Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Standing United Against Stigma

There have been a lot of opinions shared over the last several days over an incident that occurred on United Airlines involving a teenage girl with autism.  If you haven't seen the story, check out the link here.

I've spent the last two days reading about this incident and feeling all the feelings.  Anger and sadness that a family had to be humiliated and embarrassed over an incident that could have been controlled.  Annoyance and frustration that more hasn't been done to combat ignorance and educate people in all areas of the workforce on developmental disabilities.  Defeat because the task to educate and end ignorance seems monumental.  Finally though, I've landed on determination.  I am more determined than ever that ignorance like this needs to be addressed on a much broader scale than it is currently.

I don't fully blame the flight attendant or the pilot for not handling the situation properly.  Ignorance is a very real thing and appears to be responsible in this case.  At what point do we stop letting ignorance be our excuse for everything though?  How many negative situations have to occur before someone stops and thinks, "Maybe I need to learn more about this so I'm better able to handle a similar situation in the future"?   I understand flight crews and pilots having safety concerns when passengers appear disruptive.  I've lived in a house where tantrums were a regular occurrence and where concerns increased as the size of my brother increased and he struggled to control his physical aggression.  Yesterday I had a large metal trash can thrown at me by a student who couldn't verbalize his thoughts and feelings and felt that aggression was the best way.  When there is an issue involving safety, I am all for taking the necessary precautions.  The problem that I have with this situation is that the teenager was not disruptive in any way and did not pose a safety concern to any passenger or the flight crew.  So why the emergency landing?

As someone who has lived and breathed in this world for the last 21 years, I can't help but be frustrated by the lack of initiative that some people take to learn how to interact with others who are different from them.  So let me just throw a few things out there:

That 15 year old girl that you just kicked off a plane?  She is a human being that has feelings just like you and me.  She may not be able to verbalize those feelings in the same way that you and I can, but I guarantee you that she knows that it was her disability that caused her family so much trouble that evening and feels embarrassed for the attention that her needs have garnered from the national media.    I've seen the hurt in the eyes of the seventeen year old that heard his teachers making negative comments about a behavior he couldn't control.  I've wiped the tears of the fourteen year old who so badly wanted to play in the basketball with other children in the neighborhood but was ignored because he didn't socially fit in with the standards set by his peers.  Emotions and pain are a universal language.

Those parents that you just kicked off a plane?  They are trying their best to help their child live a productive and successful life, despite all of the obstacles standing in their way.  You don't see the private struggle and battles that they go through daily, sometimes hourly, to make sure that their child can live in this socially constructed world that seems to be doing everything in it's power to ignore her.  You don't see the exhaustion from dealing with the sixth tantrum of the day, this one over having to wait for food to be cooked at the restaurant where they've stopped for dinner because Mom was to tired to cook after handing the first five meltdowns of the day.  You don't see the hours spent in doctors appointments and school meetings trying to find the best help for their child or the hours painstakingly planning for any possible situation when traveling with a child with a disability.

In no way am I claiming to be unbiased here.  I have a sibling with developmental disabilities and I'm a school social worker for this same population.  I live and breathe these stories daily and have learned to adapt and be understanding.  But despite all of his quirks and tantrums, my brother is one of the best snugglers I know and wouldn't intentionally hurt a fly if he could control all of his impulses.  The same student that threw a trash can at me started his day today by giving me a massive bear hug and apologizing again for losing his temper.  Both of them are kind, gentle young men that simply have problems communicating frustrations in the same way I do.  That doesn't change the fact that they are human beings that deserve the same respect that you and I expect from others.

I am a firm believer in education and the role that is plays in diminishing the stigma attached to developmental, intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities.  The solution to this problem is larger than the airlines partnering up with disability advocacy groups and putting some positive PR into the media to show the "changes" occurring.  It is going to require time, money, and effort from employers in all industries to make sure that employees are given the resources needed to best work with this population.  It's not going to happen over night.  But at some point, we as a society need to make a change.

The number of people with disabilities aren't going down, and inclusion in mainstream education and society is becoming more of a reality for people who may have had limited resources in previous generations.  We're long past the days of institutionalizing people with disabilities and pretending they don't exist and that we can't be bothered with them.  It's time to take a stand and be united in the fight against stigma and misunderstanding.  Anyone else up for the challenge?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

GSC 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I've officially completed my third half marathon and my second Glass Slipper Challenge and lived to tell that tale! So here goes- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I arrived Friday morning with my friends and we headed immediately to the WWoS to get our packets and do a quick sweep through the expo.  I mean it when I say quick- I had seen the merchandise, but I also knew that most of it was gone and I had gotten what I'd liked the two previous years, so I didn't even bother checking out the larger runDisney section for anything.  We split up with a meet up time about 20 minutes later. A few minutes for a new Raw Threads tank and a stop by the Handana table for one of those beauties, and I was good to go! We headed to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon (best part of my day was the giraffe that passed within reach of our safari vehicle) and then back to our room at All Star Sports with a stop for a big plate of pasta in the cafeteria.  It was an early night, since we had all been up since about 4am to catch flights, and an early wake up call was coming!

Saturday: We started the day off bright and early with a 2:45am wake up call, and a 3:30am trip to the bus after debating for ages over how many layers we needed to wear to combat with the 30 degree weather.  We finally made it over to Epcot and spent the next hour or so desperately trying to stay warm.  My BRF Meg and I had decided to go as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, but ended up ditching our shorts and skirts for black pants instead, which was the much warmer choice.

The "Tweedles"- neither of us is Dum here!
I REALLY enjoyed the 10K this year.  I continue to be slightly disappointed with the first half of the course and the lack of entertainment on it, especially this year when I was looking for any distraction from the cold.  However, by the time we got to the World Showcase, I had managed to lose my throwaway shirt and was able to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise over the lagoon and then on the trip around the Boardwalk.  That has easily become my favorite place to run at Disney, and I can only hope that someday I will have the money to be able to stay at one of the Boardwalk resorts.  My time was the worst 10K time I've had yet, a ridiculous 1:14:50, but since it took almost 20 minutes for me to warm up, I had nagging ankle pain after mile 4, and I was trying to save myself for the half, I was ok with taking things slower than normal.
When taking a picture with the classiest mouse in town,
you pose like she instructs you to pose!

The plan was to take Saturday easy and stay off our legs.  First up on the easy day list though was brunch at Chef Mickey's! I absolutely loved this experience.  For one, who doesn't love the classic Disney characters and getting unobstructed photo opportunities? Second, I don't usually like buffets  at Disney because they are more expensive and I don't feel like I eat enough to make it worthy of increasing my credit card limit. :) However, a buffet brunch 3 hours after running 6 miles was EXACTLY what we needed and we took full advantage of all of the food at our disposal.

After lunch, Meg and I took the scenic route back to the hotel via monorail stops at the Poly and Grand Floridian.  She had never been in either of the hotels, so we took some time to explore and take some pics before heading back for a nap and some time with her family in Downtown Disney.

Sunday: Sunday started much like Saturday had, with the exception of it being a much more reasonable 55 degrees when we headed to Epcot.  The wait on Sunday seemed much more reasonable that it had it years past, and after one last group picture we headed to our individual corrals to get the party started!
Amy, Jenni, Meg, and me before the start!
Miles 1-3: The Bad
I quickly realized that my legs were hating me for running on Saturday and then spending more time on them than necessary the rest of the day.  They felt dead and did not want to move very well.  I started to feel better around the time I got to the Welcome to Magic Kingdom sign, but it definitely took a while.

Miles 4-7: The Good
I always love this part of the course! Starting with the run through the transportation center and seeing our first spectators, running along the Contemporary and seeing the DJ, and of course running through Magic Kingdom makes me super happy every year.  They also manage to be my fastest miles (which is a good reminder to me that a 10K is my distance for strong races and maybe I should focus on that one for a while).  I crossed the 10K mat feeling good, but I also seriously felt like I would be better off stopping there and calling it a day.  My legs were tired, my ankle hurt, and as the sun was coming up I was getting increasingly warmer.

Miles 8-12: The Ugly
I don't even really want to talk about this part of the course.  It was where I kissed any chance of a PR goodbye, where I let the mental part take over my body and slow me wayyyy down. There was little to keep my going, except knowing that there was no way I was stopping unless I was injured.

Mile 13(.1): The Good
I wouldn't be running if it weren't for this girl
and her support!
Running into Epcot (and changing from a 2:1 interval to a 1:1 interval) helped me to get my head back in the game.  I made it through the dreaded hairpin turn and headed out of Epcot with a smile on my face.  I crossed the finish line in 2:38:27, which just barely beat my worst half marathon time from my first PHM.  I didn't even care at the point, I was so over it.  I found Meg at bag check and managed to get a couple of pictures before we hobbled toward the busses and back to the hotel.

We celebrated on Sunday as we always do, with drinks and food all over Epcot.  By the time 7pm rolled around, I was done with the day and ready to sleep.  Health apps said we had put almost 23 miles on our legs that day, and my legs would have agreed (and probably said more).

This will probably be my last PHM/GSC for a while.  I've got my school exams next March right after the race, and I know that those have to take priority.  It definitely won't be my last runD race though- Meg and I are already talking Wine and Dine 2016!

How was your race and how did you celebrate? Any PR's out there this year?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Goals

Welp, I had good intentions when I started this thing almost a year ago, intentions to post every few days even.  Unfortunately, life laughed those intentions in the face and took over instead.  I raced, I got married, I finished 2 more semesters of my PhD, and I started to put our new house together to make it feel a little bit more like a home.  The holidays came and went, and included lots of traveling and a family trip to WDW where my husband visited for the first time and lived to tell the tale.  He even drank the Disney kool-aid, which makes planning my race-cations even better because he is beginning to understand the appeal of running in my happy place!

My dear husband getting his first glimpse of the castle and celebrating with our bride and groom ears after a long day in the park!

After walking around Disney for 5 days (and fighting off the fatigue that comes with a Disney "vacation"), I really have had no desire to go out and run at all.  Ok, it's not just the vacation, I've had no desire to run in months.  Despite knowing that GSC was coming again, I haven't been able to find the motivation.  New year though, new goals, and getting and staying fit is one of them, especially as I think about long term- potentially starting a family- goals and wanting to have a strong, fit pregnancy.  I figure that should start with fitness goals now too, right? So this morning, I jumped back on the running train.  Got a strong 3.1 in on the dread mill as I ease myself back into running and put together a training plan to get me through the miles before GSC.  I also got my sweet hubby to hang this beauty, which is a constant and simple reminder to get off my large booty and put my running shoes on.

What is everyone else doing to get motivated to run next month? Next on my agenda is figuring out those pesky costumes for my BRF and myself!