What will this year be like I wonder?

Happy 2018 to all of you. I wish each of you a year of good health, happiness, peace, love and laughter. As the new year approaches , a lot of us get caught up in resolutions most commonly the post holiday need to rush to the gym fad to shred that holiday weight and truth be told as the year comes to an end we maybe disappointed by the goals that we might not have met. We cant predict the outcome of each year, I had no idea that last year I would have the chance to do many amazing things such as start writing my blog which I will continue to do as I was reminded in a video by a friend whos a writing coach that every writers words have value, travelled to two places I hadn’t visited before (Seattle and DC),. I got to meet Jeni Stepanek a person who inspires me so much and I am so proud and honoured to call my friend, I got the MVP award for my committee at the Rogers Cup, I attended my first yoga retreat and I got to party with some of the stars of the Young and the Restless (yes I m a soap junkie) I could spend time getting caught up in the usual I haven’t met so many major lifes goals (marriage, kids, etc.) but I choose to focus on the positives and yes there are things that I want but I just resolute to being the best me.

If you are someone who is goal oriented, set out resolutions in ways that are obtainable and reach them in ways that are motivating to you.

I recently watched the movie Wonder which I cant recommend enough, one of the quotes that stands out to me is “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life” and I thought to myself what is a standing ovation, it’s when people cheer you on by standing and applauding. Then I thought to myself what about to the people who have a visual impairment, people who have a hearing impairment, people who have a sensory issue and would find the noise so overwhelming, or even just those people who don’t like large crowds of people, how you cheer someone on doesn’t have to be universal and I encourage you this year to go out there and dare to be kind and be a difference making cheerleader.

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You are so beautiful to me

I came across a video on Facebook of a man with Down Syndrome speaking to the US government about the fact that there is a movement happening where prenatal screenings are being done on the womb when Down Syndrome is identified pregnancies are being terminated. How can this be happening?! This deeply saddens, angers and frustrates me (I am aware that this issue has many layers to it and I acknowledge that there are people that will not agree with me) I personally feel that every child has the right to be born and if the parents don’t feel ready or comfortable then give up the baby for adoption.

For anyone that does not know what Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder caused by an error in cell division causes a 21st chromosome. Yes individuals look different, yes they think differently, but again don’t we all? In Canada the Canadian Down Syndrome society has launched a campaign “Anything but Sorry” to help change peoples perceptions

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I have had the good fortune of attending many Dramaway performances, an acting group in Toronto, Canada featuring individuals with various abilities, and these individuals are ones who are genuine, loving, warm, supportive, and who are living life in their own beautiful way. Here are some examples of other celebrities with Down Syndrome:
1) Isabella Springmuhl- First fashion designer with Down Syndrome to be feature in London fashion week in 2016
2) Jamie Brewer- In 2015 Jamie became first actress with Down Syndrome to model in New York fashion week
3) Lauren Potter- played the recurring character Becky on Glee.
4) Pablo Pineda- Is an actor and university graduate (first European with Down Syndrome to obtain a degree)
5) Angela Bachiller- City Councillor in Vallodolid, Spain. First person with Down Syndrome to hold public office in Spain.

“Whilst they face extra challenges in life, people with disabilities seem to have an uncanny talent for seeing the world in the most unique and beautiful light”

Dear Non Verbal Learning Disability,

I write this letter as Learning Disabilities Awareness month comes to an end. I am so grateful for the opportunity to use the month to educate those around me about learning disabilities (which for those who don’t know is an umbrella term) and also am feeling empowered by the writing journey (I have a WordPress blog entitled The Swan Transformation) that I started earlier this year. My hope is to continue to inspire as many people as possible.

I was reading an article today written by an individual with an invisible disability and they described it as “ a complex beautiful reality” I think this is a great quote to describe all disabilities because it uses words to describe various aspects of a disability.

I see you as beautiful because its given me many shining moments throughout my life one of them being able to independently pay rent every month, this is huge for me because I struggled big time with money management for a long time but living on my own has thought me many skills and its not something I’ll take for granted and its added a deeper meaning and purpose to my life and I know now more then ever I am becoming more self aware and reflective of my journey.

You are complex because you are one that is invisible so there is that obvious assumption that I m not disabled until I tell people, and even though it’s a learning disability it encompasses as I have said before social/emotional, and motor challenges.

