5 Tips for School Success This Year

An apple on top of books with blackboard in background, indicating school successThe school year is almost here, and our Resource Partners at Oak Wealth Advisors, LLC, offers their advice for having school success. Take a look at our favorite tips below, and read the full list at this link.

  1. Seek knowledge. Well-informed families tend to have children who have more success in school than those who don’t educate themselves about available resources.
  2. Share praise frequently. School staff members who know their efforts are appreciated are going to be more receptive to new ideas and be more positively predisposed toward your child.
  3. Request IEP drafts before meetings. Knowing in advance what the school has seen in your child’s development before your IEP meeting is beneficial in many ways. You will have time to absorb any bad news and to generate ideas for alternative approaches to challenges
  4. Keep good records. Both for reminding you of school success that has been achieved and for being a reference when issues arise, detailed records have great value.
  5. Plan for transition before your school initiates the discussion. Thinking ahead about adult goals and life skills as early as middle school will allow for a more productive transition process and increased clarity in goals at the start of high school so that the final years of school can be as productive as possible.

Oak Wealth Advisors logoTo read the rest of the list and to see other resources from Oak Wealth Advisors, click here. Oak Wealth Advisors was founded to provide families with members with disabilities experienced financial advice and investment management services. To learn more about the services Oak Wealth Advisors provide, visit www.oakwealth.com.

August heARTwords: Jorie and John

This month’s heARTwords spotlight features writers Jorie Lesk and John Doetsch. HeARTwords writing workshop is a creative, supportive community of writers and volunteers who support each other to express thoughts and feelings while practicing communication and self-advocacy skills.

Jorie Lesk

Would you rather have invented the telephone, the movie camera, or the television? And why?

Lights! Camera! Action! I would have liked to invent the movie camera because life to me is like a movie where you capture the good moments. I love acting, and when I went to theatre camp I would get excited to go on stage. Seeing all of the different spotlights was cool, and seeing the different color lights they would use for the shows I was in reminds me of the movie camera. I am my own star. Every time I would go backstage I would look for my writing on the theatre walls where I would write “Jorie was here.” It made me feel great because I would always remember my times at theatre camp. If I could reinvent the movie camera it would have different Disney movies on it, like “Snow White,” “Beauty and The Beast,” and “Peter Pan” and anything with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. The movie camera would also have different pictures of Disney rides and some of the songs. Some of the songs that would be featured in this movie camera would be “It’s a Small World” along with pictures from the Small World ride and also “When You Wish Upon A Star.” It would also have different Disney characters and their friends. Overall that is my reinvention of the movie camera.

John Doetsch

Would you rather write fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction is fake while non-fiction is truthful. Fiction will let you imagine and create a story or plot that can take you to a different place. In fact, you can make up ideas which you have never experienced. I could even swing on a star and carry moonbeams in a jar, leap tall buildings and scuba dive in the deepest sea, and because it’s fiction, hitch a ride on a huge whale. I could get a ride across the Pacific Ocean to reach Asia in five years (it’s a very slow whale!). During the five years, I ate more fish than I had eaten in my whole life, so I was so glad to see a McDonald’s and get a quarter-pounder with cheese. Being in Asia, I saw palm trees, lagoons, but because I had eaten so much fish, I didn’t go fishing. I was on a tropical island inhabited by Apes, which I learned were NOT friendly, but I wanted to be able to teach them not to be my enemy if they allowed me to be their teacher. I came upon the idea of offering them over-ripe bananas but I had to teach them how to peel bananas. As a result, these formerly wild apes became my friends. They wanted me to enjoy their culture and company. They gestured to me to join in a celebration because they wanted to show their friendship. They were so excited they offered their food, which was a banana. I had gone full circle and with that they gave me a strong vine and tied me to swing on the wine back over the Pacific and back to heARTwords today!

Campers Explore Evanston Resources

Summertime means camp, and for Center for Independent Futures, camp means opportunities to learn life skills and make connections. For the seventh year, we partnered with Evanston Township High School to host Life Tools Camp for eight students from the Transition House.

What Happens at Life Tools Camp

8 members of Life Tools Camp at a track field“Evanston is rich in community resources. We want to introduce students to resources so they can learn about opportunities,” explains Sharon Purdy, a member of Center for Independent Futures’ Schools Team.

Camp began on Tuesday, starting with campers sharing hopes and dreams through collages and presentations. The rest of the week included tours of the YMCA and the Ecology Center and a walk through the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. In downtown Evanston, the group did a scavenger hunt at local businesses, and at the Evanston Public Library, the librarians helped campers find books, music, and movies. To get around the city, campers used Ventra cards to travel by CTA bus.

“Our week was full of new experiences, both at the Transition House and in the community,” Sharon says. “While we spent the week together participating in common activities, each of us achieved some of our own goals.”

Achieving Hopes, Dreams, & Goals

One student’s goal was to share a meal with his peers, which he achieved when he cooked lunch for the group. Another camper wanted to be supportive of others, and he spent the week being encouraging and helpful to his fellow students. A returning camper used skills he learned last year to achieve his goal of taking public transportation home from camp every day.

All of the campers learned to express their hopes and dreams and had the opportunity to reflect on their goals for the future. One of the campers discovered that he wanted to work in a kitchen. Through camp activities, he learned about jobs available in his interest area.

Grateful for Community Support

Thanks to all the Evanston resources that welcomed our campers this week and to Evanston Township High School for partnering with us. In addition to hosting camp, Center for Independent Futures and ETHS work together to support students with disabilities to learn skills and plan for the future. To learn more about our work in schools, click here.

Save the Date for Something’s Cooking 2017

Your favorite fall tradition is on the calendar! Center for Independent Futures hosts Something’s Cooking on Sunday, November 12, from 3-6 p.m. To continue celebrating our fifteenth year of supporting hopes and dreams, we’re hosting this event at a new venue: the beautiful Woman’s Club of Evanston in the heart of downtown.

Executive Director Ann and Board co-chair Jeff smile at Something's Cooking.Our featured restaurants will each serve up a signature dish for sampling for a complete taste of Chicago and the North Shore. To toast our fifteenth anniversary, we’ll enjoy tastes from local breweries and distilleries. A full dessert display and culinary-themed silent auction complete the celebration.

All funds raised at Something’s Cooking support our mission to support individuals with disabilities to live full, more independent lives. Stay tuned for updates about our featured restaurants and a link to buy tickets online.

Want to get involved in this fun event? We need volunteers to help with planning and running the event and community businesses to support our silent auction. To learn more, contact Niki Moe at (847) 328-2044 or at nmoe@independentfutures.com.

Thank you to the following sponsors who make Something’s Cooking and other events possible throughout the year!

July heARTwords: Sarah and Brian

Starting this month, our blog will feature selections from the writers of the heARTwords writing workshop. At heARTwords, twenty to thirty writers gather to share themselves with the help of dedicated volunteers. HeARTwords is a community of emotions, courage, imagination, knowledge, experience, and heart.

Facilitators Barry Siegel, Paul Fields, and Joe Jackson lead the group to address topics ranging from current events to emotional issues, from humor to pathos, from magic and miracles to triumphs and tragedies. Writers contemplate love lost and love found, history, the future, and everything in between.

The facilitators encourage participants to share their communication skills and creative expressions outside of heARTwords, with family, friends, and other members of their community. This practice includes listening, questioning, and commenting. Self-advocacy is an integral part of living independently and being able to communicate with clarity, logic, passion, and focus are critical to its success.

Sarah Schechtman-Thale

You are a guest speaker at an elementary school and you’re there to address a class of first-graders. What will you talk to them about?

I would talk to the first-graders about my disability. Some first-graders think that you can catch cerebral palsy. I would tell them about the basics–what it is and how you get it, and that they don’t have to be afraid to approach me. I would first tell them how I was born with it and how it was a result of my brain cells not being developed. I would tell them that there was too much oxygen coming at them too fast, so some brain cells died. I think that you can actually see those brain cells on a scan. They would be gray, and the other cells would be healthy. Most importantly, I would tell them not to let things hold them back. If I can do it, they can do it. Hopefully, I won’t have kids timidly approaching me anymore after our talk.

Brian Reed

If your mirror could speak, what would it say?

When I look in the mirror, I see my dad’s face. He is saying “hi” to me. He says that he loves me and asks, “How is Vicki?” Vicki is my niece. He tells me that while he has been up in heaven, he has been thinking about me. He has been wondering how I am doing, and I tell him that I am doing OK. It is hard when people die, but I have been doing OK. I tell him that I wish he was still alive. I miss travelling with him, I miss birthday parties, and I miss talking to him on the phone. I miss visiting where he used to live as a kid. When I look in the mirror I also see Rosemary’s face. I say to her, “I miss you, Rosemary.” I miss going to breakfast. I also tell her that I am doing OK. Thank you for being part of my life, Rosemary. I wish that you, too, were still alive.

 

Special Needs Trust Expertise from Rubin Law

Center for Independent Futures looks to a reliable network of Resource Partners to provide expertise and support to families on a variety of subjects. One of these partners, Rubin Law, shared an update on creating a special needs trust, an important building block for a sustainable future.

“A special needs trust can be the most important savings account your child with special needs will ever have,” Rubin Law writes.

Photo of Rubin Law employees, specializing in creating a special needs trust. 3 men in front of Rubin Law logoThe piece goes on to explain that this account should be set up as soon as possible, and supported so that your loved one can maintain their essential government benefits. The trust can help cover expenses not covered by these benefits.

Setting up the special needs trust involves several key decisions, including how you’ll fund the account. Rubin Law lists some of the possibilities, like life insurance, savings and investments, and property. You’ll also have to choose a trustee, someone you trust to make sound financial decisions while keeping the best interests of your loved one at heart.

No matter how you fund the trust or who is the trustee, Rubin Law emphasizes that the important thing is to take this critical step for your loved one’s future.

“Don’t wait. As with estate planning, the time to plan for the future is now,” they write.

To learn more about special needs trusts, read the rest of the post at this link. Rubin Law was founded by a family with members with disabilities, motivating a commitment to providing special needs legal and future planning for other Illinois families. For more information, visit www.rubinlaw.com or call 847-279-7999.

Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board Share Laughter

The Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board’s most recent gathering wasn’t a typical meeting. Instead, the office was full of activity as some acted out flipping a pancake or figure skating and others tried to get their teammates to guess movie titles. The two groups came together for pizza, charades, and laughter, creating new connections and strengthening existing friendships.

The Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board both support Center for Independent Futures’ mission through fundraising and awareness efforts. The Advisory Council is a group of Center for Independent Futures participants, while the Auxiliary Board is made up of young professionals. The groups plan separate and collaborative fundraisers and social events and work together to support SPARK, our largest fundraiser.

If you’re interested in meeting members of the Auxiliary Board or Advisory Council, join us for dinner on Tuesday, August 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Evanston’s Potbelly Sandwich Shop (603 Davis Street). That night, a portion of all sales will be donated back to Center for Independent Futures to support our Bank of America Chicago Marathon team. Along with other members of our community, the Advisory Council and Auxiliary Board will gather for dinner to socialize and support our runners.

To learn more about how to get involved with either group, contact us at center@independentfutures.com or call (847) 328-2044.

Looking Ahead at the End of Pride Month

By Avielle Suria Trenche

Pride Month has been an eventful time in Chicagoland! As it comes to a close, we want to celebrate by featuring the efforts of our community members and sharing ways to get involved after Pride Month ends.

LGBTQ advocate SandyCenter for Independent Futures participant Sandy Clymo serves as an Advocate at an organization called Proud & Included. Proud & Included provides individuals with developmental disabilities who identify as LGBTQ with opportunities to build community and tools to advocate for themselves. Sandy is also an ambassador at Proud & Included, a role that includes mentoring, training, and encouraging self-advocates to participate in the community as their true selves.

The Proud & Included community welcomes individuals with disabilities who identify as LGBTQ as well as allies and family members. It’s a place for anyone seeking effective ways to promote self-advocacy and support their loved ones. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new friends and explore identities in a supportive group.

Proud & Included logoIf you’re interested in getting involved, you can attend a monthly Participant/Ally Meetings, where people come together to learn about inclusion, community events, and local resources. Their next meeting will be held on Sunday, July 9, from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Center on Halsted. You can register for the event using this link: Proud & Included Monthly Participant/Ally Meeting

The celebration doesn’t stop there! Proud & Included plans to participate in the 2017 Disability Pride Parade on Saturday, July 22. You can find more information about getting involved with the parade at this link: Proud & Included Marches in Disability Pride Parade

To learn more about the Disability Pride Parade, visit www.disabilityprideparade.org. The parade’s mission is to change the way people think about disability so that society can recognize it as a natural part of human diversity, in which people can take pride.

“Spread your wings! People should be what they want, go wherever they want, and do what they want. Remember, be confident, and proud!” – JoJo Michaels, Proud & Included Ambassador

 

Medicaid Cuts Threaten Our Community

United States Capitol BuildingDear friends,

Recent media has focused on how Russia may have impacted the election and the voting process, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. As we share concerns about threats from others, we must be equally concerned about threats from within.

A very serious threat that requires your immediate attention and action is proposed changes to Medicaid funding. By June 30, the Senate is expected to vote on legislation to significantly alter and reduce services provided through the Medicaid program. This proposed reduction will drastically affect the lives of individuals with disabilities, impacting their access to the basic liberties of Americans. 

At risk are Medicaid services that provide essential supports, including Home and Community Based Services. These allow individuals to access the workplace, purchase and prepare meals and engage with fellow community members. All of these everyday activities may be threatened by the proposed cuts.

Now is the time to act to protect these liberties. I implore you to call your elected representatives to share the devastating impact that cuts to Medicaid would have on your family and your community. To find contact information for your representative, click here. Senators outside of Illinois also need to hear our voices, particularly in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If you know anyone in these states, encourage them to call their Senators to support Medicaid.

Thank you for joining with us to protect the futures of individuals with disabilities.

Sincerely,

Ann C. Sickon
Executive Director
Center for Independent Futures

 

To learn more about the proposed bill, view information from the Arc of the United States by clicking here.

Click here to read a letter from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law about the damages these cuts will cause in communities.

Sign On to Improve Paratransit Services

Photo of Pace transit busGetting around the community is essential to a full life. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures the existence of paratransit to supplement accessible public transportation, providing individualized rides without fixed routes or schedules. Unfortunately, these services don’t allow the same flexibility as other methods of transportation.

“The way the system is currently designed, you have to call 24 hours ahead for next-day service,” Stephen Hiatt-Leonard explains. “Persons who are certified to use the service have to plan their schedules around transportation. There is no spontaneity in their lives.”

Stephen, a student at Southern Illinois University, is working to change these problems to give individuals with disabilities access to the transportation they need to take advantage of daily opportunities. He created a petition directed at Pace Suburban Bus, which oversees paratransit services in Chicagoland.

To support Stephen’s campaign to improve these transportation services, click here to sign his petition on Change.org. Read on below for a letter from Stephen about why this change is so important to individuals with disabilities.

Hello,

My name is Stephen Hiatt-Leonard. I’m a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale currently majoring in rehabilitation services. I’m also an ADA Pace Paratransit user.

I came to the realization this summer that ADA Paratransit does not give individuals with disabilities who are eligible for the service the flexibility to do things with their friends or at a moment’s notice – because we have to call 24 hours in advance for next-day service.

It is my goal to change that and have ADA Paratransit services available the same day clients call for reservations. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale paratransit system has something similar to this where we can call 24 hours or 1-2 hours for same-day service.

My paratransit work began at SIU, where the paratransit system did not serve students well. As a Senator for students with disabilities in the Undergraduate Student Government, I worked with administration to correct the problem. In a year, we had a new paratransit system in place.

Next, on to Chicago and Pace. There is a lot of work to do to make Pace more user-friendly. I began a petition on Change.org and am currently accepting signatures. The major change is to make the service more accessible to passengers through the ability to call and be picked up in a short period of time, like an hour, rather than making a reservation the day before. The current system limits the ability to make and keep last-minute appointments, to interact in the community as others are able to do, and to be spontaneous. This update is not going to happen quickly, but my hope is that eventually we will be able to see the change.

Stephen Hiatt-Leonard

Evanston, Ill.
Student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Rehabilitation Services program at the Rehabilitation Institute

Success Stories

sat20jul3:00 pm5:30 pmHeARTwords Workshop

sun21jul11:00 am12:45 pmBowling

mon22jul4:00 pm5:00 pmYoga

mon22jul5:00 pm6:00 pmBook Club

tue23jul1:30 pm2:30 pmWalking Club

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