Friday, September 30, 2011

Playing Shutterbug -Oct. 2011/ Rick Springfield

I took photos of lots of name performers at outdoor concert venues in Michigan this past summer, including these of Rick Springfield at the annual Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing on a steamy July evening. I'll share a few of my favorite summer shots with you each month, providing a brief escape from the challenging world of special needs for us both. I plan to continue to pursue a newfound love of visual journalism as I continue my passionate commitment to issues of special needs advocacy.

Balance in all things is good for your perspective, your career, and your health. At least, it is for me.

Photos by Judy Winter 2011. All rights reserved.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day -Thanks from Tim Shriver

If you took part in Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, or do your part for the special needs community throughout the year, this thank you from Tim Shriver (love him!) is for you. Great organization and leadership. Great athletes. Great mission. What a legacy.

Now celebrating 3.7 million athletes worldwide. Simply the best.

Watch the video thanks here.

Words of Wisdom from Angela Schwindt -October 2011

"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."
-Angela Schwindt.

Special Needs Kudos -Julia Sullivan, Linda Fox & the Portland High School Cheer Team

Sixteen-year-old Julia Sullivan of Aurora, Nebraska, dreamed of becoming a cheerleader. The teenager was born with no arms or legs and is a wheelchair user. She had tried out for her school's cheer team several times, but she failed to make the grade.

When Linda Fox, coach of the Portland High School Cheer Team in Michigan found out about Julia's dream, she and her team agreed they should help make Julia's dream come true. They invited Julia to cheer at the team's recent homecoming football game, and all resulting travel costs were covered by donations. Love Michiganders!

Read the uplifting story and watch video here.

Kudos to everyone involved for focusing on what Julia could do, and for Julia for not giving up on her dream. She plans to try out for her school's cheer team again next year.

Focused on abilities.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Special Needs Kudos -Kierin Kerbawy

Congrats to one of our fav RicStar Campers and Buddy Up volunteers, the very talented and charming Kierin Kerbawy. The 2011 grad of East Lansing High School, who has been active in Michigan theatre, is featured in a new Michigan campaign/billboard with the Lion's Drew Stanton that helps creates greater awareness of those with Down syndrome. We are so proud of you.

You rock, Kierin!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honoring Christopher Reeve

I love the fact that my son and Christopher Reeve share the same birthday. Both were gone too soon. Eric would have turned 21 today, and the story of his life continues to impact special needs families and professionals throughout the world.

Today would have been Christopher Reeve's 59th birthday. The world still misses this remarkable man and special needs activist, but his legacy and work continues through one of my favorites non profits, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and the Paralysis Resource Center.

Read a tribute to this super man from his son, Matthew Reeve, here.

The Power of We.

Logo courtesy of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Happy 21st Birthday, Eric!

I will always honor and celebrate your birthday, son. You changed my life and forever made me a much better human being. I will never, ever forget you. Best son, ever.

Happy 21st birthday, Eric!

With much love and gratitude. xoxoxo

Judy Winter

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

When our first child was born, I wished so hard for a girl. Not only did that wish come true, but Jenna has brought us nothing but joy for more than two decades. She's a parent's dream, and an extraordinary special needs sib who becomes more beautiful ever year, inside and out.

Happy Birthday to our smart, talented, kind, and beautiful daughter!

Special Note: It's wise to pay attention to the parenting needs of sibs in special needs families, too. Such parenting actions help create brighter future for all members of the family. It does matter.

Here's a resource to help you do just that.

Celebrating Eunice Kennedy Shriver

It's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, which honors a remarkable woman who lived life full out, actions that continue to change the lives of millions today. You can celebrate her selfless mission by making a difference in the life of another today. No act of kindness is ever too small. Real change begins with the bold actions of one.
Find out more, here.

Photo courtesy of Special Olympics. Used with permission.

Reminder: I am Norm

If you haven't already done so, consider checking out the NORM campaign I've blogged about in the past. Worth the time.

