Gem Mining

A gorgeous magpie with wings spread wide, coasting above a field, searching for shiny objects.

  “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?

Two puffins chatting with Who Do You Know? above them.

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

We Need More People with Disabilities image

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

Bernie with laptop

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

lots of ducks gathering by the water with Conducting and Participating in Effective Meetings overlay and nedandrewsolomon.com watermark at the bottom

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

Kate at the Enabling Tech House

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”?

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

Will McMillian, a graduate of the Hand-in-Hand program at Pope John Paul II High School, has a job at the Green Hill Y in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.

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...]

Communicating with a Child That Does Not Speak, through Photography

Aidan in a swimming pool

Fifteen years ago, new mom Jen Vogus – now a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Brentwood – became concerned about her five-week-old son. “Aidan was a full-term baby,” said Vogus. “I had a normal birth. But shortly after he was born – Mother’s Day, 2002 – I was breastfeeding him and he started doing this eye twitch and lip pucker thing. It was odd, and I had never seen it before.” The family’s pediatrician confirmed that Aidan was having seizures. “It was devastating,” recalled Vogus. “And … [Read more...]

Cooking Up Helpings of Multi-cultural Cuisine and Community

Father Ryan Cooking Club and Pedestal Foods prep for Room in the Inn guests, coming Christmas Eve.

When you think about eating sushi in Nashville, Father Ryan High School may not be the first place that comes to mind. But on a day in early January, the school cafeteria was brimming with at least 20 cooks, hundreds of seaweed squares, an imposing pile of scooped fresh avocado and assorted other ingredients. Welcome to the Father Ryan Cooking Club. Last August, Father Gervan – or Father G, as his adoring students call him - was approached by seniors Olivia Scruggs and Elliott Gild and … [Read more...]