Posts Tagged ‘ special needs ’

Paralympian Tatyana McFadden: “We should all be included as one.”

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Sochi Winter Paralympics took place March 7-16. Previously known only as a summer Paralympian in wheelchair racing, Team USA member Tatyana McFadden took on the snow in Russia—where she was born before being adopted into an American family at the age of 6. As part of Team Liberty Mutual, McFadden rose to the top. Born with spina bifida, the now 11-time medalist (track and sit-ski) chatted with Parents about overcoming obstacles—in life and in athletics, her adoption experience and her family, and fighting for equality in sports.

P: How does it feel to have won even more medals now in the winter Paralympics?

TM: It was just an amazing, fulfilling experience for me. I definitely exceeded my expectations. I really expected just to be in the top ten for the 12k and I got fifth and then in the sprint, I just really wanted to make the Finals and I medaled. And in the 5k I really wanted to be top 10 again and I got seventh.

P: Summer Paralympics, Winter Paralympics, New York Marathon, Chicago Marathon, the list goes on. What was it like to train for so many different events simultaneously? 

TM: It was very difficult. I ran marathons all the way up until November [2013] and at that time I was still in college. I graduated just this December [2013], so as soon as I graduated I headed out to Colorado for snow training. It was a very continuous schedule.

P: You encountered quite a few obstacles in your childhood. When you were in the orphanage in Russia, how much of an understanding of your condition and your potential did you have? 

TM: Living in the orphanage for six years, I never saw myself as any different. I walked on my hands for the first six years of my life. I didn’t have a wheelchair, but I was a child of determination and drive. If I wanted to get somewhere I would do it and I would do it by walking on my hands. You know, many others think that living in the orphanage was a huge setback in life, but being adopted into an American family brought me opportunities to rise on so many levels, as a student and an athlete.

P: Do you think that your lack of wheelchair as a child led you to gain the strength that has now served you as an athlete?

TM: I think it was just the personality that I have. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I always had a Russian saying “Yasama,” which means “I can do it myself and I can do it by myself.” I didn’t want anyone to help me and I think walking on my hands made me extremely strong. But it was just having that drive and determination at such a young age. As soon as I was adopted, I became involved with sports to help be gain a healthy lifestyle.

P: Tell me a little more about your family and the adoption process and coming to America.

TM: The adoption actually saved me. I was very sick and very anemic living in the orphanage. I was born with spina bifida and I was laying in the hospital with my back open for 21 days, so it was quite a miracle that I lived without getting an infection and dying. I do believe there is a purpose for me being here and being alive. I also believe in fate and I remember a woman walking in [to the orphanage] and I looked at her and I told everyone that was gonna be my mom. It was just the strangest feeling. From that moment I really connected with my mom and here we are 19 years later. She’s been so supportive in helping me be the person that I am today.

P: You have two younger adopted sisters, Hannah and Ruthi. What’s that like all having different origin stories and coming together in one family?

TM: There’s lots of culture involved. I mean, we love each other. My middle sister Hannah is also a Paralympian. She’s missing a tibia and fibula, so she’s an amputee. She was in the final of the summer Paralympics with me in the 100 meters. That was the first time ever in track that siblings competed against each other. And my younger sister Ruthi, she plays basketball. We’re all involved with sports and athletics. It’s fun just having that one thing in common. I’ve always wanted a big family.

P: When did you first discover your passion for sports?

TM: Around age 7 when my mom got me involved with a para sports club called the Bennett Blazers. She got me involved with a sports club because being so sick and very anemic, the doctors said, “She probably has a few years to live, just help her try to live a healthy lifestyle.” But my mom really thought otherwise and she said, “No, I’m gonna help her get healthy.” The way to do that was to get me involved with sports.

I started gaining weight. I started becoming a lot stronger. I was able to be more independent. I could push my own wheelchair. Then I started to do my own transfers in and out of the wheelchair. Before I knew it I could do almost everything by myself. Sports allowed me to do that and I wasn’t even focusing on how far I could take this sport. I was just focusing on Wow I can live a healthy lifestyle. If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be a healthy person and have fallen in love with sports.

P: Your work with the Bennet Blazers and your battle to pass legislation for equality in high school sports is so important. Tell me a bit more about your quest for equal access to athletics. 

TM: I was a very different high school student. Coming into freshman year, I came back from the Paralympic games in Athens winning a silver and bronze medal and the only thing I wanted to do in high school was to be part of the track team. I was the only physically disabled wheelchair athlete at my high school and I remember the principle saying, “Get involved!” I wanted to be involved with track. First, they denied me a uniform, and then at track meets they had to stop the entire meet and let me run by myself. That’s not what it should be about. We should all be included as one.

