Tag Archives: #bloggingforbetter

When children with special needs can’t get the help they need

We knew from the time my son was in pre-school that he was not like the other kids. He was only five the first time we took him in for testing. Over the years my sweet boy has been tested and evaluated for everything from ADHD to Bi-Polar to Autism. After a few misdiagnoses and false starts, I’m so grateful that with the help of a wonderful doctor and supportive school we now have proper diagnoses and treatment in place, but it hasn’t come free of struggle.

In November of 2017, we began the IEP process at the recommendation of my son’s doctor. Even though he attends a small private school, where an IEP is not required to receive accommodations, she thought it would be of value to have one in place both to help guide our current school on what additional accommodations he may need, and in case he ever does attend a public school we wouldn’t be starting from scratch.

The IEP process was arduous, incredibly frustrating, and at times made me feel like we were the very last priority of our local school system. One day I’ll write a separate blog post on my feelings about the process, but our experience is still a bit too raw for me. However, one of the good things to come out of it was to find out that my son has a learning disability called dysgraphia. One of my son’s teachers had begun to suspect something might be going on, and the educational psychologist was able to confirm his suspicions through a variety of tests and observations. This was good news for us because we now understood that his challenges with writing were not related to his other conditions. The diagnosis also came with specific recommendations on how to help him in this area.

While all of the research pointed to the benefits of occupational therapy for children with dysgraphia, when we finally had our meeting with the county school system to review the IEP there was no mention of occupational therapy being offered. Even when I questioned this and insisted on further evaluation by their OT, we were offered only one 30 minute session per month. As a result, we have had to supply the necessary therapy my son needs through private means.

I share this with you to bring awareness that children with special needs often are not afforded the treatment(s) that are most beneficial due to a combination of limited state and federal funding for schools, outdated standards for evaluation, and a sea of red-tape. My family is fortunate that we live in a town with a University that offers a free OT program. But many parents do not have access to these kinds of resources and are left paying most of the cost out-of-pocket, and/or limiting the amount of treatment their children receive due to insurance coverage restrictions.

That is why organizations like Orange Effect Foundation are so important. Their mission is to make sure children with speech disorders receive the speech therapy and technology they need. The foundation was started by Joe and Pam Pulizzi, who have a son with autism. When they witnessed first-hand how critical early intervention speech therapy was in their son’s verbal development, they knew other families with autistic children should have the same access.

“While there are many wonderful organizations that focus on autism and research into speech disorders, there are very few that focus on providing grants to children who desperately need consistent speech therapy or equipment,” explains the Orange Effect Foundation’s website.

Every quarter, Orange Effect Foundation receives grant applications from both providers and families. Applications are open to any and all families. The leadership team researches and reviews each case and delivers financial grants to those who need it most. Since they began awarding grants in 2015, the Orange Effect Foundation has purchased 24 speech generating devices and provided over 2,500 hours of speech therapy to children needing these services.

If you would like to donate or find out how you can support Orange Effect Foundation, visit their website.

 

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

 

Featured image by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

When a luxury item isn’t a luxury: How one organization is giving homeless women their dignity

I remember the day clearly, especially what I was wearing. I was in high school and Umbro shorts were all the rage. If you don’t remember these, they were a thin nylon/polyester short, usually in wild colors. I think they were originally made for soccer players, but seeing how I hadn’t played soccer since I was five years old, I was more concerned about the cool factor, than the practicality of these shorts.

I remember a classmate whispering in my ear  that I had a stain on my shorts and might want to go check it out. I went to the bathroom and discovered what every girl-of-a-certain-age dreads discovering: I’d started my period a few days early. At school, and without any sanitary products. My coveted Umbro shorts were ruined and I was totally embarrassed.

Looking back now, I realize I was lucky. Not only was I able to go home where I had a change of clean clothes and big box of tampons waiting, but I had a washing machine to try and salvage my favorite pair of shorts.

According to a 2016 HUD Report there are approximately 220,000 homeless women in the United States, and 50,000 of these women are between the ages of 18-24. These women do not have those same conveniences I did and while getting my period early was a nuisance, for these women it can become an issue that keeps them from being able to work, attend school, or even properly care for their personal hygiene.

Even though HUD found that 76% of homeless women were staying in temporary shelters or half-way houses, these places are often unable to provide anything but the basics for the women, and for many sanitary products are considered a “luxury”.  This is not surprising since the majority of U.S. state governments classify feminine hygiene products the same way. In 36 states these products are taxed as “luxury items”, often referred to as the “pink tax”.

