Occasionally at JAN, we are contacted by a new organization or individual who wants to share with us their information and the work they do through a guest Blog. We were contacted by Adam Cook who has started the Website Addictionhub.org that focuses on resources to support individuals with a coexistence of a mental health impairment and drug/alcohol addiction. He had read our Blog and asked to write an article about his work and a topic he feels is often insufficiently addressed, including in the employment arena.
We chose to do the Blog in a Q&A format. We thank Adam for contacting us about this topic and wanting to share this information with our customers as he develops both his site and its potential outreach.
1. Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and what inspired you to start the Website Addictionhub.org?
I am a pretty average guy with an above-average passion in regards to helping people find the resources they need to fight addiction. I became dedicated to this cause a few years ago when I lost a good friend of mine to suicide. He had been dealing not only with alcoholism, but also had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I believe that it was harder for him to fight his addiction battle because of the state of his mental health, and his addiction exacerbated his mental illness. He finally went into treatment, but afterwards he resisted finding a long-term program. Eventually he gave up hope, and I lost him.
I don’t want anyone else to feel the sorrow I have experienced after losing a life-long friend, nor do I want anyone to have to go through what he did. He wasn’t alone, but he felt like he was. I wish I had known more about the resources that were out there when he was alive. It is my goal to spread the word about addiction and places where individuals and families can get help. I want to encourage people to not try to do it on their own.
2. Can you talk a bit about the process you underwent for starting the Website and what your short, medium, and long term vision is for the site? You’ve included a crowdsourcing component. Can you talk about why you built-in this feature?
Initially, I had hoped to simply create a place where I could list organizations and other resources that could help people who are fighting addictions. As I began doing research, I realized even if I could compile a large amount of information, I needed to do what I have encouraged others to do in their own journey: ask for help.
Since the launch of the site, I have had people contact me with information that has been extremely helpful. I value first-hand feedback in regards to how addiction assistance has made a difference. My goal now is to continue building on the searchable database with input from others. In the long term, I would like to have more involvement from not only people who have gone through programs, but also from the treatment providers.
3. You state the mission for your Website is “…to help individuals, families, and health workers find support with issues relating to addiction. We locate and catalog addiction resources from around the Web.” Can you expand on this mission?
I take the resources that are shared through the site very seriously. I take the time to research any organization or Website that is submitted to make sure that the information is useful and the programs are legitimate. I think it is important for individuals who need help to be able to find a program that they can relate to and that they will stick with.
4. You emphasize on your Website the connections between mental health impairments and addiction. Can you talk more about this connection from your perspective and why you believe this is an important point to make?
I experienced first-hand someone battling with alcoholism as well as bipolar disorder. From the perspective of an uninformed outsider, it was often hard for me to distinguish what symptoms were from which condition. I believe that my friend started drinking to deal with his mental health impairment, and that he faced even more challenges than most in finding a treatment plan that worked for him. Overall, mental health and addiction are two things that are very misunderstood by most. These challenges go beyond willpower and strength of character. They are serious medical conditions that often go hand-in-hand.
5. JAN addresses mental health impairments and addiction in the context of employment and accommodation situations. From your experience, can you talk about the specific impacts you feel these issues have for individuals in the workplace?
I believe one of the hardest things to overcome is the stigma put on recovering addicts and individuals with mental health impairments. These not only hold people back from seeking out treatment, but also can cause misunderstanding and mistrust from employers. If someone had a serious physical ailment such as cancer or an injury, it is acceptable for them to take time off to receive medical treatment or heal as needed. In the case of mental health or addiction, there are less accommodations given by employers, even though the conditions can be just as, or even more, serious.
When loss of employment does occur, it can trigger dangerous reactions. I have seen someone caught in a vicious cycle of despair where work stress contributes to symptoms and behaviors, and then those cause more issues at work.
In my research, I have determined that more employers are recognizing the importance of nurturing their employees’ mental health, but there are still a lot of hurdles.