P: So the idea is to have integrated teams of those who are in wheelchairs against those who are not? Not for a separate division or town leauges?

TM: It’s for people with physical disabilities to be part of high school sports. It was never to compete against, it was just to run along the side of. That’s what should happen especially if you’re the only athlete. If there were several others than of course we would have our own heat. It’s just about showing your athletic ability. It’s the 21st century and no one should be denied that. And if they’re denied high school, imagine what problems they’re going to run into later in life that they could be denied. Now it’s a federal law.

P: What is your message to kids with differing abilities and to parents of those kids?

TM: There are definitely gonna be challenges in your life and there’s definitely gonna be several setbacks, but it’s about being able to come back from those setbacks and rise in your own way. For me, I rose because of my mom and then in high school I rose because of the lawsuit creating opportunities for others. Now being an 11-time Paralympic medalist, I know these setbacks make us stronger so we can rise as individuals.

One mom’s story about adopting a child with spina bifada:

Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida
Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida
Adopting a Child with Spina Bifida

Photograph: Tatyana McFadden; Courtesy Liberty Mutual Insurance

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Is Adoption from China Ending?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

In the last 30 years, nearly 100,000 children from China have found new families around the world, thanks to one of the most stable and popular international adoption programs. And I’m the mom of two of them. My family was created there, when my husband and I adopted our two amazing daughters.

But a lot’s changed over the past eight years, since we first met our oldest daughter in a Civil Affairs Office in China. Since then, China and the U.S. both signed the Hague Convention governing international adoption, which required checks on the histories of all children, to determine if they are truly orphans and available for adoption. (This is to help prevent the child trafficking and corruption that has occurred in some international adoption programs, including China’s.) China instituted new limitations on the parents who would be eligible to adopt from China—though the parents who met those new limitations are still stuck waiting to be matched with their children (six years later and the wait is still growing, thanks to a 20,000+ backlog of parents hoping to adopt from China). China’s wealth has been increasing, which means more children are being adopted domestically, and more parents manage to afford the fines the Chinese government levies on families who go over the one-child limit. And China may be holding still other children back in their orphanages, hoping to take care of their children within their own borders.

And so, it was no surprise to me that the numbers of international adoptions from China had dropped precipitously yet again. Last year, only 3,311 were adopted internationally from China throughout the world—compare that to 2005, when we adopted our oldest, and 7,903 children came home to the U.S. alone. And the other number that was equally interesting—75 percent of the children adopted would be classified as special needs, as they were older or had known medical issues. In fact, that is how we managed to adopt our second daughter—we would still be waiting for a match, six years later, if we hadn’t found her on our agency’s “special needs list.”

Adopting a special needs child is currently the only viable option for most parents looking to adopt from China, as the wait for a “healthy” baby continues to grow—and will likely reach nearly a decade of waiting within the next few years. But it’s not an option for everyone—many countries won’t even allow their citizens to adopt special needs children.

We are thankful that it was an option for us, and that we’ll be celebrating five years with our youngest daughter later this year. But for many other prospective parents, the China adoption program seems to be another door closing, and another option for building a family gone.

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Ad Campaign Casting Call for Infantino and Step 2

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Everybody plays. That’s the motto of a campaign from kids’ gear companies Infantino and Step 2. Infantino brand manager Colette Cosky became committed to celebrating the awesome uniqueness of every child after giving birth to her son Dexter, who has Down syndrome. It’s also a message that we take to heart at Parents: we’re proud that our stories and photos feature kids of all abilities and appearances. (Check out the sweet sibling story “Dake” from our recent August issue.)

That’s why we’re so excited that Infantino is hosting an open casting call for kids of all shapes, sizes, and needs to star in an upcoming ad campaign. Even better: the photos will be shot by our friend Kelle Hampton, a mega-popular mom blogger and author whose second daughter, Nella, was also born with Down syndrome. (Kelle shared Nella’s birth story with us—it’s a tear-jerker!) Kelle shot this cute photo for last year’s campaign.

Is your child ready for her close-up? Kids must be 5 years or younger, live in Southern California, and not be represented by a modeling agency. If your tot fits the bill, send her name, age, date of birth, and a recent close-up and full-body snapshot to Submit your kid’s photo by 09/10/12 for a chance to be considered.

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Easing the Financial Burden for Special-Needs Families

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There are a lot of great chronicles of life with a special needs kid (case in point: our blogger, Ellen Seidman, who writes about her awesome son on To the Max). The scenario is definitely familiar to lots of readers—more than 20 million American families have at least one member with special needs, and 1 in 88 kids has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But you don’t often hear about the financial side of the story. It can cost a bundle to raise a kid: according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, parents will spend more than $235,000 on children born today—and that doesn’t include college tuition. Though this figure might seem staggering, the estimated cost of raising a kid with special needs is much higher: as much as $3.2 million. Early identification can connect kids with resources that they need to lead happy, healthy lives, but the cost of caregivers, therapies, and treatments can add up quickly.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) has launched a new Facebook campaign to raise awareness about the financial challenges faced by parents of special-needs kids. For each “like” the video receives, MassMutual will donate $5 to the Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count® program, which promotes early identification of disabilities and developmental delays. Visit the MassMutual Facebook app to get involved.

