Finding My Voice

Three baby birds in a nest, two with their beaks wide open, as if calling out for their needs to be met.

At 62 years old, I am, after three decades, trying to find my voice. That might sound like an odd statement for those who know me, and have “heard” my voice in articles I’ve written for magazines and newspapers, or as a presenter or meeting facilitator. And yes, I’ve been able to insert as much Ned-Andrew-ness as possible into the work I’ve done, but, because of circumstances, I have not been able to speak freely. For a very long time. That is slowly, incrementally, changing. I have been … [Read more...]

Raising the Bar, for the Sake of Our Children

A pelican stands at the top of a very tall pole, with clouds forming the background. In the distance there are pelicans standing atop other lower poles.

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...]

Lasts

A black and white photo of a bird flying solo and away from where he's been. There's water below him and a foggy sky around him.

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

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...]

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...]

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...]

Put on a Happy Face!

Ned Laughing

How many of you remember Dick Van Dyke singing and dancing to Put on a Happy Face in the original film version of Bye Bye Birdie? I do. In an effort to cheer up a friend who’s “down in the dumps”, he encourages her to “spread sunshine all over the place, just put on a happy face!” When I’m in a great mood, I guess I can’t help but smile. When I’m walking through my day, passing total strangers on the street on the walk from my car to the office, or from my office to the car, or from my office … [Read more...]

Happy Connections

Ned and Gina

Where better to seek out happiness than in making spontaneous connections with other human beings? It’s a favorite pastime of mine. Going up or down in the elevator. Waiting on line at the post office or grocery store. Sure, you could just stand there and feel awkward, or bemoan the fact that the line isn’t moving any faster, or that there’s only one postal clerk window or check-out lane open at lunchtime…or…you could pass the time agreeably with the person in front of or behind you. Go on, make … [Read more...]