What every parent of a kid with learning issues needs to hear

This blog post is dedicated to every parent or ally of a kid with a disability who didn’t think their advocacy was working.  Watch the video or read the transcript below.

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Watch the video here!

The schools oftentimes told my  parents that Catholic school was not for me, that it wasn’t a place that I belonged and that they only served the “typical” kids. And the one story that I really wanted to share with you was when I first got diagnosed, the schools kinda tried to push me out. My mom tried to educate them about what a learning disability was.

And so she called up Cal at the time, and they had a disability office. And they specifically had a program for students who had LD. And she got a letter from the school and presented it to the teachers and said, “Look at  this! You think she’s only gonna fry French fries. I think that  was your exact term, McDonalds.”

So she said, “She’s only gonna work there,” which by the way, if they increase the minimum wage, that would be awesome. [ laughs ] You wouldn’t have any loans. And showed that letter to the teachers. And the teachers just kind of ignored it, and it didn’t really work.

But she folded it up and put it in the drawer next to my savings bonds from my first Communion and a lot of other really important things like my Social Security card. And it sat there, and for me, even though it didn’t help with the teacher, it helped that I saw her actually do that.

And I eventually went to Cal, and I think it was a big part because I knew that that was a school that they had accommodations.

And so sometimes the interventions and the activism and the advocacy that you do as  a parent, it may not work on the person that you’re trying to direct it at. But it may work because of the impact on your kid.

#activism #advocacy #specialed #catholicschool #disability #dyslexia

 

Stuttering Authentically

Stuttering Authentically is the first of many videos that you will see on this blog.  Check out the video with the transcript below.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on the youtube video!  Thanks for checking this out!

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Watch the video: Stuttering Authentically

I was in speech till I was in high school. 4% of the childhood population stutters, and 1% of the adult population does. And that could, in part, be because of spontaneous recovery.

Now, if you are a girl who stutters, and it’s a ratio is for every 4 stutterers, only 1 is a female, which makes your odds at a stuttering conference very good, if you’re a straight woman.  But if you stutter and have a learning disability and you’re a girl, you’re not less likely to not stutter as an adult. So you’re probably going to stutter. And that’s all stuff in the brain.

Now, the strategies that I learned to control my speech or to manage my speech [draws out words really long] were to talk like this and prolong my words. I didn’t stutter, but was that interesting, was that fun? No. That wasn’t fun for any of us.

And so for some people, it works. For some people who may stutter “covertly,” they may talk around their stutter.  For me, with dyslexia, I come up with like two words or three words for the word that I’m going to stutter on, and likely that third word is probably a vulgar word. So I can’t use that in the workplace.

Our authentic selves, and no matter who you are, whether you stutter or not, it’s really important to be your most authentic self and do that whichever way that is.

Sometimes, our society wants you to act a certain way, and especially in academia, I’ve always found you know, this is how I talk, the way that I spoke this evening.

This didn’t work that good when I was talking a psychology class in my doctorate program, when I was like, “You know what? Freud hella sucks!”

And they’re like, “She said that. Why’d she say it like that.”

[audience laughs]

But it’s really important for you to stay authentic to who you are. And for me, part of that is speaking the way I do.

MAN: Absolutely. Thank you.

NINA: Thanks.

[applause]

The Ted Talk Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You To See!

Donald Trump Campaigns In Fort Lauderdale

Ok, I lied!  I thought if it worked for overseas fake news outlets that it might work to tell you about my Tedx Talk in honor of Anti-bullying week.  So many times we tell kids and adults, “don’t bully” but what about when you witness something?  It is just as important to not be complacent in bullying as it is not to bully.  My Tedx Talk, The Everyday Ally, explores what it meant for me when I was bullied or discriminated against and what people did to be on my side.  Even doing small things when you witness something can make someone feel less alone.

Check out the video HERE!

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#bullying  #antibullying #disability #stuttering

 

 

Comedians with Disabilities Act is back!

This summer the Comedians with Disabilities lost our fearless (and I do mean fearless!) leader Michael O’Connell.  Since then it has been difficult to get back up on stage, especially as a comedy troupe.  October 19 we are back in action in Sacramento.  Join old timers Nina G, Eric Mee and Steve Danner along side special guest Mean Dave and headliner Michael Beers.  Tickets on sale at http://saccomedyspot.com/cda.  All proceeds will go to the Michael O’Connell Foundation.

