Sunday, August 31, 2008

"We Love Detroit!"-the 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

I had a great time this holiday weekend attending the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, my first ever! Here are two shots out of the 700 I captured. I love this Porsche Team car- too bad it didn't win; but it wasn't for lack of effort. (More photos later after intensive editing)!). Sometimes a girl's just gotta play, something I plan to do more of in the future.

All the "We Love Detroit" signs and the motor-city spirit were contagious, especially with Mayor Kwame nowhere in sight.  The event was well organized and the people friendly.

I was in photographer's heaven! But my hearing's not so good today...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

It's Not Over Yet! -Support the September ParaOlympics Games in Beijing, too!

The Olympics aren't over yet, people!  It's time now to support the 4,000 elite Paralympic athletes  (those with disabilities) now in Beijing, China preparing to take to the world stage and showcase their athletic excellence and abilities, too.  The games, held on September 6th through September 17th, showcase a wide range of sporting events and disabilities.  The games are held in the same year and city as the traditional Olympics.

The Paralympics is governed by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) based in Germany.  According to the vision is,  'to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world."

Sound familiar all you fans of the Olympics?

Check it out- and good luck athletes!!

For more, visit:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

McCain & Palin & Down Syndrome, Oh My!

The surprise announcement of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as John McCain's partner on the Rep. ticket has gotten many tongues in the special needs world wagging,  even salivating.  

Palin recently gave birth to baby Trig, who has Down syndrome.   The potential for the tremendous exposure for the diagnosis and other special needs created by having a family in the White House raising a child with Down syndrome is too good to overlook.  Here's my take:

As exciting and ground breaking as having such families represented in the White House would be, it should not be the key reason anyone votes any ticket into the most powerful office in the world.  Nor should the fact she is a woman be the sole criteria.

Palin is also a staunch conservative, antiabortionist and lifetime member of the NRA. Do her political and personal values mesh with yours?  Are you comfortable with her political experience?

Palin is about to seek a demanding office as second in command at a time when she faces the beginning of a challenging parenting journey, one which anyone who has parented a child with special needs knows, is often filled with tremendous challenges and rewards all its own. It's far too early in the parenting game to know how Palin would handle combining this new family challenge with the demanding role of VP.

What this attention-grabbing announcement can do, as it continues to do with spirited arguments over use of the R-word in Tropic Thunder, is to give the media and the rest of us, a terrific opportunity to generate intelligent, thoughtful discussion about challenges facing individuals and families with a wide range of special needs.  It creates needed awareness for the overall cause.

Such valuable awareness and resulting conversation can help lead to lasting change in health care, education and equal access to valuable resources and services, decisions impacted at the highest level of government. That is the real beauty of this news and where I believe our focus should be.

We should not elect a baby to office, regardless of the potential for priceless, on-going special needs awareness- no matter how cute!

In my efforts to contribute to responsible media efforts that inform on this subject during this election-buzz time, I will be sharing key facts about Down syndrome, starting now (there's more in my book!). Above is a photo of my friends Gail Williamson, exc. director of the Down Syndrome Assoc. of Los Angeles (DSALA) & her talented, actor/son, Blair.  Used with permission.

Did You Know? 

Down syndrome occurs in
1 in every 733 live births?

For more information & inspiration, visit:

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS): 
or: Heart & Halo Talent, a division of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA)
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Phelps & ADHD & Grandoggy Griff

These days, everything Michael Phelps touches turns to gold, as in eight gold medals in swimming at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. 

(That's grandoggy Griff going for the canine gold in our pool above and patiently awaiting his medal, -- yummy dog treats-- at right!)

Did You Know?   
As a child, Michael Phelps faced tough daily challenges of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and was often teased and bullied? His saving grace was swimming, and the inspiring commitment and love of his mother, Debbie Phelps, who believed strongly in her son.

This is a powerful story in many ways.  But perhaps no message is as strong for the special needs community as the reminder of the power of a parent's unconditional love and the critical importance of focusing on and nurturing a child's individual gifts and abilities regardless of a challenging diagnosis.

It's a great message to embrace as another school year gets underway.

Congratulations Michael and Debbie Phelps, and thanks for your golden example.

