As 2009 comes quickly to a close, I must take time to remember and reflect on two tremendous losses impacting the special needs community this year.
My heart goes out to the families of Senator Edward Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics and special needs sibling extraordinaire. The world, especially for those facing the tremendous daily challenges of special needs, is in a much-better state of affairs because these two amazing human beings gave so unselfishly to others throughout their lives. Their choices have positively impacted the lives of millions of people with and without disabilities worldwide.
In a world now shamefully focused on reality television antics and granting instant fame for nothing of lasting value, I, for one, will be forever grateful for the outstanding examples of these two individuals, and for their remarkable courage. It's amazing what can be accomplished when we take the focus off of ourselves and onto a worthy cause.
My 2009 photo of one of the remarkable therapy dogs at RicStar's Camp. After falling off a truck and injuring her back years ago, Sophie now uses a cart on wheels to get around and share her love. Phyllis is her terrific partner.
To close out a great year that included professional travel to many places, where I met so many determined kids, dedicated families, and skilled professionals with big hearts, here's Day One of six of my favorite Faces of Ability shots from 2009.
Thank you all for blessing my life this year. You inspire me.
Check out this collection of Special Olympic moments from throughout the world. The reach and outstanding work of this marvelous organization continues to impact millions of athletes with special needs and their families each year. It is worthy of your support.
Photo courtesy of Special Olympics. Used with permission.
Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-Week Seven -by Judy Winter/JudyWinter.com 2009/All rights reserved.
Here is my final tip for creating holiday magic kids with special needs. I hope these seven tips have proved useful to you and helped you create a less stressful and more joyful holiday season for your entire family. You can also revisit these suggestions as you face other parenting challenges and family celebrations in the year ahead.
-Interact with family members with special needs, and encourage others to do the same. If the child uses a wheelchair, kneel to eye level and address the child directly. Allow other kids in the family to buddy up and assist the child with special needs in hanging ornaments, frosting cookies, setting the table, or passing out presents. Help that child participate whenever possible, while teaching other kids in the family valuable, lasting life lessons.
Children with special needs are great teachers. _________________________________________________________________
Center Photo: John McGinley of NBC's "Scrubs". This photo of John, the National Buddy Walk Spokesperson, was taken at the 15th annual DSALA Buddy Walk held November 15th at Santa Anita Racetrack. The actor is seen here with my friend (and his) actor Blair Williamson, and his girlfriend, Susie. Photo by me and used with permission of DSALA.
I am mesmerized tonight by the burning candle flame that helps me honor my much-loved son's life. This lovely, simple holiday ritual helps me, and millions of other bereaved families, remember and heal.
Learn more about The Compassionate Friends Annual Candle Lighting here.
The New York Times reports that 10-year-old actress, Kyra Ynex Siegel of Eugene, Oregon, has been cast as the understudy for the part of Helen Keller (Abigail Breslin) in the Broadway revival of 'The Miracle Worker.' Siegel is visually impaired.
Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs--Week Sixby Judy Winter /JudyWinter.com 2009/ All rights reserved
-Practice Forgiveness Whenever Possible. Most family members don’t intentionally set out to exclude children with special needs. They often just require education, support, positive examples and training to bring them up to speed. By focusing on creative solutions, families can help realize holiday magic for kids with special needs, too— and that’s in keeping with the spirit of the season!
A reminder that the The Compassionate Friends annual worldwide candle lighting that honors and remembers children who have died, will be held this Sunday, December 13th at 7 p.m. local time. For more information on this organization that supports bereaved parents, and about this beautiful, healing holiday tradition born in 1997, click here.
My candle remembering Eric will be burning brightly, too.
I'm so excited and proud regarding the recent selection of Stevie Wonder as a new UN Messenger of Peace. Wonder's focus will be on promoting the rights, dignity and awareness of 650 million people worldwide with disabilities. This amazingly talented man, who happens to be blind, is a great choice, complete with celebrity that will bring much-needed and long overdue focus to this important human rights cause.
For those of us who have worked so hard on behalf of this population, this is a ground-breaking moment and an event for us to celebrate.
Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs--Week Five by Judy Winter/ JudyWinter.com/ All rights reserved 2009
Buy age/skill-level appropriate gifts for the child with special needs. Regardless of how well intentioned, inappropriate gift selection for children with special needs hurts. When in doubt, ask parents for gift ideas, or obtain a copy of the child’s holiday wish list. Reserve baby toys (and baby talk) for babies!
Key Note: Toys "R" Us offers it's annual Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids, a toy selection guide 'for parents and friends of children with disabilities,’ to ensure that the big holiday toy wishes of kids with special needs come true, too. See my previous post for the link to this terrific resource. Photo: Judy Winter
The 2009 Toys "R" Us Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids, "an easy-to-use resource featuring specially selected toys that aid in the development of children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities," is now available to help you select great gifts for kids with special needs. Check it out, and learn more about how this valuable resource came to be here.
As an author, consultant, speaker, and award-winning journalist on special needs, I have the honor of creating greater awareness of the value and potential of millions of children and young adults with special needs worldwide. It’s work about which I am passionate. My book, 'Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations' (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, March 2006), is dedicated to my terrific son, Eric Richard Winter, who had cerebral palsy and passed away in 2003 at age 12. Eric was much more than just a disabled child, and now I'm sharing his lessons about ability with the world. I help adults see children with special needs through new eyes and challenge them to work harder to help this population reach their full potential. You can find out more about 'Breakthrough Parenting,' and my amazing son, by visiting my website: www.JudyWinter.com. There, you will learn how you can help me raise the bar of expectations for millions of children with special needs— one child at a time. It’s one deserving— and very cool cause!