For more information on mental health impairments and addiction in an employment context, see these resources on the JAN Website:
Accommodation Ideas for Alcoholism
Accommodation Ideas for Drug Addiction
Accommodation Ideas for Mental Health Impairments
Accommodation Ideas for Bipolar Disorder
Accommodation Ideas for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
This past November, JAN posted a Blog discussing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is often characterized as “winter blues;” it is a type of depression that is associated with the change in seasons. Individuals with SAD may notice their symptoms of depression begin and end around the same time each year. It is thought that SAD occurs due to changes in our circadian rhythms (biological clock), which are often affected by seasonal changes.
While SAD is most commonly associated with the cold winter months, around 10% of individuals who experience SAD see their symptoms occur during the summer. This phenomenon is often referred to as reverse SAD or summer depression.
SAD in the winter is thought to be a result of shorter days and lack of sunlight. Summer SAD is thought to be the opposite — longer days and too much sunlight. Symptoms of reverse SAD may include loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, and feelings of anxiety.
While some individuals with SAD experience their symptoms during the summer months, there are also other factors that may lead to feelings of depression or sadness. During the summer, there can be a lot of disruptions to our normal routines. With summer comes cookouts, vacations, yard work, and many other things that may cause us to feel busier than usual. All of a sudden we are tied down with planning and scheduling to try and fit everything in. This could lead to feelings of burnout.
Summer also means swimming and time at the beach for some. For those with body image issues, this can be a time of increased anxiety. There is suddenly pressure to feel in a good mood – “hey, the weather’s great – go and enjoy the outdoors.” This “pressure” to feel happy and be active when you’re actually feeling depressed or anxious can for some make matters even worse.
Whether you experience summer depression or not, the warm weather and busy schedules can make it hard to concentrate during the work day, especially for those of us with office jobs. We fight the urge of wanting to go outside instead of being cooped up all day. We may start to find ourselves daydreaming about the evening cookout we are going to attend instead of working on the project due by the end of the week.
If you find yourself experiencing exhaustion, lack of motivation, or difficulty with concentration during the next few months, there may be some techniques you can implement into your day to try to help stay on track. As an example, some of our JAN staff members will take a walk around the nearby neighborhood during their lunch break. This can be a great way to get some fresh air and refocus for the afternoon.
Other ideas that can sometimes help with concentration are getting a cold drink of water to sip on, listening to some background music, downloading an app to help you with time management, or prioritizing tasks. These are just some ideas — there may be a variety of others that could help as well. It’s important to be creative — you know you best.
If you do experience SAD that is triggered in the summer and feel this is affecting your performance at work, you may be able to request some accommodations to help. It’s important to note that impairments related to SAD can be serious for those affected in both private life and in the workplace. JAN’s publication Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Mental Health Impairments offers practical accommodation ideas and examples. You can also speak directly with JAN staff for more individualized assistance.
While the summer months can be enjoyable, they can also be hard for some. Whether you experience summer depression or not, make sure you are taking time for self-care. Even though the days are longer, make sure you are still getting an adequate amount of sleep. If too much sun affects you, there are still plenty of activities that can be done indoors or in the shade. If you feel overwhelmed by your schedule, make a priority list to work in some down time for you and your family. Whatever your preference is during the next few months, make wellness and self-care a priority!
Tips for Summer Depression
School’s out. It’s hot. And you’re not having any fun
By: R. Morgan Griffin
Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD in the Summer
While many get seasonal affective disorder in the winter, 1/10th do over summer
By: Jordan Gaines Lewis
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
By: Mayo Clinic Staff
By: Tracie DeFreitas, Lead Consultant — ADA Specialist
The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently held its annual FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Being an ADA/FMLA geek, I always enjoy this event and believe it ranks among the top educational opportunities for those involved in absence and disability management. The Compliance Conference offers employers an opportunity to learn about compliance strategies and practical approaches for implementing the myriad of federal and state leave and disability employment laws. Of course, FMLA and ADA take center-stage at this event so many of the speakers are government officials from relevant policy and enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); labor and employment law attorneys; and leave and disability management experts from across the nation.
