Month: February 2015

Featured Advocate: Michelle from Monkey Business 2/25

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delmonkeyMichelle: I am an advocate for my son, my students and other individuals with differing abilities through my work and my writing.

I am an advocate because it is important to me that true life stories are told from folks who walk the walk and talk the talk. Through writing I am able to help dispel myths and help others have a greater understanding about what families living with differing needs go through. As a parent and teacher, I have ample opportunity to advocate for those that are unable to advocate for themselves.

My life, work and writing allow me to have many avenues to raise awareness and acceptance. Monkey Business started out as a daily post on my personal page in an effort to raise awareness for Ring 22 syndrome and Autism for an April Autism Awareness month activity. I soon discovered that I loved sharing my story with others. As I told our story I realized that it was not only informative to others but it was a wonderful outlet for me.

Monkey Business The Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth of Raising a Child with Special Needs.

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Featured Advocate: Melissa from Life of Zoey – Living with Autism 2/24

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delzoeyMelissa: On September 11, 2014, I watched as my 22-month-old daughter was held down by five hospital staff and wrapped in two blankets like a burrito to have an EEG. She screamed and cried and tears fell down her face like she was being hurt. They kept saying, “This doesn’t hurt her.”

Obviously they didn’t get the memo– she’s autistic and sensory-sensitive. Just having someone touch her hurts her; clothes hurt her, putting socks, shoes and a coat on hurts her. They were hurting her.

As I died inside.

I called out to her, “Zoey, look at Mommy, I’m here… I’m here, I love you… you’re OK.”

She didn’t look for me or look at me once; she just stared out into the room and screamed and tears fell from her face.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the doctor who was on the floor that day then came running into the room and screamed, “Stop! This can’t happen today. We don’t have a crib.”

Any composure I may have had quickly vanished. I broke down, and I cried, and I said “No. I will not let you do this to my baby again. I am not leaving. I was promised a crib. Go find a crib, and if you can’t, then I will sleep on the floor and hold her bed to make sure she does not fall out… but I am not leaving.”

This all happened while they were attaching the flat metal discs to her head  — and they only had half of them on.

We had this procedure scheduled the day she was diagnosed, and I had a child advocate from the hospital in constant contact with me. I’d explained that Zoey needed a crib, and I was told we would have one.

So they finished the procedure, and they unwrapped her from the blankets that were used to restrain her, and she was able to sit up. I gave her some Fruit Loops, and I watched as she crunched away.

All I wanted to do was hold her. She wouldn’t let me.

A nice woman who visits the hospital with her dog every month stopped in our room and asked if my daughter would like a visit, and I said sure.

This is the moment when any amount of denial I had quickly vanished.

I watched as this beautiful yellow lab approached the bed, my daughter didn’t look up or even move. I watched as this big dog jumped up on my daughter’s hospital bed and start eating the cereal around her feet. Again, my daughter didn’t look up or even flinch. My 22-month-old nonverbal daughter was in her own little world; she was on sensory overload and traumatized, and this dog wasn’t going to pull her out and neither was a hug from her Mommy.

I swear, a little piece of me died that day. And I promised, never again. This is why I fight. This is why I advocate for autism awareness. I do it all for her.

Life of Zoey – Living with Autism

AUTISM EARLY INTERVENTION ADVOCATE and Mom…Diagnosed at 21 months with NonVerbal ASD, SPD, GDD. This page is a look at Zoey’s journey through EI

On August 8th, 2014 our youngest daughter, our baby was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Global Developmental Delay with having the communication skills of a 6 to 8 month old. Possible diagnosis of OCD as well. To say I was and still am crushed is an understatement. When you find out you’re going to be a Mom you have hopes and dreams for your child and you want them to be healthy and happy…never did I dream I would have a child who was nonverbal, who could not tell me or even point to what she wanted or needed, a child that found it painful to make eye contact, painful to give or get hugs and kisses, and a child that was in her own little world, finding comfort alone and not even looking up when calling out her name. You mourn for this child, you grieve, you and your family go through bouts of denial and acceptance many times, and you cry…All of it normal and okay…This is The Life of Zoey

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Featured Advocate: Anonymous from Michael S. Wyatt Teen Help Foundation 2/23

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delmichael2Anonymous: I am an advocate because my son hung himself after years of trying to get help. The system failed him and made him feel like a problem that didn’t deserve their time. I talk to kids at high schools, online in many countries and to parents wanting to understand. My son went un-heard and for as long as i live and know about a situation occurring no one will ever be un-heard.

