Just a little girl

(Guest post by Alisha Marie Peters – Alisha blogs at The Moments That Change Everything)

I know this blog’s mission is to empower difference, which I am all for… but at the same time; I’m starting to see that my girl is so much like any other 3-year-old girl in so many ways.

Don’t get me wrong, she is different in a lot of ways, but the beauty is, I don’t think she sees that yet. And just this once, I’m not going to focus on what makes her different, even though I love all of her. I’m so proud of who she is and all that she’s accomplished with so much stacked against her, and I really hope she grows up knowing that. And that she embraces who she is, all of who she is, and knows how truly amazing she really is.

But, this time I want to let the world know that in most aspects, my girl is just like yours.

But really, just in the last little while I’ve seen enormous strides in her development, and I’m seeing just a 3 year old girl… just that, a little girl doing things that all little girls do. She hates having her hair done. She loves her independence. She loves school and all her friends there. She is a daddy’s girl through and through. She loves dolls and Minnie Mouse. She laughs at things that are funny, some that I’m even surprised she gets! She loves attention, but at the same time can be really shy until she really gets to know someone. She doesn’t really care for goodbyes. She can throw some amazing diva-esc temper tantrums over not getting her way! And she has an attitude that is much bigger than she is!

And the thing that inspired this whole post, she loves… and I can’t stress that word enough, loves Tangled!! She got it for Easter, and I’m sure has watched it entirely through over 20 times in that short week and a half. She loves the whole thing, but definitely has her favorite parts and songs. Now you may not understand why I think this is such a big thing, or why I’m happy about it. But you see this is something that I thought would never happen for my little girl. I would hear people complain about having to watch this show or that over and over, and secretly I would think how lucky they were that their child had made such an important connection. And I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure if mine ever would.

So yes, I’m “Tangled out” I guess you could say, but I’m so, so happy…. Ecstatic really. I love that she is just a girl some days. She’s a happy, always smiling, wanting her way kind of girl. Didn’t I just describe every 3-year-old diva in America??

Em laying on her butterfly pillow with her favorite doll, watching Tangled

{Like this post? Feel free to “like” it below and share with your Facebook Friends by pressing here! Thanks y’all -Camilla}

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor.  Please see their details on our Contributors page.  If you’d like to guest post for Different iz Good check out our Write for DIG page for details about how YOU can share your stories and tips with our community.

A Poem for Special Teachers!

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

Sam and One of Her Awesome Special Ed Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week is around the corner. Though I believe ALL teachers are invaluable, I am giving extra props to special education teachers. Surprise, surprise! :)

They aren’t just teachers. They are physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, researchers, nurses, and our children’s cheerleaders! Their patience, creativity, organization, ability to accept and understand the differences in each of our children and their ability to motivate, identify, appreciate and celebrate small victories are what make them different from the rest! Few things are more rewarding than knowing you have made an impact on the lives of children who are struggling to reach their full potential.

Two years ago I wrote this poem for Sam’s LIFE Skills teacher and paraprofessionals, printed it, framed it and gave it to them as a gift. It was written from Samantha’s perspective. I hope you like it:

You greet me every morning with a great big smile
Help me out of the car
Even if it takes a while

I am a little girl who cannot hear or speak
But still you understand me,
Week after week.

I have more challenges than most other people, you know
But you never give up on me
Even if my progress is slow

You help me with my daily life skills
Help me to succeed
Teach me how to sing and play
Adapt it to my special needs

I am strong and happy
I like to giggle and tease
Sometimes I may even drop down on my knees

You work very hard everyday,
Help me learn and grow
You are patient, kind and loving

This I wanted you to know
It takes a special person to be a teacher like you
And my Mommy and Daddy are grateful
For everything you do!

Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week!

{If you loved this as much as I (Camilla) did and want to share with your Facebook Friends, just go here to do that!! Thanks y’all!}

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor.  Please see their details on our Contributors page.  If you’d like to guest post for Different iz Good check out our Write for DIG page for details about how YOU can share your stories and tips with our community.

Giving Sam a Voice

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

The Internet, Facebook and computers have been quite a gift to me. Some might criticize and complain that people share too much information or spend too much time “playing” on the Internet but the ability to form new friendships, network with other groups and families of children with and without disabilities, find resources and research from the comfort of my own home have all become invaluable to me. After all, this is how I met Camilla Downs, founder of The Turning Views Foundation and the Different Iz Good™ (DIG) movement and how I was given the privilege to be a contributor for her incredible mission.

Over the past few months, I have been exploring alternative ways to help my 10 year-old daughter, Samantha, to communicate. Sam was born with a chromosome 18q- deletion. As a result she has intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sam is also Deaf, nonverbal and her delayed fine motor skills do not allow her to hold a crayon without assistance.

