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Monday, February 20, 2012

Is an Illness or Disability Stopping You from Dreaming?

Thought for the day: The best angle from which to approach any problem is the try-angle. - Unknown
The try-angle approach to problem solving must be followed by the Try-Try-Again-Angle. - Dr. Barbara Lavi

Are you challenged by an illness or disability? Does your physical condition discourage you & make you feel that you cannot reach for your dreams? An earlier post, "When Life Gives You Lemons Build a Lemonade Stand," touched on these questions. Since this issue is related to the 3rd Dream Quotient (DQ) trait, the ability to persevere despite physical challenges and illnesses, it deserves a second post.  For this post I'd like to share the story of Tom from my book. In Tom's words the Dream Positioning System (DPS) helped him because, “No one knows how long they will live, but planning for my future gave me reasons to live. I began to look forward to life again.”

Tom was a tall, forty-five year-old man with dark brown hair, a lean, muscular build, & a suntanned face that framed a truly winning smile. He was the picture of health & vitality. I was unbelievably surprised when this happy, charming man told me he had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) five years earlier. Tom was literally a walking miracle. The disease had hit so hard when he was first diagnosed that doctors said he might never walk again. They told him to go home & “not do too much.” Luckily, Tom had refused to accept the prognosis or the doctors’ advice, but to maintain a healthier lifestyle. He did, however, leave behind his high powered job & began to live a more relaxed way of life. He altered his eating habits & worked intensively in physical therapy. By changing his lifestyle Tom was soon beating all the odds. Not only did he begin walking again, but he also returned to the sport of rowing on a regular basis. Tom was a very positive person. He’d simply come to me because he developed a fear of flying which was interfering with his life & sense of happiness. He was also feeling a bit dissatisfied, moody & impatient. Therapy began as a simple intervention to overcome the fear of flying, but it led to far reaching subjects & extreme life changes.

Tom’s story is an example of how many people don’t allow themselves to dream due to a physical illness or disability. They let their illness take over, and stop them from exploring their wishes for
the future. When I first began assigning The Wake Up And Dream Challenge to clients, I questioned the appropriateness of giving it to people with cancer or other life threatening diseases. However, I
learned an important lesson from clients like Tom. Somehow, I knew that Tom would meet & surpass the challenge in the same courageous way he had dealt with his doctors’ dire prognosis. He told me that The Wake Up And Dream Challenge had given him hope for the future, & said that, “No one knows how long they will live, but planning for my future gave me reasons to live. I began to look forward to life again.”

Tom began to explore living in a warmer climate, where it would be easier to get around as his illness progressed. He began encouraging his wife to retire early so they could enjoy the years when he was still mobile & independent. A few years after he completed therapy, I saw Tom. He was still walking, active, & enjoying his life. His wife was retiring & they planned to move South. He had started on new medication for his MS. Tom was living a full & happy life despite the illness. He would not allow anything to stop him from achieving his dreams. In fact, the man who had been afraid to fly had traveled to Latin America & volunteered in the “Builders Without Borders Program.” He had learned to speak Spanish, & thanked me for allowing him to rediscover what gave him joy so that he could include those things in his plans for the future.

Before completing my book, I contacted Tom (not his real name) & asked him to read my book to be sure I had portrayed his story appropriately. He wrote back & told me, "Life is tough. It presents challenges all of the time. My first scary challenge that knocked me down was when I got Multiple Sclerosis in 1993. After addressing the physiological portion, many fears & irrational behaviors developed. Because of Dr. Lavi, & my time as her patient, I was able to get back on track & enjoy my life despite knowing I would have MS the rest of my life & would need to work hard to manage & control it. What Dr. Lavi didn’t know until now, is that she helped me again, when I faced stage-3 cancer years later. Her guidance & effective dream-planning ideas stayed with me all these years & helped me again through an even more frightening time of horrific cancer treatments. I would l not be who I am today without her help & guidance." L.D. (former patient)

No matter what physical challenges you are facing, you can still pursue your dreams. You may need to adjust them, but you do not have to give up on them. Several of the Dream Nonprofits featured in & benefiting from my book help people dealing with physical disabilities or illnesses reach their dreams. You can read about how they help people overcome these issues & donate to help them help others accomplish their dreams. I have already talked about how Higher Ground helps wounded veterans. Green Demolitions helps recovering addicts. The Blind Judo Foundation helps blind athletes prepare for competition in para-olympics. You can take a look at the links & read the entire preview of the book on each link to learn more about these nonprofit organizations.

Today, I'd like to tell you about Osprey Village, a group of families banding together to build a model community for adults with developmental disabilities & their families.  Their mission is: To provide a caring community environment where eligible individuals—both disabled & non-disabled—can function at their highest level of independence, in their own private living space, while enjoying opportunities for social, physical, vocational & emotional growth.

The Problem: “I lost my husband” & when you lose a spouse you realize, “okay, I’m it. When I go, where is my Ericha going to go? …Being & having a home with her friends & being around all the people she knows is really important.” Susan D.

The Need: There are currently no “group homes” providing independent living options for intellectually or developmentally disabled adults anywhere in southern Beaufort County SC—not even one! There are 48 people on the Disabilities & Special Needs (DSN) Board’s waiting list in Beaufort County & almost 2000 across the state. With the current state budgetary issues, there is little hope for the situation to change in the next several years.

The Vision: We have taken on the challenge of changing the current situation. We are planning to connect local “special needs” adults with their surrounding community by building a supportive “purpose driven,” inter- generational neighborhood.

The name “OSPREY” is an acronym for “Our Special People Reaching out to Elders & Youth.” We plan to provide homes or apartments for developmentally disabled adults as part of a broader
“neighborhood with a purpose.” Developmentally disabled adults will have the option to live with their parents, with a host family, or in an independent living unit. Likewise, parents of adult children with disabilities will be able to live in their own home with their children or in a senior housing unit with their adult child living close by. Either way they will be able to be an integral part of their child’s life. This will give them a sense of security knowing that their child will always live in a safe home in a nurturing community. To learn more &/or purchase the book & donate 1/2 pf the profits to Osprey Village click here:Osprey Village.

Are you or someone you know living with a similar physical challenge in your family? Do you know of similar communities or creative solutions people have found to help a disabled adult child live as independently as possible? Please share thoughts, ideas solutions or challenges you are dealing with today. I'd love to help you find a creative solution.


Sherry Friedlander said...

WOW... What an undertaking. Others should try and help maybe with already established organizaitons that could generate help and people to make this idea happen in more then one place. Sherry Friedlander , A Child Is Missing Alert.

Barbara Lavi said...

They are planning & getting approval for an amazing community. I am hoping to help people from around the country learn about their program, support them & perhaps develop programs like it around the country! DrB

David J. Green said...

Dr. B, thanks for the post on OSPREY Village. Hopefully we'll be getting some funding from the state of SC in the next fiscal year to go along with our own fundraising and volunteer support so that we can start providing some services next year! Folks can get more info at our website:

David Green
Director of Development

Barbara Lavi said...

Hi David, I am hoping that sales of the book will help you raise funds! Please let people from your group know about the post as well!