The reality is this, I am different and everything has taken and will take a bit longer and my patience maybe tested, but somewhere out there is someone is struggling even more, we are all unique and I know this is not something that is just going to disappear and everyday will have its challenges but the way I see it, I chose to face each day with the innermost understand that I am me and I was given this disability for a reason to grow, to shine, to understand, and to inspire.

My name is Nisha, and I am Learning Disabled!

Don’t Give Up

My post this week is inspired by a friend who posted about her brother securing employment through an employment training program by Community Living. In these global difficult times as more and more companies are laying off employees, the job market has become increasing more challenging but then it has always seemed that way for people with disabilities. I can speak from experience that I have many talented friends who continually face barriers in the job system from a restriction in the amount of hours, to physical barriers eg. building accessibility, employee accommodations not being met. There are many questions that need to be answered, money seems to be atop the list when answering these, why is money not being spent to fund programs to prep employers, why are logistics not being looked at so that companies can accommodate the needs of a potential employee.

 

As always I like to flip as an optimist and look for stories of hope that have happened. There is always hope as in the story of Sam Forbes the Dancing Barista who works as a barista at Starbucks, after getting hired Sam said “In that moment my life changed. My whole world changed”. I know that my own experience, I feel privileged that I have the dream job of being an Early Childhood Educator with the Toronto School Board. I just finished reading an article by CBC news stating that the Minister of Sport and Persons with disabilities is working on drafting the Canadians with Disabilities act which will tackle employment issues.

To anyone that is currently in the job searching process, I d like to share some tips that I have learned through my own experience:

  • Create a cover letter and resume- have someone look it over with you, if you can have someone in the field that you re applying to that would be an asset
  • When searching on the computer, take breaks, don’t do an endless search cause that may increase or cause stress, frustration
  • Think about commute logistics
  • Interview coaching would be of benefit, I was scared to do it, I am glad I did, you want to be able to be the best you.
  • The night before the interview, take some time to do something you enjoy to ease the nerves and the day of the interview take some deep breaths, use a de stress technique eg. I always found saying a prayer or mantra was beneficial

 

Every phase in our lives presents challenges and barriers, I strongly believe that it is within each of us to know that each of us has skills and talents that society needs and to make sure that our voices are heard so that we can be the change the world needs in order to strengthen inclusive employment.

I am thankful for…..

On this Canadian Thanksgiving and as October is Learning Disabilities Awareness month; I write this piece to share with you why I am thankful for my disability. Now more then ever as the world faces many crises, it is important to give thanks for what we have in the present moment but most importantly we should be thankful for whom we are and what we have to offer the world. I know it can be a challenge to be thankful for your disability, as each disability is unique and causes many challenges, and it takes time to get the place to be thankful for your journey but as much as a battle as it can be, it makes us all into the strong, courageous, beautiful, skilled, intelligent and resilient people that we are.

 

The first reason that I am thankful for my disability is that it has allowed me to educate people as I share my experiences through various modes such as my writing, in person and through video. Each one of us is on a journey and each of us has a story and within these stories are important lessons, the hope being that sharing our story will reach someone else who can benefit from our learning. I will forever be grateful for the lessons that I have learnt from hearing and reading about the obstacles and adversity people have faced.

 

I am thankful that I now truly understand and especially with working in the education field that ever individual learns differently. As I reflect on my educational endeavors I wonder if say for example that I got to do my exams in university orally rather than through writing, how would that have gone? The type of learning disability that I have is non-verbal and my verbal abilities are stronger than my non-verbal abilities (body language, spatial awareness). It would be next to impossible to have the learning style of every student catered to but it wouldn’t it be a start to support those who struggle with learning. I know for example in a kindergarten classroom is to understand that not all children learn well in a large group setting, some may benefit to working in a smaller group. I remember struggling with math and in grade 9 I had the hardest time being placed in the advanced math class, well in grade 10, 11 and 12, I was placed in general level math and I did so much better, I was so thrilled to win the Math for Business award in Grade 12 (I don’t want to brag but I think my lowest mark on a test was 75 in trigonometry) Once I did so well I thought why cant I go back in be into the advanced class, I had to understand that its okay that I wasn’t in the advanced class and that I was in the best situation for my learning.

 

I am also thankful that I have had to work harder and have had to be patient to get to where I am today. I was reflecting the other day on seeing people write essays the night before they were due or study for an exam and do really well, whereas I would be working extra hard in advance to get an essay going and I was lucky if I could put a decent paper together. I remember one of my teachers saying to me “treat your C as an A”, basically telling me that it was up to me to accept what is my best, and that I shouldn’t be comparing the success that I have worked for to the success that comes easier to others. In life I have had to be patient in being able to get the right job, move out on my own, build strong friendships, each of those goals had challenges and frustration that I had to learn from in order to get to where I am.

 

When I was younger, I think my disability defined me but as I have come through the years I have come to see that my abilities define me, and those challenges, frustrations that I endure will always be there, but I can and will always choose to face them with greater strength, understanding and determination.

It is important to take care of YOU!

With all that’s happening in the world these days, I feel now more than ever it is time to for each of us to spend time making ourselves priorities by doing things that make us feel good about who we are. This past weekend I did exactly that. I went on my very first yoga retreat at the beautiful Harmony Dawn Retreat Centre in Ontario. Now let me tell you, hanging out in nature is so not me (just ask my sister and mom) and I was reflecting on when my yoga journey began four years ago and how I was doing yoga on a bi-weekly basis and I wanted to quit yoga but here I am doing it on a weekly basis and because I know how beneficial it has been for me, and the weekend was so good as it challenged me, to do yoga classes twice in a day and also to go on a hike but the balance was meeting some really nice people and coming back feeling refreshed and recharged.

 

What are ways in which we all can pause and make ourselves a priority? I have and continue to struggle with this. I am an extrovert and by nature thrive when I am surrounded by people, when I met my friends in university I was so thrilled to have that group that I always wanted, so I would constantly be trying to get together with people, I have had to realize that I need to step back and yes I can organize but also wait for the plans to come from the other side (and it has happened for which I am grateful for (and appreciate) Another way is if there’s something you want to do just do it, if you want to go to a movie that no one else wants to see, go, you want to go to a concert, go, (I ve done it, it feels strange at first but can be done), want to eat at a restaurant do it, do what your heart desires, if you wait for the perfect circumstance you may miss on doing what you want. Circumstances and logistics work differently for everyone, so do things for you that make you feel good and nourish your soul in whatever way works for you. Moving out on my own has been so vitally important in my journey, I remember when I talked to people about it, they talked about it as being a time to have some time for self reflection or introspection, I definitely have found this decision to help me make other choices good for me, such as writing this blog, making the choice to go volunteer in Rockville Maryland because its something I have been wanting to do for so long, and wanting to go on the yoga retreat. As I continue to reflect and move forward, I know that life is a balance, but I want to make sure that know that I have a giving nature, I need to continue to and step back and say how am I making myself a priority?

 

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”-Mandy Hale

 

Nothing is Impossible

The line “Nothing is Impossible” has been etched in my mind since reading Christopher Reeve’s second book post accident with that title. There were so many things that Christopher wanted to accomplish and to continue to be able to do after the accident that did not seem likely, but yet he was able to do in his own way, he was able to continue be a loving husband and father, he was able to gain some movement in his finger, he was an activist for people with spinal cord injuries; as well as some acting roles, but most important of all he was able to find the will to work on his recovery making a that harrowing decision to undergo the operation to reattach his skull to his spinal cord even though he was contemplating suicide. Another more recent example of someone who inspires me is the rising superstar on America’s Got Talent Mandy Harvey. Mandy lost her hearing in her teens but is an incredible musician who feels the music with her feet. I highly encourage you to listen to her song “Try” and to cheer her on in the semifinals.

 

Life throws challenges at each one of us daily and it is important to celebrate your achievements, be proud that its happening in its own unique way and remember the impossible becomes “I am possible” and try to remind yourself that you may not be exactly where you want to be but somewhere out there someone is fighting just as hard or harder to be where you are.

 

As I reflect on my life, I think back on a time in university when life seemed to hit me hard, I remember being in a sad place internally, I was having trouble understanding how I fit in and how I belonged to the world. Everything seemed impossible to the point where life felt like it was becoming too much to handle. How was I going to get myself out of rock bottom? How was I going to have the belief that I am possible? The best thing I did for myself was seek support, talking things out with my family ,a counsellor and my friends is part of what helped me grow the confidence to believe that I am possible and that I matter. I look at my life and all that I have been able to achieve now with gratitude and know that I have a true purpose and the understanding that as Aersomith sings to remind us all that “Lifes a journey not a destination”.

To quote the great humanitarian Jean Vanier: “I love you not just because you can do things because in your being your are precious.”