I appreciate the format of the Compliance Conference, in that, it kicks-off with general sessions offered the entire first day and the morning of the second day. Why is this a smart educational strategy? Offering general sessions for all participants to attend insures that everyone has the opportunity to be informed about compliance updates together without having to pick and choose which sessions to attend based on interests or professional needs. And, unlike many conferences where general sessions are often rather “fluffy,” the general sessions offered during this year’s conference were robust. Practical information was offered by experts who shared examples of court decisions that illustrate recent compliance developments, top challenges for employers in leave and accommodation administration and tools to support these efforts, industry best practices, ways to avoid lawsuits, and strategies for engaging in the interactive process.
This year, a new FMLA compliance assistance guide was announced during one of the general sessions. Helen Applewhaite, Branch Chief, Branch of FMLA and Other Labor Standards, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. DOL, announced that they have released an Employer’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers have long-awaited a guide of this kind to answer common FMLA questions and clarify responsibilities and protections. This guide offers a road map that begins with an employee’s leave request and guides employers from granting leave to restoring the employee to the same or an equivalent position at the end of the leave period. It addresses many complicated FMLA requirements in a practical manner that includes “Did you know?” tips for compliance.
In addition to the new Employer’s Guide, DOL recently issued a new General Notice FMLA poster. All FMLA-covered employers are required to display a DOL poster summarizing the major provisions of the FMLA. Employers are not required to replace their current poster with the new version, but the new version highlights information regarding employees’ rights and employers’ obligations in a more reader-friendly format.
JAN does not offer detailed technical assistance on the FMLA. However, FMLA and ADA issues often overlap, and so, JAN consultants do address some of the more common FMLA issues and refer customers to DOL and other relevant resources for detailed technical assistance. JAN offers a number of FMLA-related resources on our Website, in our A-Z of Disabilities and Accommodations section, under the topic of Family and Medical Leave Act, including the new Employer’s Guide and also DOL’s Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultants – Cognitive/Neurological Team
While some of you may be familiar with the two dyslexia fonts highlighted below, many may not be aware of the specifics of how they can assist as reading improvement tools. Several of our JAN staff learned more about these fonts while attending the 2016 CSUN Conference — 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference held at California State University Northridge in San Diego a couple of weeks ago.
Both of the following fonts have been shown to be highly effective in improving reading skills for many people with dyslexia by helping to better differentiate between letters, aiding in the reading process.
Here’s a brief look at how they work:
Dyslexie uses a heavier, bolder line thickness that emphasizes the bottom of most letters. This anchors the letters and helps prevent substituting, rotating, and flipping of letters. The Dyslexie font is designed so that every letter has its own unique form. Some differences between the Dyslexie font and others are slanted lines, weighted bottoms, larger openings in the letters, such as a, e, and c. The ascending stems of letters like f and h have been made taller, as well as the descending tails of letters such as p, q, and y. The spacing between letters and words is increased to prevent crowding. The capital letters and punctuation marks are bolder so that it is easier to identify the beginning and ending of sentences.
OpenDyslexic is a font also created to increase readability for individuals with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavily weighted bottoms to indicate direction. Readers are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down, aiding in letter recognition, and helping keep the brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping. OpenDyslexic is being continually updated and improved based on input from users with dyslexia.
If you or someone you know has dyslexia, be sure to check out both Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic to see how effective they might be!
For information on Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities, visit our JAN Website.
According to Autism Speaks, people all over the globe will wear blue and light up their communities for World Autism Awareness Day tomorrow, April 2, 2016.
