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The Meadows Blog

Family Caregivers

Michael Crawley - Monday, June 01, 2015

Each day millions of family caregivers in our nation quietly share their compassion, out of sight and unnoticed. These individuals are average people just like you and me who come from all walks of life. Yet each one is as special and unique as the situations they find themselves in. They are unsung heroes because they are living examples of kindness, generosity and unconditional love.  
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Words

Michael Crawley - Sunday, May 03, 2015

Words are the products of our thoughts, attitudes, opinions, beliefs and convictions. That is why the language we use has great power. Fortunately we always have the choice to speak in either a positive or negative manner. We can be outspoken or cautious. We can be abrasive or comforting. We can be accepting or judgmental, or we can choose to remain silent and say nothing at all.

Words can have far more influence than we realize because they convey feelings and emotions, both good and bad. People remember a sincere compliment or kind word for years, and the same is true for an insult or a harsh remark. All of us can remember a circumstance when we were on the receiving end of unflattering comments. We have each had things said about us that we didn’t deserve. As children we were called names that hurt. The fact that we still remember those words after so many years demonstrates their true power.

Language is critically important in the world of developmental disabilities. Certain words have the ability to shape decisions and to have a profound effect on the lives of the people we care about. When we use words like inclusive, diversity, respect, compassion, opportunity and equality we are projecting a positive view of individuals with intellectual challenges. They carry uplifting messages, and they convey a sense of belonging and community. These are words that build people up rather than making them feel inadequate. They support an individual’s dreams, aspirations and goals. They are the result of exceptional ideas that are turned into supports, programs and community involvement.

But too often when describing people with Down syndrome, autism, fragile X syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and many other types of disabilities we use language that is inaccurate or inappropriate. Sometimes it is thoughtlessly used as a form of shorthand. Words like “low functioning” and “retardation” have a dehumanizing effect when applied to people who have the right to be treated as equal members of society. That is why we should strive to use words that show respect and preserve dignity and avoid language that reflects intolerance or narrow-mindedness. Words of kindness, support and encouragement make another person feel valued and worthwhile. While language that is disrespectful can damage a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

Our choice of words in describing individuals with disabilities actually illustrates what kind of people we are. Because words communicate someone’s true feelings and opinions, disparaging language reveals our own prejudices and biases. We only have to listen to the words a person uses to figure out how they really feel about a particular subject. When someone chooses to describe another person as broken, defective or less than, they are unwittingly demonstrating their ignorance about people they do not know. They are letting their unfounded judgment and misconceptions cloud their thinking. They are hurting people by using language that objectifies them by stripping away their humanity.

We each know how painful it can be when someone reduces who we are and everything we’ve accomplished to just a few inconsiderate words. Every one of us has physical traits or personality quirks that could easily be ridiculed with demeaning language if someone so desired. We are all vulnerable in some way and the last thing we want is for someone to verbally attack us about an issue we have no control over. No one wants to be the butt of a cruel joke. No one wants to be put down for the way they look, the way they speak or the way they move. Each person is doing the very best they can to fit into a culture that is not always welcoming. The last thing they need are insensitive remarks that criticize their efforts.

Sadly words are sometimes used as a form of bullying. Aggressive or degrading language leveled at those who cannot respond appropriately or defend themselves is absolutely unacceptable. Unfortunately such behavior often finds strength in numbers as several individuals band together to tease or taunt a person who, in some superficial way, seems different. Using words to attack someone is a simple case of taking the easy way out. Instead of making the effort to get to know them, a bully attempts to make himself feel superior at their expense.

When dealing with those who have developmental disabilities we must weigh our words and carefully consider our language. Each man or woman has the right to be treated with dignity. There is never a reason to stereotype or tear a person down. People with intellectual challenges struggle throughout their lives not to be defined by limiting words. As children, their families are sometimes forced to confront language that hinders their child’s right to be treated fairly. It can be an issue that follows a person all of their lives.

On the other hand, when we speak to people with developmental disabilities in a positive way we can have a meaningful influence by letting them know that someone cares about them and believes in them. When a person has been told repeatedly that they will never be able to accomplish something, even before they’ve had the opportunity to try, being encouraged with supportive inspiring language can have a dramatic effect by giving them the necessary confidence to attempt challenges that can transform their lives. Our words have the ability to lift people up, they possess the power to have a significant impact because they often represent life changing ideas and concepts. They are the building blocks that lay the foundation for how society perceives those that we care about.

People with developmental disabilities deserve to hear words of caring and support. They deserve to hear words of compassion and acceptance. They deserve to hear language that treats them with respect as equals.

We should always choose our words wisely because they reveal who we really are.

 

 
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Family

Michael Crawley - Sunday, April 19, 2015

For most people, there is nothing more important in life than family. The benefits of the parent child relationship cannot be stressed enough. Family provides the nurturing support that every person needs, but it is particularly crucial for children with intellectual challenges. The unconditional love they receive from a parent gives them permission to be themselves. They receive encouragement, understanding and most of all complete acceptance. The single most valuable thing a child with a developmental disability can be given is the loving support of their family.  
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Disability Bias

Michael Crawley - Sunday, April 05, 2015

There are many forms of bias that permeate our society. We have all seen the studies that indicate that people who are tall, thin, pretty, handsome, and have outgoing personalities are more likely to get a job, a promotion or have better success finding a mate. However, none of those attributes actually tell us anything about what kind of person they are. They do not describe their character, their integrity, their work ethic or their generosity. They do not tell us if the person is trustworthy, honest, forgiving or compassionate. They are simply unimportant characteristics that society incorrectly places great value on.  
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The Challenge of Cancer

Michael Crawley - Friday, March 20, 2015

The word cancer can strike terror in our lives at any moment. It is a word that brings untold grief but also unbelievable courage into our world. The devastation that this single word can wreck on families is almost indescribable, and yet the people who battle its effects so bravely can inspire us with their strength, resolve and determination to overcome it.  
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Bullying

Michael Crawley - Sunday, March 08, 2015
 
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Forgiveness

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 01, 2015

Forgiveness is one of the most compassionate acts that can occur between human beings. That Is why having the willingness and ability to forgive others is one of the most meaningful traits we can possess. True forgiveness is cleansing. By creating a fresh start it allows us to stop wasting time dwelling on the past so that we can focus on the future. It benefits both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. Forgiveness is so compelling that it can instantly change a person’s life. It is fundamental to all healthy relationships, and it is necessary for our society to thrive.

When we have the strength to ask for forgiveness it makes us better people. It is an acknowledgement that we are less than perfect, while at the same time it demonstrates our desire to improve our lives and to show concern for others. It draws its power from the fact that it takes courage to ask for forgiveness and it takes character to forgive. In both cases it gives us the opportunity to grow and to reach our potential. It forces us to look at ourselves realistically and to be willing to change so that we no longer feel the need for payback or revenge. It prevents us from being petty and spiteful. And when we have been taken advantage of or hurt in some way it gives us the ability to let go and release the pain so it can no longer interfere with our happiness.

People who go through life holding grudges against perceived slights by others or against life itself set themselves up for continual unhappiness. To constantly be at war with everyone around you wears a person down. We all know people like this. They take offence at anything by personalizing it. Their focus is always on themselves. These are the people we dread seeing each day. Their eagerness to complain about their latest imagined wrong has a dispiriting effect on everyone they encounter. How troubling it must be to go through life perpetually seeing yourself as a victim.

Sadly, many people have to learn from personal experience that the refusal to forgive leads to continuous anger, bitterness and overall unhappiness. The lack of forgiveness can tear apart entire families while the capacity to forgive can heal them. Refusing to forgive is exhausting. Holding a grudge diverts our attention away from far more important aspects of life. It prevents us from living fully in the present because we trap ourselves by clinging to something that has happened in the past. Fortunately the unwillingness to forgive is often based on a simple lack of communication. Once both parties are willing to confront the issue, forgiveness usually occurs and everyone can let go of their resentment and indignation.

There are some situations, however, where we are so hurt by the actions of someone else that, for now, forgiveness cannot take place. The pain is too fresh and raw. The hurt is too deep, and the memory of the transgression is overwhelming. In these cases, time becomes the determining factor on how long we carry our discomfort before we are willing to release it. What has happened cannot be undone, but the effort to forgive that person can act as a release so that the negative emotion no longer controls us.

Often it seems to be the case that the hardest people to forgive are the ones we love the most. Perhaps the sense of unfairness or betrayal is heightened when it comes from someone who is close to us. But because we care about them it is all the more reason to find it in our hearts to forgive their behavior. We are all imperfect; therefore we all deserve to be forgiven for our mistakes. It is tragic to endure feelings of estrangement and rejection because of the insensitivity of a person who is important to you. It is so much better to realize that life is too fragile to carry grudges for long periods. The time that is wasted when you refuse to forgive someone can never be regained. It is lost forever.