For more on ADHD, visit:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Computer Got Your Tongue? Disability & Technology

In a promising development for those with severe motor challenges, Georgia Tech researchers announce they are working on a tongue-powered system called the Tongue Drive System "that could manipulate wheelchairs, home appliances and control computers." 

Still in early testing stages, this news should be of interest to those looking to technology to increase independence options.  

My son may well have benefitted from such innovative technology, options we were researching fully before his death in 2003. Technology can and does open up the world of possibilities for those with disabilities.

Here's one link for the article, 'Disabled encouraged by work in Atlanta; challenges remain,' by Greg Bluestein Associated Press Aug 25, 2008:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs:Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Maureen McCormick (aka Marcia Brady) Boycotts Tropic Thunder

Did you know that Maureen McCormick of Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! Brady fame has a brother with an intellectual disability? It's true! She's added her name to those refusing to see the Ben Stiller film Tropic Thunder, telling the media and fans how tough it was hearing the r-word used to put down her brother when they were growing up.

Marcia was never my fav Brady kid.  I liked Jan the underdog (I love championing the underdog!). Marcia always seemed too perfect. But I like her now!  Thanks for speaking up, Maureen.  In today's world, celeb voices do help advance the cause. Maureen gets additional kudos for supporting Best Buddies (

(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics/used with permission).

Here's the link to the MSNBC story:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Oprah- Sept. 2008

Words of Wisdom-Sept. 2008
(Formerly known as Fav Quote of the Month)

"Life isn't about what you have;
it's about what you give."
-Oprah Winfrey

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Minute Vacations-September 2008

Minute Vacation-September 2008
 Sunset on Sultry Summer Evening
Farmer's Field in Michigan
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Shout Out! Artist at Work-A Success Story & Autism

Above: Clippowaza and Luciaflying Cow by D.J. Svoboda. 
Images used with permission of artist.

If you visit my website at, you'll find my call for success stories from those living with special needs.  D.J. Svoboda is a talented young artist who recently contacted me and shared his story and his cool, whimsical artwork.  Check him out, and then share your own stories with me!  

Thanks, D.J.!

"My name is D.J. Svoboda and I am a Autistic Artist.

I have created The Imagifriends based on difficult situations I have faced growing up with Autism. They are brightly colored characters who help and support one another. They live in a wonderful place called Imagiville where everyone is accepted " just the way they are" and no one is ever picked on or mistreated.

I want to use my art to help encourage others with Autism and to let them know that they too can help make the world a better place. I have just had my first book published about acceptance for those with Autism. 

You can learn more about me,my book and my mission by visiting my website at www.

Have a very wonderful day, everyday!"
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Did You KNOW? Democratic National Convention & Disablity

Did you Know?

People with disabilities represent nearly 4 percent of the delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  (source: CNN)

It's progress.  But I can't wait to see that number rise.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Back-to-School Buzz. Consider This!

It's back-to-school time in an economy challenged nationwide. Please consider supporting efforts in your community to provide backpacks and school supplies to children who need them.  

It can and does help them fit in and get off to a great school-year start, especially important for kids with special needs at higher risk for teasing and bullying.  

You can help level the educational playing field just a bit.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stop Using the R-Word

Words DO hurt...Please take a moment to add your support to this important campaign.
Author. Speaker. Advocate: Special Needs Issues
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Time is Running Out For Great Summer Adventures!!

Hope it's been a great summer for you and your family; it's going quickly!!  The good news is there's still time to enjoy all the seasonal magic, even as the days get shorter by the minute!

But you've gotta be quick, before backpacks, early morning bus calls, and IEPT meetings (sorry...) start taking over your life again. Memories created in these waning days of summer can help see you through another challenging year of parenting.  Here are a few photos from some of my recent summer adventures, including kids at the beach, dog days, big sailboats and cool kites on Mackinac Island, summer flowers and dazzling sunsets, street festivals and of course, romantic weddings. 

So many adventures and so little time.

Enjoy them all! Then get the gang back outdoors quickly, before it snows. Word on the street, and in the Farmer's Almanac, is it's going to be a rough winter everywhere!  

So take lots of pics and video to enjoy later on when you're stuck indoors for weeks on end, or facing another IEP (sorry again).

Summer leaves us far too soon...

RicStar's Camp/Music Therapy Included in Blake's Story Video by the State News at Michigan State University

Here's a cool update involving one of our terrific RicStar's Camp kids, and the value of music therapy and good parenting.  Check out this great video and family advocacy example! Thanks to the State News @ MSU! 