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks shares this information: Autism is a lifelong condition. In fact, each year 50,000 children with autism transition to adulthood. Many of them are capable of going on to meaningful employment and living on their own. But they need more employment opportunities and housing and residential supports. Autism Speaks continues to work with public and private partners to ensure people with autism successfully transition to adulthood. Together we can make a difference in the lives of people with autism by accepting their many gifts and recognizing the challenges they can face. Autism currently affects 1 in 68 people — these are our loved ones, friends and neighbors. We owe it to them on April 2, and every other day of the year, to make the world a more understanding place. So let’s Light It Up Blue together and shine a global spotlight on autism!
JAN is contributing to the celebration of autism awareness by helping to shed light on autism in the workplace. We have several publications of note that will help in this area. Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorder shares various accommodation ideas for impairments that may be associated with ASD such as issues of change, stress management, social skills, and processing sensory stimuli. We also have a Consultants’ Corner: Interviewing Tips for Applicants with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that can be helpful to applicants when they are looking towards employment and contemplating disclosure and accommodation. Applicants will gain insights on how to be prepared and represent themselves to a prospective employer in the best possible way. JAN also provides contact information on resources that may prove helpful as well.
Check out the JAN staff wearing the autism awareness colors!
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
February 18, 2016, will be forever etched into my brain. This was the day when approximately 130 Jewish disability rights advocates convened in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss where we as a community have been, and where we need to go.
My work at JAN is greatly informed by my Jewish tradition, where we find the work of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14) who stated that “the highest level of tzedakah [righteous act, often mistranslated as charity] is helping one help themselves,” or “setting one up in business rather than providing for someone,” or more commonly, “teaching one to fish, rather than giving one a fish.” It was important, and humbling as someone working in the field of work-related disability accommodations to see this be included in the wide array of topics seen as normal in Jewish Community.
As the day’s events unfolded, we received a great history lesson from featured speaker Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. This was enhanced by comments later in the day from Chai Feldblum, Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who was present during the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is familiar with how the “religious exemption” (where under Title III of the ADA, religious entities are exempt from having to make their public access facilities accessible) came to be.
The main event of the day centered around four panelists discussing the future of our movement:
Dr. John Winer of the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities talked about making the experience of disability normalized in the community. “People with intellectual disabilities have the right to housing, to an occupation, and to feeling like productive members of society. We need to do the right thing by being beneficent,” he said. “No individual wants to feel like they are a chesed project [charity case].”
Sheila Katz, vice president for social entrepreneurship at Hillel International stressed the need for organizations to be open and transparent about not knowing what they do not know. She shared the vision for Hillel going forward to actively engage Jewish students with a disability in an effort to ensure greater inclusion in campus life, including religious activities.
Aaron Kaufman senior legislative associate at the Jewish Federations of North America made a great point about the fact that some pieces of the inclusion puzzle do cost money, but if we prioritize inclusion, we will find a way to pay for it. This really resonated with me: building a mikveh [ritual bath] costs money, but if the community wants it to happen, we find a way to pay for it. So too with inclusion Aaron pointed out.
Ruti Regan, co-founder of Anachnu, an organization that teaches the Torah from a disability perspective hit the nail on the head by visually demonstrating how an action has a very different connotation in different contexts that are learned behaviors in society. An example she used was that a person with a developmental disability may display a behavior of rocking back and forth – this being perceived as a “problem” or deviation from a norm. In a different context, a person in prayer might be rocking back and forth and this is perceived as devout behavior. Her point was that we need to become aware of how we prescribe meaning (good or bad) to the same behaviors based on the context.
Comments from Shane Feldman, Lauren Tuchman, and Liz Weintraub, amongst others highlighted improvements that have been made and concerns for issues that still need much attention.
All in all, it was an energizing day that I feel sure will just be a springboard for more good inclusion work to come. Many thanks to the White House staff who made this event happen: Matt Nosanchuk and Maria Town – both from the Office of Public Engagement.
By: Sarah Small, Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
This year, The National Sleep Foundation will celebrate Sleep Awareness Week starting March 6th. The hope is to spread awareness of the importance of sleep to our health, safety, and productivity.
In theory, we know from our own firsthand experience how important sleep is to our well-being. But lately, I feel like I have been hitting the snooze button more and more. I found out recently that hitting the snooze button can actually make you feel more tired during the day. Dr. Yizhak Kupfer from the Maimonides Medical Center in New York talks about how relying on the snooze button can diminish the positive effects of a good night’s sleep.
When we first wake by the sound of the alarm, we are pulled out of REM sleep, the most restorative sleep stage. REM sleep helps us feel awake and focused for the day. When we try to catch those extra 10 minutes, our bodies start a new phase of REM sleep. Unfortunately, those extra 10 minutes don’t allow enough time to complete the cycle, and our brain can stay in it after we have finally forced ourselves to get up and out of bed. This can throw off our circadian rhythms (internal clock) and cause us to feel tired or sluggish the rest of the day. It’s time to stop hitting snooze. Easier said than done, right?
When we are young, we tend to need more sleep than we do as adults. Ever notice how upset and sometimes “cranky” little ones can get if they miss their nap? As we grow older, it is still important to make sure we get an appropriate amount of sleep for our bodies to function properly.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following for sleep duration based on age.
Newborns: 14 to 17 hours
Infants: 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours
School-aged Children: 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours
Adults: 7 to 9 hours
Not receiving a sufficient amount of sleep can affect us in a variety of ways. It can cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and stamina. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc not only in our personal lives but also in our work lives. Lack of sleep can cause our productivity during the day to significantly decrease. It can sometimes cause issues on the job, especially if performance suffers as a result. For more information on how sleep can affect us at work and accommodations that may help, see http://askjan.org/media/Sleep.html.
There are certain things that can help us try to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, which in turn will help us to function properly and be productive throughout the day. One of these tips is to develop a bedtime routine. It is easy to think that bedtime routines are only a thing for children, but they can also be important for adults. Having a routine can prepare us and ease us into a restful sleep.
In addition to having a bedtime routine, the environment in which we sleep also plays a key role. The National Sleep Foundation talks about using our senses to create a sleep environment that fits our needs. They base these ideas on the five senses: touch, see, hear, smell, and taste. The following are some examples.
Touch: Getting a good night’s sleep means being comfortable. Things to consider:
- Adjusting the temperature of the room
- Using the right type of mattress and pillows
- Making your bed in the morning
See: Light can affect our body’s circadian rhythms (internal clock) and disrupt our sleep patterns. Things to consider:
- Using curtains and closing them at bedtime
- Turning off electronics before settling into bed
Hear: As we sleep, our brains still register and process sounds on a basic level. Noise can disrupt our sleep causing us to wake or move between stages of sleep. This can also cause us to experience changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Things to consider:
- Turning off the TV while sleeping
- Using white noise such as a fan or other device to reduce the difference between background noise and “peak” noise, helping you to sleep better
Smell: According to the National Sleep Foundation, some smells may have an effect on our sleep. Things to consider:
- Periodically changing sheets to ensure freshness
- Using relaxing scents in the room. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and put us into a relaxing state
Taste: What we eat and drink before bed can also affect our sleep. Things to consider:
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine leading up to bedtime
- If hungry before bed, eating a light snack as opposed to a meal
You can find additional information on bedroom environment from the National Sleep Foundation here https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/.
Practicing healthy sleep habits can help our bodies continue to function properly, and help us stay alert and ready to tackle whatever the day throws our way. It is time to take our sleep seriously and listen to our bodies. What better time to start than National Sleep Awareness Week 2016?
National Sleep Foundation
The Snooze Button- Friend or Foe Maimonides Medical Center
Why Hitting The Snooze Button Will Screw Up Your Entire Day The Huffington Post
By: Teresa Goddard, Lead Consultant — Sensory Team; Kelsey Lewis, Consultant — Cognitive/Neurological Team; Lisa Mathess, Senior Consultant — Motor Team
At the beginning of February, a few JAN consultants had the privilege to travel to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference. All week, JAN was well represented with a booth in the exhibit hall along with consultants giving three presentations on a range of topics.
