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Bleak Future for SN High School Graduates

In light of government funding to community based and private sector partnerships, the future is bleak for students who have graduated high school. Their parents, some of whom have had to quit jobs, have become the sole companion for the day, week, etc. Many of them are on waiting lists for any sort of help, but now is the time for them to reinforce the skills they learned in school, both intellectual and social. Now is the time for them to have a reason to take care with grooming and get out there in the world.

We are exploring an exciting new opportunity for students who have finished high school and have no place to take their talents. It’s a postage stamp on a full scale problem, but it may be an opportunity for churches. A day program for service to the community is on the drawing board. Fact finding is important before we decide to undertake a new program at Chapelwood UMC. Does anyone out there have a day work program for teens and those slightly above that age level? If so, please share your expertise. Our churches aim of making disciples includes helping them become disciples, so this has huge importance.

Two students from our recent special needs confirmation class want to put into action what they learned about giving something back to the church and about helping others. At our first exploratory meeting we set goals for the students and the parents and discussed how to accomplish these goals. Every program that meets student’s needs will grow, so our preliminary fact finding is taking that into consideration. It’s exciting, but also a little daring even daunting in these hard economical times. I’m convinced that big hearts make big plans, so watch this billboard to find out if this is a go.

Proposed Budget Cuts Terrorizing Parents of Disabled

The eyes and voices of parents of persons with disabilities reflect sheer terror about the futures of their children in light of proposed budget cuts in the state of Texas. The safety nets for their children and themselves is shredded! Group homes will be under-staffed or closed, day sheltered workshops that allow students to be productive will be limited or eliminated, and many community services will be so underfunded the long waiting lists will get even longer. When a child has no place to work or “be” during the day, a parent will have to quit work and stay home with them permanently, and this is at a time when they are saving for when they are gone and there is no one to care for their child.

We are already faced with waiting lists in the hundreds for job training or workshops for students who just graduated from high school at the age or 22. The future is bleak for them. They need to be productive citizens to have a sense of worth. They need socialization in order to keep the personal skills they learned in school. They have had the misfortune to have parents who live in Texas, a state that contributes less to their care than any in the United States. People in general value persons with disabilities, but somehow our leaders do not. It’s not malice, just lack of understanding and in some cases heart. It’s a shame, too, because most of them profess to be Christian or have other religious values with guidelines that say they are to do for the persons least able to do for themselves. Maybe we need to educate them.

Please call AND write your congressman and find out who is on the finance committee that could use your information. It’s urgent. Don’t wait.

Confirmation for Persons with Disabilities Yesterday

Four spectacular students aged 14 to 45 were confirmed yesterday at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in an awesome service of sacred flow and celebration. Along with the five leaders who helped them in this quest, the students stood before the congregation to make their verbal and American sign language promises to God and the congregation. After the vows of membership and a reaffirmation of their previous baptisms, the congregation joined in a holy hug with every member gathered toward the confirmands at the altar and touching the shoulder of another person in a spiritual chain. In an impressive and reverent, spirit-filled moment, Reverend Denison, who led the class, then gave a prayer for each student as she recounted the blessings each brings to the body of Christ. There was a holy hug of silence before the congregation broke into thunderous applause, the longest applause I have ever heard in our sanctuary. Everyone there REALLY supports and speaks love to all the persons in our programs of special needs. Do we feel blessed? You bet.

At a reception later, parents were thanked for entrusting their children to the church, and Reverend Denison presented each confirmand with a prayer box with a commemorative card with the cross and flame, symbol of the United Methodist Church. On the back of the card is listed the promises each student made. It was fun with family and friends, the Circle of Friends adult and teen Sunday school class and good sandwiches and a cake with the confirmand’s names on it. I personally ate “Alec.”

MS Eye Facility

Hardly anyone has seen inside his own eye, but with the right equipment someone can. An eye examination led me this week to Dr. Rosa Tang, neuropthamologist at the University of Houston multiple sclerosis eye facility. It may be the only such facility of its kind in the United States. The latest equipment and specialists in using each one plus a staff of thorough doctors and technicians makes the examination amazing. In addition, everyone there was friendly, and wonders of wonder, there were legitimate van parking places close to the ramp. On a bitterly cold day, this was important.

According to Lighthouse for the Blind one in every 20 persons has low vision, an amazing statistic if you don’t know you have low vision. Maybe you think everyone sees those letters as blurred or fragmented, or squiggly (my non-medical term). Also amazing on the internet and elsewhere are the number of assistive aids available, everything from timepieces, telephones, talking books, reading machines to GPS programmed for persons with low vision. Never have the fixes for low vision been more abundant.

Disabilities Funding Cuts in Texas

The Texas Senate is holding public hearings this week on $16 billion cuts over the next two years to the Health and Human Services agencies and the programs they run.

There is a lot to be radically upset about if you are the parents of or are a person with disability needing a helping hand from already underfunded programs. Of great concern to me is the $342,683,706 (million) CUT from  (CBA) Community Based Alternatives Waiver. Then just take your pick from any one of the following that will cause grevious harm to a population that mostly cannot speak up for itself:
 $451,866,354 (million) CUT from (HCA) Home & Community Services Waiver
 $107,869,131 (million) CUT from (CLASS) Community Living Assistance Supports & Services Waiver
 $28,078,989 (million) CUT from Medically Dependent Children’s Programs
$102,091,552 (million) CUT from Deaf, Blind, Multiple Disabilities Programs

Medicaid providers will be taking a 23.7 to 46.3% reduction in funding. It’s difficult to figure the exact amount. Reading the various version of bills takes more brains than I have. This figure is from experts.