This tax is on top of the already rising sticker price for these items that must be purchased monthly (a box of 50 tampons costs anywhere between $8-12 dollars and just 30 pads will run you $6-10 depending on the brand and style). As TV-show host Mike Rowe said, “A luxury?! Who’s going to treat themselves to a tampon?”

Rowe said that after learning about the “pink tax” and an organization called I Support the Girls, recently featured on his show “Returning the Favor“.

I Support the Girls is an organization that started in 2015 by a local DC-area woman named Dana Marlowe, with the core belief that “A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health.” To-date, I Support the Girls has helped more than 320,000 girls and women retain their dignity by collecting over 1 million bras and 2,500,000 menstrual hygiene products and distributing them worldwide to 500 vetted shelters and organizations.

I first learned about I Support Girls in the fall of 2017 when I found out they were collecting bras and hygiene products for women living in communities devastated by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. I hosted a collection at the Renew & Restore Women’s Retreat that year to help provide these essentials to displaced women and girls who either lost their homes or were unable to return for many weeks due to the damage.

Yet I’m struck with the levity of the situation that 220,000 homeless women face every day. Every time I run into CVS or Walgreens to grab a box, I am reminded of how lucky I am that I don’t have to choose between feeding myself and my family or caring for the most basic of feminine hygiene needs.

I Support the Girls has approximately 50 local affiliates in 27 states, Australia, Canada, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and while that may make it sound like they are big international non-profit, the truth is they are very operationally lean and incredibly dependent on volunteers and donations. Director of Operations, Erin Persaud told me, “although we are able to attract and manage partnerships with major organizations, we do so with minimal staff and funding.” She went on to say that they “love product donations, of course, but truly being able to grow our impact in a meaningful way requires funding.”

Persaud also said that all of their local affiliates are low on hygiene products at the moment. I reached out to the contact for the local Northern Virginia Affiliate, Mia Jimenez and she shared with me that “The NoVA area is in need of more volunteers that would be willing to start local, ongoing drives. We’re also always looking for individuals to collect and sort donations and find shelters that are willing to accept these donations.”

If you live in the Northern VA area and would like to help, please message Mia via their Facebook page. If you are located elsewhere, here are four ways you can help:

  1. Contact your local affiliate and ask what they need
  2. Host a local collection or drive
  3. Order products off of the I Support the Girls Amazon wishlist.
  4. Donate financially

In the words of I Support the Girls founder, Dana Marlowe, “Sometimes when you learn something new, you get a nugget of information that you didn’t know before but it changes your mindset, your worldview…your perspective shifts.”

Now that I know about the real need to provide teens and women with their dignity, I will never look at a box of tampons or old bra the same. How about you?

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Designed by Kristen Gardiner @ drivingmomcrazy.com

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

 

Featured image by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Wonderfully made: breaking the cycle of self-loathing and an unhealthy body image

“I need to lose weight! I’m fat.” These are words spoken by my 13 year old daughter last week, and not for the first time. My beautiful, strong, muscular, dancing, soccer-playing, cross country running daughter. And my heart breaks a little each time she says something disparaging about her body.

I worry for her. I worry for her sister. I worry because every day they are faced with images that tell them what beauty is and then they look in the mirror and decide they don’t measure up. I worry for them because I have battled with my weight and self-esteem my entire life and I know what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food and with the scale.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I have used food as a means to numb my feelings, reward myself, and fight off anxiety. I’ve forced myself to throw-up and I’ve deprived myself.

But I am absolutely determined my daughters will not follow in my footsteps. That they will learn about healthy eating habits, taking care of their bodies, loving themselves, and seeing in their reflection what God see’s when He looks at them. I’m not always the best example, but I’m thankful that there are others championing the message of healthy bodies and self-love. There are people bravely sharing their battles to overcome an eating disorder, like my friend Danielle Sherman-Lazar. And there are organizations like Southern Smash, campaigning to end negative self-talk and raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

Southern Smash was founded in November 2012 by McCall Dempsey, an eating-disorder and self-love advocate who struggled to break free from her own eating disorder of 15 years. Southern Smash is dedicated to ending the cultural norm of poor body image and negative self talk. Through their SmashTALK panel discussions and empowering scale smashing events, Southern Smash challenges men and women to redefine their worth and beauty by letting go of those perfect numbers that weigh them down.

If you, too, want to empower our daughters and sons to know about healthy body image and self-love, you can come along and join Southern Smash by hosting your own event with one of their SMASHkits, by becoming a Smash Ambassador or Scale Ninja, or by donating.

Most importantly, though, remember that a healthy body image starts with us. Let’s stop the negative self-talk and demonstrate for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews what real health, strength, and self-love look like.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter