Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Setting Goals

                                                      Setting Goals


*everyone can achieve goals no matter what their situation is!*


1. Ask yourself what do you want to accomplish?
EXAMPLE: I want to become more active


2. Describe the goal: what does the goal involve?
EXAMPLE: I want to be able to get out and do things instead of being inside all day  watching TV.

3. List the “mini goals” that need to be met to achieve the goal.
**I say "mini goals" instead of steps because there are times in life when even the simple steps   
    are not easy to do and therefore are goals themselves.**

     -mini goal example: I will make a list of activities I enjoy doing.
        -by Monday

     -mini goal example: I will look up the names and contact information for places in   
      my area that provide the activities I am interested in.
         -by Tuesday

     -mini goal example: I will contact the places that provide these activities of interest     
      and ask for a description of what they do, as well as when and where they meet.
         -by Friday

     -mini goal example: I will check to see what transportation is available to attend the     
      activity.
         -by Monday

     -mini goal example: I will set up transportation to and from the activity.
        -same day (the day before if public transportation)

4. Below each "mini goal" write a date to accomplish it

5. ATTEND THE ACTIVITY

Monday, October 29, 2012

Workplace Communication Tips for People Living with Disabilities

Through my career I have seen the progress of people living with disabilities in the workforce who at first had very low self-confidence and communication skills. Many knew what they wanted but did not know how to ask for it or did not have the courage to ask for it.
It is important for employers and co-workers to understand that someone with a disability can be just as capable in the workforce as anyone else, but this understanding must begin with the individual living with the disability. I have a very obvious disability because I use a wheelchair, but I also have a few hidden disabilities as well, including learning disabilities. In my experience as a social worker and job coach, people living with hidden conditions like learning disabilities and who are entering the workforce after some time away, may need to work on their self-confidence, without which they may hang back from sharing with others. On a personal level, I had a hard time talking about one of my challenges—severe epilepsy which at one time affected my ability to concentrate. Through time I have learned how to work with my hidden disabilities so I can ask for appropriate job accommodations, while at the same time helping my clients find the accommodations they needed in order to be effective workers.

Employment is not something that is easy for everyone but you.

It is very common for everyone—whether you are an individual with a disability or not—to feel uncertain about themselves and not very confident in the workplace. This feeling of uncertainty may linger, making someone with a few extra challenges have a hard time trusting others or believing that they are wanted. One thing it is important to realize is that you went through an interview just like the others and obviously there are qualities that your employer saw in you just like they saw in your coworkers. People whose life experience has been very difficult often hear—and remember—negative feedback much more than positive feedback, which they may not notice at all. Learn to challenge these feelings of self-doubt by paying attention to positive communication or remembering you were hired for a reason.

Good work communication requires both talking and listening—most people have to work on at least one.

If you are getting a job for the first time, understand that good work communication is hard work for even the most experienced member of the workforce. It requires speaking clearly as well as listening and processing information. Some people who are good listeners may be unable to ask for help when needed or find that their talents are overlooked. Employees who are good at talking may make mistakes because they didn’t listen closely to a set of instructions.
Like many of the issues that affect workers living with disabilities, communication differences are often minimized when employees talk to someone—a supervisor, a human resources worker— about their specific needs. Being upfront about something and providing a solution shows that you are aware of an issue and willing to improve. It can also reduce some of the worry or shame you may feel about something that is not a big deal. Some examples are: “I get a little nervous speaking in front of people—can I try out my presentation in front of someone first?” or “I heard your instructions, but would you mind writing them down and e-mailing them to me—I’m a visual learner.”

You don’t come to work to make friends, but you can’t be an effective worker without allies.

One of the first things I reinforce to new and returning workers is good personal boundaries. People who tend to be shy or anxious may be worried about the uncertainty of a new job setting—meeting all those new people after spending most of their time within a small support network may feel like a big stretch. For others, I need to teach the difference between the kind of friendliness expected between coworkers and the relaxed friendliness they might share with family and friends. It takes some finesse to know which coworker expects nothing more than a friendly good morning and which people are open to a short chat about an appropriate topic. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone—a coworker you trust, a friend or family member—for feedback on an interaction you weren’t sure about. Remember that every workplace has different expectations, so you aren’t the only one that has to learn the ropes.

