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Posted by on in News

When my daughter came into our lives, we were overjoyed. She was perfect! 

Slowly, we realized she was lagging in the development milestones.

So our (2nd) pediatrian showed us the ‘obvious’ signs of her development delays.

We needed help for her – but we weren’t sure what to ask for, or even who to ask.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself sitting in the entryway or in the Library at CAA surrounding by experts with personal experience, and I still don’t know how ask for help.

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When I’m out in the community and I tell people we run a College of the Arts for adults with special needs, a common response that I get is, “So you are training them for a vocation in the arts?” Certainly a valid question, and I find it an interesting challenge to convey the message that we are truly about learning for the sake of learning.  Lifelong education. Exploring and furthering your skills and interests with other like-minded peers who have similar interests. 

I have a sister with a disability, and it was truly interesting to watch enter into the world of adulthood.  When I believe she was in that post-secondary time right after high school, she had a job coach for the summer, and she was so very happy cleaning the desks of the local high schools to get ready for the next year.  Her coach was with her, and she seemed to be having a blast.  I was so happy for her to have an engaged experience and to be helping in the community.

I soon learned that the job coach was cut due to budget cuts.  I moved away to attend my own college, and I sensed the distress and despair of becoming an adult without the needed supports to continue to be a viable, happy, and productive citizen.  It’s been highly distressing to observe as a sister.

Fast forward 20 years and myself and my business partner, Pamela Lindsay, have founded an Innovative College of the Arts for Students with Disabilities.  It’s amazing; joyful; refreshing.  I simply and truly love it.  College of Adaptive Arts has 8 Schools of Instruction in the Arts, Health & Wellness.  Adults simply sign up for the classes that they are interested in taking.  Each class is one hour long. Learn, Create, Rinse, and Repeat. 

I often revisit the word training in my mind.  I’ve seen adults with disabilities trained to pick up trash, clean tables, shred papers.  From my perspective, it seems that ‘typical folks’ on a whole can do these jobs better than a person with a disability.  However, when you give a person with a disability a microphone and a stage, they have the ability to transform the audience’s experience in a way that I have rarely witnessed with ‘typical’ performers.  People often have told me that they ‘feel more alive’ after watching a College of Adaptive Arts performing troupe.

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A Mountain Mover

By Sharon Lea

I want to be a mountain mover
mountains hold people back
create walls of sadness

that hide so much truth and beauty 

I want to push and kick away boulders

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I want to talk about disability. What is disability and what does it mean to have one?

Not so many years ago, it was discovered that my feet sustained fractures, several in each one. They weren’t healing, so I was sent to a wheel chair. For one month, I went out only for doctor appointments. I didn’t consider myself disabled, just lonely.

My doctor must have sensed this because he prescribed CRO boots, a kind of cement shoe that held my feet in one position and alleviated any pressure from walking. Each weighed about 5, maybe 8 lbs. and, because I couldn’t bend my feet, I walked like a penguin. It was hard to keep my balance, so I had to get a cane. It was hard to walk up and down curbs. We had to move from our upstairs apartment to one downstairs. It was hard to reach the bottom row of the bulk items in the supermarket. I learned to ask for help. I thought that was what it meant to be disabled.

Flash forward a few years. I no longer wear the CRO boots and I exchanged my blue walking cane for a white one. After I graduated from the White Cane Academy, aka, mobility training, I wanted to take the bus somewhere. I got my $2 ready but the driver said it was only $1. I didn’t remember any spare the air day holiday so I thought maybe it was my lucky day or the fare machine was broken. I took the bus a few days later with the same driver and again, I only had to pay $1.  The third time, I asked why. I knew what was coming, something that I didn’t think of the other two times, but I wanted him to say it: “Because you are disabled.”

I really didn’t feel disabled until he said those words. I was able to get around without assistance. I was able to attend to my shopping needs unaided. My questions persisted. What about me was disabled?

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by Allison Kennedy

CAA (College of adaptive arts) is one of a kind we offer so many more accommodations that any other place will. Teachers at CAA remind you of things if you're one to forget dance routines or lines for a school play.

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Our dance floor is not all we have. There's student government, public speaking, and acting classes and a yearly prom and a yearly movie festival. We have yearly play productions in the summer. Our dance classes have weekly performances where the dance teachers remind us of the routines right then and there in case we forget what routines to do in our performances. In our acting classes our teachers in the drama department remind us of our lines when we do our yearly plays.

There's no finals or midterms at our school!!!!!!!!!

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