Michael S. Wyatt Teen Help Foundation Our goal is to help teens and young adults build self-confidence and responsibility. My aim is to make sure that all teens and young adults get what they need from a system that is so seriously in need of compassionate people to see that the mental health crisis for our young people is a very real and often fatal issue.Be Yourself In Spite Of Everyone Else!

In Memory of Michael S. Wyatt…March 22, 1984 – October 25, 2000

My son planned out and carried through with a plan of ending what he thought of as trouble in everyone life. Himself. My promise to Michael and all other parents and kids out there is that before I go, this Country will know of the serious gaps in the mental health system due to people who just don’t care, stigmas that go with having a mental illness, and how no one takes depression in teenagers seriously enough in this Country.

Michael was born on March 22, 1984 in Yuma, Arizona. We lived a long ways out of town so Michael’s first years were spent learning about horses, cows, chickens, etc. He loved animals from the very beginning. Especially the horses. He cut his first tooth on my reins while riding with me one day.

From the very beginning Michael was very eager to please. He acted silly and always tried to make people laugh. Especially me. Things were hard for him, his sister TracyLee and myself but the three of us made a family and we were all we had. It worked. But, he never felt good enough. Never felt like he was doing well enough.

Problems started when he was about 8 ½ years old. He was in the 3rd grade and signs of ADHD started to appear. I had never heard of this but his teacher told me that I should get him checked. There were brain maps, EEG’s and every neurological test they could come up with. They found inconsistencies in Michael’s brain’s ability to process information correctly and in proper order. He would do things backwards a lot and he and I had developed our own “language” so to speak because I was the only one that seemed to understand what he was trying to say or accomplish. He loved the movie “Forrest Gump” and would always tell me “Mama always has a way of saying things so I can understand them”.

There were a lot of problems with school because they did not believe that Michael had problems. They put him in an Alternative classroom and that did not do anything for the self-esteem he already lacked. He was labeled as a “bad kid”, “trouble maker” and “loser”. Michael tried real hard to shake that but with the school systems, and worse, the stupidity, ignorance and the plain not giving a shit attitude of the mental health “officials” that this College Station has it was impossible—in his mind. We had many Minor In Possession charges and they eventually put him on probation because Michael smoked cigarettes. His probation officer and that whole system is a whole other story . Just know that as a parent, you have more rights than they will let you know you have.

Michael liked to joke a lot and everyone always remembers him as the kid that was always smiling no matter what was going on in his life. He always did whatever he could to bring someone up if they were down. Even if he was not in the best frame of mind at the time.

I used to get so mad at him because for such a skinny kid, he ate like a horse. Or at least that’s what I thought. It was not until after he left us that I was told by a lot of kids that they could always come to Michael’s bedroom window at night and he would give them food. He even gave some of them his clothes. If I had only known, well, that’s just one of many “guilt” things that I will live with forever. The screen on that window is still there. It’s mangled and ripped but it will always be on that window as a reminder of the giving person my son was even if he knew it was going to get him in trouble.

Michael was bipolar manic-depressive with Schizophrenic . However, after years of therapy, pills and crap, he could not shake the label of “loser”, “worthless” or “trouble maker”. Michael was none of these things and everyone that knows him and has come to know him through his foundation knows better. Michael used to say to me and to his friends, “God knows the type of person I am so I don’t care what these preppy snobs think”. He was right. There were many, many ups and downs for the 8 1/2 years that Michael fought this battle. He felt responsible for everything that went wrong in the world. He always somehow found a way to blame himself for things happening to people he didn’t even know.

Michael was also a cutter. He cut himself so deep sometimes that I took him to the hospital and was sent home because their attitude was “He’s just looking for attention”. Well, DUH! I had one Dr. tell me that if Michael were his son he’d take him home and “whoop him”. Thank goodness Michael is my son.

Michael had the bluest eyes. He was the most sincere and insightful kid I had ever had the pleasure of knowing. He could talk to a person for 30 seconds and have them pegged 100%. He loved everyone and everyone loved him, especially the girls! It was really quite comical at times in that area. He loved fishing, playing golf with his dad and adored his dog Cody. His skateboarding skills were up there with the best.

Michael was not a drug addict although we were continually told his tests were dirty. (I have the autopsy report showing Michael had been clean and free of drugs for at least a year). The mental health facility asked Michael if he was doing drugs. What they should have asked him was “what drugs are you doing?” Michael was on Zoloft and in his mind that was a drug. He was sent to ****. That place knew of Michael’s mental illness and when THEY asked him if he was smoking pot or doing coke, he replied truthfully “NO”. So, he was sent back to the mental health facility. He did this for eleven days. Back and forth, back and forth with no one listening to him. How awful it must have been to know good and well something was wrong and have people telling you there isn’t. All of that just reinforced his feelings of being “bad”. I often wonder if they ever think about the devastation that their inaction and omissions of information to me have caused. I doubt they even give it a thought. They told him he was just “bad”.