Learn from setbacks.

Frustration is another area that will affect you from time to time, just like any worker. For someone who has low self-esteem or feels unsure on the job, one mistake can seem symbolic of a larger fear. I tell people that letting, “I didn’t do this one thing right,” turn into “I can’t do anything right,” makes it that much harder for you to pick up and try again. Instead, work on correcting the situation and remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes—not just you. If you get frustrated with a coworker, it is important to talk to the person in a calm way without showing anger. Learn about the chain of command and find out who are the appropriate supervisors to contact when you have a particular type of problem you can’t handle yourself. Above all, taking a moment to de-escalate and get some perspective is always a better idea than reacting impulsively.

Know your rights.

I recommend to my clients that they tell employers about any job accommodations they might need once they are hired—not necessarily during the interview. This is another example of something you need to take the lead on—most employers are not likely to ask you.
An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense.

Here are some tips to help people—even those who have been working for a long time— who may have a difficulty communicating with supervisors about accommodations.
  • It is reasonable for you to talk to you supervisor about your concerns. Ask for a meeting with him or her to talk about what you need in order to do your job to the best of your ability.
  • While you are within your rights to ask, remember that you are still dealing with your boss and that a pleasant request works better than a demand.
  • Your workplace is within its rights to ask for documentation such as doctors’ notes confirming that you need what you are asking for, and that this is not discrimination.
  • Be confident when asking for what you need. Remember that you know yourself better than anyone and thus know what you need.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Adaptive Sports

ADAPTIVE SPORTS

Through my life I have learned that there really isn't a sport that a person with a disability can’t do. In the article I wrote "Becoming and Staying Active", I briefly mentioned some of the sports I enjoy doing.  Of course the specific sports I listed: wheelchair football, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, tennis and Kayaking are just some.
I have enjoyed playing sports for as long as I can remember. My family showed me that a kid can be a kid whether they use a wheelchair or not. For me sports started pretty young with my brothers and sisters. I remember going to the neighborhood swimming pool to race and play games or the local tennis court to play a game of tennis. If we weren't doing that then we were playing sports with the other neighborhood kids like street hockey, baseball, touch football or even kickball, (yes kickball even though I use a wheelchair).
When I got older, I got involved with more organized sports.  In middle school I started playing wheelchair football, horseback riding, which was a therapeutic program my parents got me involved in but its still a sport, wheelchair racing and swimming through the same program New York State Games for the Physically Challenged, sledge hockey, wheelchair basketball, softball, volleyball, fishing, golfing, bowling and even going out  kayaking on a lake or river with a group of friends.  There have been so many sports that I have tried through the years that I'm sure I am forgetting some!
For me not only are sports something I enjoy doing but its good exercise and definitely good stress relief after a long day or a long week.  There’s nothing better then hanging out with a group of friends and playing a game of wheelchair basketball or wheelchair football in a local gym.
If you want to learn about additional adaptive sports that I didn't mention or if you are having a difficult time locating adaptive sports in your area a couple of options are the Sports N Spokes website which is: http://pvamag.com/sns/   or http://www.sportsabilities.com/.

Friday, August 19, 2011

ASKING FOR AND ACCEPTING HELP

Asking someone for help or accepting help when it is offered is not always easy. Especially if you are an individual with a disability who is trying to become independent for the first time. You are trying to prove to yourself and to others that you have the ability to be independent. It is important to understand that you are not alone. Everyone needs help at sometime in their life whether they are an individual with a disability or not.
As an individual with spina bifida I have always had a hard time with this. I guess I had the idea that I wasn't independent unless I did everything on my own without help. If family offered help I was often too quick to reject the help. I couldn't have been more wrong! It is very important to understand that a very big part of independent living is knowing how and when to ask for and accept help. Even after being on my own for almost 20 years, it still isn't always easy for me to ask for help, but I am much better than I used to be. Through my adulthood. I have not only learned how to figure out if and when I need assistance but also learned how to ask for or accept the help so I can continue living on my own.
Unfortunately sometimes I learned the hard way. There have been times that I didn't ask for help I needed or accept help being offered and because of that I ended up having problems. I moved into the college dorms right after high school and like many 18 year old men and women that is when I got my first taste of independence. Being away from my parents and not having them around to tell me what to do. That freshman year was an eye opener. Everyone (including me) started to notice that in order for me to keep my independence there would be times I would need assistance. Of course even though I may have noticed that myself, doesn't mean I asked for it or accepted it when offered!
In 2001 I moved away from family for my first real full time job as a social worker. At first it was great. I was keeping my place clean and I was taking care of my personal needs. As time went on my responsibilities at work increased. It was common for me to work 10 to 12 hours a day or over 60 hours in a week. With that came increased stress. When that happened it affected some of my decision making and eventually it affected my health. When family asked how I was doing my response was always "fine" or "pretty good" not realizing that I really should have asked for help. Again even at times like this accepting help is not easy for me. I lost track of priorities and which should come first in my life which is me. This resulted in me getting very sick and leaving that job as well as some very close friends. I moved back in with my parents in order to receive the proper medical care. In other words decreased my independence which could have been prevented. Looking back now I should have slowed down with work and focused more on myself and my own needs.
Before I moved into my current apartment, I made sure that I was ready. I didn't want to repeat things that happened in the past. I needed to have everything set in place including a support network. I told myself that it is ok to ask them for help or accept it. I knew I may need assistance with certain things like general cleaning or organization to prevent health problems or maybe just someone close as a support. I still have a very busy schedule so it is easy to loose track of things. At times that I am either stressed from work or showing signs of getting sick, someone close can remind me to do things to prevent health problems. For me this is especially true if I am starting to get sick and don't realize it.
It is important for everyone to understand that we depend on ourselves more than anyone! We know ourselves better than anyone else. Having the ability and strength to ask for and accept help when needed came with time for me. It showed me that I am strong and able to live independent even when things are not going the way I want.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dave Carl - Volunteer and Communicator

Dave Carl-Motivational Speaker, Author and Social Worker

Here is a photo of Dave at the Walk N Roll for Spina Bifida last April 30th at Capital Lake in Olympia, WA.  He helped to coordinate and work out logistics for the one mile wrap up of the annual fundraiser benefiting the Washington State Spina Bifida Association.  


Dave's example of good communication and willingness to work within and for the community at large is something worth noting. 


Spina Bifida Association of Washington State



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ACCESSING COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Community resources have always been a very important part of my life. When I was working towards my independence, and now as a person who is living independent it has always been important to know what is available. There have been several times throughout my life that my family and I would be working on things such as health related issues, education, finances, etc. that required resources to help me (us) get through. The question is where are they and how do I contact them. As you know, it isn‘t always easy. If you don’t know where to start with your specific issue then who do you go to for ideas (in other words I needed a resource just to help locate resources!) I have learned through experience both personal as well as professional how to access resources needed. One of my first jobs was working as an Information and Referral Coordinator for a non profit agency. Not only did I need to know what services and resources were available but I needed to know how to locate resources that were not very easy to find.
First, what I usually do is try the phonebook. Many times that may either seem too obvious to people and therefore they don’t look there or they’ve opened up the phonebook and don’t know where to start. I have even worked with highly educated people (dr.‘s etc.) and they have this same issue. For me personally one example is in order for me to stay independent, I need someone to assist me with things around my apartment such as cleaning. If I don’t then it get very disorganized and this CAN and HAS in the past had a big effect on my health. I could look under “housekeepers” or “housecleaners” in the phonebook but they are often times very expensive so I needed to think of something else. When I was in Michigan I went through a local health/private duty agency which provided nursing as well as house cleaning. The way I located them is I thought of a simple word like “health” (as I mentioned it can affect my health) and then after checking the phonebook one thing lead to another until I found what I needed. If you can’t locate the specific thing you are looking for then I would suggest thing of words that have to do with it and try those words.
If you are having a difficult time with paying for rent, then you may not be able to just look under “rental Assistance” or “financial Assistance” in the phonebook. So what do you do? Try places like “non profits“, or “social services”. Even if they are not the specific places that will be able to assist you, often times they will be able to give you some good leads. Many of them answer questions like this daily or know of the appropriate agencies in the community.
Another resource would be a local or state support groups either for your specific disability or something similar to it. Often times support groups not only there to help during difficult times but it is likely that a member of the group has gone through similar issues and has suggestions. CIL'S (Center for Independent Living). The purpose of a CIL is to assist people with becoming and/or staying independent. If you contact the CIL they not only have information on resources but can assist with contacting them. To contact the CIL in your sate you can go online and type in “your state and Centers for independent living” for example “Washington State Centers for Independent Living” and it will take you to the different CIL’s for your state. Another thing to do online is go to the ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization) website which is http://www.ilru.org/ and then click on ILRU Directory of CIL's/SILC's. 

