Arc Kandiyohi County

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Wow, a newbie blogger!!  Just here to spread the word about Arc Kandiyohi County and all that it does to make the lives of people with disabilities within Kandiyohi County as good as they can be.   Our non-profit is a chapter of a Minnesota and National Arc organizations.  We receive support from them but exist through grants, fundraisers and donations from the communities we serve.  Our services are designed to support legislation for the people we serve which will allow them to live a life as independently and successfully as they are able to do.  We also work to integrate our people into the community as much as possible, removing as many barriers to integration as we can.

My journey to this point has been an interesting one.  I would have never believed that someday I would be an executive director of a non-profit agency.  I have been able to learn many life lessons throughout  this process.  One of my earliest lesson was learned as a very young speech pathologist accepting a position at Willmar State Hospital as they were beginning The Glacial Ridge Training Center for children and adults moving in from other state hospitals in Minnesota.  When I began my job, new residents arrived daily from other state hospitals, and these residents had come from places that had treated them well and from those institutions who hadn’t.  I worked with these  people, some of who had been institutionalized their whole lives and had all sorts of personalities and behaviors I had never met or seen.  I learned that although they may have been aggressive or passive, low functioning or high functioning, old or young, somewhere inside of them there was someone to relate to, treat with respect and honor.  I saw the humanity in all of them and I think that’s what hooked me on this career.  I only stayed in this position for 18 months but it still has an effect on me every day of my life.

Through this blog I want to continue getting the word out about Arc Kandiyohi County, our mission, and information we need you to know to make this a world that works for all people.  I hope to get our blogs out by Friday morning each week so people will expect to see something new each week.  Join me in my journey.

It’s All About Me

I thought this might me a good time to talk about how I got to be here, blogging on issues, events, voting,  etc.  I graduated from college as a Speech Pathologist in 1973.  I began to look for jobs.  That summer, there was an ad in the paper for a volunteer to work with children on their speech supporting the speech therapy lessons they were receiving.  I thought, wow, who better than me?  I worked with Tim and Susie that summer, helping them practice what they learned from their speech pathologist.  They lived at the Willmar State Hospital for a couple of weeks to get their speech services.  What a display of dedication from their parents to let their children come to Willmar to receive speech therapy!

Later that summer, the Willmar State Hospital posted a job description looking for a speech therapist to work for a new program called the Glacial Ridge Training Center.  I went in for an interview and got the job.  My only experience was working with children with Down Syndrome – namely Tim and Susie.  I had no idea what I was signing up for.

When I first started, it was like they didn’t know just what to do with me.  At that time, there were allegations that some of the state hospitals were ont caring well for those with disabilities.  Each state hospital in the system had a specialty – Willmar’s was alcholism.  The State of MN decided that they would ‘regionalize’ the state hospitals, moving residents closer to home, near their families.  Therefore Willmar would open up a new program for the developmentally delayed.  And I was their speech pathologist.

So I read records and tried to figure out just what my role was.  They didn’t even mention this kind of assignment in college!!  The new program was progressive in how they treated their clients.  No more restraints, talking down to them, treating them as if they were children.  We were to respect them, talk to them as we would talk to others.  Take the time to see the humanity in them.  Materials we used were to be age-appropriate.  No baby toys for an adult to work with.  Find something that would be age appropriate and yet teach the same concept.  For example, don’t sort blocks but sort silverware.

I worked there for 17 months.  I started a program to evaluate all of the residents on my caseload, created evening activities for the staff, helped Willmar Schools start a program for school age children.  I learned something every day I worked there.  I treated everyone with respect and worked hard to make their lives the best they could be, considering the circumstances.

I still see some of those ‘residents’ (as we were told to call them) at our events for Arc.  They are now living outside of the state hospital and seem to be very happy and healthy.  What a change since 1973!!

My husband and I moved to the cities.  He started his first teaching job and I looked for work as a speech pathologist, but couldn’t find any.  My husband was laid off from Minneapolis Public Schools (they were laying off 50-100 people every summer, so we looked elsewhere.  We got a phone call from Willmar asking my husband if he would be interested in a job and they also had a speech pathologist opening.  We moved back to Willmar to our new jobs.

To Be Continued Next Week!

It’s All About Me (Continued)

I began working for Willmar Public Schools in 1975.  As a speech pathologist, I was assigned to Adams School which was located near where Perkins is today in Willmar.  I also worked part time in the schools with students with speech impairments.  Adams School had four classrooms of school age children who lived at the Glacial Ridge Training Center.  There were four teachers, many paraprofessionals, a physical therapist and me.  It was not an ordinary school.  Many people were in the same boat as I had been before.  Never worked with people with disabilities, never had even seen children like we were teaching.  They had all been living in institutions away from the public eye.  I was definitely the most seasoned employee (17 months of experience).  We became a very tight knit group realizing that no-one could ever understand our jobs.  We worked with students to improve their communication skills, their understanding and their behavior.  It was fun, exciting, challenging, draining and worthwhile.  We had very little staff change.

We also had very few visitors.  That is, until the building was condemned.  Then principals, administrators and others were touring our school wondering where would these students go to school?  We ended up in various school buildings across the city.  Some schools, teachers and staff welcomed us.  Some couldn’t figure out why we were in their school buildings.  Everyone learned from it.  Some never recovered from it  Thinking back, I am appalled that so many people didn’t feel that these children did not deserve and education.  Not in their schools anyway.We also had very few visitors.  That is, until the building was condemned.  Then principals, administrators and others were touring our school wondering where would these students go to school?  We ended up in various school buildings across the city.  Some schools, teachers and staff welcomed us.  Some couldn’t figure out why we were in their school buildings.  Everyone learned from it.  Some never recovered from it  Thinking back, I am appalled that so many people didn’t feel that these children did not deserve an education.  Not in their schools anyway.

The next stop for these students was the Central Office Building.  This building housed the administrators and staff who ran the school district.  This was a good move for the students.  The administrators became aware of the challenge of these students, sometimes with a very negative picture.  They experienced some of the challenges of the students in the hallway, such as disrobing, screaming and eating inedible objects.  They also got to know some of the students, even those who occasionally visited their offices.  This inclusion of students into the schools system was instrumental in changing the lives of these students.  The challenging behaviors were partially a result of their institutional lives.  The times were changing.  Thanks to the school district, teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologist, therapists (speech, occupational and physical) and administration, these students were living better lives.

Next week:  entering the classroom

 

Disability is Natural

The following is an article about Kathy Snow.  I vividly remember hearing her speak at a convention I attended many years ago.  She is a woman to makes us take a look at how we interact, act, respond to, and work with people with disabilities.  Please read this article written by BellaOnline’s Children with Special Needs Editor.  Check out Kathy Snow’s  website at:  http://www.disabilityisnatural.com

Disability is Natural – Featured Website

Kathie Snow is an advocate for building inclusive communities that welcome and support all of us. Her contributions to the lives of children labeled disabled, and their families, have the capacity to transform our relationships and communities..
After my son was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly following his birth, I had two different experiences of who he was as a person.
First, he was the amazing baby boy who I felt with every cell in my body to be my very own son. Holding him in my arms gave me an overwhelming awareness of him as a person who drew upon an unlimited reserve of fierce, protective love and admiration I could not hold back if I tried. We belonged to one another and we belonged with one another.
Second, he was a baby with a diagnosis, a stranger whose individuality and potential were question marks. He was a baby with special needs, extra challenges and perhaps significant shortcomings. The diagnosis drew a circle around him that kept me out, and kept him from being completely within in mine.
Every instinct told me I wanted him with me, in my arms, so that I could feel our close connection. I needed him next to me so that I could enjoy, protect and defend him. While his little hand was wrapped around my finger, and I was caught in his amazing newborn gaze, nothing else could come between us. He was no one else but my son and I was no one else but a mother.
One of the strongest memories I have of his early weeks was talking to Dr. Mary Coleman, a researcher with a focus on babies and children with Down syndrome. I had arranged to bring my son to her office but was under my own doctor’s orders not to drive until I had recovered from a C-section. And to tell the truth, I just wanted to spend time with my baby and his sister without thinking about Down syndrome or traveling.
Dr. Coleman was completely supportive of this instinct, offering to schedule another appointment if I wanted to meet, but assuring me that my son would surely benefit from spending those hours at home with us. She left me with a drive to find expert, compassionate professionals who recognized the ordinary needs and strengths of my son and our family. My son’s accomplishments and interests are a result of whatever freedom from unnatural restraints he has enjoyed. I would never have questioned whether the ‘least restrictive environment’ was adequate if I had not questioned why his environment should be restricted at all.
Kathie Snow seems to understand and helps explain what I only began to glimpse in the brief conversations that I had with Dr. Coleman. As my son has grown, my perspective has been shaped by individuals who challenged me to use both my intellect and my common sense while planning my son’s life and childhood experiences.
Perhaps best known for her article advocating use of respectful “People First Language” reflecting the significance and dignity of individuals with disabilities, Kathie Snow has written prolifically about ways we must change our thinking to be the best parents and advocates for our sons and daughters. Because most of us have not shared the cultural experiences of growing up labeled disabled, we otherwise might make decisions that reflect the outdated ideas and prejudices that eliminate spontaneity and joy from our children’s endeavors and opportunities.
I admire Kathie Snow because she has the ability to guide parents through a journey to understanding what life is like and what it should be for our sons and daughters, who may have lost their status and citizenship in our communities because they each have been burdened with a diagnosis or treatment plan that disregards the basic needs and richness of experience we all deserve. I have so much more to learn, and I continue to enjoy the journey.
Kathie Snow calls for a “gentle rebellion against old attitudes and perceptions, to embrace new ways of thinking and to create an inclusive society.” She also celebrates advocates and educators who have gone beyond the restraints of their least restrictive environments. The logical conclusion to what she describes as “revolutionary common sense” is that disability is, indeed, natural. Kathie Snow celebrates the capacity each of us has to learn new ways of thinking and enlarge our own as well as our children’s potential. I enjoy her perspective and draw energy from her ideas.

Bloggers Block

Sorry I haven’t been blogging consistently.  Right now I am sitting at home and not leaving the computer until I have 6 weeks of blogs done.  It is a busy time at the Arc Office.  Now that I am actually writing blogs again, I find that I was missing it.  Hope you were too.

We just finished with our Arc Fall Dance which was held at the Kandi Entertainment Center.  Our dance featured the wonderful band Custom Made and honored those who have protected our country through military service.  Decorations were very patriotic as were the dance participants, dressing in their favorite red/white/blue shirts, hats, and anything else that caught their eye .  Soldiers offered up their time to have pictures taken with very excited attendees.  There was also an historical display of uniforms from the past.  Instead of door prizes, which has been traditional with our Fall Dance, we asked for donations to go to a new program in Sauk Center which allows military who are having difficulty to live in their facility while they are getting help.  Donations filled Kari’s car and when she went to Sauk Center to deliver them, they were overwhelmed.

Over 250 people attended the dance and had supper.  The night was a huge success.  If you ever want a volunteer opportunity that will give you more than you gave them, volunteer for one of our events.  I always leave smiling, and often even laughing out loud.

Call us at 320-231-1777 for volunteer opportunities.

Arc Kandiyohi County Fundraiser – FUDGE SALE

One of Arc Kandiyohi County’s fundraisers is our annual Fudge Sale.  It is a great fundraiser because the product is delicious, affordable and we get a 50% profit!  It couldn’t get any better than that.

We pre-sell fudge in either $5.00 or $10.00 boxes (1/2 lb or 1 lb).  There are nine flavors and they are very tasty.  We will be selling them in November and the company will make and box the fudge and get it to us the week before Christmas.  A small box of fudge for $5.00 is a gift everyone enjoys!!

Call the office to order your fudge or check online for an order form.  Orders will go in on November 27th.  You can pick it up at the office when it arrives on December 14th.  If you would like to sell fudge for us, please call us at the office and we will get your packet to you.  Call us at 320-231-1777 or go to our website: www.arckandi.org.

 

Arc and CTIC’s Transition Fair

CTIC (Community Transition and Integration Committee) is a group of people within the county and beyond who work together on transitioning students with and IEP (Individualized Education Plan) transitioning into the community after high school, both in the areas of employment and community living.  Last year we began offering a Transition Fair in collaboration with them for high school students in Kandiyohi County as well as surrounding counties.  It was a huge success and we are offering it again on November 8th at the Evangelical Free Church in Willmar from 8:30 to 1:40 pm. Last year we concentrated on Employment and this year we are concentrating on Community Resources.

There will be over 15 Booths at the Fair and there will be the opportunity to participate in Mock Interviews with business people in the community.  All of this will take place between 8:30 and 10:am.  The students will then attend short sessions, two before lunch and two after lunch with a closing afterward.  Sessions include:  Banking, Community Security, License Bureau, Health and Fitness, One Stop Shopping, and 5 others.

This is a great opportunity for students who will be graduating from high school within the next few years.  Go to our website to get more information or call 320-231-1777.

Where Did the Summer Go?

I am sitting here at the office wondering “What happened to June, July and August?”.  Is there an answer to my question?

Well, as far as Arc Kandiyohi County is concerned, I guess there is.  Ben has been working hard this summer with 15+ potential movers.  Ben is our Housing Coordinator and works with Arc MN and us on the Housing Access Services.  These services are available through a grant from Health and Human Services of the State of Minnesota.  What does this mean?  We are helping people in the community who have disabilities to find good, safe housing in the area, living as independantly as they can. Here’s a description of what we do:

What are Housing Access Services?

Housing Access Services helps eligible Minnesota adults with disabilities seek and locate suitable, affordable, accessible housing.

Housing Access Services can help you find a place to call home

Who is eligible for Housing Access Service?

Adult Minnesotans of all ages who have been assessed as eligible for Minnesota Medicaid home care or waiver services and who want tomove to homes of their own.

We can help you move!

Housing Access Services can:

Help people move to a place of their own from a group home or assisted living facility.

Accompany you when you look for housing.

Help complete rental applications and lease agreements.

Meet and negotiate with landlords or property staff.

Help with applications for publicly financed housing.

Help develop household budgets.

Assist with finding affordable furnishings and related household matters.

Pack and move your belongings.

Assist with application fees and deposits.Give us a call if you are interested.  There are some qualifications you must meet to participate in this program.  320.231.1777

Willmar – A Great Community

Arc Night at the Stingers Game was held last night.  We were able to get tickets at a reduced cost for families and adults who have a connection with Arc due to the generous donations by Bremer Bank, Owens & Co, Floor to Ceiling Store, Walt’s Soft Cloth Carwash and Law Office of Tejeda Guzman.   This provided families and individuals with a chance to see a WINNING Stingers game, meet players, get signatures, door prizes provided by the Stingers and Walt’s, have supper and enjoy the beautiful weather. 

What does this have to do with Arc?  I was sitting there, enjoying the game with my husband, my son and his two roommates.  I watched many many people walk by our group of 75 people.  Many of them knew someone in the group and stopped to talk with them.  Others yelled a hello and smiled.  The rest walked by with very few stares or looks or anything that would be construed as being uncomfortable.  That’s what Willmar has become.  As a small town, we have learned to welcome diversity.  I remember as a high school student talking to my dad who had some arguments when he stood up for the young college students living in Willmar who were black.  He was asked, “Would you ever let them date your daughter?”  My dad answered “yes”.  We moved on to the movement of the people with disabilities then living at Willmar State Hospital coming into the community to live, work and go to our schools.  The Hmongs were the next to come. Then many Hispanic families looking for a place to live moved to our community. Finally the Somali’s and other cultures.  Was it an easy road?  Not for everyone.  Has Willmar overcome many prejudices and moved forward?  Definitely.  We all have a ways to go yet, but when I experienced the feeling of belonging for our group last night at the Stingers Game, I think we can do it.

 

Autism Workshop

DID YOU KNOW:

The cause and cure of Autism is unknown.

People with Autism are people first, are more than a diagnosis, want to be respected, have dreams and hopes for their future.

Autism is present from borth or very early in development.

Autism is the result of laterations in how the brain processes information, which alters how the mind sees the world.

People with autism place a very literal meaning to words.

On Saturday, June 23rd, Arc Kandiyohi County sponsored a workshop presented by the Autism Society of Minnesota (ausm) at the Willmar Community and Activities Center in Willmar.  There were about 20 people in the audience; parents, grandparents, aunts, providers, sisters, great-grandmothers and people who have autism.

Dawn and LuAnn were the presenters.  They each have children who have autism.  This brought so much to the presentation since they live the life of parents of children with autism and could identify with the audience in a very personal way.  They presented their six week course in a modified course of 6  hours.  The information was practical, useful and  applied to many of the issues of those who were there to learn.

The morning session was an overall information presentation of what autism is (and isn’t) as well as general strategies they found useful.  They accepted and answered questions during the presentation and you could sense the empathy they felt with the audience.

The afternoon session was divided into two groups, young children and teens through adults.  The presentations were very different, focusing on issues typical for each age group.  The attendees were energized by what they had learned, standing and talking amoung themselves and with the presenters long after the workshop  was done.

We hope to bring this team back to the area to educate providers who work with children and adults with autism.  Thanks so much to the Autism Society of Minnesota for their informative, pertinent and useful presentation.

 

Traveling

Whenever we travel as a family, I find myself looking for others with disabilities as well as watching people’s reaction when they see or meet my son.  My son has Down Syndrome and is a very social fellow at 30 years of age.  He travels easily and is a confident young man.

We were recently vacationing in the Black Hills Area.  This, by far, has been the most integrated area we have traveled in that I can remember.  People of all disabilities were out enjoying Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills area.  People spoke to Scott directly, not looking to us to communicate for him (one of my pet peeves when they don’t).   Minnesota is also a state that is very accepting of differences.  We should be proud.  In other states and countries, very few people with disabilities, other than the elderly, are seen.  People stare at our son, talk loudly to him (apparently he is also deaf), and/or totally ignore him as if he was not there.  They ask us what he wants to eat at a restaurant.  When that happens, I just look at Scott and he starts ordering - usually a “cheeseburger and fries, no garnishes, no garden, nothing else on the plate”.  He has been burned too many times by having pickle juice mingling with his hamburger bun.  He loves to ask questions of any guide we may have and his questions are very appropriate.  He soaks in the information and remembers it all, bringing info up later that I don’t even remember.

Minnesota is a progressive state in the area of disabilities and we should celebrate.  Yes, there is work to be done, but sometimes it’s good to just say, “Way to Go, Minnesota!”