Monday 18 May 2020

Special Olympics by Matt W (Ability Online member)

Hello Everyone,
My name is Matt  and I am a Special Olympics athlete I am live in Nova Scotia. Just a little back story on the Special Olympics it was created by Dr.Frank Hayden and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the monumental kick off for Special Olympics was at Soldiers Field in Chicago in 1969. 
Now you must be thinking to yourself what it is like to be a Special Olympics Athlete?  Well let me tell you being a Special Olympics athlete is great because everyone looks at your abilities and your coaches will always push you to try something new and they will challenge you to do it if you think you can’t. 
What’s it like having your sister as your coach? It’s pretty awesome. My sister took me to a practice one night and she jumped down off the stage and starting kicked around with me and they asked her to be a coach and has been ever since. She has learned a lot of skills like I have. 
Where have you competed? I Have competed primarily in Nova Scotia at the summer games and each year they are held at Acadia University and STFX University and Dalhousie University. But I did compete at the 2014 national summer games in Vancouver with my basketball team and most recently my soccer team competed at a tournament in the Yukon. 
What is your sport? I have competed in many sports such as Floor Hockey (off ice ringette) Softball, Track and Field but my current sports are basketball and soccer. 
What’s your favorite position to play? I am a many of many hats but I enjoy playing all positions but because of my height since I’m so tall I am point guard for basketball and play Mid-field, Defence and Goalie for soccer. 
How do you like to stay active outside of your sports? Back in 2018 my soccer coach thought of us doing the Bluenose marathon, we do the Life mark 5k (5 Kilometres in the heart of downtown Halifax) so my sister took me to the Canada Games Center and we started running indoors and Now I run outdoors and I normally run 4K (4 Kilometeres) 
How long have you been doing it? I have been competing in the Special Olympics for 15 years and see no sign of stopping in sight!. Do you have any future goals? I would love to qualify for the nationals again and go onto worlds.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Reflections on Ten Years of Bell Let's Talk Day by Sarah Evans

Last week was the annual Bell Let's Talk Day. It is the tenth year Bell had this national fundraising and awareness campaign. While I happily realize that this campaign has done a lot to make it easier for people to talk about mental health, there are a number of things that could be done to improve it (as well as the media coverage of it).

In years past, I felt that Bell Let's Talk Day mostly revolved around the celebrities that endorsed it. Not that that is a bad thing; celebrity buy-in is a great way to start to promote a cause. Also, in encouraging people to open up about mental illness, I sometimes felt this underlying message that if people are just courageous enough to open up, help will be waiting with open arms. That has not been my experience or that of countless others. I was so happy on this year's Bell Let's Talk Day when I heard a broadcaster say that, unless a person has benefits at work, it is very difficult to find help  (because, as I have found, it is so cost prohibitive). Or you have to wait on a long waiting list and may only be allowed to have a certain number of sessions.

Another thing I have noticed about this day is that people only tell the nice and clean stories. The ones of people who have had depression or anxiety (or even an addiction) but are well on their way to or are in recovery. There are many other mental illnesses, like Schizophrenia or Borderline Personality Disorder, that are not always clean and tidy. As well, mental health affects all people, like myself, a person with a disability, but I've never seen people with disabilities included in the campaign.

While Bell Let's Talk Day has done a lot to break down the stigma of mental health, which has been it's goal, there are some things that it (and the media that covers it) could do to portray the reality of who lives with a mental illness and what it's like.

Monday 3 February 2020

Easier Said than Done, By Tamara Richardson

Starting off a new year is often easier said than done. It can feel challenging to get out of bed, when often (if you live in a cold climate) the house is usually freezing in the morning, and the bed feels so cozy and warm. Even I’ve had really high expectations of myself going into this year. I wanted to work out for at least 30 minutes every day, waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning to ensure that I am setting myself up for a successful day. Attempting to fit in everything I possibly could into my schedule. I believe my goals are achievable, and I know it is possible to wake up early and check everything off my list, but perfection isn't the goal here, progress is. Along with my many other goals for the year so far, waking up early and getting my work-out in at the crack of dawn, have indeed been a little derailed and delayed. 