Of course, sometimes it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. This can lead to feelings of unworthiness and a lack of self-respect. Every person on earth has flaws, and undesirable characteristics, but we must accept our shortcomings as part of what makes us human. We can’t let guilt and self-recrimination paralyze us to the point where we can’t be productive and enjoy life. Until we learn to forgive ourselves it is difficult to forgive others.

On the occasions when you are the transgressor it is critically important to summon the courage to ask for forgiveness. The acknowledgement of your mistake often softens the heart of the person you hurt or offended. And because it is comparatively rare for people to take responsibility for their negative actions, when someone actually does the right thing and asks for forgiveness it is usually sincerely appreciated.

Thankfully there are no special conditions needed to ensure that forgiveness takes place. It simply demands that we be our best. It requires that we are open minded and that we are willing to accept the fact that none of us is perfect and that no one is always right or always wrong. It means that we must attempt to see both sides of an issue so that we have some understanding of why the other person took a different view. 

If we will each stop and think for a moment we all have someone to forgive, and we all need to ask forgiveness from someone as well. The issues involved might be minor or they might be quite serious. Whatever the case, we should each make the effort to embrace forgiveness at every opportunity so that we can be at peace with ourselves and with others.

Carrying a grudge or being filled with resentment is a burden that we can decide to release at any moment. We always have the choice of letting it go or allowing it to weigh us down. No matter how the other party behaves we have the freedom to choose how we react and how we respond. 

Without forgiveness the human race would be in desperate circumstances. It is the one quality that heals everyone involved, and because it can be life changing, it is something we should practice each day.

 
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Advocacy

Michael Crawley - Saturday, January 03, 2015

Advocacy has the power to change lives. It uses the beauty of compassion to have a positive effect on behalf of individuals who might otherwise lack representation for their needs and interests. In the case of those with developmental disabilities, it is the relentless effort to ensure that their rights as equal members of society are safe guarded at all times and that they enjoy complete inclusion and acceptance just like every other citizen.  
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The Holidays

Michael Crawley - Friday, December 12, 2014

As we enter into one of the busiest times of the year it is quite easy to get caught up in the stress and pressure of the season. Our futile attempts to create the “perfect” holiday distracts us from what truly matters and instead compromises our time with activities that are not nearly as important as the people in our lives. 
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An Issue of Age

Michael Crawley - Friday, November 28, 2014

We all know that aging is an inevitable part of life. It begins with our birth and ends with our last breath. But although we know it is completely natural for it to happen, it does not make it any easier to accept. Perhaps it would be beneficial if, instead of viewing aging as a bad thing, we would have the wisdom to be grateful for the opportunity to grow older. We all know friends and loved ones who were denied that chance. Focusing on having the privilege of a long life gives us greater sensitivity for those who are not so fortunate.

Thankfully, due to significant medical advances, people with developmental disabilities are leading longer healthier lives. For example, in 1980 the life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was 25. Today it is 60. Improved prenatal care and safer deliveries, in conjunction with better long term treatments including proper nutrition, more effective medications, innovative surgical procedures and intensive therapies, have combined to increase the life spans of people with disabilities. Science is now blessing families with extra decades to create many more memories to treasure.

But as the lifespans of those with intellectual challenges increase so does their need for assistance. Longevity often requires long term care. It is critical that the extra years that can be added to a human life be of the highest quality possible. That time should be fulfilling for each individual with as few medical issues as possible. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Physical and mental deterioration often go hand in hand with age, but it can be even more pronounced in people with developmental disabilities.

Sadly the aging process for these individuals is often accelerated. Their physical and mental capabilities are adversely affected at a younger age and can occur more rapidly. It can be incredibly difficult to watch the people we care about change. The breakdowns that can take place in a friend or family member can be heartbreaking to witness. But for people with intellectual challenges, diminishing skills and changes in behavior do not affect their humanity. They do not decrease the value of their lives.

Another serious issue regarding the aging of this population is the fact that people with developmental disabilities are now outliving their parents and in some cases even their siblings. Increased life expectancy has created the need for housing and supervision for individuals who are entering the later stages of their lives just as they are becoming more vulnerable due to the loss of the natural supports provided by their families. This is an issue that will continue to escalate in the future, and it is a dynamic that society must be willing to deal with in a comprehensive and caring way.

We have spent the last few decades focusing on childhood development, education and employment opportunities for those with intellectual challenges, but now we also need to concentrate on their well-being as they age. We must determine how we can assist in making the closing chapters of their lives comfortable, peaceful and fulfilling. We must be prepared to meet the needs of people who have not historically lived into their 70’s and 80’s. This will take planning, resources, funding and most of all compassion.

As time takes its inevitable toll we have a moral obligation to treat older people with developmental disabilities with complete respect. We cannot allow a person to be marginalized or to be considered less because of their age. We have a responsibility to accept them for the human being they are at this point in their life. It is not right to judge them against their former selves. Our expectations must be adjusted to the reality of who they are now. We must not create additional stress in their lives by presuming they can still be as they once were.

We must acknowledge the fact that the aging process greatly increases the vulnerability of people with intellectual challenges, making them far more susceptible to mistreatment and even abuse. This type of demeaning behavior can lead to physical harm as well as psychological damage including lower self-esteem and self-worth. We must be vigilant to ensure that the safety of these individuals is our highest priority. As they become more dependent on others for their well-being we must be there for them. We must be willing as a society to step up and offer the appropriate care that each person needs. As their physical capabilities and mental acuity decrease we must correspondingly increase our support for them and their families. We have a moral responsibility to offer the most comprehensive care possible. In many cases their quality of life is in our hands.

We all know how emotionally painful it can be to watch someone we care about slowly decline due to age. We feel frustrated and helpless. But although we are powerless to change the course of time we can certainly increase our patience and understanding of their particular situation. We can accept the limitations that age is imposing on their lives without giving up the effort to keep them safely involved in life. And we can ease our sense of loss if we will remember to appreciate the time we’ve had with them. The laughter, the joy and the love that was shared is what made their life a worthwhile journey.

How we respond to those who become increasingly dependent due to age sets the precedent for how we will be treated when we grow older. Eventually there will come a time for each of us when life will become overwhelming. We will no longer be able to cope with the challenges that we are presented with each day. Some of us will recognize when we reach that point and others will not. In either case, when that time arrives, we will begin to require others to provide us with safety and comfort. From that moment on we will rely on their assistance to ensure our well-being. It is even possible we will no longer be able to speak up for ourselves or defend our rights. We will be forced to trust others to respect our humanity, and that is a trust that cannot be betrayed.

Everyone deserves the highest quality of life possible as they grow older. The fight for equal treatment for people with developmental disabilities must continue from the womb through childhood into adulthood and to the end of their lives.

We must always remember that those who have become increasingly vulnerable due to their age are not burdens. They are loved ones who are cherished by their families and friends. 

 
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LATEST NEWS


Why The Meadows Matters

Michael Crawley - Monday, November 11, 2019
 
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It Is Not Too Late!

Michael Crawley - Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Meadows annual Walk-A-Thon, held on Saturday, October 12th, was a tremendous success, and we want to thank everyone who participated.  
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Why We Are Not Hiring

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 25, 2018

People frequently contact the Meadows to see if we are currently hiring individuals with intellectual challenges. Unfortunately, as much as we wish we could, the answer is NO. 
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The Men and Women of the Meadows

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 18, 2018

The mission of our organization is to provide employment and vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities as well as other intellectual and physical challenges. 
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Physical Challenges

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 11, 2018

For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability. 
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Public Perceptions

Michael Crawley - Monday, February 05, 2018

As people drive past our building each day it is impossible to get a true sense of what is going on inside our 42,000 sq. ft. facility. That leaves the general public with a natural curiosity about what kind of organization we are and exactly what it is we do. 
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Every Life Matters

Michael Crawley - Sunday, January 28, 2018

Each one of us believes that our life is important. But, unfortunately, our fixation with our own significance can sometimes lead us to presume that other lives don’t matter as much as ours. We often fall into the trap of believing that we are superior and, therefore, by default, others are inferior. 
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More Than A Job

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 22, 2018

Our jobs play an important role in each of our lives. In many ways, they help to define us. For some, it means having the ability to provide for their families. For others, it is a lifelong commitment to a meaningful career. But no matter what the circumstances, our jobs occupy a significant portion of our time. 
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A Friend Is A Friend

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 15, 2018

Friendships are some of the most important relationships we have in life. They add a richness and warmness to our existence. They provide comfort and make us feel connected. They allow us to be understood and accepted for who we are. They provide us with people we can count on during difficult times. And, just as importantly, friendship gives us someone to share our happiest moments with. 
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The Families of the Meadows

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 08, 2018

When an individual arrives for their first day of work at the Meadows, it is an accomplishment resulting from a lifetime of effort. It’s the culmination of years of commitment and dedication. It’s the achievement of a goal that at times seemed unattainable – but is now a reality. 
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The Meadows
Center for Opportunity

1000 South Kelly
Edmond, Oklahoma
73003-6081

phone: 405.348.4470
fax: 405.340.5395