Athletes Roll in Power Soccer

With the excitement of the Women’s World Cup, I wanted to share another story about soccer that may be new to some of our Team Possible readers. It is about the game of Power Soccer and the organization, Athletes Roll. Before I share the interview with player, Anthony Jennings, check out this amazing Power Soccer play from GoPro!

Awesome, right!?! I know. It was plays like this one and the high level of accessibility for players of all abilities that made me want to learn more about the game.

Here are six Power Soccer basics about the game from Anthony:

  1. It is like the traditional game of soccer with corner kicks and goal kicks.
  2. Four players total on a side including the goalie during a game.
  3. There are two 20 minutes halves with the referee keeping time.
  4. The ball is bigger than a typical soccer ball. It is 13 in diameters and it is less bouncy.
  5. The game is played on a flat surface like a basketball court.
  6. Players kick the ball by driving straight into it or spin and kick. (My favorite kick is the 360 spin kick, but the ¼ turn spin kick is more common.)
Intense Play in Power Soccer
Photo Courtesy of Athletes Roll

Now, Anthony warns Power Soccer is highly competitive with national and international levels. He also emphasized the importance of players being in the right place at the right time. To get there, players use control devices to drive with foot, chin, head, or sip and puff. The chairs can’t go faster than 6.2 mph and they are checked before every game. With players of all abilities, Anthony explained that there is a solution for any challenge an athlete may have. For example, if a player is unable to speak or is hearing impaired, teams use microphone and voice amplification or signaling devices to communicate during play.

Anthony believes anyone can be a great Power Soccer player. He states that if you have the desire, put in the time, and practice, anything is possible. Here is what Anthony wants readers to know about Power Soccer:

  1. It’s a real sport.
  2. It’s competitive.
  3. Players are real athletes.
  4. It takes a long time to develop the skills to become a great player.
  5. It takes a high level of dedication to play Power Soccer.

If you would like to learn more about Power Soccer, you can follow Anthony’s organization, Athletes Roll. If you are an interested athlete or know of one and would like to know how to get started in the sport, please contact Anthony at contact@athletesroll.com. If you want to support Power Soccer in New England, follow Athletes Roll on social media, spread the word and buy one of their cool t-shirts.

Cool Gear from Athletes Roll
Photo Courtesy of Athletes Roll

Keep rolling and believing in the possible!

Jen

Summer Reading Challenge

Caitlin reading while camping by the ocean in Maine. Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom

I just love talking with kids about books and helping them find the right book to read. It can open up a whole new world to them. Now with summer here, I’ve gotten some requests for summer reading lists for Team Possible families. So, I thought I would share ten goals that I have for my family and resources to support reaching them. I hope you and your family will find these reading goals and books lists helpful. Let me know if you do and what goals you accomplish. And, if you have a book to add to these lists, please share it with me.

Goal #1: To read a book with a main character who is differently abled.

Young Readers- Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Middle Readers- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling

Older & Parent Readers- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award & Books Section of Team Possible Blog

Goal #2: To read a book with a main character from a culture different than my own.

This year our family will focus on Malala Yousafzai and her courage to create change for girls in her community and around the world.

Photo Credit: Kid World Citizen

Young Readers- Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

Middle Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Older & Parent Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Other Book Lists- Coretta Scott King Awards Book List, Pura Belpre Award Book List, South Asia Book Award Book List, American Indian Library Association Book Award List , Children’s Book Council Diverse Kids & YA Lit Book Lists

Goal #3: To read a book with interesting facts about my world.

Yes, my kids and I love to snuggle up at bedtime and travel the world by reading a world atlas. It is so fun to learn about different countries and the language, economy, landscape and more. Give it a try. No packing or tickets required for this trip.

Ian getting ready for a trip. Proud Book Mom

Young Readers- National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas

Middle Readers- National Geographic Kids World Atlas

Older & Parent Readers- Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About the World by Hans Rosling

Goal #4: To read a book about an issue that is important to me.

Starting a new job at a all women’s undergraduate university, I felt compelled to learn more about women’s issues and empowerment. The books listed here have helped me, my students, and my daughter thrive. They have also helped me find ways to talk with my husband and sons about gender equity issues. I encourage you to follow your passion and share it with your family.