Sam understands some American Sign Language but has not learned to sign consistently. If she does sign, her sign language is very subtle and if you blink, you will probably miss it. My husband, John, and I have tried several tools and devices over the years to help Sam communicate and participate in her daily and extracurricular activities – the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), object schedules and my own pictures with ASL signs are just a few.

In my first DIG contribution I wrote, “Do I wish Sam could speak? Would I love to hear her beautiful voice? You bet! For now, I get giggles, babbles, cries and gestures and if this is all I ever receive as far as communication, I can be happy.” I am true to Sam and still believe everything I wrote but I also know that Sam is an extremely bright child and she really makes me think…a lot! One day, recently, I was playing with Sam, speaking directly into her ear. In a sing-songy voice I kept repeating, “I love you.” Sam sat and listened attentively. She was incredibly engaged and when I least expected it and with a big smile on her face, I heard her vocalize “Ah la la.” I heard Sam say, “I love you” and I suddenly began to want more!

Success stories of the iPad being used with children who have disabilities have been popping up all over the local and world news: A recent New York Times article described the story of 7-year-old Owen Cain who has had a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy: “He does not have the strength to use a computer mouse but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before. [Owen] aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.”

When I read about and saw this story, I cried, thought about Sam and began to believe that she could be just as successful as Owen. Clearly, Sam’s disabilities are much different than Owen’s but, still, I immediately researched for more stories and articles and then purchased and downloaded the popular communication applications recommended by Camilla onto John’s iPad so we could present this information to Sam’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team. I felt so happy.

At our meeting John and I brought the iPad to demonstrate its greatness and how we wanted to help Sam to communicate. The team was impressed, but the reasons against the use of the iPad for Sam at school were: The district won’t allow it. Assistive Technology does not provide support for iPads. What if it breaks? What if it gets stolen? Is it going to be used as a toy or a tool? Would it be loud enough for Sam to hear? Does Sam have the key skills to use the device? I thought, “Seriously? Nooks and Kindles are allowed in our general education classes. What about our children in special education?” Frustrated, I stood up and voiced my opinion of unfairness and told them how the “rule makers” do not truly know or understand the needs of our children with disabilities. They do not live with our children everyday and they do not teach our children during a 7-hour school day. When all was said and done, I remained calm and level-headed but felt extremely disappointed!

Sam is using the Dynavox M3 for now. In order for AT to recommend and provide support for any device like the iPad, John and I were informed that the district needs data to support the decision. If they would give Sam a chance they would see Sam’s face light up when she works with the iPad and they would already have their data and I wouldn’t be writing this story. Sam is enthusiastic, curious and engaged with the iPad. She loves computers. She does wonderfully with cause and effect activities, she can use her fingers to draw on the iPad and I know with time, patience and practice she can learn so much more.

I am still working on this issue with the district. Anyone who knows me also knows that I do not give up and I am quite persistent. After a very recent inquiry, I learned today that the iPad will “probably” become more prevalent with students in our district, however, it will be based on an assessment to determine the need and appropriateness of the technology. I don’t think this is a “no” to the iPad for Sam but it’s not a “yes” either so I have much more work to do.

I don’t expect a “miracle” when Sam uses the iPad. I just believe in her and I know she can learn to use it. WHAT IF she could recognize that she is “Sam” or that I am “Mommy” or is able to recognize “Daddy” on an iPad? Camilla made me think about this after she read my first guest contribution and sent me a private, heartfelt message. How cool would that be? Aren’t we all deserving of such a gift?

I know I probably wear out the school administrators and they might want to run in another direction when they see me coming because I am always creating new ideas or asking for something. If I do wear them out it is only because I love and care about Sam – HEAPS!

Deep in my heart I am an optimist so I know this WILL happen for Sam. One day, very soon, she WILL have her own voice with an iPad and I will let you all know when this happens.

If you haven’t seen the video “Becoming Han Solo” or read Owen’s story it is definitely worth your time to click on this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/nyregion/31owen.html
WARNING: Grab a tissue. :)

XO Monica

(If you would like to share this with your Facebook Friends you can do that here! Thanks everyone!!)

Luke T from Valdosta Georgia

Introducing Luke T from Valdosta Georgia y’all!  Luke is our next Gift a Voice recipient!  We are blessed and grateful to be able to assist Luke in communicating his wants and needs to family members and those around him.  Imagine knowing what you want to say and not being able to articulate it?  Let’s help this handsome young man!!

Luke T is a happy, energetic and curious 2 year old. He brings great joy to his family and friends. He lives with his mother, father and 8 year old sister, Maggie. Luke appears to be a normal little boy in every way, except that he does not speak. It is obvious that he wants to talk. Whenever prompted, he makes a genuine effort to try to repeat words or sounds. However, very few utterances or approximations are clear enough to be called words. He does get frustrated when he can’t communicate his wants or needs.

He interacts well with other children and adults, making eye contact, smiling and gesturing in lieu of words. He loves to go to the park and swing. He also likes to go to the mall. He plays peek-a-boo, chase, and jumps on the trampoline. He adores his big sister, b.k.a. “Gee Gee”. He enjoys going to gymnastics class and playing with puppies.

Please share with your Facebook Friends y’all!! Thanks much!

Different iz Just Fine

(Guest post by Loni Scovill Smith -  Loni blogs at His Apraxia Journey)

I knew pretty early on that there was something wrong with Ian’s speech. His first “words” were really just a series of grunts. He had a grunt for everything and while it was endearing in the beginning, as new sounds began to emerge, communication with him quickly became a frazzled real life version of the Mattel game Mad Gab. Ian is our third child and although I’d heard all of the excuses from others (“boys are late talkers” “he has older siblings to speak for him”), I felt certain that there was more to his speech difficulties. I talked about Ian’s speech a lot in the beginning. I think I was trying to reach out, looking for some information to grasp onto and I was met with a lot of shoulder shrug responses. To save Ian from having to endure confused looks or being waved off by others, I felt that it was my duty to explain to everyone that he couldn’t talk very well and that he just needed some patience to get his point across. My need to explain paid off one day when a woman said to me, “Ian reminds me of my grandson.” She then proceeded to tell me about her grandson’s diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech and told me to call the school district to get him some help. Being the avid, obsessive researcher that I am, I spent the next few days on the internet digging around for any information I could find on the condition. I’m sure that by the end of it I looked like one of those red-eyed, unkempt cartoon characters that haven’t had their morning coffee yet. The school district got Ian in immediately for an evaluation. They concluded that he was behind verbally and developmentally and said that he wasn’t even on the charts for his age group. At this point, you’d think I would have cried, but what they told me was something I’d already known in my heart for a long time. Instead of tears, I felt at peace. Finally, there was confirmation that he needed help and he was going to be getting that help. They enrolled him in the developmental preschool for the following Monday and started him in speech therapy. Ian’s diagnosis for Childhood Apraxia of Speech didn’t come for another nine months (in December 2009). His therapist pulled me aside after a session of therapy and mentioned that he might benefit from a communication device. The device – a Dynavox computer – was $8,000.00 and would partially be covered by insurance, but only if we had an official diagnosis. Willing to do whatever it took to help Ian, I agreed to it and his therapist formally gave him the test for Apraxia. This time, I cried, but it was out of pure relief. The diagnosis that I’d been pushing her for was finally becoming a reality. With a diagnosis comes a plan of action – a series of steps to follow to tailor his therapy specific to his condition. The therapist got the paperwork ready while I stressed over the cost of the device. I spent a lot of time praying, talking it over with my husband and confirming with the therapist that this was the best option for Ian. This is where the story gives me goosebumps because I know that God had listened to and answered my prayers. I was playing around on my iPod touch and the idea hit me that I might be able to find some apps with fun games that would help Ian with his coordination. Searching for games turned into searching for flashcards with pictures which turned into searching for educational apps until finally, I stumbled on Proloquo2Go. My fingers started to shake with excitement as I viewed the screenshots – it looked very similar to the software that the Dynavox rep had shown me. I read the reviews, went to the website and called up the therapist. She was just putting our application into the fax machine to send to Dynavox when I told her to hold it right there and then proceeded to talk for ten minutes straight without stopping to take a breath. In short, the therapist (having no knowledge of Proloquo2Go) got excited, talked to her collegues and decided that we should give it a shot. That very night, my husband and I went to Best Buy, purchased an iPod Touch for Ian and downloaded Proloquo2Go. Over the last year, Ian’s speech has improved dramatically. While he is still unclear to most, he has the basic building blocks for speech in his arsenal. A large factor in his improvement was his iPod and Proloquo2Go. “Apraxia is a presumably neurological speech disorder that affects a child’s ability to plan, execute, and sequence the precise movements of the tongue, jaw, lips and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech. Children with (verbal) apraxia are able to hear and understand words; but they have trouble with the motor skill necessary for formulating consonants and vowels into spoken words. While they may have a few words or phrases they can speak clearly – what’s referred to as “pop-outs” – they are unable to imitate what is asked of them. While researchers have several theories, the cause of apraxia is not yet known.” (The Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Problems by Debbie Feit, pg. 66.) Different iz Good’s Gift a Voice Project is about giving kids more than words. When you donate to Different is Good, you are also giving these kids a better chance at socializing, fitting in and expressing their deepest thoughts. You’re giving them a chance at just being a kid. Did you enjoy this article?  We invite you to share it with your Facebook friends! Thank you!