If you want to learn more about RicStar's Camp, check out my former blog entries or visit the RicStar's Camp link at my website: It's an awesome place to be each summer, but you've gotta sign up early! 

Music and music therapy do change lives....

Judy Winter
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Maria Shriver takes on Trophic Thunder in LA Times piece

Another timely entry regarding the R-Word/Tropic Thunder furor.  Check out Maria Shriver's Sunday essay in the Los Angles Times and add your own words to the debate.   The fact that so many people don't get what the argument is all about, just proves how much our voices need to be heard, and how far we still have to go.  This isn't about political correctness; it's about human dignity and equality for millions of people worldwide.  Words DO hurt, especially when MISused.

Well said, Maria.

(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics-used with permission),0,1982289.story

Judy Winter
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Remarks by Tim Shriver, Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics/Protest of "Tropic Thunder" Film Premiere

You won't often find me devoting so much space on my blog to one specific issue or topic.  But the on-going furor over the film 'Tropic Thunder" has rallied and united special needs advocacy leaders and groups as perhaps little ever has.  We must do a better job of joining our individual and group voices to promote disability rights and awareness. That's how real change will occur for this population.  When we join our loud voices and large numbers, we're a powerful force, serving notice that we aren't going away.  Instead, we're getting stronger, more united and increasingly committed.

Now is the time for us to be heard.  

As in prior posts, I again state my belief that this r-word issue not just important to those with intellectual disabilities (the focus of this movie's blunders), but to all those living with a wide range of disability.  An assault against the dignity and human rights of one group and a specific disability, impacts us all.  

My son Eric, had a significant physical disability.  Because of the degree of  his physical needs, including wheelchair use and severe speech challenges, many people wrongly assumed he also had an intellectual disability, allowing them to dismiss him more easily. I experienced firsthand just how quickly people doubted Eric's potential and value when armed with the limiting belief that he was both physically and cognitively challenged.  Outdated images and perceptions of this population, including those presented by the media and Hollywood, help fuel such ignorance.

Eric passed away far too soon at age 12 in 2003 and I miss him deeply.  The many tough, stinging and infuriating moments we faced due to the ignorance and lack of awareness of others helps fuel my on-going special needs work.  Eric remains my greatest teacher, complete with disability.  But nearly twenty years after my son's birth and diagnosis, much still needs changing.

We can and must do better by our fellow humans regardless of the individual challenges or diagnosis facing them.  Only a thin line of circumstance separates any of us from joining the ranks of the 54-million Americans (plus 200 million people with Intellectual Disabilities alone worldwide) whose diverse faces represent the disability community.  I know firsthand how quickly a family can join that community, leading me to ask two key questions of others, especially those who may feel this r-word-movie-thunder-noise is much ado about nothing.  It's not.

What would you want if it was your brother, sister, mother, father, cousin or friend who was impacted by special needs?  

How would you want to be treated if it were you facing disability?

What too many people don't get about this film is that it's not just harmless, box-office entertainment.  It encourages others to laugh loudly at the big expense of millions of children and adults.  As school is about to begin, (complete with real concerns about bullying), too many kids and adults may well carry the movie's negative language and image of those with special needs back into their school hallways, communities, homes, workplaces and into daily interactions with those with disabilities.  However intended, the movie will most likely help reinforce outdated stereotypes and images while granting permission for the continued careless, casual use of the offensive term retard, especially by our young people.  Hollywood can do better, and so can we.  

What follows are the words shared by Tim Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics, at the premiere of the film 'Tropic Thunder" in Los Angeles on Monday, August 11, 2008.    Read them carefully, and then please act on behalf of the millions of people worldwide living with the daily challenges of special needs, including exclusion, discrimination or worse. 

Special Olympics has served an a model for my special needs advocacy and work for the past two decades. No one provides a better example on how to best serve the special needs population with passion, dignity and commitment. I'm grateful for their on-going example, worldwide impact, and much-needed voice on this important topic of discussion.

To sign the Special Olympics Pledge to end use of the R-Word, please visit:

Read on; then add your voice, too.

(B/W photos courtesy of Special Olympics/used with permission/ Top two photos: my much-loved, talented son, Eric Richard Winter).

