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Kodi Shines! by Folarin Lawrence

So, I watched America’s Got Talent #AGT last night with my kids and witnessed a spectacular triumph with Kodi Lee emerging as the Champion.

My kids, 15+, 13+ and 8 at first were not as thrilled as they were rooting for Detroit Youth Choir, since we are now Michiganders, #PureMichigan! so I got my thinking cap on and did my best ‘Yinka-take’ on the issue.

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Kodi is blind and has Autism Spectrum Disorder. When it was discovered that he loved music at an early stage, that became the one positive coping strategy He maintained against living in this world where a child is ‘boxed-in‘ because of their ‘disability“.

But He was still able to steal the hearts of viewers and voters alike with his silky voice and renditions of classic ballads.

According to his mother,  “We found out that he loved music really early on. He listened and his eyes just went huge, and he started singing, that’s when I was in tears. I realized he’s an entertainer. Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world because when you have autism, it’s really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life playing music.”

Ordinarily, He is like a little kid and his affect is typical of someone on the spectrum; but when he gets behind the keys and opens his mouth; It’s like, you have been blessed with the presence of an angel.

There is no doubt in my mind that this young man is not just “special(as the generality of people want to label him) but divinely gifted.

It is also evident in the support of his family and his interaction with his Mom, siblings and Dad. It is obvious that they have spent countless hours working on his “strengths” and his love for music, giving him the courage to go out there and not just thrive but also shine brighter than anyone else.

Each and every child with special needs or not, has been endowed and divinely blessed with unique gifts! ‘and that’s what makes us all SPECIAL.

The high point of the night for me was after he had been announced as the winner and was trying to celebrate and his mother took his stick from him so he can have a happy “tantrum” jumping as high as he dared and clapping with a huge smile on his face.

I challenge parents today to observe closely and find that spark that lights up their child’s imagination and brings them joy of accomplishment, believe me it might be the most mundane task, but when you find it, celebrate it with them every time they work hard or feel faint about it and enjoy watching them blossom.

God’s Peace,

Kevin Folarin Lawrence – is an active member of Man Voice@DCN and “My Child Thrives” – by DCN,  a Developmental Care Network Support Group on What’s App & FACEBOOK for families and caretakers of children on the spectrum/disabilities. He can be reached at kevin@dcnmail.org

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A light for her pathway – Autism Journey

 

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As the month of April comes to a close, many have spent the month bringing
awareness to the many faces of Autism. As any parent or family member who has
a child on the Autism Spectrum knows, this life is exactly that:

‘A Lifelong Experience’

I am blessed with two sons, both on the Autism Spectrum.

Now that they are grown, Ages 21 and 22, I can reflect on the many moments, early on before diagnosis, when I was full of doubt and confusion, thinking I was a terrible mom and simply did not know how to raise children.

What I didn’t realize was that I was being prepared for a life of adventure, smiles and small victories that would be major accomplishments in my eyes. No matter what, we are still parents. Parents of children that have so much potential and as their parents, we must remember that we are their best advocate.

We are also the ones to teach our children the life skills they need to survive in this unforgiving world.

As my sons have grown older, I have realized how much more they need assistance in everyday social situations. When children are younger, supports tend to be everywhere, but as they grow older, those supports seem to be less and less, especially if the child functions high enough to go to college or have a job.

Teach your child to be a good citizen that can function in society to the best of his/her ability. If your child is very young right now, this may seem a lifetime away however, before you know it, you will be looking at each other saying “Now What?

Keep in mind, while this may seem overwhelming at times, remember there are others who have been in your shoes and you CAN do this, and so can our kids!

Never be afraid to reach out to those in similar situations for support.

Together, with prayers, patience, community support and love, we can nurture young minds and raise resilient adults when we focus on their potentials now.

Written by: Valerie Lawson.

 

*For the past 3 years, Valerie and I usually meet one Friday in a month after clinicals at different Panera Bread locations to brain storm on assessment & treatment planning for children with disabilities, pray about challenging caseloads, talk- deep about life, laugh out loud & silly like teenagers over bowls of clam chowder as we continue to implement developmental disabilities initiatives. I met Valerie in class during  my practicum/residency program Fall of 2016).

Valerie is a Behavior Consultant with DCN Autism Clinic in Michigan, a caring and devoted mother to two young men with Autism, ages 21 and 22 years old.

Yours in HOPE!

Yinka.

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking self-inventory before Crossing Over.

 

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“Sometimes only when bonds are tested, do we understand their strength, and when ties that seem to endure for a lifetime suddenly become frayed or grazed by fate, do we begin to appreciate loved ones.

We can choose to walk away and pretend that it’s all gone or forgotten, and that our pain will soon pass eventually, but its only when we begin to undo or un-learn the old ways when  approaching a new year; only then can we begin to step into our destiny”

“To unDo what’s Done” a Thinking-Corner Memoir by Yinka.

 

The unexpected death of her husband sends a woman, Agnes Browne and her seven children, ages 2-14, into emotional turmoil and financial crisis in 1967 Dublin.

She is forced to borrow money from a ruthless loan shark to make ends meet. She faces her dismal existence by selling fruits and vegetables at an open air market where she spends time with a best friend, Marion who gives her encouragement.

Wishing to escape her existence, if only for a short time, she dreams of finding enough money to attend an upcoming Tom Jones concert. She realizes her dream by accepting her first date with a French baker.Agnes_Browne_FilmPoster

Her kids pool their money so she can buy a new dress. Of course, eventually the family has to face the loan shark, her best friend passes away due to a terminal illness and…‘Go see the full movie!

(By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35036635)

In retrospect, like the above synopsis of the movie Agnes Browne, (which is by the way one of my favorite movies about Hope). We are all evidently hale and hearty witnessing today, the very last day of 2018, or for some, it’s already 2019 in their minds!

Looking back through the past months, I believe we all can boast of at least one single moment of euphoria! eventually replaced by a series of eye-opening experiences.

Some of us have slipped back into old patterns, the residual of thoughts rooted in joy, denial or self-assertiveness. We have turned a new page and laughed over our own comical situations, we have wept over inevitable losses! ‘casually strolled down life’s aisles with huge expectations; witnessed the cry of a baby at delivery while apprehensive at the thought of another child in distress.

We have reached into out wallets or bank accounts and amazed at the bountiful or perplexed at its emptiness.

Those with brewing millennial have been drawn to accept DanTDM as part of their household, British accent, blue hair and all! While also learning their dance moves, Phew! #Minecraft #Roblox #Fortnight #Scissors #Shoop

We have waited in the doctor’s office as the message of a diagnosis and prognosis goes in through the left ear and quietly exits through the right without making no darn sense…’Anyone? ‘Someone?

dantdm 3With pride, we have worn our graduation gowns as we were called upon to be given a new title of our dreams and had glowed in the beauty of our academic achievements! for others, doors of opportunities to finish up that much-delayed school-degree has been opened up, with an empowered energy  of accomplishment!

While some of us have made fruitful decisions on healthy-lifestyles commitment,  discarding toxic relationships, forgiving past hurts or deeds as we finally let go of unhealthy platforms or compromising negative vibes!

We have visited graveyards sober but grateful just to change the address of loved ones. For some, they’ve found themselves falling in love again, patched up that leaking relationship with hope, made new commitment goals and crazy enough to own it! for others,  we have been so moved by a song sang by the choir that eventually  led us to the altar in church, selflessly throwing it all at God’s mercy!

Oh! like the movie, ‘Agnes Browne’ just thinking about tomorrow was usually so exasperating…always far fetched…totally blurry, but with hope, she carried her dreams through it all, focused more on her 7 kids with an in-built perception on staying in-tune with crossing over into God’s promises, for every new year.

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As far back as I can recall, while growing up, end of year celebration has always been a huge thing in my household, especially within the Brazilian quarters of Lagos Island.

Crossing over into a new year in the 70s and 80s was almost similar to waiting to the end of year to open your birthday gift and contemplating on how to tweak  our lifestyles for the upcoming year ahead.

It’s like an entitled holiday set apart for taking inventory of our past deeds! Mental-Report card session!

A few bottles of chilled Coca cola, Fanta, Guinness bottles and soothing highlife music playing in the background was all that’s required to start a crossover street party.

You get to see a magnitude of crowd in such a rush to join others at the water front at Marina to watch fireworks displayed by the naval docks.

Lagos was safe and fun then!

Blasts of Trumpets signal welcome messages announcing to the overflowing crowd hanging at the brim of all churches’ doors, with a dire-attitude of “12 midnight must find me within the 4-walls of a church” and then a sudden and quick dismissal once the church bells stop chiming in the New Year.

Crossover mode uploading…

It sounds so simple? strolling into the new year, doesn’t it? It isn’t. Because  by the time we think we have it all figured out, God arranges a reality check to remind us that without him approaching that new year with us ; we will fail.

You see people with diverse ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, sincerely excited to see another year – together! Hugging and lavishing good wishes, prayers are offered without a fee to passerby, blessings are spelt out like it’s on a bargain! forgetting any previous debt owned, anger or past hurts. Everyone is surprisingly happy for each other, Just-like-that?

As a kid, I never understood why so many people were always saying things like “Oh, what a year’ or in my mother’s Delta dialect “Oh, how the ground has swallowed good people” or” may we never return to our vomit”

I always wondered….’hypothetically, will things be different or better as every new year comes? Will burden or pain be repeated in the new year? those we lost will certainly not be replaced, our mischiefs, mistakes, misleading thoughts will still be carried over with us if we don’t make a conscious effort to drop them now…’before crossing over.

Those things that made us uncomfortable in 2018, will we see them again? when do we get to come to the realization that knowing God’s plan for our life does not guarantee success, unless we get up and execute the plan?

#EverythingMustGoForNewThingsToGrow

washed awayFailure in never final. It is inevitable. We are frail Human beings. We are mortals.

With 2018 running behind us, and so much laid out for us in 2019, will we always be in compliance, even after a defeat?

Decades ago, my mom would gather the family together after returning from church on new year’s eve and begin her own prayer sessions as she craftily picks on whoever has sacrificially won the black-sheep personality award for the family during the year!

Ah! her long prayer points were always intentionally and fervently directed towards interceding for the redemption of ‘the black sheep’s soul for freedom, well before the new year kicks in!

Mom’s logic. No debate. Just Obey.

I tried it once with my “Millennials” at home and they had a decent conversation with me on how I could have just addressed the black-sheep prayer point thingy one on one and not wait for end-of-year-dramatic-prayer-session like Grandma Virginia#IConcur

Today, many of us reading this have significantly re-constructed our approach towards life since Jan 2018, probably done some deep thinking and mind cleansing to move forward…

I hope someone reading this will understand that our greatest opportunities to grow are often packed in the ruins of failure.

Maybe today during crossover is a good time to stop, go back to the list, and review those life lessons we have learned, checking to see where we really are in our walk with God.

 

For me, as dreadful as the term cancer is, I have lost loved ones to it in 2018! while a huge percentage are still diagnosed and on treatment!

As intimidating as the term Autism is, many kids with disabilities were diagnosed in 2018 leaving many families with heart aches, depression, denial and loneliness!

How are we embracing awareness or supporting those still struggling with life?  Isnt it part of the recipe for cross over success stories? The lives we have touched and still touching… The joy we bring to others… The unconditional love showered to others..

To undo some of what’s  already done wrong earlier in the year, isn’t it time to wake up from our lofty  ideas or dreams we’ve always been talking about?  Can we for once approach crossover with a mindset of tweaking our dreams or plans into a project?

Can we move on from procrastinating to expediting, and then declaring it? Review and Scrutinize some traditional modes of crossing over and do that which sets us apart from the crowd? #BeANewYou

dantdm 2Whatever your story was in 2018… You made it here already! Give yourself a-high-five right now if nobody will! Its time to open our windows of opportunity to accept the new viewpoint of What could be, What we can be, and finally shut out the negative humming voices within us.  It is time to #MuteNegativity.

Are our trash cans still overflowing from our self inventory taking?

T-O-S-S  Y-O-U-R  T-R-A-S-H  N-OW!

Today, as we move and meander  in the mundane, I am hoping someone reading this will take a trip down memory lane to see what can be undone or done before crossing over, and accept that there is indeed a fresh compelling awe for This perfect love that breathes and speaks beauty to all our brokenness in 2018!  ‘which will also strengthen and propel us as we cling to the beautiful promises of truly crossing over for a purpose, with a plan.

And like Agnes Browne, to turn those dreams into a big deal and do something worth remembering or comforting, as we begin to count down to the few hours left… ‘May God help us all!

Farewell to 2018, with all its lessons, loss, laughter, pain and gain.  See you in 2019.

Yours in HOPE as I share Travis Greene’s CROSSOVER.

Yinka.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mindfulness of our Battles – Cancer Awareness Month.

 

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“We can change the homes we live in, the friends we’ve known and the clothes we’ve worn…

“We could fly across the world, visit new places or investigate new planets; but no matter what our minds sought after, our challenges remain the same; to accept what it means to be human…

To embrace our strengths, our weaknesses, our dreams and to learn how to walk away or fight our battles”

Yinka, 2010 Cancer Survivor.

I’d really been looking forward to vacation and wanted a-me-time alone to relax. I had also purchased the most practical swim suit to gracefully show off my post-cancer surgery scars that I have been battling to accept for years and also to shame the after-effects of thyroid imbalance! 

#BattleWithMyScars   #NoBodyShamingAllowed

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As I sat by the shoreline, chilling out, and soaking in the sun with my family, all I really wanted was to enjoy and take in every moment of creating fond memories, not chase after or flick uninvited ants away from my towel and off my legs.

But as it seems, all of the ants on this Island had arranged a massive dance party and had failed to inform me ahead of time. Literally, I missed the battle-memo!

I was un-invited and I had to leave.

I’d surrendered, not because I was weak and frail or couldn’t indulge my very-zealous 7-year-old in spraying a dozen-can of insecticide, but…’I was learning to let go and embrace my inner peace!

How do you pick your battles?

How do you fight your battles?

Through praises or lamenting?

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MAY 2010 Philadelphia Susan G Komen Race For The Cure- Cancer Awareness Walk

These ants didn’t want me to join their beach party and I didn’t want to be there either. I walked away discouraged and disappointed as I threw a little tantrum in my head. Why should I have to leave? I’m the human here! I paid to be here! Shouldn’t these ants be out there in the dirt? why here? why me?

Not today, I muttered as I adjusted my plans, packed up and gathered my family and went to the indoor waterpark pool instead.

Here, I allowed myself to lounge on the lazy river pool tube as I was selflessly carried through with the tides from the waves.

Mission Accomplished: Battle won!

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OCT 2014 Philadelphia American Cancer Society – Cancer Awareness Walk.

So, there are times in life when things don’t work out as planned. Times when our expectations go unmet and we have to move on or make major adjustments.

Moments when we are unexpectedly approached by life’s challenges and we must decide on which battle is worth fighting…

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OCT 2015 Philadelphia – American Cancer Society – Awareness Walk

You might feel like you’re spinning your wheels in a relationship right now. Or the word “cancer” just reminds you of a hopeless ailment that leads to tortured death? a word never to be mentioned, again?

Or maybe you haven’t moved on from something because you don’t like to quit, even though your time and energy might be more effectively spent elsewhere?

Perhaps, the recovery process of a situation is just too painful and overwhelming for you or the caregivers? Or you have a scheduled medical test coming up and you are in dire need of hope to sustain your doubts?

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Oh goodness! There-is-indeed-a-battlefield of un-reconciled, unresolved thoughts going on in our minds as we anticipate how to deal with it, what’s next? and what if?

You’re not alone.

It might feel like you are surrounded by raging battles, but really…

And still, we all have to wade through stormy waters at times, just to understand why it all started.

I don’t know the particulars of your delayed blessings, unmet expectations or beach-ant frustrations, but God does. Even if you haven’t talked with Him about them yet.

Listen…

It-is-not-every-battle-party we are invited to that needs attention or attendance!
Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

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OCT 2013 Philadelphia – Finish The Fight Against Breast Cancer Walk

But how can we know when to stay and when to let go?
How can we know whether we should say yes or no to that opportunity?
How can we know when our uncomfortable situation is to Refine us, to Rebuke us or to Re-route us?

There’s no simple answer, but there is a simple action:
PRAY.  Ask God for direction. Be still before Him and listen.
Be faithful to go where He leads… even if it means that you need to change your plans, your attitude, your location or vocation. Just surrender to His infinite mercies!

So, as we celebrate OCTOBER – Cancer awareness month, I am hoping we all can do more than just wear pink, look cute or display our external compassion on all our social media platforms!

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This is deeper especially when you have lost someone to cancer, and still dealing with the pain of accepting it and moving forward!

Today, I am hoping we can Call up, Visit or Engage with a cancer survivor, take them out to watch a silly comic relief movie and laugh-out-loud together like there’re no scars visible on or within their bodies!

Tomorrow, I am hoping we can Pamper the ones currently going through treatment – Be an escort to one going for chemo or radiation treatment, schedule a spa treatment or visit the children’s museum together and find humor together in the simple things of life!

As always, I am hoping we can Encourage and Pray with the one who’s lost a family member or friend to cancer by just being there for them emotionally….and then only can we confidently carry the banner and campaign for awareness, intervention and erase all hopelessness.

Yours in HOPE as I share Michael Smith’s “Surrounded – Fight My Battles”

Yinka. (Team: Greater Than Cancer)

 

 

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