Caitlin with her “People Working” sign. Photo Credit: Proud Feminist Mom

Young Readers- I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong

Middle Readers- Confidence Code for Girls by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Older & Parent Readers- Confidence Code by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Mom Readers-  A Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates (A MUST READ!)

Other Book Lists-  A Mighty Girl  website

Goal #5: To read a book by a local author.

Living in New England, we are surrounded by many amazing local authors. We have children’s literature icons like Eric Carle and Jane Yolen. We also have rising authors like Jarrett Krosoczka who is breaking new ground. He is the focus of my local author list.

Ian with his favorite author, Jarrett Krosockza, during a school visit. Photo Credit: Ian’s School Principal

Young Readers- Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett Krosoczka

Middle Readers- Lunch Lady Series by Jarrett Krosoczka

Older & Parent Readers- Hey, Kiddo! By Jarrett Krosoczka

Other Book Lists- SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Book List

Goal #6: To read a book with a main character who learns differently than me.

Young Readers- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

Middle Readers- Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt or Rules by Cynthia Lord

Older & Parent Readers- Focused by Alyson Gerber

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award

Goal #7: To read a non-fiction graphic novel about women in science, a historical event that is surprising, or one that simply interests me.

Young Readers- I Am Jane Goodall (Ordinary People Change the World)  by Brad Meltzer (Note: More of a hybrid text with word bubbles than a graphic novel)

Middle Readers- Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty

Older & Parent Readers-Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

Other Book Lists- Albris Best Selling Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

Goal #8: To read a book written in verse.

Young Readers- Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg

Middle Readers- Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

Older & Parent Readers- Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Other Resource: Listen and watch children’s poets read their own work at No Water River: A Children’s Poetry Place

Goal #9: To read a book that has won an award or was recommended by a friend.

(Most books on this list are award-winning, and I hope you count me as a friend. Hence, this goal should be easy to achieve.)

Goal #10: To share a book that I read with a friend because reading connects us.

Now, go set some goals, read, and keep believing in the possible!

Ian’s Reading Goal Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom


The Parent Perspective on Marcus Kadinger

Behind every great athlete is a team of supporters. Most often, they are parents who commit to driving to practices, to cheering through games, and to providing the financial backing for equipment and uniforms. Sometimes, parents even take on the role of coaching. Mike and Jodi Kadinger have held all of those roles while their son, Marcus, proved himself on the basketball court, the track, and the football field. As a one-handed player with an upper limb difference, it was a challenging journey. However, in the end, Marcus persevered and reached his goal of playing college basketball. In this interview, Jodi and Mike reflect back and share some insights into how to support and develop a gritty athlete no matter the odds.

Marcus and his dad, Mike, going over the plays. Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

What resources or organizations would you recommend to other parents who may have a child with a limb difference or another type of exceptionality?

Mike & Jodi: We went to Shriner’s for Marcus’ first prosthetic. We thought he would need it to learn to crawl, but he barely used it. We encouraged him to wear it in early elementary school. He would go off to school wearing it, but it kept coming home in his backpack. It just wasn’t for him at that time.

Marcus at age 4 Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Later, when he got older and we were doing family activities like kayaking or he was weight lifting for school, he started to think of his prosthetic as a tool. Then, he would go to Shriner’s and ask them for a prosthetic for this or that. He owned it and wanted it to fit his need.

In his interview, Marcus mentioned struggling with developing his confidence and accepting his differences, how did you support him when his confidence faltered?

Mike: As he said, Marcus has always been his own worst critic. In eighth grade, he hit a rough patch. He was really down on himself. We would try to be positive, but we didn’t see things the same way as Marcus. We didn’t have one hand. It was then that I reached out to a friend, Kevin Monson. He has the same condition as Marcus. He was older, had a family, a career, and was an accomplished athlete. He had played football, basketball, and pitched in baseball. He was even a coach.

We let them have some time together. Kevin could talk about things we couldn’t. His best advice for Marcus was when he said, “The perceived disability that people see has become my greatest source of strength.”

Marcus Kadinger playing high school hoops as a Hilltopper Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Jodi: We tried to help him understand that everyone has differences and just that his difference was very visible. We all have things that we are passionate about and we find a way to do them. So we need to choose what we want to focus on. We don’t want to focus on what we can’t do, but what we want to do. We always told him, “We will figure it out. We will find a way.”

Marcus defined grit as “mental toughness” and talked about “getting through adverse situations and keeping your head held high.” How did you help Marcus develop his grittiness?

Mike: Basketball really brought it out in Marcus. He was always trying and playing hard to win. On the court, he learned that you have to do the little things right. You have to practice and put in the time.

During Marcus’ freshman year, I was the JV coach. The varsity team was horrible. The head coach brought up Marcus and another freshman to start. They got smoked. He wasn’t ready.

How did you teach him to deal with the failure?

Mike: After a game, I would ask him, “Are you getting better? Are you learning?”  Then, I would tell him that you have to look for the little win within the loss. But a friend of mine who is a coach said it best, “We don’t lose. We either win or learn.”

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when Marcus was young?

Mike: Expose them to as much as you can. When you introduce them to things they like, it builds their confidence. Help them find what they like. You usually like what you are good at.

Marcus’ 2004 Little League Baseball Card Photo Credit: Kadinger Family

Jodi: We didn’t focus on the fact that he doesn’t have a left hand. He is more like others, than not alike. Sometimes, parents go through a rough time. We just loved him. We knew he needed to live in this world and adapt because we knew the world was not going to change for him.

How would you define ability?

It is a set of skills and strengths that you have. Ability is the measurement of those of skills and strengths. You will be good at some things and not at others.

Post Interview Reflection:

After I hung up the phone with Mike and Jodi, I felt so grateful. They shared so many more insights into raising a child with a limb difference. However, it was their laughter and reassurance that made the journey feel possible, even special. Some of the questions I had were:

  • How did you teach Marcus to tie his shoes?
  • What did you do when people suggested he play soccer and not basketball?
  • How do you feel about pirate books?

We chatted about the importance of finding role models for our children and new challenges in life as they become adults like dating, raising a family, and employment. But it was Mike saying, “We will talk again. Stay in touch,” that made feel like I knew who I could lean on when we hit a rough patch with Ian. Thank you, Mike and Jodi!

The Kadinger Family 2018

Sam Kuhnert from NubAbility

I am so excited to introduce you to Sam Kuhnert, Founder of NubAbility Athletics Foundation, an organization where children with limb differences receive training in mainstream sports from coaches with limb differences.

Sam Kunhert playing baseball with NubAbility campers Photo Credit: NubAbility.org

Sam Kuhnert is an ambitious young man, who in his senior year of high school had a vision for NubAbility. As a result, he spent his senior year, researching and using social media to connect with and gather a group of role models for young athletes. A year later, in 2012 NubAbility hosted their first camp with 19 youth at Greensville University. Sams reflects on that moment and states, “I knew then that this is what I am supposed to do with my life.”

Nearly seven years later, NubAbility has served 650 young athletes in various sports camps and clinics. This past summer Sam hosted 175 campers from 43 states and 3 countries. His work is making an impact nationally for people with limb differences. When speaking about the camp, Sam made it clear, “This is not a support group. We are teaching kids how to get up and reach their fullest potential. We want them to reach further than they ever imagined, more than they could have dreamed.”

Sam and the NubAbility Coaches teach campers to persist and work hard to reach their goals in three important ways:

  1. NubAbility Coaches teach athletes to block out the doubters and to listen to their inner voice saying, “You can do it!”
  2. NubAbility Coaches teach campers to embrace failure. They know that when we fail, we learn.
  3. NubAblity Coaches teach athletes that they need to be willing to put in the time and effort to succeed.

What does Sam hope athletes with limb differences gain from participating in Nubability camps?

I want them to know that everybody was created perfectly and that they can handle anything. I want kids out of the stands and into the game. There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned through sport.

What are Sam’s dreams for his organization and its athletes?

My ultimate goal is to see NubAbility worldwide. I want to offer clinics across the globe because, in other countries, people born with limb differences or amputees are seen as cursed. They are cast off and kept out of the public. Sport can change the way people are seen.

LISTEN UP: What advice does Sam have for parents and coaches of athletes with limb differences?

Don’t ever let them use their limb difference as an excuse. It becomes addicting. Push them to keep going even during times of adversity. Never let them know when you doubt them. And remember, it’s okay to let them fail because they will fail in their lives. It’s how we grow and get better.

How does Sam define ability?

Ability is the opposite of disability. It is being able to…Every person has the ability to do anything. If they have the will, they can do it. You’ve got to have grit.

What’s grit according to Sam?

Grit is being able to push through when people tell you that it’s too hard or you can’t do something. Grit is when you keep climbing no matter how high or how many times you might slip and go back to the bottom. You keep going. You keep pushing. You keep driving. You will make it to the top.

Who inspires Sam?

Jim Abbott. At 2-3 years old, I would sit on my dad’s lap and watch videos of Jim pitching in the major league. I would see how he owned his difference and how he wasn’t afraid of anyone. I saw how he used his platform for good and he owned who he was. I wanted to be like him.

Jim batting for the Angels. Photo Credit: Jim Abbott.net

After speaking with Sam, I knew that I had just met someone who believes in the limitless potential of every individual and who is making a difference in this world for young people. Of course, I also loved that we both admire Jim Abbott for his ability to play baseball and use his platform for good.

Sam Kuhnert, Founder of NubAbility Photo Credit: NubAbility.org

If you are impressed with Sam and he has you motived to reach your greatest potential, please contact him. He is available for speaking events. Just check out Keynote for a Cause on the NubAbility website.

To Sam and all the Nubablitiy Coaches, thank you for all of your great work and believing in the Possible!  -Jen

Sled Hockey- Pushing to the Limits

This post is written in honor of the USA Sled Hockey Team who brought home the gold medal from this year’s 2018 Paralympics Games in PyeongChang, Korea with an overtime win defeating Canada, 2-1. GO TEAM USA!

 

Sled Hockey Gold 2018

Team USA celebrates their victory over Canada for their third straight gold medal run. Photo Credit: Joe Kusumoto @TeamUSA.org

 

Since many families ask me how to get their children involved in adaptive sports, I wanted to highlight the power of local sled hockey teams. The Center for Human Development (CHD) hosts teams for juniors (ages 4-17), a recreation level and travel team (ages 17+) at a local accessible arena. Ryan Kincade, the CHD Outreach Coordinator and Captain of the Western Mass Knights, along with Kim Lee, Vice President of CHD, and Jessica Levine, CHD Program Manager, took some time out of their busy schedules to talk with me about their hockey program and the power of sports.

But before I share their insights, you should know a few basics about sled hockey: 

sled hockey equip

  1. Most of the rules are the same as traditional stand-up hockey.
  2. The players use sleds with skates to maneuver on the ice.
  3. Players use two sticks about 3 feet long for passing and shooting. Picks on the end of the sticks enable players to propel themselves on the ice.
  4. Players wear body pads, helmets, and gloves. Goalies wear gloves that have picks on the backside to assist with movement.
  5. Most players have ambulatory impairments, but some players at the youth and recreation level are fully able-bodied.

So now is here is what Ryan, Kim, and Jessica have to say about the CHD sled hockey program…

What do you hope athletes will gain on and off the ice from your program?

It’s about a sense of community. For many of our participants, physical activity is not part of their normal routine. Through sled hockey, they realize that can do so much more than they imagined. Our athletes gain physical and mental strength. For our parents, they get the opportunity to root their child on and observe peer-social relationships through athletics. It is also unique because siblings with or without disabilities can participate. The program can benefit the whole family and lead to participation in other CHD family activities like rock climbing.

What do you love about sled hockey?

DSC_0902Ryan: I love the community. I love getting gritty on the ice and then after having fun together. Just being a part of a team and the physicality of it. I like being successful with other like-minded individuals. As captain, I try to motivate others. I try to be positive and teach them about the sport and how to be a good teammate. It’s about learning how to win and lose. It’s about being positive.

Sled hockey becomes and an outlet for athletes to talk about their journey and to learn from each other. In ways, it becomes a therapeutic group where athletes can share personal experiences. Sled hockey is altering for a lot of our players. For the first time, they are not being looked at as different.

What is your best training tip for interested athletes?

Ryan: Train off the ice,  just as hard as you do on the ice. Eat right and take care of yourself. Watch the sport, online or go to a game. Learn the positioning. Ask other players how to play and about the rules. Most importantly, be positive. Don’t implode and don’t show off.

How would you define ability?

Ryan: Ability is going beyond what you think is possible. It is pushing yourself just beyond your limit. It is individualized. Everyone has an ability and everyone needs to learn about their ability. Everyone can push a little harder to enhance their ability.

How would you describe your grittiest players?

Ryan: They have mental fortitude. They have a “Nothing can stop you attitude.” They take risks. They give hits and can take them. They don’t give up, not on the ice or in life.

How could community members support their local sled hockey program?

We believe everyone has the right to play and should have the accessibility to play. Therefore, we could always use hockey equipment. We accept donations of hockey pads, helmets, clothing and monetary donations to purchase sleds and sticks.

Check out these sites if you would like to learn more about local and national sled hockey programming: CHD Sled HockeyUSA Sled Hockey. You can also click here to watch highlights of Team USA’s gold medal win.

Team photo edit

CHD Sled Hockey Participants & Knights Sled Hockey Team Photo Source: CHD

Hope in Black and White: The Running Dream

The Running DreamAn Interview with Wendelin Van Draanen, Author of The Running Dream

Have you ever been reading a book and the words jump off the page and touch your heart like you have been searching for those words? Then, tears start to fill your eyes and stream down your cheeks because now you know someone else in the world understands your heart. This is what happened to me when reading The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. 

Van Draanen wrote the book I had been searching for on the bookshelves for young people. On page 131 in black and white, she had presented the reader with HOPE. The kind of HOPE that I want to explore with this blog and someday present in my own books for young children. As a result, I had to reach out to the author about her work. She graciously agreed to be interviewed and share her secrets to writing The Running Dream. Here is Van Draanen in her own words…

What sparked the idea to write The Running Dream? I was on a flight home from the New York after running the marathon, and I was falling asleep with my head on the window, but I couldn’t get this character out of my head. There were many runners in the race with physical challenges. I was in awe of what the human spirit could accomplish.

This experience made me want to write a book an amputee that would be hopeful and not filled with darkness or despair. When I was a high school teacher I remember feeling guilty because I was not emotionally gritty enough to support a student with cerebral palsy. It was this culmination of the desire to write a book of hope, a character I could not shake from my thoughts and the memory of a student that prompted me to write The Running Dream. I then wanted to move the message of being inclusive from lip service into the heart. As a teacher, I wanted this shift, especially for my high school students.

What do you hope readers learn or gain from reading The Running Dream? I hope readers gain a broader empathy for others. I want readers to come away with a clear sense of hope. I want them to know that they can succeed at whatever they dream if they approach it step-by-step.

What advice do you have on writing, running and life for other aspiring writers, runners or life adventurers? It’s funny you ask that question. I am writing an entire book to answer that question. It is a book for readers about pursuing their own dreams step-by-step. They just need to do three things: dream big, work hard and don’t give up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wendelin Van Draanen and her husband, Mark Parsons ready to run and read with Exercise the Right to Read.

In addition to writing, Van Draanen also is an avid runner and stars in her family rock band. Combining her passion for running and reading, Van Draanen founded Exercise the Right to Read, a non-profit focused on raising funds for school libraries by promoting reading and fitness among young people. The way it works is simple. Students read for 26 minutes a day and run or walk a mile a day for 26 days while raising funds through sponsorship. At the end of 26 days, the students have read and run a “marathon.” 90% of funds raised through the completion of the “marathon” go to the participating school’s library and 10% of the funds go to First Book, which provides books for children in underserved communities. Talk about a WIN-WIN!

I must admit I am a big fan of Wendelin Van Draanen and her passion for getting youth reading, exercising and contributing to the community. Thank you, Wendelin, for believing in and writing about the Possible!

#ReadYourWorld

A Book Review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016

MCBookDay-21

Hi Team Possible Readers,

Some of you may know that I spent the past seven years teaching undergraduate and graduate students about multicultural education and literacy. If you were in one of my classes, you also know that I always tried to weave in the opportunity to read a picture book aloud to students, and then use the text to help make connections to difficult concepts or new theories. If you happened to stop by my office on the third floor, you soon found yourself among shelves filled with colorful picture books telling the stories of our diverse world. Therefore, you might be able to imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to be a book reviewer for Multicultural Children’s Book Day founded by Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

Before I begin my review I should mention that I have never listened to an audiobook. It is not because I don’t value them. It is simply because I love the tangible feel of the pages turning when I am reading. But, I do remember the pure joy of sitting in front of a tape recorder listening to the story and waiting for the beep to signal to me that it was time to turn the page in my book. So I was excited and a bit nervous, when my book to review arrived in the mail in the form of a three disc audio book. Fortunately, I also received an email from the author suggesting I listen to the book while riding in the car. He even encouraged me to share the book with my children, a second and fifth-grader. He promised me they would be silent in the car while it played. With a promise like that, I couldn’t wait to listen to Tales from Davey Jones Locker Quetzalcoatl Series by Carl Gundestrup.

Quetzalcoatl.amazon

Tales from Davey Jones Locker Quetzalcoatl Series by Carl Gundestrup Photo Credit: Amazon.com

He was right. It was like driving around town inside a mobile movie. The full orchestra provided a beautiful musical score and sound effects to every scene. While 22 voices portrayed by actors made the book come alive in my SUV. And to my amazement, as the music played and the story unraveled my children were silent. I could almost see the images dancing around in their heads as I looked back at them in the rearview mirror. Our drive had become an odyssey of the Quetzalcoatl.

The main character in the story is Garrett Spencer- an adventurous, athletic and brave 13 year-old. Garrett never turns away from a challenge and excitement is always around the corner including fights with school yard bullies, a sea dragon, a killer whale and much more. The story itself is set in a small northern coastal town. With the music and rich description you can nearly feel the cool mist and craggy cliffs that surrounded Garrett.

Since we spend a lot of time in Maine, my children made a lot of connections to the setting and could easily imagine Garrett climbing down to the water. However, their favorite images and moments in the story are those of the beautiful and majestic Quetzalcoatl. Their faces lit up every time the Quetzalcoatl emerged from the waters.

A part they struggled with in the story was the use of the word, “crippled.” Garrett is described as being born with a “severely crippled” leg, and this term bothered both of my children. They felt it was mean and inaccurate which led to lots of rich conversations about exceptionalities and how to treat others. 

There are many other lessons to be learned from reading the Tales from Davey Jones Locker Quetzalcoatl Series and many of them connect directly to the Bible. It is important for readers to know that this book has numerous references to the Christian faith. It would be an excellent book to incorporate into a Christian or church school curriculum. With the music and incredible imagery, I would encourage listeners to engage in painting or another art form when listening to story. A wonderful group activity would be to create a 3-D model of a Quetzalcoatl. Also, this story is a natural to weave into an anti-bullying curriculum for upper elementary students or middle schoolers.

Finally, I want to thank Carl Gundestrup for giving me hours of quiet while driving around with the kids in the car, but more importantly for the rich discussions that took place whenever we arrived at our destination. And a big thanks, to Mia and Valarie for organizing this event. I truly appreciate being a part of it. Until next time…

Keep believing in the Possible!

Jen

To all my educator friends: Help spread the word about the Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering from MCCBD gives teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well. 

Mission Statement from MCCBD: Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books, #teacherlife , #ReadYour World 

Co-Creators of MCCD: Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/ Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

Here are the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors:

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can view them here.

Stop Whispering and Start Talking with Kids about Exceptionalities

Chatting with Nolan Photo Credit: Seth Stratton

Chatting with Nolan Photo Credit: Seth Stratton

Since my writing focuses on athletes who play sports in adaptive ways, many parents and friends have been asking me about how to talk with kids about exceptionalities. I am no expert, but I do have experience from discussing differences with my students in the classroom or at home with my own children. I have not handled all of these situations perfectly, but I have learned that there are some strategies to make the conversations more meaningful and authentic. Here are my top 5 tips for talking with kids about exceptionalities, and I included some of my own real life “mom” scenarios to help.

1. Speak up. There is no need to whisper. When we lower our voices and answer their questions about an individual with an exceptionality in a whisper, we are implicitly telling our children this topic is not appropriate to talk about and we have to be careful with what we say. Instead, we need to speak up.

Caitlin: “Mom, why is that boy in the family locker room with us? He is in a wheelchair.”

Me: “He probably plays a sport. Why don’t you ask him what he plays?” 

Caitlin & Me: “Excuse me, we were wondering… what sports do you play?”

Little Boy (with a grin): “I ski, swim, and play basketball.” 

2. Follow their lead, but guide their path. Children are curious observers of their world and they want to share their observations. When they share their observations, they do it from their own perspective and with their own vocabulary. We need to acknowledge their observations and help them develop their language for clarity and to promote inclusion.

Little Girl with Braces Photo Credit: nohandsbutours.com

Little Girl with Braces Photo Credit: nohandsbutours.com

Caitlin (while pointing): “That little girl is wearing braces.”

Me: “Yes, she has braces on her legs.”

Caitlin: “She walks funny.”

Me (taking a deep breathe): “Her legs work differently. There are lots of ways to move, and she is headed to the library just like us.”

3. Encourage questions and reflection. Children have questions, lots of them. You don’t have to know all of the answers. You just need to be a curious listener and encourage them to reflect critically.

Man with Service Dog Photo Credit: blog.lrn.com

Man with Service Dog Photo Credit: blog.lrn.com

Nolan (my rule following and anxious child): “Why does that man have a dog in here? Isn’t that against the rules?

Me: “From the harness and vest the dog is wearing, it looks like he is a service dog. Do you know how a service dog helps people?”

4. Be curious and learn more. Differences are beautiful. Exceptionalities give all of us an opportunity to learn more about each other and how many different ways there are to do every day tasks. It is okay to ask questions. Investigate the world with your children and learn more about it.

At an exhibit hosted by photographers who have exceptionalities…Nolan (whispering): “Mom, he has no arms. How can he take pictures?”

Me: “I don’t know. We should ask.” 

Nolan tentatively follows me over to the young man in a very sophisticated power chair.

Me (putting my arm around Nolan): “We love the photo you took of this young girl. We were wondering how you took it.”

Photographer: “That is my niece. I love taking pictures of her. I mount the camera to the end of my chair. Then, I use my baseball cap with this wand attached to the brim and a stylus attached at the end to focus and snap the shutter. I am really working on how I use the light in my photos.”

Nolan (moving away from me and pointing at a photo): “Yeah, I like the shadows in the picture of the telephone lines.”

Photographer: “Yes, it’s one of my favorites.”

5. My favorite response to any questions kids have that I don’t know how to answer: “That is a great question. Let’s research it.” ChoosingQuestion_alexsl

Videos to Make You Believe ANYTHING is POSSIBLE

Thank you Kanya Sesser and Zack Bastian for introducing me to Jesse Billauer and Life Rolls On. Yes, they will surf again because ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

Thank you Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham for your persistence and showing the world how you can land a double-back flip in your chair. Yes, ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

Thank you Seth Schaeffer for sharing“Renegades” by X Ambassadors and believing it should be theTeam Possible theme song. Yes, ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

If you have a video of awesomeness that makes you believe ANYTHING is POSSIBLE, please send it to me.

Keep believing in the possible!

Jen

Zack Bastian: Believer in Endless Abilities

Endless Abilities Crew Photo Credit: RI Monthly

Endless Abilities Crew Photo Credit: RI Monthly

Introducing Zack Bastian, an adaptive sports enthusiast, who stars in the documentary film, Endless Abilities. In the film, Zack introduces the audience to athletes across the country and demonstrates how sport can be a equalizing and unifying force for people of all abilities.

Name: Zack Bastian

Hometown: Kingstown, Rhode Island

Zack's ski jump Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

Zack’s catching some air while skiing. Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

What sports do you play? Well…I don’t play any sports, but I do sports. The first adaptive sport I got into was surfing. But recently, I have gotten into stand-up paddle boarding. Obviously, I sit-down.  So, it is sit-down paddle boarding, but it is the same SUP board. I got into it because the waves here in New England are just not that consistent for surfing, and there is so much coastline to explore. I also downhill ski. You can see that in the film.

Zack preparing for 10 mile road race in Rhode Island. Photo Credit: Rhode Race

Zack preparing for 10 mile road race in Rhode Island. Photo Credit: Rhode Race

This summer I got into pushing to get into shape. I haven’t technically been in a wheelchair race yet, but I did just do a 10 mile road race here in RI. I never imagined myself getting into push-rim racing. I was into way cooler sports like downhill skiing and stuff. Then, I got into running for exercise and now I am addicted to it. I love the release of endorphins and the feeling of speed.

Zack B. surf (1)

Zack shredding it. Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

Zack’s Reflection on Surfing: Surfing is an expression, not just a sport. It is an expression of yourself. And when you get to the beach, your disability is really highlighted. You know, you don’t usually see lot of wheelchairs on the beach. Then, you have to have people help you swap out of your chair. Next, you drag yourself out until the water gets a little deeper. Once the depth of water covers the fin of the board and you can hop on, it all changes. All of sudden, you’re like “Bam!,” my disability is gone. You’re paddling out into the waves, and then shredding it. Now, everybody who has been watching you as a “handicap”person has their perspective shifted. They see you as a surfer now and are like “Whoa!” 

What superpowers do you possess? I don’t think I have superpowers. But let me think about it… I’ve got one. I think a lot of people have this one, but it does’t mean it isn’t a superpower. There are also a lot of people who don’t have this superpower. It’s resilience. I’ve noticed that in my life when things get really bad I have an ability to turn the situation into something positive, and that is my super power. When things get bad, I get inspired to work harder and be better.

The Crash Reel Photo Credit: Amazon.com

The Crash Reel Photo Credit: Amazon.com

What films inspire you? The Crash Reel is a film that totally inspired me. It is documentary about  Kevin Pearce, an extreme snowboarder, who had a crash that changed his life. The film documents his rehab process, and it directly reflected the process I went through when I slowly learned that I would never walk again. 

What songs would be on a film playlist? It all depends on what the film was about. The emotions always need to match the music. A good film has happiness, defeat, sadness, and triumph. I would pick the best song for each emotion.

What songs are on your workout play list? I have been listening to a lot of hip hop when I run. You know, it is fast moving. I really like this question… so are you ready?

1. Lykke Li’s “I know Places” and “No Rest for the Wicked.” These songs are in The Crash Reel.

Reckoning Song/ Song Day Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Reckoning Song/ Song Day Photo Credit: Amazon.com

2. Santigold’s “Radio.” She’s just awesome, and I’m really into her music right now.

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “10,000 Hours” 

4. “One Day (Reckoning Song)”* by the Mojos This one is awesome! Put a BIG star next to that one.

5.  “I Can’t Stop” by  Flux Pavalion It’s a dub step song. It’s like a snowboarding song.

6. “Intro” & “Outro” by M83

That’s my stuff, right there.

Henry Ford Quote

Henry Ford Quote

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? My mantra is to be the best that I can be. One of the things I tell myself a lot and is on my dad’s gravestone is: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.  So, I try to realize when I am having negative thoughts and get them out of my head.

“Just do it.” I know it sounds cliche like the Nike saying, but really just go out there and do it. Don’t make excuses. You have to have positive thoughts. I’m not sure if this is a mantra, but it is definitely the way that I live. I focus on the present and the future. The present and the future are what keep you going.

How would you define ability? I would define ability as a state of mind. My dad had it right, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right.” He was totally right. If you put it into your head that you can do something, then you can do it. Ability is in your mind and in your soul. And really, there are endless abilities!

Endless Abilities Poster Photo Credit: EndlessAbilties.org

Endless Abilities Poster Photo Credit: EndlessAbilties.org

What do you hope the audience will gain from your film? Inspiration. I know there are conflicting views on inspiration when associated with disabilities, but there is inspiration in the adaptive sports movement. As Judge Richard Bernstien recently said at a viewing of Endless Abilities in NYC, “Civil rights movements have always needed inspiration. You need inspiration and education.”

So, I hope the film does two things: First, it inspires someone in a hospital bed beginning the rehab process to keep going. Second, since it is viewed by more people without disabilities, I hope the film shifts how they view disabilities and that they are inspired by what they see. When you see people overcoming adversity, it is inspirational.

What advice do you have for others? I was asked to mentor this young guy because he recently got hurt in a dirt bike accident. I told him in one of our first meetings that this would be a give and take relationship because we both can learn from each other. But some of the things I like to share with him is to help him look at all the things he CAN do. You need to find things you love and you can do. For anyone facing adversity in life, you need to stop thinking “This is where was I,” but, “Where am I now? And, where am I headed?”

Jesse Billbauer Article Photo Credit: Ability Magazine

Jesse Billbauer Article Photo Credit: Ability Magazine

Who would you like to thank? Oh, my gosh…The list goes on and on and on… Really, the list goes on and on….Well, there are so many people who have contributed to who I am like my parents, family, friends from childhood, and others like Jesse Billauer, whose article inspired me. I don’t want to leave anyone out, but the ones I need to thank the most are my producers in the film, Tripp Clemens, Harvey Burrell, and Will Humphrey. When they saw that I had a story to tell, they helped me develop it. It was the biggest break or piece of luck that I have had in my life. Not only did it give me the opportunity to be  part of something so great in the film, but it created in me the desire to help and to be a part of something bigger.

A running

A running “zelfie” with a message. Photo Credit: Zack Bastian