Careproviders are Superheroes on Earth

I have had the honor of being my sister’s primary careprovider for the past 3 months. My sister is a 45 years-old, has Down syndrome, is severely overweight, has a 45 degree curvature in her spine, and has numerous other medical conditions.

I have never felt so exhausted, overwhelmed and exasperated while at the same time feeling so content and fulfilled. I have the most utter, deep respect and awe for careproviders. I believe they are the true superheroes on Earth. Here are some lessons I’ve gleaned and observations I’ve experienced while being my sister’s primary and full-time careprovider:

  • I did not know it was humanly possible to brush one’s teeth for a half hour. It is. On good days.
  • Bodily functions and all that entails are real, constant, unpredictable, gross, and ongoing, and utterly exhausting.
  • I had no idea that anyone could be stretched to the max and be pulled in so many different directions simultaneously – dealing with a broken refrigerator, and a husband’s surgery, and a ER visit for the sister, all while managing a teenager and all of her school pick-up/drop-off needs.
  • She could vacillate on a dime from being my sister holding a rational, typical adult conversations to becoming childlike and vunerable needing extreme and immediate support and care.
  • I realized that her demeanor directly reflected mine. The more I exhibited stress, irritability, the more she behaved the same. When I was mindful to keep my demeanor in a place of love, kindness, and serenity, she also would exhibit the same.
  • Maintaining healthy personal relationships with others in your life such as a spouse, friends, colleagues, and children is demanding, challenging, and anguishing and is an underlying source of tension and angst.
  • I experience unbelievable bursts of delightful, refreshing childlike innocence. She exclaimed one day, The ‘ups’ truck is here. I had no idea what she meant until I saw the brown UPS truck. I then realized when she kept saying she wanted to go to the ‘ups’ store, that is what she meant. Another time I had a long talk to her on the way to my college about how she had been mean to another student, and I needed her to do the right thing and apologize. She gave me a guilty look, pondered a moment, and exclaimed, ‘I came out here all this way for nothing!’
  • I realized how much I valued and appreciated the tips and advice from other careproviders, gaining valuable tricks and wisdom as we were passing each other and the hallway and experiencing brief bursts of respite sitting together during classtime.
  • Just when you think you’ve got one facet of life under control, another issue crops up at impeccably inconvenient times.
  • When providing care for another human being, you enter into almost a different time dimension where everything operates at a slower pace, almost like navigating in a parallel universe.

I truly believe that careproviders are Superheroes through and through. For anyone providing direct care to someone on a constant basis, they are giving the ultimate sacrifice and for sure the best versions of themselves. For parents of children with special needs who have done this their entire lives with no end in sight, I salute you, I honor you, I thank you, I am in awe of you, and you are sincerely and truly Heroes on this Earth.

Janet Heathcote: School of Dance Visionary Director

Janet Heathcote is a true inspiration to College of Adaptive Arts, to the special needs community, and to anyone who has ever had the pleasure to meeting and working with her. She’s been the Director of College of Adaptive Arts’ School of Dance since CAA created distinct Schools of Instruction back in 2013. Her and her husband were also early and instrumental members of the College of Adaptive Arts Mountain Movers leadership board to create this innovative collegiate model of lifelong education.

She holds the highest expectations of her students. The students come into classes with their heads held high, in the required black dance leotards, ready to learn and push the boundaries of their potential. She is a strong collaborator with fellow dance organizations such as the New Ballet, Los Gatos Ballet, and sjDANCEco. She is a fierce advocate for including all forms of dance and all abilities of dancers in the professional dance world. She was instrumental in facilitating the ability for one of our CAA dancers who happens to have Down syndrome to choreograph a piece which was performed on a professional stage, making history and raising the bar of possibility for artists and performers with differing abilities.

Janet is the mother to a CAA Professor who happens to have autism, a CAA student, and an CAA JR Cardinal College Prepper. She and her family have experienced their share of love and family anguish, and are a shining example of forging forward everyday with love, possibility, and strong family bonds. Janet is a sincere blessing to College of Adaptive Arts, and her legacy that she has set for the School of Dance will live and reverberate for generations to come.

Take a Chance . . .

   Take a Chance

   In 2012, I was being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I attended a Showboaters class at the College of Adaptive Arts. Pam Lindsay was leading the class and lesson was that I learned in a college theatre class. I walk out of class with my mom and younger sister (who was the student in the class) impressed with the respect given, the terms that were not dumbed down and the joy that the students exhibited.  I knew my sister Denae was enjoying her education opportunity, she was trying new things and learning and I saw my happy go lucky sister blossom.

Then in October, I was able to attend the Abilities Expo where Denae was performing with the puppet troupe and again I was impressed. This time I reached out to DeAnna Pursai and said I love photography, love writing, let me know if I could come and work or teach classes. It wasn’t until January 2013 that I started as an Associate Professor.

At the end of Spring, I was riding with DeAnna in her car when I mentioned that I was a cancer survivor and that one thing that helped me through my journey was poetry. I thought maybe we could have a poetry class. DeAnna and Pam liked the idea and that summer I was teaching about Haikus, Villanelles, and Sonnets to 6 students. Out of 6 of the students, I had one who said they knew what poetry was and liked poetry. After this class, one of the parents approached me and said I helped their student feel smart for the first time. My heart broke because this young man had gone his entire life not feeling smart.

We continued Poetry class, then there was Sign Language, and Reading Partners, and Grad Writing, Business Writing, Storytelling, Writing Lab, Spanish, Speaking with Confidence. Pam and DeAnna approached me and asked about a communications department.

Every new student that takes a Communication Class, the parent always says the same thing. My student cannot read or write, or I don’t even know if they like this subject but I want them to take an academic class, and this one fits in their schedule.  I am always surprised by those students who take a chance on a new class; those students end up enjoying their class. They remember characters, they embrace poetry and love reading. The wonderful thing about Communications classes we create spaces where the real world and fictional world coexist. Students can relate to characters from novels, and this helps them overcome their struggles. The act of writing becomes a cyclone that helps Students with things in the past and they get stronger. They thrive all because they took a chance.

Keep Writing, Keep Smiling, and Keep Learning.
Danie Weaver
Director of School of Communications.