Friday, December 23, 2011

Emotional Segregation and The Intellectually Disabled

Life for my daughter, Kate made a huge step toward independence when her high school gave her a spot on her high school track team.  At at time when there was less mainstreaming for the intellectually disabled, her being a part of the track team was a real accomplishment.  What do intellectually disabled students learn for taking part in athletics in school?  They learn to work as part of a team, a necessity for them after graduation when they'll have to work with people on the job, and not just intellectually challenged people.  They also learn they CAN DO.

Too often the intellectually challenged or students with other disabilities are emotionally segregated.  Not made to feel like they are part of the rest of their school or school activities.  Emotional segregation, you see, is not against the law.  Emotional segregation 'just happens.'  Schools don't do it, in fact some schools encourage students of all capabilities to take part. What makes the difference in whether 'emotional segregation' occurs is the attitude on the student level. 

How can we prevent emotional segregation?  Part of the reason emotional segregation occurs is ignorance.  The students in regular ed don't really know anyone in special ed.  Not REALLY.  Oh they may have them in one of their classes, or in lunch, or gym, but they don't hang out together.  Not in school, not after school, not in school activities. 

How can we make this change?  The first thing we need to do is educate the teachers who are either coaching or supervising after school activities to encourage all the students to work together.  Not just the college prep kids hanging out together, not just one racial group hanging out together, no, everyone working together, hanging out together. (Yeah, I know, there's a more up to date term for it, but...)

My daughter's track coaches were great, so were her team mates.  They made her part of every part of team sports.  She practiced as hard, ran as hard, picked up hurdles after meets, went to parties with the rest of the team.  And I suspect they encouraged the leaders on the team to make her a big part of the team. 

What Kate learned in track was invaluable. It made her feel she could conquer the world.  Live on her own.  Do it herself.  It made her proud of her accomplishments.

So thank you John Grube and the rest of the track coaches.  If you ever wonder if you've changed someones life, you have.  Kate's.  Thank you all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Scarlet "U" -- And How to Find Subsidized Housing

If your son or daughter is planning on moving out on their own, the chance is they'll need housing assistance in the form of a housing voucher from you local housing authority.  OK, once you luck out and are one of the lucky few who gets one of these vouchers (that are few and far between) what next?

Your housing authority will give you a list of approved housing, apartments that are already approved by the Housing Authority, and you are welcome to check them out.   But we live in suburban Philadelphia, and the apartments they referred us to were... well... dangerous.  Especially for a girl living on her own.  So what to do? How can you find an apartment that will be SAFE and be willing to take a housing voucher?

In our area I quickly found that apartment complexes usually didn't want to accept these vouchers, and legally they don't have to.  After making multiple (over 20) phone calls, I finally took the hint--there's no room at the inn, if you're disabled and have a housing voucher.  You're unwanted. Undesirable.  Presumed to be the tenant from hell.  So where to next?

I then moved on to my local newspaper and Craigslist.  Again, I ran into "No," and "No" again and again.  And a few more colorful comments from rental agents about people with vouchers.  It didn't matter that my daughter wasn't like the tenants they described, simply having a housing voucher put a huge "U" on her forehead for UNDESIRABLE. 

But never let it be said we didn't persevere.  We talked to people living in apartments hoping they'd let us know when an opening was coming up so we could be the first one's in the door.  But that didn't work.

And sometimes it wasn't that they didn't want my daughter, it was there was NO WAY my daughter was going to live in the conditions some apartments offered.  The ones occupied by armies of cockroaches.  The brigades of mice and other rodents.  Oh yes, and then the ones with the drug dealers living in the apartment across the hall.  After the next 20 places we looked at we were getting really discouraged.  You only have a limited amount of time to  find an apartment so I was getting a tad desperate.

But along the way I learned a few things. One was that taking my daughter with us to ask about the apartment always got a better response than just calling on the phone.  Yep, it's way harder to turn down a five foot tall 100lb soaking wet 27 year old than it is tell me over the phone 'no room at the inn for people with housing vouchers.'  Her excitement over moving out was contagious.  She had a unique way of making people who really couldn't change policies want to change them.  And when after 79 phone calls we finally found her an apartment from the 80th call we learned the most important thing--it's not how pretty the apartment is or it's location, it's about finding a good match between a landlord and your son or daughter. 