Remarks by Tim Shriver Chairman and CEO, Special Olympics
Protest of “Tropic Thunder” Film Premiere
August 11, 2008 / Los Angeles, California

Over the last 10 days, Stacey Snider and other leaders of DreamWorks Studios have met with me and representatives of a large coalition of individuals and organizations concerned about the film “Tropic Thunder,” the subplot film “Simple Jack” and the slogans “Once upon a time there was a retard,” and “Never go full retard.”

Members of our coalition—self advocates and family members of people with intellectual disabilities have seen the movie and reported shock and disgust. Their reactions have resonated with many of us who take their cause and their voice with the utmost seriousness. I am grateful to Ms. Snider for listening to the coalition and for taking steps to eliminate some of the most offensive marketing elements of the film. I am also grateful for her commitment to working in the future for an end to denigrating speech and hurtful portrayals of people with intellectual disabilities in film and in society. 

DreamWorks and its leaders have a powerful reputation for advancing socially and politically important issues. In particular Steven Spielberg has been a generous supporter of the work of Special Olympics for which I am deeply grateful. I look forward to counting the hopes and dreams of 200 million people with intellectual disabilities among the causes of this formidable group of creative and artistic leaders.

Now however, is the time to raise our voices against “Tropic Thunder” and the harm it is sure to visit on people with intellectual disabilities. Together with the members of the international coalition, I am asking Steven Spielberg, Stacey Snider, Ben Stiller and the entire “Tropic Thunder” team to stop the film, and asking movie theaters and movie goers to shut this movie out. “Tropic Thunder” is a colossal blunder. Don’t show or see “Tropic Thunder.”

The degrading use of the word “retard” together with the broader humiliation of people with intellectual disabilities in the film goes way too far. When the R-word is bandied about and when bumbling, clueless caricatures designed to mimic the behavior of people with intellectual disabilities are on screen, they have an unmistakable outcome: they mock, directly or indirectly, people with intellectual disabilities. They perpetuate the worst stereotypes. They further exclusion and isolation. They are mean.

Mockery in any form, or for any purpose or directed at anyone, especially those least able to defend themselves, is neither funny nor acceptable. We must bring it to a stop.

When I look for leadership at a time such as this, I look to my mentor and friend, Loretta Claiborne. She is a tireless worker, a taxpaying citizen, a courageous speaker, a world class marathoner, and an invaluable role model. Most importantly, she, like all people with intellectual disabilities, has unique gifts, that deserve to be welcomed, appreciated, and celebrated.

Loretta Claiborne has been speaking in schools around the world for over 20 years, asking children to stop using the word retard as a term of mockery, recounting the painful and terrifying ways it was used against her as a child. More importantly, she has asked thousands of young people to reach out in positive ways to their peers with intellectual disabilities: join Best Buddies and be a friend; join Special Olympics Unified Sports and be a teammate, join your parents and friends and be open, welcoming, and understanding. Over and over again, she reminds her audiences “If you open yourself to people with intellectual disabilities, you will be amazed at their gifts and amazed at how much joy and happiness comes back to you.”

She and thousands of other self advocates with intellectual disabilities deserve to have their appeal heeded.

So today, we ask all people of goodwill to follow Loretta, not “Tropic Thunder.” Parents, religious leaders, educators, employers, health care leaders, political leaders, producers, actors, directors, writers, and DreamWorks leaders: join Loretta Claiborne by launching a national effort to bring injustice to an end and mockery of people with intellectual disabilities to an end. Join the world of welcome and acceptance. Join the world’s greatest movement of human dignity and joy. Come to discover the best in others and find the best in yourself.

Name calling is a subtle but malicious practice that only serves to perpetuate stigma, fear, intolerance, and more. Ban the R-word.  Ridicule is a subtle but malicious practice that only serves to exclude and marginalize people with intellectual disabilities. Stop “Tropic Thunder.”

People with intellectual disabilities can be great athletes, productive employees, positive friends, courageous role models: Let’s open our schools, doctors offices, businesses, communities, and most importantly, our hearts to the giftedness of every human being. 

No more exceptions. No more exclusion.

