Monthly Archives: October 2012

Spread the Word to End the Word – John Frankin Stephens

For those of you who haven’t heard, Ann Coulter tweeted (once again) the word “retard” in a tweet referring to President Obama (again) after the most recent presidential debate.

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As I was looking at this tweet on her twitter account I noticed that this tweet has been retweeted not once but, 3.598 times. It was favourited 1,509 times.

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This is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Ann Coulter (I honestly don’t even really want to speak her name) has said that she does not regret the use of the word at all. I could go on and on for hours about this, as I have many times before but instead I’d like to share something with you. John Franklin Stephens, a man with Down Syndrome wrote an open letter to Ann Coulter asking her why she would ever use this word. This link is a link to a video of him reading the letter he wrote. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz6xw6mHFV4&feature=youtu.be

The letter itself can be found here: http://specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/an-open-letter-to-ann-coulter/

“Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?
I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.
I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have.
Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next.
Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift.
Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more.
After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.
I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.
Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.
No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.
Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger
Special Olympics Virginia”

I now have a few words for you, John Franklin Stephens.

I read your letter minutes after it was published on the Special Olympics blog. You are an inspiring, incredibly smart man. Thank you for writing this letter and for reading it publicly. You sir, are going to change this world. Thank-you.Your words have touched the lives of thousands of people. People who have been involved in the r-word movement since the beginning, people who have never even thought about the hurtfulness of this word, people all over the world. You have changed peoples view on this word. You have given people something to think about. I have read so many amazing articles about you over the past few days. You are an inspiration to many. You are an inspiration to me. Thank-you for your advocacy and honestest in your letter. As I mentioned before, you are going to change the world. Keep on rocking and advocating.

Everyone, please take the pledge and stop the use of the r-word. Take it here http://www.r-word.org

Stand up.

Here is one of my favorite posts about Ann Coulter, from my all time favourite blog, Love that Max.

http://www.lovethatmax.com/2012/10/this-is-exactly-why-word-retard-hurts.html

I will leave you with some words to think about from John Franklin Stephens: “The problem is, it is only funny if you think a ‘retard’ is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.

Peace.

Spread the Word to End the Word.

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Autism Speaks?

If anyone wants to know what has been bothering me immensely lately, it is this PSA (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=73o3TOh99Es#at=10) that Autism Speaks (United States) has put out to prepare for the upcoming election.

“Autism Families” in the United States do not get much assistance with funding and therapies. I will 100% agree to that but I do not think that Autism Speaks, especially as an advocacy organization, has the right to make people with Autism seem helpless and unable to accomplish things.

I originally experienced this discomfort with them in April when then prevalence of Autism went from 1 in 110 to 1 in 88 (I could go on for hours about that) and Autism Speaks (US) sent out an email essentially warning the public about Autism. “At 1 in 88, let me be clear, the United States is experiencing an autism epidemic.” The definition of an epidemic: “A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time: “a flu epidemic”. First of all, Autism in NOT a disease. I will repeat that once more, Autism is NOT a disease. Therefore, Autism is not an epidemic. SARS, yes, that was an epidemic. H1N1, yes, an epidemic. Autism, NO, not an epidemic. Good try. This email also said: “This is a national emergency. We need a national strategy.” Again, I will not disagree that the States need better care for people with Autism, Heck! We need better care too! But scaring the heck out of people is not getting anyone, anywhere. For an organization that is meant to advocate and educate, you’re really just scaring people off.

This PSA bothers me beyond belief. “but when you’re a person on the Autism Spectrum, you’re not really free.” This completely contradicts everything we’ve worked for! People are finally beginning to understand and accept Autism! Statements like these are pushing us ten feet back!! I completely understand the need for funding. I understand more than you know! But making people afraid of Autism is not doing anything for anyone! We are going from loving the idea of having our neurotypical children integrated with children with Autism but now it’s an “epidemic” and parents aren’t so comfortable with that idea anymore.

I could go on about this forever but I’m going to leave it at that for now. People, please don’t forget. Autism is not a disease. Autism is not an epidemic. Yes, the numbers have increased but keep in mind, so many more tools are now available for diagnosis. Perhaps these have always been the numbers, kids were just never diagnosed. Children, youth and adults with Autism are just the same as you and I. They just may do things a little differently. See the ability.

Respect.

After seeing all of the bullying children, youth and adults are subjected to on the Internet, I made this video to highlight and bring to the light, the hurtfulness of these things. Please check it out here:

Life as a South Porcupiner!

Hola.

As most of you know, I am currently living (near) Timmins! I have found a super fun forest and have brought my camera with me a few times and these are some of my pictures. 🙂 It’s a pretty sweet forest.

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What’s been going on.

Hola Amigos.

So it has been a long while. A lot of interesting things have happened since I’ve written something that wasn’t done it two minutes. Had another AMAZING summer at camp. 🙂 One of my all time favourites. Great staff, great lodgers, all around wonderful time.