As part of the educational sessions, JAN offered a presentation titled Apps at Work: Accommodating Employees Effectively with Mobile Technology! showcasing a variety of mobile apps that could be used as part of, or as, a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. JAN talked about apps for limitations stemming from sensory, motor, cognitive, and psychiatric impairments.
JAN also gave a presentation on real-life situations and solutions from inquiries handled by our consultants regarding employees with multiple impairments and therefore various limitations. The presentation Multiple Impairments, Multiple Limitations: Accommodating Employees with Complex Needs was well received, as accommodation needs can be very complex and ever changing.
Finally, on the last day of the conference, JAN collaborated with alliance partner AbleData and presented on assistive technology options and accommodation ideas for employees with autoimmune disorders — Workplace Accommodations & AT for Individuals with Autoimmune Disorders.
The exhibit booth was visited by people from a variety of backgrounds, including educational professionals, rehabilitation professionals, students, employees with disabilities, and product manufacturers. Consultants discussed the various services offered at JAN and handed out publications and goodies to over 300 attendees.
If you’re interested in viewing the presentation PowerPoints, they are available on the JAN Website for download.
One of the things that we as JAN consultants enjoy most about attending conferences is visiting the booths of other service providers and vendors. Conference exhibit halls are a practical and hands-on way for us to keep up with the latest information on assistive technologies and disability services so that we can share up-to-date information with our consumers. This year, the ATIA exhibit hall showcased a wide variety of vendors and organizations. As usual, vendors of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices and vision-related products were well represented. Due to the recent merger of Dynavox and Tobii, both of which are well known for their AAC devices and eye gaze systems, we were particularly interested to see how they would combine their product lines. We learned that the DynaWrite2.0, a speech-generating device particularly well suited to meet the needs of literate adults who need to be able to use a land line phone for work, had been discontinued. However, one of the Tobii DynaVox reps assured us that a similar product, the highly portable Lightwriter SL40 Connect, will continue to be available. The Lightwriter can be used to make mobile phone calls.
In addition to presenting for JAN, we were able to attend multiple educational sessions. One unique and entertaining session was called Music-Making = Differentiated Instruction and Unique Therapy Protocols, which featured a new [to us] product called Beamz. Beamz is a laser-based music device. It includes three prongs (shaped like a “W”) and laser beams running from each prong. Each laser acts as a different musical instrument that can be played with the stroke of a hand.
The Beamz device can link to IOS products, MAC, and PC, allowing users to view the corresponding instrument with a laser beam on the screen of their device. Users can choose among many genres, including country, hip hop, classical, and even nature sounds. In addition, users can choose to add their own musical twist to already-synced songs ranging from Beamz original compositions, to karaoke hits, and today’s latest radio jams.
Beamz is currently used in multiple settings including schools, geriatric and long-term care facilities, at home, and as a therapy/ rehabilitation tool. It is thought to improve cognition, socialization, and motivation through memory recall, improved communication, and “brain fitness.” Beamz also claims to help with fine and gross motor skills along with improving range of motion.
By: Sheryl Grossman, Consultant – Motor Team
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. What I find fascinating is the story of the woman behind this initiative — Shelly Thomas Christensen. I spoke with Shelly recently to discuss her experience as a parent, advocate and business woman.
Shelly identifies as a mom of a son with Asperger’s Syndrome who was not diagnosed until he was in high school. She reports feeling frustrated and angry as she advocated for him to receive services in his public school, seeing firsthand how little the professionals at his school were invested in him achieving academic success.
“I just detest people blocking others’ success,” she reflected inspiring her to turn her energy towards making a difference in this arena. Convinced she could change the way things were, she became a trained parent advocate, gaining knowledge and strength. Although her son’s experience in his synagogue school was positive because he was treated like any other student, Shelly learned this was not the case for many people in the Jewish community. This motivated her to turn her attention to a new initiative at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis supporting people with disabilities in Jewish community life.
“We are not just someone’s mitzvah project,” she says. “All people deserve the respect to grow to be who they can be, including holding a job. That was the beginning,” she reflects.
While surrounded by successful business owners with disabilities, Shelly experienced her “aha” moment: “If people with disabilities can own their own businesses, so can I!” Learning from those whom she initially helped realize their potential, Shelly launched her consulting company — Inclusion Innovations. What she quickly noticed was that she was one of a handful of people representing faith communities in important disability rights spaces and decided to spread this novel idea throughout the Jewish community. She describes her business as designing, “individualized strategies and programs for faith communities ready to explore ways to shift to a more inclusive environment.” Through this work, she could help individuals with disabilities get more of what they want out of life as valued members of the Jewish community. For Shelly, helping someone get what they want and need out of their faith community naturally leads to these same individuals being seen by their fellow congregants as multifaceted individuals — employees, spouses, parents, athletes, and so much more. She emphasizes, “When we value people, anything is possible.”
By: Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team
Not only is October National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but it is also Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. JAN is joining with others such as LD OnLine and the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) to bring more awareness of learning disabilities and to share information about our resources.
What does the term learning disabilities really mean? Learning Disabilities refer to a number of disorders that may affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding or use of verbal or nonverbal information. These disorders affect learning in individuals who otherwise demonstrate at least average abilities essential for thinking and/or reasoning.
Learning disabilities result from impairments in one or more processes related to perceiving, thinking, remembering or learning. They range in severity and may interfere with the acquisition and use of oral language, reading, written language, and mathematics. Learning disabilities may also involve difficulties with organizational skills, social perception, social interaction, and understanding the perspectives of others (Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 2015).
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan stated the following in a proclamation. It reads in part:
“Awareness of learning disabilities is one of the most important advances in education in recent years. As more and more Americans become aware, our citizens with learning disabilities will have even greater opportunity to lead full and productive lives and to make a contribution to our society.”
Read on to see how some famous individuals with learning disabilities have greatly contributed to our society. These individuals show that although learning disabilities may present challenges, they don’t limit one’s chances for success. Having a learning disability may have in fact played an important role in helping these individuals find the determination to achieve their goals. The following partial list of prominent figures with learning disabilities can surely be a source of inspiration!
From the entertainment industry: Orlando Bloom, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Keira Knightley, Steven Spielberg, and Henry Winkler
Sports figures: Muhammed Ali, Terry Bradshaw, Magic Johnson, and Tim Tebow
Business leaders: Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab, and Ted Turner
Journalist and writers: Agatha Christie, Anderson Cooper, Richard Engel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scientists/Inventors: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein
Military leaders: George Patton and Winston Churchill
If you or someone you know has a learning disability and is looking for assistance in overcoming some of the difficulties that may be present in the workplace, look no further. JAN’s resources include a newly updated Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Learning Disabilities, as well as Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Executive Functioning Deficits for accommodation ideas. We also have information on documentation of a learning disability, organizations, and SOAR – our Searchable Online Accommodation Resource. This tool can walk you step-by-step through the accommodation process, offer accommodation ideas, and provide product information. All of these resources can be found at Accommodation Ideas for Learning Disabilities.
JAN’s consultants on the cognitive/neurological team are available to help answer your questions about the accommodation process, disclosure, and information that can help you in your specific situation. Please feel free to contact us.
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. (2015). Official Definition of Learning Disabilities. Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://ldac-acta.ca.
Famous People with the Gift of Dyslexia, retrieved from http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm October 27, 2015.
Success Stories: Celebrities with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Dyscalculia, retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/personal-stories/famous-people/success-stories-celebrities-with-dyslexia-adhd-and-dyscalculia October 27, 2015.