Eight days before he left this world, he asked alot of questions to anyone that would talk to him about God. He was looking for peace and I pray with the smoke and sage that now he has it.

Michael was also very proud of the Native American heritage in his family. He wanted to learn all he could about all parts of him. His thirst for who he was overwhelmed him at times. One time we were listening to Buffy St. Marie and she was singing about Wounded Knee. He listened and he looked at me with tears in his eyes in total disbelief that people could do that to other people. He was literally shocked and appalled. It was then he started learning everything he could about his Navajo heritage. He was 10 years old at that time.

Michael is missed by everyone that ever knew him. His generosity, his compassion for people and animals, his infectious laugh and smile. So, in his name is the Michael S. Wyatt Teen Help Foundation, Inc run by me, Michael’s Mom. The song “Youth of the Nation” by POD is the Foundation’s theme song…….

You all are so important. Please write me if you think for even a split second that this world would be better off without you. That is SO not true. Mission: Our goal is to help teens and young adults build self-confidence and responsibility. My aim is to make sure that all teens and young adults get what they need from a system that is so seriously in need of compassionate people to see that the mental health crisis for our young people is a very real and often fatal issue.

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Featured Advocate: Anonymous from Reality of Bipolar Disorder 2/22

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delbip5Anonymous: I think that I am an advocate because I feel that it is important to know as much as you can about your disorder to prepare you for bad times.This will give you more knowledge that is much needed. Since I wasn’t supported when I was diagnosed, I also try to make an understanding community.

Reality of Bipolar Disorder The needs and support for people with bipolar disorder or for those who want to help someone who has bipolar. The page is to show you what Bipolar Disorder is through scientific reports and anything else that might be relevant. It is a disease, like any other. Why treat it differently because it can’t be seen? I want to make a small difference to end the stigma.

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Featured Advocate: Pooh from I’m ok 2/21

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delimokPooh: I am an advocate because I understand that not being or feeling alone is significant to well-being. I think that being heard can be the start of healing or at least fighting for life and happiness. I’ve been as low as is possible and survived. 
I am ok was started to share and support with love those who struggle with everyday life. That is about all of us…You Are Not Alone
Im ok “For what is joy if it is not spoken of … and what is love if it is not shared” … “So keep on living .. until you feel alive once more” ~ Jennifer Worth
Love the lonely … Hug the hurt … Befriend the lost … Kiss the broken ..
Encouragement for all those challenged with overwhelm … depressions … grief … mental health issues and stigma. I want to bring those in need together with others who live successfully with these challenges. 
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Featured Advocate: Khloe from Depressed, Alone, Alive 2/20

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deldepresKhloe: I am an advocate because I don’t want things to get so bad for someone that they lose their battle.  I made my page just to help other people as I know what they are going through.  I don’t believe that just because I’m the host admin that makes the page mine as the page is everyone’s and if I can help just one person its better than leaving them to be alone. No one deserves to be alone.

Depressed, Alone, Alive Just a page made to help people know they are not the only one feeling like they do.

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Featured Advocate: Marie from Tasteful Truths 2/19

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deltastMarie: I am an advocate because I know what it is like to feel like you do not have a voice. I know how hard it is to have words formed at the tip of your tongue but, never allowing them to fall out any further because of fear and shame. Fear of being judged and shame of being “ill”. I am an advocate for those who have not yet found their voice. I am an advocate for those who are still finding words to form their story. I am an advocate because having a mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. The world needs to hear everybody’s voice and story and I am hear for that.

Tasteful Truths The truth of having a mental illness from my point of view and others; worded as tastefully as possible.

Ever since I can remember I have battled an eating disorder; a disease that has the highest mortality rate of an other mental illness. Accompanying the eating disorder was always the bouts of depression, anxiety, and occasional OCD. I hid my eating disorder the best I could because there was so much shame in having it. It wasn’t until I was able to separate myself from my eating disorder (with the help of a wonderful treatment team and the book Life Without ED) that I understood an eating disorder was an illness; a serious life threatening illness.