Reminder: Judy Winter's Special Needs Parenting Tips Now on YouTube

I'm pleased to share with you that tips for four special needs parenting topics that I filmed for the PBS program A Wider World are now on YouTube. You can view them all at the links below, and please share with others you know could benefit. I'll add more links as they become available.

Photo by Erik Taylor Photography

DSALA Buddy Walk November 13

Attention all you Southern Californians, or those who will be in the area. The 17th annual Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA) Buddy Walk will be held on Sunday, November 13th at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

I love supporting this event because DSALA is headed by my good friend, Gail Williamson, and it's the only Buddy Walk I've personally taken part in. Loved it, and the weather!!

I''ll be there in spirit again this year.

Find out the details of the DSALA gig here.

To find out more about Down Syndrome Buddy Walks in your state, click here.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Welcome Back Autumn

Fall delivers spiced cider, nature's glory, dancing leaves, spectacular photo ops, steaming mugs of a.m. tea, coffee, and decadent hot chocolate, hearty soup, unpredictable college football, the return of spirited students, hayrides, clearer thinking, less sweating, comfort food and healthier appetites, great walking weather, harvest moons, long, hot showers, comfy jeans, toasty fires and addictive reads, new television dramas and new bad reality TV. It offers up cider mill adventures with fresh, sugary donuts, crispy, caramel apples and pumpkin carving, farmers in the field late, more creative energy, no heat indices, Pure Michigan color trips North, trick or treaters in unusual costumes, candy-corn sugar buzzes, my kids' birthdays (and a wedding anniversary), cool new boots and cozy sweaters to wrap yourself up in, and relief from shaving legs every day (girls!). Except for shorter days, less outdoor dining, flu shots, static hair and ragweed, what's not to love?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day 2011

On September 24th, people around the world will participate in sports activities to honor the spirit and legacy of the remarkable founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Today, four million athletes take part in sporting activities because one woman opened her heart, mind, and backyard and allowed people with intellectual disabilities to participate in activities so many people take for granted. To say Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a visionary is an understatement.

Remarkable. Selfless. Ground breaking. Life changing for millions. Just a few words that describe this woman's actions.

Find out more about Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day here.

Then, go make a difference of your own.

The power of one.

Photo courtesy of Special Olympics.

Meditation & Prayer and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

I'm a big believer in the power of being proactive in your health, before and after a medical crisis. So I especially like this article about the important role played by meditation and prayer in the healing of traumatic brain injuries, and I'm thrilled that Western medicine is finally embracing the role such holistic choices play in overall health and wellness. I know what such practices have meant to my own life.

Read the article The Role of Mindfulness, Meditation and Prayer After Brain Injury here.

Special Needs Arts Alert! -Handicap This!

Handicap This! is a stage show that tells the true story of substitute teacher, Tim Wambach, and student, Mike Berkson, a charming and funny teen with cerebral palsy. The two formed a friendship in 2001 that continues today. Their mission includes breaking down barriers and assisting those with severe physical disabilities through Wambach's non-profit Keep on Keeping On (KOKO). They want others to raise their voices, too.

Handicap This! will be at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie, Il on November 4th. Find out more about the play here.

Learn more about KOKO and it's mission here.

Love stories like this one.

Random Thoughts and Inevitable Questions

When I chat with someone new, there's usually the inevitable, painful question that every parent who has lost a child faces, and dreads. "How many kids do you have?" After eight years surviving every parent's worst nightmare, there's still that awkward pause caused by the sting of reality that briefly stops my breathing. Then, I answer honestly from my heart, "two." No further explanation required. I will always have two children.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stem Cell Research News Link from Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

Important Facebook post from my friends at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation regarding stem-cell research and 'new tools, new discoveries and promising new pathways to therapies' for those with spinal cord injuries.

Find out more here.

Also, remember to vote for the 2011 Best Mom on Wheels, here.
Note: Give the page a minute to load.

Playing Photographer -Please Don't Fall!

So I'm watching a bit freaked out as this couple tries to get what they think is a really cool shot of their kid at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (recently named the Most Beautiful Place in America by Good Morning America) in front of a really steep drop off to Lake Michigan below, and all I can think of (besides traumatic brain injury) is don't fall.

