Among those of us who care deeply for and about people with developmental disabilities, I hope to hear emerge a new voice, ours, rising together for the benefit of all, harmonizing with reason, respect and hope, and transcending divisions, giving birth to a new era of creative cooperation.

Toward this potential, DD EXCHANGE is for conversation, civil sounding off, sharing of stories, experience, information, resources, and inspiration, giving and receiving support, and creative problem solving.

Finding Your Way Around

TO SEE OTHER'S INPUT: below each post on the right, click "links to this post;" or in the left side column, under "Labels," click the discussion link that interests you.

If there is no comment box below the post, click on
"# comments." It should open one.

TO CONTRIBUTE: add comments to posts in comment boxes &/or submit an article. Comments may also be sent for posting on your behalf. Email address as follows:

EMAIL: ddexchanges@gmail.com

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send request to email address, above.

WEB LINKS: to access other websites of interest, in the list to the right, just click on the underlined name.

FOLLOWERS: interested people, websites, organizations, businesses
who follow our discussions & choose to be public about their support.
Become a follower. Public support is a good thing!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where are the Parents?

This essay is an honest portrail of life of a parent with a special needs child - read this and try not to cry.

Where Are the Parents?
By Sue Stuyvesant, Parent

Hey everyone. For those of you who don't know me (I'm only an occasional poster) I am mom to Michelle, 9 years old, microcephalic, athetoid/spastic CP, cortical visual impairment, seizure disorder -- and CUTE! OK, now for the reason I'm posting.

To make a long story short, earlier this week a question was asked by some nitwit official as to why there weren't more parents (of special needs kids) involved in the local PTA and other issues that have come up that directly involve our kids. His question, which was passed on to me was, "Where are the parents?" I went home that night, started thinking - and boy was I pi**ed - and banged this "little" essay out the next day on my lunch break. By the way, I took copies of this to the school board meeting that night, gave it to a couple of influential people and it WILL get around.............

Where are the parents?

They are on the phone to doctors and hospitals and fighting with insurance companies, wading through the red tape in order that their child's medical needs can be properly addressed. They are buried under a mountain of paperwork and medical bills, trying to make sense of a system that seems designed to confuse and intimidate all but the very savvy.

Where are the parents?

They are at home, diapering their 15 year old son, or trying to lift their 100 lb. daughter onto the toilet. They are spending an hour at each meal to feed a child who cannot chew, or laboriously and carefully feeding their child through a g-tube. They are administering medications, changing catheters and switching oxygen tanks.

Where are the parents?

They are sitting, bleary eyed and exhausted, in hospital emergency rooms, waiting for tests results to come back and wondering, "Is this the time when my child doesn't pull through?" They are sitting patiently in hospital rooms as their child recovers from yet another surgery to lengthen hamstrings or straighten backs or repair a faulty internal organ. They are waiting in long lines in county clinics because no insurance company will touch their child.

Where are the parents?

They are sleeping in shifts because their child won't sleep more than 2 or 3 hours a night, and must constantly be watched, lest he do himself, or another member of the family, harm. They are sitting at home with their child because family and friends are either too intimidated or too unwilling to help with child care and the state agencies that are designed to help are suffering cut backs of their own.

Where are the parents?

They are trying to spend time with their non-disabled children, as they try to make up for the extra time and effort that is critical to keeping their disabled child alive. They are struggling to keep a marriage together, because adversity does not always bring you closer. They are working 2 and sometime 3 jobs in order to keep up with the extra expenses. And sometimes they are a single parent struggling to do it all by themselves.

Where are the parents?

They are trying to survive in a society that pays lip service to helping those in need, as long as it doesn't cost them anything. They are trying to patch their broken dreams together so that they might have some sort of normal life for their children and their families.

They are busy, trying to survive!

Sue Stuyvesant 10/15/96: Permission to duplicate or distribute this document is granted with the provision that the document remains intact.

Sue passed away in October 2003. Michelle passed away a week before she was to turn 18 in September 2005.

Advocacy Concerns

This is an abbreviated version of an open letter to people who oppose inclusion of Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) in the continuum of services for our family and community members who have disabilities. I felt the need to write it after receiving an extremely misleading Action Alert opposing HR 1255 (HR1255 provides a process by which parents & guardians, on behalf of their children/wards, may opt out of class action lawsuits with which they disagree.) Also, I found the documentation they provided in response to my questions to misrepresent the Supreme Court Olmstead Decision. Actually, "Olmstead" does not say that anybody is required to live in a specific place. Instead it affirms the right of an individual to live in the setting that best suits him/her - be it a private home, group home, institution. In so doing, it affirms the role of institutions within a full continuum of care.

I respect the energy and commitment that you all have to your causes. What I don’t understand is how, as strong advocates, (personal and representatives of public agencies) , you can work to deny or diminish services to people with such severe and complex needs within the DD population. I could never envision closing RHCs because I see the necessity for their existence. If you actually went, toured, met and spoke with residents, family members and guardians, you would see that each RHC is a community as well as the community of choice and safety for many people. I believe you would come away recognizing their critical role in our community.

Trying to take this choice away appears to dismiss their residents as not worthy of being safe. I saw this even before our son was in need of the services. When he was eleven, I would not have considered institutional placement for him but I would not have cut that option off for those who needed it. I realize that there is a wide variation of needs and just because one person with DD does not need those services, it does not mean that no person with DD might need them.

As our children age and change, different issues arise. As a parent who has lived through it, I can say that a dual diagnosis changes the whole scenario of needs. Care and supervision for safety becomes extremely complex, demanding and person intensive.

The estimate of the incidence dual diagnosis, (dual diagnosis is developmental disability and a mental illness diagnosis) is between 30-50%. (NADD – An association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs www.thenadd.org). Often in speaking and advocating for people with DD one forgets about this extremely extra complex group of people.

Our son is very active in community events both inside and outside of the RHC. He is a well known participant in the Seattle Parks and Recreation Specialized Program – both the Saturday Activities and Day Camp. He participates in neighborhood celebrations and concerts, attends church every week and many other activities.

I invite you to join me on an RHC tour, to meet him and learn why an RHC is the home of choice for him and others with such complex needs that they can only be managed in an RHC community.

Please, do contact me – I’d love to have a discussion, take people on tours of Fircrest or Frances Haddon Morgan Center, introduce you to my son and talk about how we can come together to truly advocate for ALL people with disabilities.

People may contact me personally at cherylfelak@msn.com