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Kids Who Volunteer

On Saturday, Kidz That Care , a nonprofit organization in Charlotte, visited Ben's Easterseals UCP group home to "Pack the Pantry" with groceries and beautify the front porch with flowers. Ben joined the group outside and watched them plant poinsettias, sweep leaves and wipe down tables.  I wasn't sure how engaged Ben was in the activity but when I tried to take him for a walk, he made it clear he wanted to stay and observe. He hugged the one adult with the group (not the photo above).  When the group was leaving, Kidz That Care asked to take a photo with Ben. I noticed how Liam, one of the teen volunteers, kneeled next to Ben rather than stand behind him. Usually people not comfortable around Ben are hesitant to get close. I was impressed with Liam's willingness to bend down and be at his level. Then Ben leaned in for a hug and held on to Liam for several minutes. Ben's hands were tight around Liam's neck and he kept his head on Liam's shoulder. It w
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Introducing a Puppy to Ben

  On September 27 of this year, we introduced Ben to our new puppy, Bailey. The pup was just two months old and on her second day with us. I wanted Bailey to know Ben from the start – get used to Ben's wheelchair, loud vocalizations and rough touch.  We started out slow, with just a few minutes of interaction and then a break. We encouraged Ben to use an open hand to pet Bailey. We were careful not to let Ben grab her too tight. We did this as often as we could, each time giving the two a break and then bringing them together again. The process has worked: The two are friends. Now Ben reaches out to Bailey to let her lick his hand. I've seen him be gentle with Bailey without prompting from us, letting her lick his fingers. Ben has grabbed her fur and legs a few times, and Bailey has let out a yelp to let him know this is not acceptable behavior.  We've learned some lessons along the way: Ryan was getting choked by Ben on this ride to the greenway. Ben wanted to reach Bailey

Diving Deep into Rett Syndrome in Males

  In 2012, after conducting a blood test on Ben, GeneDx reported that he tested positive for a mutation on the MECP2 gene on the X chromosome. The summary also said the information was inconclusive for  Rett Syndrome . I didn't have the mental capacity to find out what all of it meant. I realize now, that even if I had, I wouldn't have found much of anything about Rett Syndrome in males. The research didn't exist yet. It has since blown up. About a year ago, I researched Rett Syndrome in males and reached out to a few doctors conducting successful clinical studies on mice. They returned my emails immediately and added Ben to a list. I forgot about it for another year. Two weeks ago, I looked up Rett again. I found much more information, including a new drug, DayBue . It was approved by the FDA and released in March 2023. I emailed a different set of doctors and they connected me to experts in the field of Rett, clinical studies and family resources.  I discovered a few Fac

Adaptive Ski Week at Beech Mountain Resort

  My winter story in Upstate Lake Living Magazine features four towns in Western North Carolina with ski and winter activities. Although Ben is not one for cold-weather sports, I did find it interesting that Beech Mountain Resort offers Adaptive Ski Week in January. Read the story below. 

Charlotte Group Home's TV Debut

  WSOC-TV's reporter Elsa Gillis contacted me this summer about featuring the activities we've been planning at Ben's Easterseals UCP group home in Charlotte in the new series Carolina Strong. She'd heard about the events from a local public relations professional who follows me on Facebook.  Here's the clip:  Carolina Strong: Local mother spreads joy at home for people with disabilities The feature on WSOC has brought much-needed attention to group home living: A local school is providing a front porch makeover in the coming months. A grant is supplying the materials for our activities and other neighbors and friends have reached out about volunteering at events.  Photo: WSOC-TV visited Ben's Easterseals group home on Oct. 10, 2023.

Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of Living in an Easterseals Group Home

  An art project we did at Ben's group home this summer. Ben moved into an Easterseals group home on September 12, 2022. Today, we celebrate one year with him not just living there, but thriving. Ben's formed friendships with his housemates and the staff who work there.  The move to this Easterseals group home was his second time moving out of our house. In 2021, Ben moved to Greensboro, 90 minutes from our home in Charlotte, North Carolina. He'd been living in an AFL - alternative family living - situation through a different agency. It didn't work out. For more details, read  here . The day program has a living room for activities and relaxing. Ben moved home for six months while we searched for another living situation for him. During this time, we found an incredible day program. I happened to see a post on Facebook with photos of happy individuals involved in all sorts of community activities. I connected with the staff, and Ben started in June 2022.  Swimming at t

How to Find Disability Resources for Your Child

  Walking in the neighborhood When it comes to locating resources for Ben, it's taken patience, time and energy. I've had the support of my husband, Ryan, and family to do the administrative work it takes to find resources for a person with disabilities. I'm fortunate to be able to have the time to hunt down resources for Ben – and I also enjoy it. I talk with families often, and I've seen a pattern in the ones who have a difficult time gathering information and resources. They come to me frustrated, disenchanted and sometimes with the wrong information.  Here are my suggestions for finding resources and using them to best serve your child: 1. Ask the right people for assistance.  Lately, I've been talking with parents who can't find information about certain topics. When they tell me who they've asked, it's the incorrect person. The parents are frustrated because they thought the person should know the answer.  If you ask a doctor about community servic