And if you go to “Tropic Thunder” I would ask only this: when you hear the word “retard” and when you see the scenes filled with mockery, think of Loretta Claiborne or Eddie Barbanell or John Taylor or Miguel Diaz or Billy Quick or Sophia Wesolowsky or ….Think of their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones. Think of their daily efforts to win a place for themselves in a world that is so frequently dismissive. Think of their athletic ability, their openness, their wisdom, their courage, their ups and downs, their struggles, their smiles.

When you leave the theater, think of them again. Become their fans. Follow them in building a world dignity, acceptance, and joy for all.

Tim Shriver
Chairman and CEO
Special Olympics, Inc.
1133 19th Street NW
Washington DC 20036
1-202-715-1147 - office
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Special Olympics Launches Campaign to Stop Use of R-Word

If you're a regular visitor to this blog and familiar with my work/book on special needs, you know I always encourage you to advocate for the cause in whatever way possible. It goes with the territory.

Yesterday, I added my voice to those protesting the film Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks/Ben Stiller) because of the frequent use of the word retard and the inexcusable, outdated, negative portrayal of those with intellectual disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation).

Today, I am asking you to add your voice in response to the email below from my friends at Special Olympics. It gives you an opportunity to easily take a stand on this timely issue.

Please consider adding your pledge to the new Special Olympics campaign designed to create awareness and stop use of the R-word. Words DO hurt millions of people worldwide with special needs. It's time that our use of this ugly six-letter word stopped. It serves no valuable purpose while doing potential harm to millions of people trying to live out their best lives with dignity, respect and opportunity, too.

Here's the info and call for action from my friend Kirsten Suto Seckler at Special Olympics: Please take a moment to take part in this important advocacy. It does matter.   

(Photo courtesy of Special Olympics/used with permission).


This week, Special Olympics is launching a new campaign to raise consciousness about the derogatory use of the word "retard." We are launching this campaign now because of this week's release of the film "Tropic Thunder" which has scenes that insult and demean people with intellectual disabilities.

I am asking you to help make a stand. Visit to take a pledge not to use the R-word - even if you don't mean it that way.

You can also help by boycotting the film "Tropic Thunder."

Thanks for your support in advance! Together we can all create a more accepting and inclusive society.

All the best,

PS - Please pass this along!

Kirsten Suto Seckler
Director, Global Marketing and Awareness
Special Olympics, Inc.
1133 19th Street NW
Washington DC 20036
1-202-715-1147 - office
1-202-492-6671- mobile
1-202-824-0354 - fax

"If you are a fan of dignity, acceptance and the human race, then you are already a fan of Special Olympics"

Thank you for joining us in this important, long-overdue effort. Together, we can and do make a difference in the lives of those with special needs.

Click here to the ARC website to see Timothy Shriver's comments on CNN during Monday night's protest at the Tropic Thunder's LA premiere (note protesters' t-shirts proclaiming 'Tropic Blunder').

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, August 11, 2008

It was a GRANDDoggy Weekend!

What a great weekend!  It included terrific weather, a visit from my daughter and adorable, active granddoggies, and attending a wonderful folk festival (more photos later). That's where I got this shot of a great little PAWS pup in training to become a valuable service dog to someone with special needs.   

I love PAWS with a Cause! 

Check it out!

The other photo is my grandbabies Zelda & Griff 
working overtime begging for more treats.... They're just a little bit spoiled by me, but I don't see them (or my daughter!) nearly enough.  

So what's the  harm?  Their visits do us all a world of good.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Special Needs

The Olympics & Disability Awareness- Coca Cola Gets it Right!

Unlike DreamWorks (see my last entry), the Coca-Cola Company gets the importance of including positive disability awareness and portrayal in its media/corporate efforts.  

Kudos to the industry giant for its outstanding 'Opening Ceremonies' commercial highlighting thirty Olympic athletes, including four Special Olympic athletes, with dignity and respect.  This historic commercial is airing several times in prime time during the 2008 Olympics before millions of people worldwide! 

Since 1968, Coca Cola has been a Special Olympics global partner. Talk about being a valuable agent for needed change.  "We are grateful to the Coca-Cola Company for their 40 years of support for the movement," says Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics.

Bravo!  I think I'll go have a Coke right now.

To view the commercial (which brought tears to my eyes!) on YouTube: 

This is how disability gains should be portrayed in the media in 2008. 

Are you paying attention in Hollywood?
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations