Most of us connect with others throughout each day. The frequency of these connections may lead us to believe that these interactions are simply a given without fully being aware of them or appreciating them. However, our connections are not necessarily a given. Whether it be with family, professionals, or community resources, every interaction has the potential to transform our lives. No matter how big or small, broad or brief, intimate or distant, easy or complex the relationship might be, we are always connected.
To acknowledge (or celebrate) the shared experience of being connected in this world, we wanted to take a moment to share how some of our friends in the disability community are connected gratefully.
“I am thankful for... Resources.” By Natalie Gilbert, Advocate and Mom of Marvelous Miss Marley
Just like any expectant mother, I was preparing for my baby’s arrival. I was excited about my pregnancy and was looking forward to when I would meet my new baby. Everything seemed normal and then our lives changed. What I wasn’t expecting was a diagnosis of Down Syndrome while my baby was in utero, and even more the lack of information in my community.
So that is why I am thankful for resources! After our initial diagnosis, we began the process of questioning relatives and friends and going down the rabbit hole of Google searches. There was so much information out there that it was a bit overwhelming. However, it was hard to pinpoint what we needed to care for our child. Nevertheless, we were determined to be prepared for our new normal, whatever we had to do. Our baby was coming, and we loved her.
Then after our beautiful Marley was born, the hospital gave us a packet of information that had information from organizations and therapists that would help us. But it wasn’t until we found out about organizations like Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Hearing & Speech Center that I realized how much helpful information and resources are out there to help us with our little girl. Along with the support of our family and friends, having these resources, especially our speech therapist, Mr. Daniel has been a godsend. We have learned through our therapist that speech is a necessity for success. And Marley is making such strides with her speech therapy.
So, when I say having access to resources is important, it truly is, and being able to easily find this information is just as important. Connecting to the right resources makes caring for the special needs of your child that much simpler.
“I am thankful for...Education, Work, and Volunteering.” By Peach Chinranatab, Self-advocate and Volunteer
I am grateful for volunteering with Pathfinder and getting to know different organizations through the website ” I am also grateful for People First TN and working at the farmers market.
Having a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t be a productive citizen. You can even work and volunteer. I have volunteered for several organizations including Pathfinder and graduated from the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt University. And I even have a podcast called “Not So Speechless: Conversations on Neurodiversity.” Self-advocacy played a big role in all of this. I believed I could do it and I fought for myself. I’ve had a lot of great mentors, family, and friendships to help me along the way.
“I am thankful for... ECF CHOICES, Our Place Nashville and SSI.” By Linda Brown, Information & Referral Coordinator, Advocate, and Mom of Terrell
Our son, Terrell, is 28 years old and received an official diagnosis of mild/moderate autism at the age of 5. However, he has been receiving services since he was 15 months old. We asked Terrell what he was thankful for and he said “everything”.
That pretty much sums it up. We have been blessed. We have been able to find resources to support Terrell over the years. We as a family are fierce and dilligent advocates for Terrell to ensure that he is able to live a productive life, and as much of it as independent as he possibly can. This includes having financial support from SSI, receiving services from ECF CHOICES and being able to live at Our Place Nashville.
Terrell is learning the importance of being able to have money to help pay his rent, clothes and food. ECF CHOICES has provided services since 2016 and Terrell has been able to learn about his community and participate in activities that he wants to do. He has also been able to be employed and learn the importance of working with others and receiving a paycheck. Terrell has really enjoyed his new housing at Our Place Nashville. He is becoming more comfortable with socializing with others and becoming part of a group.
“I am thankful for... Pathfinder.” By Laura Gonzalez, Mother of Fabian Lopez
Hello! We are Fabian Lopez and Laura Gonzalez, we have just arrived in the USA, specifically in Tennessee. Fabian is a 17-year-old boy with a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. When we met Andrea with Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, it was at a resource fair for people with disabilities. If you are in my situation, you know that resources are never enough! We arrived almost at the end of the event, but we immediately met Andrea, there were 20 minutes left of the event and she explained to us how the organizations worked. We were very happy since she told us that she would connect us with the resources that we needed. What I found great being a mom of a child with a disability is how Pathfinder helps you connect based on your needs and we thank Andrea for connecting us with SPARK. This organization is in Knoxville, TN, and has donations of medical equipment. We traveled from Chattanooga, where we live, to Knoxville, and they let us take everything that we needed. WOW! I was impressed and blessed. It was great! We felt like we were in a toy store! The process was fast, we got the equipment in a week. Nothing difficult and super friendly. We are Mexicans, and we never felt excluded.
Andrea also helped us connect with financial assistance, with the Family Support Program at Orange Groove Center in Chattanooga, she helped me fill out the forms and at every moment she was attentive to me and explained how the program worked.
Another resource Andrea connected us with was the TN Center for Decision-Making Support. They gave us a 3-hour talk with all the information and answered all our questions. She also connected us with health insurance services that covered Fabian’s needs and gave us all our options and answered our questions.
If I have doubts about something or know someone who is in my situation, I immediately refer them to Andrea so that they can help them as we did. Andrea also always listened to us because there are times when there is no one to listen to you. Having someone listen is very gratifying.
I am grateful to find Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and especially for Andrea for the way she supports our community and our children.