world. Since then, the world has evolved in radical ways—physical boundaries have come down as our lives have transitioned by varying degrees to online spaces. It is almost impossible to imagine our daily routines without the use of personal technology. For people with disabilities like myself, technology has opened new doors in ways the historic legislation never could have conceived.

As a person with autism and apraxia—a condition that leads me to have great difficulty with planning and organizing everything from moving my mouth when I speak to the steps needed to wash my hands—I rely upon personal technology for many things. A device that translates my typed words into a voice is my link to the world. And the rise of social media and online classrooms has expanded my networks and ability to participate in activities once closed to me.

To read more on this story, click here: Even Tiny Updatesto Tech Can Be Obstacles for the Disabled


Stylist Works to Make Disability-Friendly Clothing More Accessible

In 2006, Stephanie Thomas spotted a trendy trench coat for dogs at a Target in Virginia Beach – but noticed that there were far fewer options for people with disabilities.

"That irritated me a little bit," she tells PEOPLE. "There's only one store in America that sells clothes specifically for disabled people, but they are the biggest minority in the country."

Thomas, 46, has devoted over 20 years of her life to making the process of finding disability-friendly clothing a little bit easier. The Los Angeles-based "disability fashion stylist" carefully chooses clothes, shoes and accessories to be featured on her website, cur8able, in hopes of "curing fashion woes," says.

Thomas' congenital disabilities on her right hand and feet were what initially drew her attention to the major lack of fashionable options available to and appropriate for people with disabilities.


In Memory of America’s Armed Forces – Thank You For Your Service!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Galileo Stair Climbing Wheelchair

Galileo Wheelchair stand up, lay back, lower to ground, elevate, entry to vehicles with no modification to vehicle required, indoor and outdoor use

To learn more about this wheelchair, click here: Galileo Stair Climbing Wheelchair


Dennis Walters, Disability and Disrespect

Dennis Walters has spent almost 40 years delivering a simple message:

Don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't do something.

A paraplegic since 1974, Walters was told he would never walk again.

Yet he did.

He was told he would never play golf again.

Yet he did.

If he isn't the most positive person I've ever met, he's in the discussion.

There are some people and things, however, that make him positively angry.

Spoiled professional athletes, for instance.

"I have no use for pro sports whatsoever," he says, his eyes turning steely. 

"Zero. They’re making five, 10 million dollars, they’re unhappy."

His rise in blood pressure is absolutely palpable when the subject turns to attitudes toward the disabled. "I want you to read this," he says, producing a printout of an article by Jerry Tarde, chairman and editor-in-chief of Golf Digest. It's a remembrance of the late Frank Hannigan, the former USGA senior executive director who died March 22, 2014. The column, headlined "Portrait of a Man Who Shook Things Up," won a second-place prize in the Golf Writers Association of America's annual writing contest.

To read more on this story, click here: Dennis Walters, Disability and Disrespect


China Opens a Restaurant Staffed by People with Learning Difficulties... Called Forrest Gump

A Chinese entrepreneur, whose mentally impaired son died as a child, has opened the country's first restaurant staffed by people with learning difficulties.

Hu Yanping, 41, has hired 12 mentally impaired staff to work as waiters in the 6,500-square-foot restaurant.

Forrest Gump Restaurant - named after the 1994 Hollywood movie - opened its doors on Tuesday in Changchun in north east China, according to People's Daily Online.

The restaurant is staffed with regular workers, who wear white T-shirts, as well as those with learning difficulties in black T-shirts.

Hu, who refers to the mentally impaired worker as 'my children' explains her reason behind the colour-coding.

'I don't want to have the children to be any different to others but for the benefit of the team there needs to be something for us to distinguish between the workers.'


Meet De'Zure and Terrance, Both Have Down Syndrome, And Are Heading to Their Prom: They Are an Adorable Couple! [Video]

When I saw this video, I had to share! De'Zure and Terrance are so adorable. This video will make you go awww…so sweet! I love it when he touches her nose. I am not going to give away any more of the video…you will have to see for yourself.

I am sharing from a facebook friend, Amber Allen
De'Zure and Terrance go to prom 2015

She says:
Last night at approximately 10:30pm I posted a video of my niece De'Zure and her date/ boyfriend going to prom that I put together shortly after they left. They both have Down syndrome and are high functioning. The video has gone viral. If you haven't watched the video please go to my page and watch/share/comment. It has really blessed her and her family to see all the responses of love and affection. Thank you for all the love. Please keep it coming!!! We love and appreciate you all! It hasn't even been 24 hours.


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