In the first week of January, I was still trying to get rid of all the Christmas chocolate, by, well, eating it all. Then by the second week of January, I came down with a cold, which was frustrating, as I haven’t gotten a cold in years. I also planned on working off all the chocolate that week, it didn’t happen. By the third week, I had only worked out three times, in the morning, but closer to 7:00am, and was still rushing to get to my classes. After looking back at the past month, I felt pretty bummed out, I mean, some things were out of my control, but others were the consequences to my choices when I felt tired, unmotivated, or was giving in to old habits (staying up late, glued to a screen, over-eating, etc.,). 
How could I let this happen? I asked myself. After looking at all my goal charts, my coloured coded planners, and neatly organized system to micro-manage everything, to try and avoid error at all costs, the mistakes had happened anyways. I realized I had forgotten what a new year is all about. A new year isn't all about waking up every single day, intending to check off every box on the chart - the point of the goals is to work towards them because, in the end, you want to feel good about yourself and create the best version of yourself that you can. I must keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

However, getting stuck in the habit that everything you’re working on is nothing more than ‘a means to an end,’ an input for output, can cause more pain because the truth is the only time you can work on yourself is the moment you have right now. It sounds strange, but if you really think about it, the single moment you are ever-living in is now, right now. Finding a balance in life and in the 'every day' is difficult for everyone, especially when you are coming from a place where bad habits and old patterns are comfortable, and it feels as though they have control over you. When you are coming from a past filled with symptoms of mental illness. Attempting to manage those symptoms, day after day, it can feel like the illness and the weakness of some of your abilities that society usually rewards for being ‘strong’ are in the driver's seat. 

I promise you they don’t sit in the driver’s seat, nor do they have control over you. From personal experience, I can guarantee you with 100% certainty, balance is possible. It doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't always flow consistently, but it couldn't possibly, or it wouldn't be ‘balance’ at all. Focus on your strengths, focus on what you can do, and the areas that need improvement will come naturally. 

I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired just over four years ago now, and this May will be the fourth anniversary of my choice to eat a whole-foods-plant-based diet and choosing to treat my body with the love it deserves. It was the best decision I could have ever made for myself. I made a commitment to myself, to eat better, to be more active by moving in the ways that bring me joy (like skating, dancing, and practicing yoga), to work on my weaknesses alongside my strengths. I chose to be determined to reach my goals, no matter what challenges come my way, or what obstacles I face, I have seen the benefits and outcomes of getting back up, no matter how times you are knocked down, first-hand. It isn’t easy, but resiliency is key.  

Will I give up my coloured coded planners and micro-managing strategies? Probably not. I need them because, without them, my ADHD wants to take every second of unscheduled time into the depths of distraction. My anxiety tells me that I’m not good enough and that I should just give up on my goals. My depression tells me that my efforts don’t matter and that my work won’t bring positive things into my life. None of these things are true. My ADHD may create time-delays in my actions towards my goals, but by learning about myself and using strategies, I can still reach them and work on reducing those delays little by little. My anxiety may make it challenging to feel calm, fearless, and accepted but that doesn’t mean I can’t practise mindfulness and yoga to bring peace and harmony into my mind. My depression may feel like a weight on my chest, but I can exercise to build the strength I need to lift it off every day.  

Focus on your life right now, what exists in this present moment. Engage in the leisure you love, try new things, practise mindfulness, dive into learning about everything you possibly can, find where your place is in the world and do it on purpose because it has the power to bring growth and joy into your everyday life. Everything can be modified and tuned to you and your life. A bright and blank space stands before you, where you can design what you dream. After all, you are human, this is the beauty of it all. You have the power to create change and create the life you want for your self.  

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Monday 4 November 2019

Exceptional Individuals with ADHD by Tamara Richardson

Exceptional Individuals with ADHD
Need an ADDitional boost of motivation and inspiration?
One of my favourite things to do in my leisure time is watching TEDTalks! I am a life-long learner and am always fascinated by how many new things there are to know about the world we live in! There are so many talks out there on an incredible variety of topics, from microbiology to sleep science to black holes in space! 
There are even TEDTalks on ADHD! This is amazing, not only because it brings awareness to the new insights on the condition but also the TED stage and the internet, of course gives those with ADHD the opportunity to educate and inspire those with and without the diagnosis. 
When I took the time to work on and increase my self-awareness in terms of my ADHD specifically, it gave me the knowledge and the tools I was missing to have more productive and positive experiences in my everyday life. 
When I listened to others' stories and experiences, it brought relief that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. After some, I even became emotional because it was so comforting to hear other individuals describing their experiences, their hardships and daily battles the same way I would have if I were the one up there. 
These individuals instilled hope within that I could find solutions, use strategies and achieve anything I wanted too. These people and their stories, their knowledge, and epic accomplishments inspired me to believe in myself; and gave me the motivation I so desperately needed to use my ADHD qualities as an advantage and to focus on my strengths. 
I still re-watch them to this day and am continually finding more amazing videos of exceptional individuals with ADHD, challenging their community’s expectations and breaking down the stigma and boundaries that society has tried to build around them. 
I hope that these exceptional individuals and their stories inspire you just as much as they did for me.