Michael Beers is someone I really wanted Michael O’Connell to meet.  Beers is a Disability activist, community organizer and comedian from Missoula, Montana.  He transforms how audiences see disability and even bought a used special ed bus to travel to gigs.  You have to meet him!14517638_1303585289686925_7116394491122214616_n

Learning Disability and ADHD Communities Discover Hilarious Benefactor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 2, 2016

Contact: Nina G

www.NinaGcomedian.com

510-922-0179

NinaGbooking@gmail.com

Learning Disability and ADHD Communities Discover Hilarious Benefactor

San Francisco, CA:  Nina G (stand-up comedian, author, Disability advocate, and professional speaker) is happy to announce her new collaboration with Parents Education Network (PEN) of San Francisco, a grassroots organization that supports and empowers individuals with Learning Disabilities and their families. Every few months, Nina chooses a nonprofit serving in the disabled community and donates a portion of her professional speaking fees. In addition to funds, Nina contributes her various social media outlets to publicly supporting that organization and their work. The first organization Nina selected was YO! Disabled and Proud, which connects, organizes and educates youth with disabilities ages 16 to 28. The second organization she chose was the National Stuttering Association, where Nina raised money to provide scholarships for young people at the organization’s annual conference. Nina now turns her attention to Parents Education Network.

Parents Education Network is a coalition of parents collaborating with educators, students, and the community to empower and bring academic and life success to students with learning and attention disabilities. When Nina was diagnosed with a Learning Disability in third grade, her parents had very little help finding information about their rights. Today, PEN fills this void for many parents with its vast network of programs and resources. PEN also helps young people with LD foster a sense of pride and advocacy through Student Advisors For Education (SAFE).

Nina’s recent donation to PEN will go towards helping community college students attend EdRev, an annual event held by PEN in San Francisco’s ATT Park (Nina served as MC for EdRev last year). The day is marked with amazing keynote speakers, workshops, information booths, youth participation, and other fun activities (like getting to run around the SF Giants baseball diamond). “I love seeing so many young people being proud of the way they think,” Nina says of the event.  “It’s something I just didn’t have when I was kid. To be there with other people who think differently and celebrate those differences is so empowering. I hope my contributions to PEN help bring more participants to this awesome event!”

A portion from all of Nina’s paid speaking engagements will go to PEN from July 2016 to April 2017 (when EdRev happens).  She will also be doing outreach to community colleges in the Bay Area to encourage attendance of their students with Learning and Attentional Disabilities. To learn more about PEN and EdRev, visit EdRevSF.org. For more on Nina G, refer to the information below.

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Nina G can be contacted at:

Facebook Fan Page: Facebook.com/ninagcomedian

Twitter: @ninagcomedian (occasional adult content)

Blog: ninagcomedian.wordpress.com/

Email: NinaGbooking@gmail.com

About Nina G:  Nina G is the west coast’s only female stand-up comedian who stutters and has Learning Disabilities. She is also a disability activist, storyteller, children’s book author, and educator. She employs humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity, and equity. Her book, Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities has been used in classrooms across the country to teach children and teens how to self-advocate.

When she isn’t playing comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline or the Laugh Factory, she’s performing at colleges and presenting as a keynote speaker to training professionals and children with disabilities. Nina is part of , an all-disabled comedy troupe that brings laughter and awareness to audiences across the country.

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Stutterer, Interrupted (Part 1)

Ask any person who stutter, and they will tell you we are constantly interrupted. Any slight repetition or block results in a $10,000 Pyramid-style guessing game.  As the person who stutters gets out, “p-p-p”, the fluent counterpart guesses everything from pizza to pumpernickel bread.  If people who did not stutter just waited patiently, people did stutter would be able to get out our thoughts and ideas. Granted the ideas aren’t always “brilliant” but let’s set the bar high because certainly Hollywood movies have not!  The media usually presents us as less intelligent or anti-social killers.  

For me, I have been interrupted. It’s just not when I am ordering ethnic food and the waitress mistakes my stutter as mispronouncing the food I am ordering. Instead it has been as a stutterer interrupted in my own development as a person.  I bought into the language standards of the dominant culture and consequently, I was willingly to silence myself. I went to extremes to “pass” as a person who did not stutter. What resulted was compromising myself, my persona and subsequently, my personal growth and development (especially as a woman).  These compromises were intensified by a learning disability and internalized as a map for who I am and what I deserve.  This has resulted in an internalized fight that has continued throughout my life.
Allow me to bring this back down to earth, away from the intellectualisms that defend against the sadness I have in reflecting on these experiences.  And what better way to do that then say, my 8th grade sucked donkey dick.

MORE TO COME….If you have ideas of larger venues to publish this then my humble blog, please let me know.

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One foot out the Disability closet: A Stuttering Dyslexic’s perspective on Disability

There are states where you can stand in three different states at one time.  One foot in California and half a foot in Arizona and another half in Nevada.  That is how I feel about my experience in the Disability community.  I am what is called a overt person who stutters (PWS).  I also have Language based Learning Disabilities (LD).  That means that a combination of processing difficulties makes it sometimes difficult to understand language in auditory or written forms.  It also gives me trouble when I write (like what I am doing now, I hate it and have vowed on my blog not to worry about grammar and spelling. So deal with it!).  You would think this is a unique experience, but in reality, approximately 25% of PWS also have LD or ADHD (http://www.csun.edu/~ainslab/readings/PastLabMembers/Keren/Blood_Co-occuring-disorders-in-children-who-stutter.pdf).

I am the BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) of the Stuttering and LD communities.  The problem with this BOGO experience is I don’t always feel like I fit into either world.  Some PWS may use word substitution when they predict a stutter.  They know they might stutter on Pizza so they say flatbread instead.  Part of my LD is dysnomia, which means I have word finding difficulties.  My covert stuttering friends can come up with 5 words for what they want to say.  That is not going to happen for me!  It is one or two words, and likely, the second word is likely going to be inappropriate (keep in mind I am a comedian).  The combination of stuttering and language based learning disabilities means that I have one foot out of the Disability closet that many people who stutter or have LD remain in.

Whoa!  Stuttering and Learning Disabilities are disabilities?  This is a controversy in both communities.  In fact, I don’t know if I can even say people who stutter or have LD see themselves in the Disability closet.  Whenever I am in those distinct communities, I have the feeling that the PWS are looking at my like, “yuh, of course you identify as having a disability, you have problems learning.”  Meanwhile I feel that the LD community is looking at me saying, “we have learning differences, but you have a disability because you have problems speaking.”  That is when I run to the Disability community.  There I can find commonalities but it is sometimes difficult to join the conversation.  Even with my 8 and half years of college and $100g of student loan debit, I still can’t decipher the eloquent prose.  Aside from a few people with TBI or Autism, I don’t see people in the Disability community who process information like I do.  I am standing at the intersection of states where stuttering, learning disabilities and the activist Disability community crisscrosses and inspite of my many options I don’t always feel at home.

I don’t feel as though there is one place where I can bring all of myself into.  Part of this problem is the difficulties in connecting my LD to the outside world.  You experience so much of your LD in isolation and sometimes the only place you can identify that part of yourself that is dyslexic, dysnomic, or experiencing muddled language is when you meet others who experience the same and where the hell are my adult peers?  Sometimes I question if there is an advantage of coming out of the Disability closet for someone with LD?  I mean discrimination and myths about LD still exist and people don’t always know what their rights are.

Running from one community to the next is tiring!  I am thankful for each community that I have but wished my LD peps would reveal themselves and I wish that social media was more accessible so that there was more access for them to the larger Disability community.  I want my LD and Stuttering communities to know the things that people who have more apparent disabilities have taught me.  From my hard of hearing dad, I learned to disclose my stuttering.  From my friend Jody, who has CP, I have learned how to gracefully fall (metaphorically for myself) and owning my falling.  From Disability activists like Lawrence Carter-Long I have learned to #SayTheWord Disabled.  I don’t think calling myself Disabled is shameful or that I am focusing on my deficits. I see it as a political and social identity.  I am 5th generation Italian American on my mom’s side and 4th generation Disabled American on my dad’s side (he’s Italian too, but that’s beside the point).

Because of the combination of my LD and stuttering I have one foot out of the Disabled closet.  My stuttering becomes more apparent.  Sometimes my language processing activates my stuttering because I get so overwhlemed using my left temporal lobe (where both stuttering and my particular LD live).  I am thankful that I am a BOGO Disabled person because it has meant that I needed to find the Disabled community, I just wish sometimes the Disabled community would find us.  I wish I wasn’t the only dyslexic in the stuttering group or the only person with something other than learning disabilities in the LD group.  I wish the Disability community made better efforts to include people with LD in the community, even when we are fighting and screaming not to join you.  If we are calling a Learning Disability a “difference,” please meet us with compassion.  We all process our experiences in different ways and with the narratives that we have been exposed to. I mean, I don’t see much Disability Studies rhetoric in our Resource Rooms where many of our kids with LD reside. In the end, don’t we all want to take advantage of the ADA and live a life free of discrimination and accommodations?  I always say it isn’t the American with Differences Act or the Americans with Strengths and Challenges Act.  You have to say the word to be part of the club.  Especially when that club has been fighting for your rights for centuries. Wheelchair users want ramps to enter the school and individuals with LD want learning ramps for more accessible teaching and materials.

If we can all get on the same page we will be able to cross-collaborate, learn from one another, take advantage of our large numbers and work toward a more accessible and inclusive community for all of us.

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#ThinkDifferently about LD/ADHD

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April 16, 2016 is Ed rev. This year’s theme is “a day to think a little differently” with keynote speaker and author of World War Z, Max Brooks!  Ed Rev celebrates the LD (Learning Disability) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) communities.  It is a day to recognize our talents, challenges, civil rights and to foster self-esteem and empowerment of our community.

Gearing up for Ed Rev we are going to bring the party online!  All this week and at Ed Rev we will take to social media with the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram hashtag #ThinkDifferently to celebrate our community.  Whether you are an individual with LD/ADHD, family member or advocate, join us in showing your pride and educating others about LD/ADHD.  Post pictures, artwork, videos, blogs and whatever else to show how you #ThinkDifferently or want others to #ThinkDifferently about LD/ADHD.  .

Don’t know what to post?  Here are some ideas!

The real deal about LD/ADHD!  There are a lot of myths.  Counter those with how LD/ADHD really impacts your live.  How do you want people to #ThinkDifferently about LD/ADHD?

Who are your favorite people with LD/ADHD?  Famous? Not-so-famous? Historical? Innovators (because you know there are a ton of those)?  

What facts/stats should people know about LD/ADHD?

How are you empowered as a person with LD/ADHD or as a parent?  Share your experiences!  How are you a self-advocate?

How does having LD/ADHD helps someone to #ThinkDifferently?  In what ways are you or someone you know innovative?  

Why is finding LD/ADHD community important?  

What makes you a proud parent of an individual with LD/ADHD?

 

 

#DisabledButNotIgnorant (Disabled But Not ignorant): Response to the Oakland Catholic Diocese

Quick update!  The Oakland Diocese has taken the post down as well as the video.  They have also contacted me saying that they would like to engage in dialogue with the Disabled community to make their parishes more inclusive.  Looks like there is more to this than just a Twitter hashtag!  Hopefully the East Bay parishes will see some changes!

This morning my friend Jenny texted me about something she saw on the Oakland Diocese Facebook page.  Besides being my friend since freshman year of high school, Jenny and I were also Confirmed together (a sacrament in the Catholic Church).  Since then we have taken different paths.  She has stayed active in the church and I have strayed because I feel my spiritual relationship with a higher being is better served outside of an institution (I am a California Native, so you know how we can be).  Jenny’s personal experience with Disability issues are her own and it is not my story to tell.  Let’s just say Jenny knows Disability from many angles and has found solace in her faith and, through this, strength in the Disability issues that are part of her life.

The text that Jenny sent me was about SPRED, a program through the Oakland Diocese that strives to make the Catholic Cathecism (lessons about Catholic beliefs) accessible to children with disabilities.  The Diocese posted the following on Facebook:

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“Hear about the work that SPRED does to Instruct those who are ignorant of the Catholic faith throughout the parishes in our diocese. Learn more about SPRED at oakdiocese.org/SPRED.

Want to watch the video about Clothing the Naked or find resources and reflections about Instructing the Ignorant? Visit JubileeOfMercy-EB.org.

‪#‎JubileeOfMercy‬ ‪#‎JubileeOfMercyEB‬ ‪#‎MercyInMotion‬

The https://player.vimeo.com/video/156342744“>video clip proceeds to introduce the program by saying, here is how the instructors of SPRED educate the ignorant.

I taught catechism for two years.  My grandmother Ida taught for many years at her parish.  That doesn’t make me a bible scholar!  Far from it.  I am a Disability advocate, and I do know how I feel about being excluded based on disability.  I feel compelled to write this blog from that perspective.  I also write it from Jenny and Catholics like her who strive for inclusion of their loved ones with disabilities in the church.  I also write it for my dad, who as a child sat on the curb in front of his house asking God why he was hard of hearing.  I also write it for the little stuttering-dyslexic girl in Catholic school who wasn’t given accommodations, told she didn’t belong if she couldn’t spell and read fast enough, and wasn’t picked to read the prayer in church in second grade (even though everyone in the class had done so before and she volunteered).  In case you didn’t get it, that last one is me!    I feel compelled to comment on “instructing the ignorant” and what that might mean for many of us.

Many of us Catholics with disabilities or family members with disabilities have not always felt included in the fabric of the church.  This ranges in a number of ways that are beyond my simple blog.  It is wonderful that SPRED is taking steps toward inclusion.  It is wonderful that most churches I walk into have access for wheelchair users.  I have done trainings at Catholic Schools who see the value in educating all students and that children like I was have value within the school community.  Much has been done and much should be celebrated.  It is unfortunate that the post and subsequent video on “Instructing the Ignorant” is couple with the work SPRED is doing because it makes it look like the “ignorant” are those with disabilities.  Giving the Diocese the benefit of the doubt, I believe they are referring to the Act of Mercy to educate “the ignorant” about spiritual life and speaking generally and not about people with disabilities.  Yet, placing “ignorant” and “people with intellectual disabilities,” as well as other disabilities is problematic.  It reinforces many of the stereotypes and biased language that people with disabilities encounter on a day to day basis, as well as encountered in their own experience in the church.

There were some commenters on the post who objected to the language, to which the manager of the Oakland Diocese page responded,FullSizeRender 4 “Your suggestions better reflect the interpretation. Ignorant was kept because it’s the traditional name of the Work of Mercy, and that’s what is used in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Works of Mercy.”

I understand that Catholism is rich with tradition (some I agree with and some I don’t), but wouldn’t the truest intent of educating those on the word of God include not excluding by using language that is offensive?  Oakland Diocese is vast and extends from Richmond and Antioch to Fremont and Livermore (I know because I use to play all those schools in CCD basketball and track).  In the East Bay you can’t throw a rock without hitting a person with a disability.  Throw a rock in Berkeley and you might hit two!  Like in most faith based communities, we are everywhere!  The Diocese should be consulting with us on how to make the church experience accessible to everyone.  Even better, have leadership in the church that represents the Disabled community.  I have never met a priest or a nun who grew up with a disability which means I never saw myself reflected in my church.  There is a saying in the Disability culture; “nothing about us without us.”  Any person with a disability or parent of a child with a disability, would have told the Oakland Diocese that using ignorant in this context isn’t welcoming.

I encourage the Oakland Diocese to change the language they use when talking about Disability issues and to be sensitive to how messages might be received.  The general public may not be aware of language and interpretations in the bible and may be using modern conventions to understand outreach materials.  I also encourage the Oakland Diocese as well as all churches, temples, Mosques, and every form of worship out there, to look at the work being done by SRPED.  Maybe the way that the children in SPRED are taught, is how everyone, with and without disabilities, should be taught.  Universal Design is the design of products, environments and curriculums to be used by the most people possible, without the need to adapt for “special needs”.  It is accessible to everyone, no matter what.  I don’t know the program personally, but my guess is that practices of SPRED would benefit all children.  That way children with disabilities would be included in the general catechism curriculum.  I am sure there is a lot we can learn from each other when we all have equal status.  Like I said, I am not a bible scholar, but I am pretty sure Jesus said something about that.

I encourage discussion about inclusion in communities of faith on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #DisabledButNotIgnorant

Some additional notes:

I wanted to acknowledge that as beautiful as the Works of Mercy can be, they were also used to do some horrible things.  I am reminded of this especially as a California Catholic living in Father Serra territory.

When I was writing this, I was thinking of two friends of mine who are members of the LDS church and who always advocate for Disability issues in their communities of faith.  They inspired me to attempt to merge my Catholicism with my Disability identity.  Thank you Calob Taylor and Sarah Price Hancock for giving me a template for bringing my whole self into a religious institution.

About Nina:

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Nina G is a comedian, children’s author and speaker.  She is the author of a children’s book titled, Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities, that helps children and adults advocate for their rights as a person with a  Disability.  Nina’s one person show, Going Beyond Inspirational, which is a comical exploration about growing up with Learning and Speech Disabilities debuted in 2015.  Check out her new Tedx Talk, The Everyday Ally at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLOkprmqbRM.  She also has a number of trophies and ribbons from her Catholic School days that reflect coming in last place.  She was no Jason Kidd.

Insights from a stuttering comedian with dyslexia. These are my unedited thoughts. Grammar and spelling doesn't count on blogging, especially since it did I would never post!