I am now in my late twenties and I hear people bash not only eating disorders but other mental illnesses as well. This is simply a page with my thoughts and occasional quotes and inspiring photos to encourage people who are fighting a mental illness to keep going.  Website

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Featured Advocate: Meribeth from The Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship 2/18

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delstepMeribeth: I advocate for mental health, disabilities/impairments of all natures, and most of all Drug Prevention Education. Ben is my son, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 14 in the early 00’s. He struggled horribly with the structured environment of public school and with teachers who disregarded his diagnosis with disbelief. Not much was really known about Autism then, and Ben was not severe enough to go to a special school for Autistic individuals. He was finally placed at an alternative high school and graduated with a Regents Diploma, also where we give a scholarship in his memory.

Somewhere along the way he began using prescription painkillers (opiates) and became addicted. At first the pills were working, Im sure, to take the edge off of lifes challenges, then quickly turned into the ugly monster of addiction. It took over his life until it finally killed him; he died of an accidental overdose in 2010 at the age of 20.
Until my final breath I will never stop advocating for the services needed for those with mental/physical disabilities, and the dangers of addiction.

The Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship

The Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship supports Drug Prevention Education Advocacy, Autism Awareness, disabilities, impairments of all natures.

LIFE LOST IN SENSELESS TRAGEDY HERE by Frank Thomas Croisdale

Benjamin John Oliphant loved music. He found joy in many genres, but was drawn to rap and dance-club music in particular. In that respect, he was just like many teenagers. 

In two others ways, he was not. One was that he was a skilled DJ — especially in the art of old-school record “scratching.” It was like Ben stepped out of a Beck record onto the streets of Niagara Falls. Give him “two turntables and a microphone,” and a gathering was suddenly a full-blown hip grooving party. All the cool cats and kitties knew that if Ben was laying down the beats, the dance floor was the only place to be.

The other way that Ben was different was that he was autistic. Ben was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

This is what the KenCrest Organization of Delaware has to say about Asperger’s and the difficulties that people who have it face in dealing with day-to-day living:

“Asperger’s Syndrome is the mildest and highest-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome experience problems in social interaction and often have restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities.

“These difficulties may include eye contact, facial expressions and social gestures; poor peer relationships; lack of spontaneous sharing with others; lack of social or emotional give-and-take; preoccupation with certain interests and subjects; inflexible routines or rituals; repetitive movements.”

Ben’s family believes that a combination of these two differences led to a decline into drug use that cut Ben’s life short last year.

On Oct. 19, 2010, Ben was found dead in an apartment on Ashland Avenue in an area known for drug-dealing. The official ruling was that a lethal cocktail of morphine and cocaine ended Ben’s life, but his mother believes that the coroner’s report might just as easily have read “Died by falling through the cracks.”

Maribeth Oliphant still tears up at the memory of her loving son.

“This may sound bitter to you; I wrote it back in 2005, and it details the early years of Ben’s life,” Maribeth told me as she handing me a paper entitled “Ben’s Diagnosis.”

The paper talks in vivid detail about Ben’s birth, early childhood, and years of misdiagnosis by the teachers and specialists in his school district.

After being misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia and being an underachiever, Ben was finally characterized as having issues that were “attitudinal.”

Thankfully, Dr. Prado at the Monsignor Carr Clinic examined Ben and made a very quick and accurate diagnosis of Asperger’s.
I cried a river that night,” Maribeth said. “After all of the years of them saying Ben was slow, when he actually tested out two grades ahead of his peers, of them trying to put the blame for his poor grades back on him, it was like a huge weight had been lifted.”

By that time, Ben so hated the experience of school he wanted to drop out. It was recommended that he attend Niagara Academy on Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn. The school is operated by Orleans Niagara BOCES and is designed to provide a “caring and supportive environment that enhances the academic, social, emotional and vocational skills of our students.”

“Even though the size of the school scared him a bit, it was a place where he was accepted, and it was a place where he could feel like he was home,” Maribeth said.

Ben graduated from Niagara Academy and tried to get into Niagara County Community College, but the experience of the entrance exams was overwhelming.

“There just isn’t help for these kids as they transition into adulthood. Ben knew technology, computers and sound like he knew the back of his hand, but when he went in (to the entrance exams) he was so overwhelmed by the new environment that he froze up,” Maribeth explained.

Ben took a job at Smokin’ Joe’s for a time, but soon found himself entwined in a drug culture that links the rural areas and suburbs of Niagara County with the mean streets of Niagara Falls.

He was taking prescription meds, opiates, ones he was buying on the streets — Oxycontin and Oxycodone. He was trying to fit in, and drugs helped take away the anxiety he felt,” said Maribeth.