Image: House of coins via Shutterstock

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Experts: Wide ‘Autism Spectrum’ May Explain Diagnosis Surge
During the briefing for reporters Thursday on the CDC’s latest findings that one in 88 children in the U.S. (one in 54 boys) has a diagnosis of some brain disorder that falls on the “autism spectrum,” there was a polite but revealing dust up. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conceded –in response to a question– that the increase in cases could be the result in changes in the way such disorders are diagnosed.

Recording Catches Teachers Mistreating Special Needs Student
Two Alabama teachers have been put on administrative leave after the mother of a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.

Bringing Up an E-Reader
It may take a generation to know for sure whether e-books are better for children than regular books.

Impatient Parents Tend to Bring Up Unruly Toddlers
According to new research, how mothers and fathers react when their children test their limits may have a lasting effect on their development.

‘Cinnamon Challenge,’ Popular with Teens, Proves Risky
It’s a relatively simple dare, but teens are sending themselves to the hospital by attempting the “cinnamon challenge.”

First Divorce Expo in U.S. Aims to ‘Empower’ Attendees
Exhibitors will showcase services to help people dealing with the divorce process.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Alcohol Risk to Fetus is Highest at End of 1st Trimester
Any drinking during pregnancy increases the odds of fetal alcohol syndrome, but the risk to the fetus is highest if a pregnant woman drinks during the second half of her first trimester of pregnancy, a new study finds.

Health Sector Takes on Childhood Obesity
As one of the many outgrowths of the sweeping federal health care law, health insurers and employers must now pay the cost of screening children for obesity and providing them with appropriate counseling.

NJ Parents Say Mentally Disabled Girl, 3, Denied Transplant; Experts Say Situation is Complex
The parents of a 3-year-old New Jersey girl say she’s being denied a kidney transplant because of her mental disabilities, but experts caution the situation may be much more complex.

Fat Dad, Fat Kids: New Research Points to Fathers’ Influence
If you want to predict whether a baby is going to have a weight problem, new research suggests, look at his or her dad.

Tiger Tamer! Study Challenges Theory that Asian Parenting Makes Kids Succeed
Prof. Desiree Qin takes on ‘Tiger Mom’ author Amy Chua over harsh discipline in study at Stuyvesant HS that finds Chinese-American students more anxious and depressed.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Babies Lip-Read, May Offer Autism Clues
For years, the conventional wisdom was that babies learned how to talk by listening to their parents. But a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that our little angels are using more than their ears to acquire language.

Young U.S. Citizens in Mexico Brave Risks for American Schools
Called “transfronterizos,” these students migrate between two nations every day, straining the resources of public school districts and sparking debate among educators.

More Schools Likely to Lose Accreditation, Experts Say
As anxiety over the academic performance of public schools grows, experts say it’s likely that more schools and school districts will lose public or private accreditation.

NJ Mom Gives Birth to Child on Train to NYC
A New Jersey woman got the morning commute of her life when she gave birth to her first child on a PATH commuter train to New York.

Mom Claims CHOP Refuses to Give Special Needs Child Transplant
Mother says that a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia refused to recommend transplant surgery for her 3-year-old because the girl is mentally disabled.

Group Petitions to Bring Breastfeeding Back to Sesame Street
Women rely on both breast feeding and bottles to feed their babies, says a group that supports nursing in public. So why does Sesame Street show bottle-feeding exclusively?

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches
Congress blocked changes proposed by the Agriculture Department that were meant to reduce childhood obesity.

Teachers Caught on Tape Bullying Special-Needs Girl
The parents of special needs student Cheyanne, 14, caught her teachers’ verbal abuse on tape.

Delay Cord Clamping for Baby Health, Say Experts
Waiting a few minutes after delivery to cut the umbilical cord is best for a newborn’s health, research suggests.

11 States Seek Relief From ‘No Child’ Provisions, in Return for Raising Standards
Eleven states asked the Education Department for relief from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, in exchange for adopting higher standards.

Study: A Curious Link Between Birth Control Pills and Prostate Cancer
Could women’s use of birth control pills increase men’s risk of prostate cancer? A new study in the medical journal BMJ Open suggests there’s a link, finding that countries where more women take oral contraception have higher rates of prostate cancer and prostate cancer deaths.

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