Raising the Bar, for the Sake of Our Children

Face it: we parents with children with disabilities (my wife, Gina, and I have three) can be the worst when it comes to holding high enough expectations for our sons and daughters. Because of our desire to shield our loved ones from emotional pain, physical harm, or personal failure, we make choices which are sometimes not in the best interest of our kids – no matter what age these “kids” may be. Although we might say we want our sons and daughters to enjoy a meaningful and productive life, … [Read more...]


I’ve been thinking a lot about “lasts” lately, here, seven calendar days from my retirement from the Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the State of Tennessee; from the job I’ve done for the last nineteen years. In the past two months I’ve attended my last TBI Advisory Council, Special Education Advisory Council, Youth in Transition Advisory Council, and State Family Support Council meetings in my current role. A little over a month ago was the last State Interagency Coordinating … [Read more...]

Gem Mining

  “No one can really know what you are called to, or what you are capable of, but you.” – Mark Nepo, from The Book of Awakening When we think about our friends, colleagues and family members who experience disabilities, we often talk about identifying those unique skills, talents or attributes that will help them become engaged, or more fully included, in their communities. We ask, “what can so-and-so bring to the table” that would be beneficial, desired, and appreciated. When helping … [Read more...]

Who Do You Know?

Each of us has the power to build a bridge. A few months ago, a young lady with an intellectual disability – let’s call her Angela - reached out to me. She was being served by an entity that was having some difficulty finding her an internship that suited her. Angela knew exactly the kind of work she wanted to do. It was a job where she could envision her future. Angela had the self-advocacy thing down. She called me. She said, “Mr. Ned, I need your help.” Angela and I already had a … [Read more...]

We Need More People with Disabilities and Family Members in Leadership Roles

by Ned Andrew Solomon This year, Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) brought on a Commissioner who is the father of a child with a disability. Good on them! That’s the kind of hire that needs to happen more. Our disability-specific agencies that serve families that experience autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries, mental health issues, blindness, deafness, etc., are typically led by people who experience that disability, or … [Read more...]

In Search of a Calm, Familiar Place, through Technology

One of my earliest memories of my stepson, Bernie Lynette, was him sitting in his pajamas, staring straight into his computer screen on Christmas Day, 2009, his back to the rest of the world. We were at my parents-in-law’s home in Sevierville, Tennessee. It was crowded and noisy, and the living room and kitchen where we all gathered in proximity to Bernie was a bustle of activity. Food and coffee were being made; wrapped gifts were being placed into position; relatives from several cities and … [Read more...]

Conducting and Participating in Effective Meetings

I typically don’t like meetings, do you? Meetings can be the Great Time-Suckers; the zone where productivity goes to die. The place where you’re thinking of a thousand things you’d rather or need to be doing. But I promise you this: meetings do not have to be this way. They can be productive, energizing, an effective use of valuable time, and, dare I say, even enjoyable. Enjoyable? Well, you and I are obviously not the same person, but I find attending a meeting enjoyable when something … [Read more...]

Living in a Smart Home

When my Council colleague, Mildred Sparkman, and I quietly walked up to the back door of the Harrington House on Stewarts Ferry Pike, the house already knew we were there. In a gentle and courteous voice, the house spoke to us and invited us inside. Mildred and I entered, a little cautiously – was this a prank, or a perilous scene in a horror movie? Neither, fortunately. It was just Kate Adams, Enabling Tech Champion for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), … [Read more...]

Who is Really “High-Functioning”?

The Disability Community has done an excellent job spreading awareness, and advocating to eradicate The “R” Word. We may never be totally done with it, but its usage, particularly in books, movies and television, seems to be greatly reduced, thanks to public outrage through social media and boycotting campaigns. Personally, I think it’s time to do away with another problematic label: “high-functioning”. This will likely be a taller task, because unlike The “R” Word, “high-functioning” is used, … [Read more...]

Hand in Hand: Preparing for a life well lived

In 2004, John Paul II High School embarked on an experiment: could students with intellectual disabilities attend school with typically-developing peers in a rigorous, Catholic scholastic environment, and not only co-exist on the same campus, but become fully immersed and accepted members of the school community? The answer must have been a resounding “yes”, because the program is still going strong and boasts a full roster of graduates, and a second Hand in Hand initiative is under way at … [Read more...]