G is for Gift

(Excerpt from my book, “D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance”)

Each and every person on this Earth is unique, and holds a gift to share with the World . . . our true selves. This includes those in our society who have a handicap, disabilities, and those with special needs. Many of us keep our true selves buried deep within, as I did, for fear that we will be considered different and unaccepted. Some of us just need a little extra help in the form of guidance to nurture and grow our special gifts. Okay, maybe a lot of extra help! Everyone benefits when we let our differences and gifts radiate and glow.

Our differently-abled children simply process the world, information, and life, differently than we do; but they are in good company. There have been many throughout history who also processed differently; like Albert Einstein; Michelangelo; Thomas Edison; Amelia Earhart; and Steve Jobs, to name a few. They had amazing, life changing, life improving gifts, and were successful in spite of their label as freaks and kooks. Today the labels may have changed, but the thoughts still remain.

Lillian is a young lady who shines like no other, and has a beautiful inspiring energy about her. She and children like her teach us lessons about acceptance and change. This is one of their gifts. As an integral spoke in the wheel they can turn around societal and stereotypical views that they don’t have anything to offer; are a drain on our country’s resources; or views that they, and their family are unhappy and should be pitied.

Another one of Lillian’s gifts is showing us the benefits of embracing technological innovation, and the shift in the way we communicate. Technology can be life changing and life improving for some amongst us, and should be approached with an open mind. We no longer solely communicate with our mouths and voices as a society. A great majority of us use technology and social networking sites to stay connected, communicate, and conduct business.

On a beautiful summer day in 2009, I visited Lillian at school. Her class was at recess. As I stood chatting with Lillian’s teacher, I was scanning for Lillian among the sea of kids. My eyes landed on a petite young lady pulling a cart behind her. Yes, that was my Lillian, pulling a cart loaded with her DynaVox unit. Tears welled in my eyes, a lump formed in my throat, and my knees got weak. I thought, “There has to be something better.” I made a firm commitment to myself and to Lillian in that moment that I would find something more mobile and compact for her to use to communicate, something that did not make her stand out. I began monitoring the use of keywords and phrases like speech impaired, nonverbal, and AAC on Twitter and Google Alerts. Almost immediately I came across Twitter mentions of an application for the iPhone and iPod touch by the name of Proloquo2Go that had just been released four months earlier. Proloquo2Go is a communication solution with natural sounding text-to-speech voices for people who have difficulty speaking. I researched a bit more, went to the Apple store, and bought Lillian an iPhone. With Proloquo2Go installed, I gave it to her that day when I picked her up at the bus stop. A meeting with the school followed that same week to inform them she would no longer be using the DynaVox and would be using the iPhone instead. Lillian figured out the iPhone and Proloquo2Go within a week. This was technological innovation at its absolute best! Turning Views Foundation’s Gift-a-Voice Project was birthed from this experience (Learn more at www.TurningViewsFoundation.org).

Today, our communication methods have shifted and are literally evolving to include more of our society than ever before. When a mother of a speech impaired, or nonverbal child “hears” “I Love You” or “Mom” for the first time, it touches their heart like nothing else can. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 7.5 million people in the United States have trouble using their voices for one reason or another. This includes people who are nonverbal, speech impaired, autistic, hearing impaired or who have dysarthria, apraxia, or aphasia due to chromosome abnormalities, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, Cerebral Palsy, brain injury and many other conditions.

To fully grasp the impact technology has in your daily life, take note throughout your day just how often you communicate using technology via email, text or social networking sites. If you still conduct many of your conversations over the phone, or face to face, stop and think, “How would I be having this conversation if I did not have the use of my voice, or if I could not articulate what I’m trying to say?” There are options now that weren’t available years ago. One of Lillian’s gifts is using my voice to show how technological innovation is benefiting society.

Our children with special needs are not broken, and do not need to be fixed. When we use negative words like “problems”, “cannot”, and “deficits” to define disability it is difficult to see the positive gift our child possesses. Focusing on what our child cannot do, is a barrier to seeing their gifts. When we accept that it is their “normal” to have special needs; our eyes can be opened to see our child’s gift that probably has been right there all the time.

Some will continue to only view those differently-abled as having something wrong with them and being limited. These same people won’t take the time, nor would have the patience to connect with those who are differently-abled. Unfortunately, they miss the experience of being on the receiving end of a unique heartfelt gift, a gift that only those with patience and peace can receive.

Until we have moved past the guilt stage and are well on our way to acceptance of ourselves and our children, it will be impossible to see the gift in situations, and the gift of our children, with and without special needs. No matter what, guilt gives power to the wrong thoughts and is a barrier to acceptance. Even in our most painful lessons there are hidden gifts whether we see them as such or not. The process requires patience with ourselves and not forcing the process to get over the guilt and “why” questions quickly. Guilt is a stage we simply must make our way through. Rest assured, when you arrive on the other side of guilt, you will realize the gift you hold, the gift your child holds and the gifts revealed through situations.

Tip for the Journey:

Identify and embrace your child’s strengths, needs, interests, fears and motivators. Focus on your child’s strengths and be open to providing opportunities for them to express themselves and their thoughts. Remember; don’t discount qualities that you or others find odd, irritating, or annoying. That just may be the wrapping paper around the gift they hold. Provide opportunities for them to paint, play an instrument, make crafts, dance, practice yoga, swim, play sports, write and use their hands to create.

Heartfuly Inspired,
Camilla
See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!

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The Year of the Present Moment

My Theme for 2012 . . .

It’s the time of year when many people make resolutions for the New Year. I can’t remember that I’ve ever made resolutions. It’s never been appealing to me. What I have done for the past few years is to have a theme for the year. I then use this theme to help with decision making and to have as a vision for the year. I create a vision board to go along with my theme and vision for the year. This gets framed and hung on my wall where I can see it every day. Last year Thomas and Lillian joined me in doing this also and we had fun as a family putting our boards together. Each of their boards is hanging on their wall also. This method has worked miraculously for me so I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe it’s time for a change from the “old style” of resolutions . . . Maybe it’s time to do it different!

Each year my theme and board have gotten more simple. In fact, everything in my life has gotten more simple over this past year. I find that I like and crave simplicity and life is so much easier to enjoy when I have simplicity. Usually I choose two words for my yearly theme. The 2011 theme has been Clarity and Faith. I had a vision of Team TLC being the foundation of 2011. If you’ve been following me, you know that Team TLC was born this year and has blossomed into something wonderful. I sensed how important it was for me to turn my focus and attention on my little family and that all things good would flow from my attention to our Team. I then had four quadrants that stemmed from our Team TLC Foundation. Two quadrants were health and weight. I have lost twenty six pounds and am more aware of the foods I and we eat. Still working on the other two quadrants. So for now, I’ll keep those to my little ole self! 😉

2012 is The Year of the Present Moment. The foundation will be to Focus on My Purpose in the Present Moment. To make more of an effort to be aware and really truly there for whoever I’m with, talking to, conducting business with or focusing completely on whatever I am doing or whatever event I am attending. I decided to choose three theme words for 2012 and they are Kindness, Knowing and Gratitude. Kindness as I enjoy spreading and sharing kindness and I believe it doesn’t stop with the person I share it with. I also believe we attract what we authentically put out there. Knowing as a reminder to listen to my intuition and gut. Even when I don’t know why I’m being pulled in a certain direction or how I am going to “do” whatever it is. Gratitude as life is less stressful and more joyful and peaceful when I am thankful for all that I have and thankful for all that I will have . . . grateful as if I already had it.

My four quadrants for 2012 are ME, Team TLC, Thomas and Lillian. In keeping with my simplistic theme, I have two words for each one of these. My quadrant is about creativity and patience. Team TLC is about a beach vacation. The Thomas quadrant is about coping and respect. The Lillian quadrant is about math and communication.

I have made many shifts this year. I wrote a book, D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance, lost twenty six pounds, made a complete change in my career and purged and decluttered my house, garage and life. The book is in the final stages of being edited and cover design. I have three modules left in obtaining my certification as a Special Needs Life Coach. Here’s a little tidbit I learned about purging household/kitchen items . . . Be ready to explain when your Mom visits for Christmas and you got rid of some of the things she gave you!! Oops! No worries y’all, I didn’t get rid of anything of sentimental value . . . just a few odds and ends. I figure if I only use it once a year, I don’t want it taking up space in my life!

Here’s what my vision board will look like when I’ve got it completed. It’ll definitely be much prettier though! Now, what about it? Will you do it different in 2012?

The Evolution of Communication

Have you noticed it?  Have you noticed the way in which we communicate and conduct business has fundamentally shifted?  We are no longer solely communicating with our mouths and voices as a society.  A GREAT majority of us are using technology and social networking sites to communicate, work, conduct business and stay connected.  We, as a society, have shifted our communication style.  It is my belief that this shift has occurred in such a way to literally wrap it’s arms around the segment of our population who communicate with sign language or who cannot articulate in such a way to be understood.  Our communication methods are literally evolving to include more of our society than EVER before.  There are 8 of every 1,000 people in the United States who have some sort of communication disorder.

To fully grasp this just notice throughout your day how often you are communicating using technology via email, texting or social networking sites.  If you still conduct many of your conversations over the phone or face to face, stop and think, “How would I be having this conversation if I did not have the use of my voice or if I could not articulate what I’m trying to say?”  There are options now that weren’t available years ago! I, for one, believe there’s more to what is occurring in our communciation style than meets the eye.  I can’t begin to imagine where this is headed.  What I do know is that this is a GOOD thing for my daughter, Lillian, and those like her.

This is the VERY reason I was driven to create the Turning Views Foundation, the Different iz Good movement and the Gift a Voice Project.  We began a recycling program through which we collect last generation iPhones, iPod Touches and (soon) iPads to be donated to those who communicate with sign language or who cannot articulate.  **Update** We now take ANY used/inactive cell/mobile/smart phones. We also have it set up so that schools, companies, churches, etc can hold a Gift a Voice cell phone recycling drive and pay NO shipping for mailing the phones!

We also just got our first media coverage about the iPhone, iPod and iPad recycling program.  You can read the article at Reno News & Review’s website and The Gift of a Voice in Sparks News Tribune.  Please visit the Different iz Good website if you would like to learn more, see how you can Get Involved, take a look at our Wish List or even browse our Different iz Good store!

Would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section! Thanks y’all!