It’s a dirty little secret that there are a number of people who live in what is considered the “safe” part of Niagara County — the “white” suburbs and countryside — who routinely sell their addictive prescription pain medication to drug dealers, who in turn sell the drugs on the streets of Niagara Falls.

Ben fell in with two middle-aged women doing just that as they were trying to keep their Sanborn home from going into foreclosure. Ben did lawn work for the women in return for payment in prescription medication. One of the women would pick Ben up in the middle of the night, drive him to Niagara Falls, and drop him off to sell the drugs from the shadows of alleyways that have seen far too much heartache and early death.

Eventually, prescription meds gave way to cocaine and heroin. Ben’s behavior changed, and his mother became alarmed. She said, “It was like that scene in ‘Panic in Needle Park,’ where the woman is sitting there almost as if asleep, with her eyes rolled back up in her head. Ben actually looked like that, and it scared me to my core.”

After a couple of near misses with drug overdoses, Ben finally took a hit that his body couldn’t handle. He’d found out in the last year of his life that he suffered from an enlarged heart, and the drug speedball that he took that fateful evening was too much to overcome.

The details of his final hours are not clearly known and may never be fully understood. What Maribeth does know is that her son was staying in the home of a known drug dealer and had been to her house that afternoon while she was at work. When he arrived at her home, he had a number of drugs and prescriptions with him, including intravenous morphine with a street value of $2,000.

Maribeth’s oldest son, Tom, recognized that his brother was high and had a number of illegal drugs in his possession, and threw him out of the house. That decision is a heavy burden he still carries.

“I told him, you can’t do that to yourself. If it wasn’t that night, it would have been another. We all loved Ben and did what we thought were the best things to do in each moment,” Maribeth detailed.

When Ben couldn’t be found that night, his father went looking and found Ben’s car abandoned on a city street. There was vomit all over the inside of the car. When he knocked on the door of the apartment where Ben was staying, a man answered and responded to the question of if he knew of the young man’s whereabouts with words that will forever haunt the Oliphant family: “He dead, man. He dead.”

Maribeth Oliphant may never know just what happened the night her son died. The police investigated, but ultimately no criminal charges were filed. What she does know is that there is nothing she can do with the past, save mourning it, but she can impact the future.

Maribeth has partnered with Niagara Academy to establish the Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit kids graduating from the school and help with their transition into secondary education and adulthood. It will also serve to aid in drug-prevention education and to raise awareness of autism and the needs of those afflicted.

The world lost a kind, trusting and talented soul when Ben ascended to the heavens. His demise is a cautionary tale about the need for proper early diagnosis and placement for kids with autism and other developmental disorders, and also illustrates the evil influence of drugs here.

Ben loved music, and his mother hopes that the scholarship created in his honor will help other young adults with autism find the harmony that so sadly eluded him during his brief time on earth.

Ben Oliphant was an absolute miracle, a gift to all of us. Everyone loved him, and will say he was the greatest man they’ll ever know. Our mission is to share Ben’s story with hopes of raising Autism Awareness and to promote Drug Prevention Education for Middle School and High School students. Until I take my last breath, I will never stop talking about how brilliant he was, how much he touched our lives, and how tragically his life ended. 

A scholarship award is given annually to a graduating student from Niagara Academy, an alternative school serviced by Orleans/Niagara BOCES.  Life lost in senseless tragedy here.(CROISDALE)

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Featured Advocate: Robert from End Teen Suicide in Memory of Amanda Todd Canada 2/17

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delsuiRobert: I became an advocate after  I read about Amanda taking her own life. It really hit home for me and the ignorance towards Amanda, her family and the tragedy that surrounds Amanda’s suicide makes me just want to throw up. I mean what is wrong with society today?

This page was started out of total respect for Amanda, her family and her memory and because I want to let people know the facts behind why she took her own life as well as try to prevent any more of our youth taking their own lives. After all, our youth is our future. The number of youth suicides since the tragic loss of Princess Snowflake is off the scale and getting worse, some thing needs to change and by working together and speaking out for our youth we will make a difference.

That’s why I’ve become an advocate for our youth. One other case that has really hit home for me personally as well is Izzy Dix, this young Lady took her own life because she was made to feel worthless and unwanted by other youth around her own age. What on earth is wrong with the youth in today’s society?

End Teen Suicide in Memory of Amanda Todd Canada

The teen suicide rate is completely of the scales bothy in Canada and the United States. I’ve started this page as a memorial to Amanda and her loved ones.

The teen suicide rate is completely of the scales both in Canada and the United States. I’ve started this page as a memorial to Amanda and her loved ones.

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