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?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

learning independent living

My name is Dave Carl.  I am a social worker living in Washington State.  I was born with spina bifida and use a wheelchair full time.  As a social worker my focus is teaching independent living to individuals with disabilities of all ages.  I see independent living as something that is different for everyone.  It doesn't just mean living on your own in an apartment with a full time job.  It is a life long process.  When a child is very young they learn very basic daily living skills, as well as communication and socialization.  These skills are very important for future independence for a person.  Through my career I have heard many people say that they can't become independent because they have to live in a group home or have to have a 24 hour personal care assistant.  I tell them of course they can!  They can still make personal decisions (what to do, where to go, how to spend money etc.). I have several friends who need total 24 hour care.  I see them as role models.  Despite having physical obstacles, they are are just as independent as anyone else. 
I have faced obstacles throughout my life as I tried to become independent.  Anything from countless medical issues to education issues and even things as simple as getting around.  As a child I always had my parents or siblings around.  If I got stuck in the snow then someone was there to help or if I needed a ride somewhere then someone was there with a car.  As soon as I graduated from high school and went to college it all changed.  I didn't always have family around to help.  So how did I overcome this?  I learned how to use public transportation, and I learned how to ask others for help if I got stuck in the snow.  This is just one small obstacle I have faced.  A much larger obstacle I have faced, and still face today at times, is just coping with frustrations.  With all of my medical issues, and with my life being so unpredictable in general, life can get frustrating.  Several years ago I started writing stories.  Nothing too big, just what ever came to mind while I was laying in bed.  Eventually writing became more of a hobby.  I started writing stories while I sat outside during my lunch break or after work.  Earlier this year I had a children's adventure book published that I wrote called "Super Cyclist".  It is about an individual who has always used a wheelchair.  He follows his dreams of fighting crime by becoming a super hero who uses a handcycle to protect people.   As a social worker I am using the book to teach self confidence with the idea that just because someone says you can't do something doesn't mean that it is true, you need to follow your dreams.  I believe that self confidence is another very important part of future independent living.  Even though it is a little children's book, it took me a long time to finish with all of the obstacles I faced on the way. I have a website for the book: which describes the book and why I wrote it.
This blog is a way for people to share independent living stories.  Let people know what you do.  What kinds of obstacles have you (or a family memeber who has a disability) faced when trying to become independent?  What did you do to overcome them?  Also, what obstacles are you currently trying to overcome?  Feel free to ask questions to help gain the skills to overcome obstacles towards independence.