I am now living in Timmins, Ontario. Ah. I’m going to school at Northern College and studying Educational Assistant (which is now actually Educational Support), Developmental Service Work and eventually Autism and Behavioural Science. This is great because it’s obviously something that I love and (not to sound conceded at all..) am pretty good at. The downfall is that I have been doing this for so long and have so much experience a lot of the things we are learning has just become common sense for me. This does put me ahead assignment wise but sometimes classes get pretty boring. But that’s okay, it just means that I have more time to make sure that my assignments are great.

I have found a wonderful Special Olympics Floor Hockey team that I am coaching (much different than the Giants but great all the same) and the swimming season starts tomorrow so I will be starting to coach SO swimming then. I miss my Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings very much though. Go Fergus Phantoms! Go Guelph Giants!

I’ve also found a very fun forest here. When I am not in class, working on assignments, on Skype with Laura or coaching SO, I am in the forest. I love it there.

And now to the point of this post. A lot of very interesting things have been happening in the Special Needs community over the past few months. I’m everyone on Facebook is getting tired of seeing my posts about them so I’m just going to do it here so that I don’t have to constantly bore people to death with what I find interesting. First, two very important things in our community have happened.

1. Community of Hearts: Community of Hearts is a program being run by some pretty amazing people, if I do say so myself. This is a program for young adults with Special Needs that encourages after High School learning and life skills. This is an essential program to our community. I cannot express to you the importance of this program. The government is closing day programs all over the province and people are being left without programming once they finish school at 21. There is literally nothing for these people. Community of Hearts is ESSENTIAL. Add them on Facebook, see what they’re all about. They hold social events, dances and stuff. You’re all welcome to come with me to them. It’s so important. This is an amazing program run by some amazing people. They applied for an Aviva Community Fund grant but didn’t make the first qualifying round, luckily, there is another one. So if you could all vote for Community of Hearts, everyday, it would be greatly appreciated. Once again, I cannot express the importance of this program.

Vote here (starting Monday): http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf14313?fb_action_ids=249450618510203&fb_action_types=avivacommunityfund%3Avote&fb_source=timeline_og&action_object_map=%7B%22249450618510203%22%3A469673973056047%7D&action_type_map=%7B%22249450618510203%22%3A%22avivacommunityfund%3Avote%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

Add them on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/communityof.hearts?fref=ts

Watch a video to see some of the amazing stuff they do here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c-Rgao3Ky3Y

2. The Power of Play- A barrier free playground. This is an EXTREMELY exciting project taking place right in Fergus. This is an accessible park in Fergus! HOW GOSH DARN EXCITING IS THAT!? I won’t go into too much detail but basically, it is another essential part of our community. I speak from my experiences of bringing the kids I work with to parks, Fergus’ parks are not built for people with different abilities (I usually just ended up bringing them to Nick’s Dragonfly Playground in Guelph, which you can read about here- https://adventuresofalix.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/nicks-dragonfly-playground/). They have also applied for an Aviva Community Fund grant but were more lucky and may have made it into the qualifying round (we won’t know until tomorrow)

Read more about the playground and vote again (if needed, starting Monday) here: http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf13678

Like them on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Power-of-Play-Fergus/295596937215071?fref=ts

There have been some interesting and in some cases, devastating  funding cuts for people with different abilities across the province but I have to go to class so I will get into those later. But here are a couple interesting articles about them.

http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/818814–families-with-autistic-children-often-look-beyond-government-funded-programs <– Lack of funding for children, some of the stats in here are ridiculous.

http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1268220–families-disability-funding-meet-the-parents-who-are-speaking-out <– SSAH funding completely cut after the age of 18. Beyond crazy.

http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1269213–disability-support-families-fear-ontario-s-funding-changes-leave-them-unable-to-cope#.UHcyYbofrXw.twitter <— SSAH funding is just blowing my mind.

More to come.

Namaste. (that’s a joke because I was in India this time last year.)

Some great M quotes.

It has been a while, a very long while. I am very excited because in FOUR DAYS I GET TO GO TO FERGUS!! Basically my plan consists of going to CW Life Skills and spending a great deal of time with Travis and then heading over to VT (where I did my elementary school special education co-op placement for two years) and hanging out with those kids. I’M SO EXCITED! In honor of getting to see M on Friday, I am going to share some of my favorite M moments from the summer/last year. (for those who don’t know, M is one of the boys that I work with and he’s in one of my co-op classes)

1.

teacher: “quick like a bunny, M!”
M: “hey! I’m not a bunny!! I’m M!”

2.
M: “oh Miss Alix, those Pterodactyl children broke my heart. They took it and broke it right in half!”

3.
*I ask M to not take toys from other kids without asking.*
M:”you broke my heart, you shattered it. You really broke my heart.”
All while making a heart shape with his hands and breaking it apart.

I’m so excited to see this boy! Possibly the most hilarious kid I know.

Secondly, I get to see some of my Fergus Phantoms this weekend too so now I will share my two all time favorite Phantoms quotes.

1.
“if you forget the goggles next week I’ll be sooooo furious I’ll set the pool on fire!”

2.
“Coach Alix, sometimes I wish you’d just fall in love with me!!”

Peace and hopefully see many of you very soon!