 10 TEDTalks of Exceptional Individuals with ADHD
1. Not Just LIVING but THRIVING with ADHD | Angela Aguirre | TEDxCalStateLA
            Angela begins her talk with spoken word poetry, eloquently defining her hardships and feelings towards her self and circumstances. She discusses school and work as the two places where she experienced the most difficulty, but comes out the other side of adversity with an incredible story of entrepreneurship, success, lifting young women in her community to new heights and helping the art of poetry flourish within her community. She inspires self-love and self-awareness and that no matter what barriers you face, dreams are not silly, not to be taken lightly and create beautiful works of art for all to embrace. 
2. Failing at Normal | Jessica McCabe | 
            At the age of 32, Jessica found herself completely lost with where she was going in her life, experiencing depression and feelings of failure, with one last try at creating something she could feel proud of in the career realm. She created a YouTube channel called “How To ADHD.” It has now become one of the most-watched and used educational resources on YouTube, fostering a thriving interactive community of ADHD “Brains” as she calls herself and those with ADHD supporting one another. Her “last attempt” at success became as massive achievement for not only herself but those who live with ADHD. Her story might make you shed a tear, but only because it is so relatable for so many of us with ADHD. Her perseverance and tenacity show all of us that we are all worthy of finding acceptance and that because our brains work differently, it brings incredible things into the world, that would not have been there otherwise. 
3. What They Say | Rick Green | TEDxMohawkCollege |
            An incredible Canadian with a long history in film and acting. Rick Green, who many may know from the “Red-Green” show. He talks about his childhood experiences, adversities he’s had to overcome, and the quirks that make him who he is. After being diagnosed with ADHD, quite late into his 40’s, he decided to educate himself on the condition and use that knowledge for the power of positive change. He created a documentary that helped a lot of adults reach out and find answers for themselves after it premiered on PBS. This documentary led to the creation of the website “Totally ADD” which has become incredibly popular and continues to aid those on a variety of topics. The site also includes a forum where ADHD issues and achievements can be discussed and so much more! This talk is genuinely unforgettable and is a must-watch! 
4. ADHD Sucks, but Not Really | Salif Mahamane |
            This young individual speaks about his school experiences and identifies some common mistakes and myths surrounding the ADHD stigma. He discusses his own experiences with mental health and ADHD and how he still works to overcome those today. He saw all of the positives and strengths of ADHD after doing more research and wanted to encourage and inspire others to see those same things; he previously was unable to see. He speaks powerfully and notes despite the symptoms of ADHD, it is how we use what we have that makes all the difference. “ADHD sucks… but Not Really!”  
5. Making ADHD Your Superpower | George Cicci |
            George Cicci, a successful entrepreneur and family man, describes some of the common ADHD symptoms, and experiences he had in elementary school. He brings up some of the unfortunate things said to him by adults about his abilities throughout his school career. George reflected on those moments in his life and realized he had the power to create the life he always saw for himself. All he had to do was work with his brain and not against it. ADHD is a superpower, and like Xavier in the X-Men, suggests that all we need to do is hone in on the tools, technologies and strategies that allow us to control and use our powers for good. 
6. ADHD as A Difference in Cognition; Not A Disorder | Stephen Tonti | TEDxCMU 
            Stephen Tonti is an incredible speaker and public speaking veteran with all the enthusiasm and drama you could ask for in a TEDTalk. A jack of all trades, listing over 20 different pathways of learning he attempted, pulls you into the TEDTalk with eagerness to find out what he might say next. Courageous and passionate, Stephen points out how the view of ADHD in public and private, has been inherently wrong and damaging. He discusses how ADHD is a difference in cognition, and not a disorder to feel ashamed of or let others frown upon. He fills his speech with notes of English and Drama history and references to famous films that keeps you hooked to the very end, changing your perspective on ADHD and even on the boringness of Shakespeare – don’t believe me? Watch his talk and see for yourself, I guarantee, he will surprise you. 
7. The Golden Benefits of ADHD | Thomas Idem | TEDxArendal
            Thomas brings humour and lightheartedness to his discussion on what ADHD is at its core and how to understand it better. Discussing some of the more foundational areas of ADHD traits and mirroring the actual meanings behind the common symptom terminology. He highlights the ups and downs of his life path and how every wrong turn he took, with a positive attitude became the right path all along. He gained so many skills along his journey to embracing who he was and aims to help others understand the abundance of silver linings hanging among the clouds of ADHD. 
8. ADHD In Our Community | John Park | TEDxShanghaiAmericanSchoolPuxi
            John Park, a younger individual, braves the stage with loud encouragement from his peers. He shares some of his negative experiences from school and employs others to open their minds to understanding the differences in those with ADHD. He talks about how education and compassion can foster acceptance. John points out how vital advocacy and awareness is within the school system and that his accommodations are for equity and nothing more. His speech reinforces that no matter how young you are, you can advocate for yourself and be a leader in producing positivity and acceptance among your peers. 
9. Not Wrong, Just Different: ADHD as Innovators| Rebecca Hession | TEDxFortWayne
            Rebecca talks about her son’s experiences as a young child in the school system and how there are significant changes to be made towards supporting and fostering a diverse and thriving space where everyone can focus on their strengths. Every individual learns differently, and there are so many bright young minds that require a different learning environment than that of their peers. Just a few small changes can make a huge impact. The unique traits of her little boy, are seen in many of us with ADHD as children and her story is so inspiring for those in the education system and parents of children with the diagnosis. 
10. ADHD from the inside | Toby Shaw | TEDxYouth@ISPrague 
Toby is a fantastic speaker who breaks down some of the more traditional definitions and symptom descriptions of ADHD. He outlines the specifics of the disorder and explains how it feels for the person with the condition. Toby describes it in a way for those without ADHD to help them understand the diagnosis better. He also speaks about how watching videos of other stories inspired him, as well. Toby finds success in school after receiving his diagnosis; and connected with learning support specialists and used a few different types of accommodation. He highlights the advantages of ADHD and relates them to real-life experiences. Toby closes with acknowledging that yes, having ADHD makes some days harder than others, but with the right supports in place, ADHD is a genuine bonus. 

Tuesday 22 October 2019

The Upsides of ADHD - by Tamara Richardson

Sometimes it might be challenging to see all the upsides of ADHD when you are facing a lot of obstacles or struggling with the typical symptoms’ day after day; So, I thought it would be a good idea to write down just a few of the upsides of having ADHD! These are the upsides that I personally experience, but there are so many upsides, and they are different for everyone.

#1.) Imagination and Innovation! I am very imaginative and an “outside the box” thinker. My mind is almost always racing, especially when I'm researching something, I am passionate about. Since my thoughts sort of just quickly pour out all at once, I write them down as quickly as they come so I won't forget, and then set a reminder on my calendar to re-write and act on them later. When I set aside the time and space to refine those imaginative and (usually) long-winded ideas into clear and concise plans, I end up being more productive. 