But it is a cool shot. :)

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Special Needs Emmy News -Peter Dinklage wins best supporting actor in drama series

What I enjoyed most about the Emmys: seeing Peter Dinklage win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Games of Thrones. Dinklage is an accomplished, respected working actor who commands top dollar. He also has achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism.

Read Dinklage's brief bio here.

I liked the new McDonald's commercial in sign language, too.

The rest of the show, not a fan.

Photo of RicStar's Camp participant Judy Winter 2011

Autistic and Seeking a Place in the Adult World- NY Times

Remarkable, lengthy feature on autism on front page of Sunday's New York Times, an old-fashioned feature that went on for pages, complete with photos, doing justice to an incredibly complex subject regarding employment, independence and transition for those with autism. Progress.

Love how they introduced the piece, describing the Justin Canha by his name and talent before mentioning that he has autism. Good job with the people first-focus, Amy Harmon.

Read Autistic and Seeking a Place in the Adult World by Amy Harmon, here.

Photo of participant at RicStar's Camp Judy Winter 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Jack Loves His Spartans

Jack wishes all the kids out there a great new school year, and their parents, too. Hopefully, my canine sweetheart (who loves chasing balls of all sizes) will be working his therapy dog magic at a local elementary school soon. Being petted, while creating big smiles and lowering blood pressure, is what my charming, furry pup was born to do.

That, and posing for the camera, of course.

This former shelter-dog's world now rocks. Please, adopt! Change a critter's life, and your own.

Go Green!

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Judy Winter

Back to School -Words of Wisdom from Henry Ford- September 2011

Given the emotional intensity of this time of year, here's a little extra back-to-school motivation in the form of a second September quote.

"One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he thought he couldn't."

Back to School 2011 -Good Wishes!

It's been a few years since I waved to my kids after they boarded a school bus for the first day of school. But each fall, my heart is with all parents, especially parents of kids with special needs, as they nervously watch their babies get on buses, big or small, with or without assistance. Back-to-school is a rite of passage that hints at the promise of childhood normalcy and independence, as challenged as that can be for all those involved. So many outcomes are yet to be written.

I have never forgotten what an emotional day this is, especially for those families sending their sons and daughters off to kindergarten or a new school for the first time. Letting go of our kids begins when they are born, an important and healthy realization for all families. But it's an especially complex one for parents whose lives have revolved around protecting and nurturing children with extra challenges. Can you spell intensity? So much of your heart, soul and energy goes into protecting them from the day of their birth or unexpected diagnosis. How can you possibly trust someone else to keep them safe and help them grow?

No one can totally prepare you for such big moments on this challenging parenting journey, but I hope it helps to know that, as someone who has walked many miles in similar shoes, I'm cheering you on. I believe you can do what is best for your child, and I know you can survive its unrelenting demands. Letting go is one of the most difficult challenges you will face on this special needs journey, and it is also one of the most critical. Think of it as an investment in your child's future independence, and your own. That honest and motivating reflection changes everything.

As you take on the adventures of a new school year, I travel with you, wishing you the best year ever, knowing both how hard and how rewarding it can be. Remember to focus on what's possible for your child, reflect on how far you have both traveled, always look beyond the obvious, and be clear about your parenting goals.

Try to get in a few good daytime naps in along the way, too.

If you haven't already read my post Letter to Eric, about my son's first day of school, this might be a good time to do just that. You can find it here.

Photo of Eric Winter during his final year of school by Judy Winter.

Injured Veterans and Adaptive Sports

I love spreading the word about what people with disabilities CAN do, and I do so whenever I can. I especially like this article from Sunday's New York Times, about injured veterans who live life full out after serious, life-changing injuries. These gutsy individuals move beyond obvious limitations and participate fully in a variety of adaptive sports, including paragliding for wheelchair users, putting many of us able-bodied folks to shame.

Read Accustomed to Wheels, Thrill-Seeking Injured Veterans Take Wing here.

It will make your heart and spirit soar, and remind you to look beyond disability.

Photo Judy Winter 2011