Kate's landlord, Nick, is great.  He fixes things if they break and well, let just say one of the things we were all thankful for on Thanksgiving was Nick.  Nick takes care of Kate--looks out for her interests.  Not in an intrusive way but she feels secure knowing if something goes wrong in her apartment he'll be there to take care of it as soon as possible. 

So that's my suggestion, look for a landlord who is a good match between your son or daughter.  Yes, it's nice if the apartment has a pool, or a washer dryer in the apartment, or the heat is paid for as part of the rent, but best of all, the one perk an apartment can have is a landlord who cares.  And care back.  Take care of his apartment--make him/her glad they rented to you. So when it's someone else's turn to try to rent from him/her they'll have a good experience with The Housing Authority to look back on. Pay it forward.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Making Meatloaf -- If You're Moving Out You Need To Learn To Cook

One of the trickiest things you face moving out is cooking for one.  Since it's less expensive to cook using larger quantities and freezing some, the recipe below is perfect to make and split up into food for one night plus some to freeze in small loaf pans.  Magically providing you with more than one night's food with the same amount of work as one night of meatloaf.  I do love fast and easy dinners!

Magic Meatloaf
8 Servings (this will let you freeze some in small tin loaf pans with 2 person servings per pan)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 onion, chopped (you can buy this pre-chopped if chopping is difficult for you)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark prepared mustard
  • 1/3 cup ketchup


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.               
  2. Combine beef, egg, onion, milk and bread in large bowl.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place 4 small loaf pans if you want some to freeze for another four night later, OR form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish lined with foil to make clean up easier.               
  5. Combine the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup in a separate small bowl.
  6. Mix well and pour over the meatloaf.               
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 minutes.


Need Some Power for Your Family? Powercard That Is? See How To Win A $50 Powercard for Dave and Buster's

OK, so it's not really power, it's a Powercard, for Dave and Buster's!  But I bet you need one of those too! Do you love Dave and Buster's but always run out of money for games? Wow, I know my family always does!  So who wouldn't want to win a powercard for Dave and Buster's?  And not just any powercard, but one for $50!  Visit this link to Defeating The Squirrels blog and find out how to enter! Click the 'read more' part to find out the details.  Dave and Buster's are having a fabulous Family New Year's Eve celebration at their Plymouth Meeting PA and Franklin Mills, Philadelphia PA locations, so you know you'll want to win that Powercard so you can use it then! 

Your entry will give the chance to win a $50 powercard (courtesy of D&B's) just in time to use it at their Family New Year's Eve Party!  Reservations are a must.  So make reservations at their Plymouth Meeting or Franklin Mills locations to take your children to their first class family New Year's party that includes games, a wow worthy buffet, a magician, balloon drop and a LIVE DJ.  Yes, it's safe to say Dave and Buster's is your go to venue for a family New Year's Eve celebration!  They've designed the party to have something for everyone!  All tickets must be pre-paid.  To read more about the details, my post about their party is here.

Enter to win at Defeating The Squirrels (and other life lessons I learned from my mother and other important people) and get that Powercard for your family!

All Entries must be posted from Defeating The Squirrels website

How to Enter & Rules:
USA Only/21+
Must post a comment at, NOT UNDER THIS POST! Tell me why you like D&B,and/or why you like reading Defeating the Squirrels
Other Entries (1 entry for each)by:
Tweeting About the Giveaway
Follow @theweddingqueen on twitter.
Ends Dec. 30, 2011. 
Winners notified by email

Defeating The Squirrels is a sometimes serious, sometimes tongue in cheek look at life, designed to make you laugh or at least chuckle!  So laughter and a chance to win a Powercard and get more info about D&B's family New Year's Eve party head over to Defeating The Squirrels to read, enter and hopefully be a winner!

**the writer has not received any additional compensation other then the $50 Powercard the winner will receive.  The only benefit received is in additional readership.