#2.) & #3.) Resilient and Optimistic Problem Solver! Although I am more prone to experience more personal failures or mistakes than those without ADHD, those failures are just more opportunities for me to learn and grow. I tend to be quite positive and optimistic when facing challenges, because I myself, have had to constantly find solutions for my own daily mishaps throughout my entire life. Being able to get back up after falling down, again and again, builds inner strength, even though getting back up can be really difficult some days, I find, in the end, it is always worth it. 

#4.) Enthusiasm! When I stumble upon something that piques my interest, I tend to get really motivated and excited, visibly more than others. Sometimes I'm so hyped I accidentally interrupt or talk over others, but I always try to be thoughtful of those around me when I feel myself getting a little overzealous. The upside to the enthusiasm is that it usually rubs off on others and is a great tool when you are working with a team of people to help motivate or encourage them to work together and find solutions. A second upside is that no one ever asks you to "speak up a little." 

#5.) Humour! I wouldn't necessarily say I'm 'comedic,' but when you're continually saying "Whoops," "Uh-Oh," "My Bad," "I'm sorry, I'm gonna be late again," sometimes you just have to laugh it up and joke about it. I often walk into a room (out of breath, quite literally always running late) and just start with "Hey guys, sorry I'm late to our meeting again, at least I'm consistent!" 

#6.) Hyper-Focus! Hyper focusing is a bit of a double-edged sword - although it doesn't quite help us in situations where we have to follow other people’s schedules and routines or self-care routines, like getting to bed on time- it DOES, however, boost my ability to be super resourceful! Sometimes I can research an exciting topic for 10 hours straight without getting tired or feeling the need to stop or skim-read an entire encyclopedia on New Guinea's "Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise" in one night and be able to tell you everything there is to know about it in the morning! This can really come in handy if your working on a project and a significant component changes last minute; then its Hyperfocusing to the rescue! Reflecting on some of the positive traits of your ADHD can help foster self-compassion and understanding. Those with ADHD tend to be more self-critical and struggle with their identity more than those without ADHD, so it is crucial we take the time to reflect and acknowledge that these upsides contribute to what makes us unique.

#7. Energetic! I love high energy places! Whether it’s a concert, or music, street and community festivals, group art classes, trail walks and hiking; I am at my happiest during my leisure time when I get to participate in activities where everyone else is just as excited to be there as me! You also never have to worry about shifting focus or getting distracted, because that is the whole point! To take in and absorb everything around you! Am I stopping on a trail hike to look a group of ants all carrying a giant leaf? Sure! Why not! Am I stopping at every single festival booth that catches my eye, weaving in and out of local shops, trying fifty different types of foods! Yes! 100%! It is all about the journey of the activity, not about getting to the end.

#8 Entrepreneurship! Do you love walking, sorry, running to the beat of your own drum? Me to! Those with ADHD tend to make fantastic entrepreneurs, as their drive for following what they love and making something great out of it, with the right support can really pay off! 

#9 Curiosity! Those of us with ADHD typically love to learn! We just all love to learn in different ways. We can be captivated by so many things around us that we are always learning and taking in what’s happening around us, that others may not notice. I love the fact that I am constantly curious, even though I may not always be the best at focusing on one thing at a time, but through that struggle I am always stumbling upon new and exciting things. 

#10 Authenticity! ADHD brains are amazing at just being themselves! Depending on how someone’s ADHD presents, their quirks may or may not be evident to those around them. With that said, they quite literally can’t help but be who they are! I do my best to learn as many strategies and skills to help myself in situations where my ADHD may hinder me, but in one way or another, the fact that my brain just works differently than others never fails to shine right on through! 

These are just 10 Upsides to MY ADHD – but they’re different for everyone! On the “My ADHD Forum,” I would love to hear what your favourite things about your ADHD are and why they’re so great! 

Thank for Reading!