These are just a couple of examples.  If you are too embarrassed or want to be cautious about leaving your name then you need to understand that you don’t need to. Many places will ask for it but all you have to do is say that you would prefer not to give any personal information out. That is fine unless you are looking for information to be mailed or emailed or if they need to call you back.
Resources may be even closer than what I have mentioned. One major resource in my life is my family!  It hasn't always been easy for me to ask for help, but that is just because I am stubborn! of course that is definitely the one resource that I can trust the most!  What are some resources that are in your area?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Becoming and Staying Active

A very important part of independent living during a person's life is becoming and staying active.  First of all what do you find interesting?  Do you like to draw, play sports, use computers etc.? When I am not sick in bed I enjoy playing wheelchair sports.  Wheelchair football, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair racing, tennis and kayaking are just some of the adaptive sports I have enjoyed.  Ever since I was in middle school, I have tried to play something.  Starting in eighth grade I played wheelchair football.  It may sound rough but it wasn't bad.  Our team would get together and play against local groups who did not necessarily use wheelchairs, but they did during the game.  During the game I sure had fun watching people who were not used to being in wheelchairs try to play football in one.  I also did wheelchair racing in my late teens and early twenties with the New York State Games for the Physically Challenged.  At that time I joined the track team for my high school.  I wasn't able to actually compete in the school track meets l but by being on the team I was able to train with them for when I competed in the state games.  Today I still enjoy sports which include wheelchair basketball with a local team here in Washington State, playing tennis and Kayaking. 
Of course my activities weren't always sports.  In high school I was involved in the school musicals.
If you are not interested in or are unable to do sports, what about arts and crafts?  Are you interested in drawing or writing?  If you are then contact your local Community Center for possible classes.  I know this may seem strange but maybe you should try it even if you don't think you are very good at it.  In an earlier post I mentioned that I wrote a book.  I didn't start writing because I loved it or because I thought I was good.  I just started doing it one day because I was bored in bed.
I also like to either be on committees or just attend committee meetings. Every community is full of committees. I have been involved in different committees for years. Anything from simple support groups which only have a hand full of members, to committees that are run by the city. Even if you are unable to be on committees because health issues are so unpredictable, try going to the committee meetings when you can as part of the public. At least then you have a voice, and you know what is going on in your area.

Another activity I love doing and am a very big supporter of is volunteering.  Ever since I graduated from high school, I have been interested in some type of volunteering.  Anything from coordinating homeless outreach projects, to public speaking to teaching independent living skills to individuals with disabilities.  Even at times I am unable to work a paying job, this is one way I can contribute.  What about talking to people you know personally? Maybe they know someone who needs tutoring or just someone to hangout with and be a mentor after school while parents are working. If you don't like spending time with people then what about writing articles for newsletters? Those are a couple of volunteer activities you can do if you are in bed for some medical issue.So how do you find places to volunteer?  One place to start is your local Volunteer Center.  I know that the area I live in right now has a center.  But if you don't have one or can't find one in your area then try to find an agency that provides services you are interested in or who serves the population you would like to help.
So, What's in your area?  How did you find these activities?  What can you share on here that you think others would find helpful or interesting?