I’m feeling the pain of hard working parents who plan ahead and were depending on some of these programs for help. This places them in a terrible position. Many of them are in Austin today for the hearings – brave souls in the bitter weather. Teresa is standing in line to be first on the list to speak. She is very well informed on the history and actions of all these agencies, and the services to her daughter’s community based facility will be drastically cut.

If you can’t go to Austin this week to make your voice heard, please write everyone on the finance committee as well as legislators. Make it personal. Tell your story!

Texas is second to New York in people in state run facilities for mental health and disabilities. It costs $300,000. per person per year to maintain a person there. It costs $20 to $40,000 to maintain a person in a community based setting, but this setting is being cut by millions which means fewer persons served (there is a huge waiting list) and less quality of service within those settings.

Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities Gets A Plus

For a state who ranks last in the United States to consider further cuts for persons with disabilities is downright sinful. I didn’t get up grumpy. Had a nice breakfast, read the paper and then checked my email with listings of legislature. I’m glad the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities exists, or I wouldn’t have known about some of the issues. There are people out there who are aware. Are you one of them?

Reading the legislative maneuvers in regard to disabilities has given me a sinking feeling. There are many proposed changes regarding mental health, facilities, reimbursement to facilities and kinship for care, special services for schools – often difficult to interpret. I am not a lobbyist, but if I knew when and where to show up, I’d be there to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

For legislative information through Telicon giving a weekly legislative report email:

Special Needs Mentor CD Available

I have produced a CD for buddy/mentors of children with disabilities, and am completing one for mentors and leaders of adults and teens with special needs. It defines the role of mentors, tells how the roles vary, talks of medical information and has an information sheet, suggests safety practices and gives simple and basic teaching tips including ways to use music with children with disabilities.

Buddies are a necessity whether you are mainstreaming or operating in a separate church or recreational group, and training for them is primo. To request a CD (for the price of mailing) contact me at Be sure to send correct address.

Disability Without Tantrums

When little kids don’t get their way, sometimes they throw a tantrum, kicking and screaming and pounding the floor with their fists. Usually it doesn’t help them get their ways, just a lot of being ignored or sent to their rooms when they calm down. Didn’t get what you wanted? It’s that way often when we don’t get our ways in life, or when we get mad at God for not doing what we asked. After all, isn’t he (she) a Santa Claus? Well,  maybe not, but we want to throw a tantrum anyway, you know, pout, not speak, or even get mad at someone instead.

There’s great good news! After the adult tantrum because we are sick in bed or a loved one dies or we are afraid or are disabled to the point we can’t stand up to cook a turkey or go caroling with the tenors in the choir, we can use the advertising V-8 commercial trick. We can smack the heel of our hands against our foreheads, and say, “Oops! I forgot God was with me.” That’s the point of Emmanuel: God with us, a message of Christmas. Christ – mas is the best time in the world to appreciate Jesus who is called God WITH us.

God understands if you have a tantrum, especially if you are a care giver, but now is probably the time to remember that God is with us 24-7-12 in very special ways that can be noticed. A good reason to smile during Christmas season, and if you must have a tantrum, please go to your room.

Mayor’s Disability Advocate of the Year Award to Naomi Mitchum

It’s Official! Mayor Anise Parker presented me with The Mayor’s Disability Advocate of the Year Award at City Hall on Tuesday with family, friends and co-workers present as support. In a wheelchair for the last 15 years, I was the recipient of an award for a disabled advocate. Other awards were to Dr. Cynthia Peacock as a non-disabled person and Matthew Stephenson as a youth advocate.

Advocacy made me use or develop skills I didn’t know I had, so I am still working on them. By nature I am a hands-on person who likes to teach and write, but the field of work with persons with disabilities has promotional needs and a desperate call for vision and someone who will speak up loudly for them. Some people say I have a loud mouth. Some say I have a loud presence. Some say, “Stay away from Naomi, or she will recruit you,” To sign up to help try or through this website Contact Us page.

The landmark American With Disabilities Act achieved much, but the act did not tell us how to enact and interact with persons on personal scale in the fields of spirituality, education and physical accessibility in churches. I came to the right places at the right times with ambition to find ways to do this. Right or wrong, I plunged in, and along the way people taught me and helped not only me but the programs I proposed. No one person can be successful in disabilities work without the persons of like heart who join the vision. Along the way, God took little achievements and turned them into goldmines.

One of my goldmines is still underground: I want to start a full-scale respite center in my area where students can have a good time while their parents enjoy a little vacation together. That’s for when I win the lottery.

A little tea party after the award ceremony was fun with my family, Circle of Friends family and supporters and other friends . The Revs. Greg and Betty Edwards, who worked with me on the Texas Conference committee on disability concerns, surprised me all the way  from Beaumont.

Thanks are due to many persons for the award, especially Dr. Jim Jackson who nominated me.

View Box Christmas Story

Children with Disabilities love a seek-and-find story. I’ve been busy making boxes of story for our children’s group. Find boxes to fit your pictures, glue the pictures inside the boxes, and attach with tacks to the wall at eye level. Then put the lids on the boxes. Children love opening the boxes to help tell the story of Christmas. In January we continue with boxes about the life of Jesus. It’s the same for everyone: we learn the characters, and then, little by little, over the years, we find out what the story really means. If we are lucky we remember the real Christmas gift all year and we make new discoveries about Jesus as we go along. I just love discovery. For more information, go to  How to Use Stories With Students With Disabilities.

On another front, our teen and adult groups hold their year end Christmas party on December 8. We can’t decide who has the most fun – Santa who brings gifts, the leaders who watch it all, Jim who drops in to share fun with his favorite persons, or the students who share their gifts with us.  The Harbor Light Choir will entertain with a carol program.