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Ability Friendly Access Business Program by Krystian Shaw - Ability Online member and disability advocate

I run and own a newsletter in Kamloops BC Canada called The Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter. that focuses on disability awareness, success stories and inclusion for all as well as a new program/service is starting up for September for Kamloops and surrounding area businesses called Ability friendly Access business program that will certify businesses as disability friendly and welcoming to all and some doctors who have a knack for serving and dealing with patients who have disabilities like developmental disabilities, mental health issues or autism and other kinds of disabilities. We would like medical offices to become scent free and disability friendly places to go to and to visit your doctor or chiropractic doctors etc. The program costs 15 dollars every 3 months or 50 dollars for the year. With this program you also get a certificate with a frame to hang up on your business wall for customers or patients to see. As well as a listing in our monthly newsletter. This is a very exciting and unusual project to happen in Kamloops and surrounding  area. We will be making places disability friendly and accessible and friendly. people like to know if you support diversity, inclusion and access in your business or medical office. People like to deal with businesses who has the same values as their customers or  patients. We will certify them as being good places to eat or shop at or go to. 

Thanks to Jan's (my marketing assistant) idea I ran with it and we all came up with good ideas. I also been in touch with Media and other businesses in Kamloops like Fun Factor to give a certificate to. All the certificates come with a frame and a listing in the monthly newsletter.  This is a dream come true for my city and surrounding areas. 

I live with developmental disabilities and an anxiety disorder and ADHD and I wanted to create a new service to mark my 6th anniversary year of doing this for society and people with all disabilities including but not limited to mental health issues.  I also would like to thank Jan for her idea.

We also want to congratulate businesses for serving us. as customers from all abilities as well as from diverse backgrounds. We also would like to say good job to businesses for hiring us as employees and much more. 

I also would like to say you can do anything you set your mind too with the right supports in place. Please feel free to share this inspiring story.

I am the president at the Kamloops Self Advocate.

Monday 27 May 2019

One Foot in Front of the Other: Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone By Remy Martino, Ability Online Member and Mentor

One day at work, one of my coworkers asked me, out of the blue, if I had any summer goals. There were no customers in desperate need of assistance, so I had no way out of this question. I can’t remember what I told her, but I can imagine it was something along the lines of: “I don’t know, man; read more, write more, do more…try some new stuff.” Nice and vague, and it seemed to satisfy them. 
This exchange, though, has made me wonder; what ARE my goals, and WHY are these goals the goals I set? I always want to do MORE, but is there something more concrete I could focus on? While reading and writing more sounds noble, I’m already on my fourteenth book of the year, so I think I’ve got that covered.
At this point, you may be wondering what my inability to set legitimate goals has to do with Ability Online and the users it supports…  Well, hey, don’t interrupt, I’m getting there.
See, Ability Online has many forums open for discussion; asking questions like, “What’s your favourite super hero? (Captain America) and “What are you afraid of?” (Spiders; they have so many legs, and are so very fast.) But the forum I want to talk about now is called “Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone.”
On this forum, people have discussed things like social anxiety and fears, and personal goals and triumphs.  As we’re all different, there is a wide array of posts; all of these goals are valuable, regardless of magnitude.
“Remy, no. That’s silly. A goal to “read more” or make a new pal, or learn a new bus route isn’t as valuable as going back to school, or learning how to cook.” 
Isn’t it, though? 
Those who use Ability Online experience life differently; they may or may not have certain limitations which they must cope with in order to prosper. From the second these limitations are discovered, they are labelled and defined. “You can’t run; you’ll suck at math; you’ll never see anyone like you in movies or on TV” 
The act of stepping outside our predetermined and often very comfortable comfort zones as we age becomes even more important than ever because of these labels and definitions thrown our way. While those who label and define us may have some knowledge and even, maybe, some experience, the only way we’ll ever find out what we can do, is to do it….or try to, anyway. 
So, yeah, I’ll say it again; every goal on this forum has immense value; I don’t care how big or how small. While comfort Zones can be, well, comfortable, they can get a bit boring, repetitive, and predictable.  
As a final word, I implore you to set your summer goals; and know that Ability Online will be around to share in your triumphs all season long.