The Gift of a Voice

We are so very grateful to Sparks News Tribune for writing about the Foundation’s Gift a Voice Project on December 23rd.  Jessica Carner did a fantastic job articulating my passion and the amount of information given to her.  Debra Reid did a fabulous job taking the photographs.  They both know their stuff!!

Jessica titled the article “The Gift of a Voice” and I am thrilled with it.  Would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below or on the Different iz Good facebook page.  Click on the image below to read the article.

Thanks Jessica, Debra and Sparks News Tribune.  I and the Turning Views Foundation and Different iz Good community send you a great big Thank You!!

The Gift of a Voice - Sparks Tribune Article

Recycle and Give a Voice to those Without

Let’s give ‘em something to talk about y’all!  It’s official! We’ve just received our first media coverage about our recycling project.  Thanks to Reno News & Review for taking an interest in Turning Views Foundation’s efforts to collect last generation iPhones, iPods and (soon) iPads. These devises are much much more than a phone or a device to house all your favorite songs.  They literally give a voice to those without one.  We are in the midst of a communication evolution that has shifted in such a way to include a segment of the population like never before.  1 of every 8,000 people in the United States has a communication disability. You can read more about my thoughts on this topic at The Evolution of Communication.

These mobile, compact and cool Apple devices can be used as speech generating devices for those that communicate with sign language or who aren’t able to articulate words.  By installing an application like Proloquo2Go one can communicate and express themselves using a modern hand held device.  The community for socializing and conducting business has exponentially increased for those who have a communication disabilites.  Insurance companies and Medicaid do not cover these; but do cover big clunky speech generating devices that cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. Let’s be clear here though.  We do understand that there are instances where these devices are the right fit for someone.  We are not discounting their usefulness and need.

We would like to officially thank Robin Snegg Krueger with Disability Resources/New2U Computers, 50 E. Greg St in Sparks, Nevada and Alicia Detriech of Mac-O-Rama, 4690 Longley Lane, Reno, Nevada for their involvement with our “Gift a Voice” Project! If you are local to Reno, you can drop off your last generation devices at either of these locations.  Alicia, owner of Mac-O-Rama (an authorized Apple service provider), will reset the devices so no worries about your personal information.

If you are not local to Reno you can mail your device to Mac-O-Rama, For Turning Views Foundation, 4690 Longley Lane #22, Reno, NV 89502 (make sure it’s packaged to protect!)  Thanks and we would love to hear your Comments!

I Have a Dream

(This post contributed by Camilla Downs - Camilla blogs at CamillaDowns.com)

“Whatever you dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe

I have a dream of  a world where amazing people like my daughter Lillian Darnell, people who have intellectual disabilities, genetic differences, chromosome abnormalities, and the like are NOT pigeonholed into jobs performing mundane tasks that don’t reveal and let shine their uniqueness.  Jobs that do not give them the opportunity to share their unique and different view of the world.

I have a dream of a world where those closest to these magnificent people and those who are entrusted to educate them shift their paradigm.  A world in which we become aware of NOT what they can’t do or what they are doing wrong or different.  A world where educators don’t attempt to make them fit into a cookie cutter system that is so archaic even “typical” kids don’t fit in.  A world where we open our eyes and discover what they CAN DO, what they are GOOD at doing and what they LIKE to do.  A world where we notice what excites them, what fuels their passions.  A world where WE take the initiative to mentor them to cultivate this, shape and mold it into a way for them to earn a living for themselves and not have to rely on a minimum wage job and an SSI check.  Whether that be working for someone else OR . . . being an entrepreneur.  A world in which we, and they, don’t feel guilty or wrong about using their differences to their advantage in their life.

“Each of us has a Different gift that lies within us.  Some amongst us just need a little extra help in discovering that gift and sharing it for the benefit of the world. ” Camilla

My part in this dream is to do whatever I can to give these awesome people and their families the tools, information and resources to further their dream and mine. To continue and further my efforts with Turning Views Foundation to be a nonprofit that truly helps to mentor and guide these amazing individuals in discovering their talents and gifts, reach goals and to have a career doing what they love to do OR become an entrepreneur and do what they love!  The Foundation wants to do everything it can to give them a voice in their own future.

Do you feel strongly about this dream?  Want to learn how you can help further this dream? Want to be a part of the Different iz Good Movement? Visit Here! Thanks y’all for your support and encouragement! With your help Turning Views Foundation will make the lives of others better, empower others to do things they never dreamed they would do and will give a voice to those without one!

I have a dream . . . what’s your dream?  Please share your dream with us!