NEVER let anyone limit your child’s development. #Specialneeds #proudmama

My son, Erik is a senior this year. He will be graduating this Thursday and he is so full of emotions.

He fractured his knee this past Wednesday at school during his bike club. So he is back in a wheelchair. He hasn’t had to use one since he was a smaller child. Back then it was from his developmental delays, today its because he fractured his knee somehow.

Myself, my son and one of his many teachers.

Prayers are appreciated. We have had to pay for a ramp since insurance didn’t cover the prescription. But the most important thing is that he is still in good spirits.

His teachers and therapists at school have been amazing! We are truly going to miss them all. He is going to miss seeing his friends everyday.

My son & his friends & Ms Falconer

My compassion for others who are wheelchair bound has increased even more because I am getting only a fraction of what they live with on a daily but I’m speaking from a caregiver position.

I’m sharing some inspiring video of my son at his classroom party and his senior awards night. He received two awards at senior awards night as Valedictorian and Superintendents scholarship award.


I love his spirit! Even when he’s down, he’s up.

And again, don’t you ever let anyone, I repeat, ANYONE tell you what your child will never be able to do! Because faith and a will to do, have the final say!

Thanks for being here again.

1 year Anniversary of Not Forgotten Ministries. #SpecialNeeds #families #church

Today, marked the 1 year anniversary of the special needs church ministry that my husband began in May of 2018. I follow his lead as he is operating in his purpose. The name of the ministry is called Not Forgotten Ministries. Such a fitting name for the ministry, because we want other families who have special needs loved ones or individuals living with disabilities or other mental or physical healthcare challenges to know they are not forgotten by God.

Church Info

We had 3 new visitors along with their family or caregiver today. It truly did my heart some good today to see the people participate in prayer, scripture reading and singing along.

A mother sharing her story about her daughter’s health challenges & God’s goodness
Pics from Not Forgotten Ministries

Our service isn’t your typical church service either. It is geared specifically for special needs families. The entire family. Not to separate the individual with special needs from their family but rather include the whole family in one service. We always offer to involve everyone with prayer, scripture reading, and a brief time for sharing their story. Followed by the word of God, more prayer and benediction, but at times we go off script to accommodate the needs of God’s people.

The girls playing with balloons in the kitchen during refreshments

It’s always lovely to hear others share their stories about the journey with their special loved one and all they have overcome or are still handling today. Especially the other mom who shared today, about how happy she was at the service, mentioning that she had been to a different church that was supposed to be for special needs families, but they separated her from her daughter, while she was able to attend service with the congregation, they took her daughter into a private room with others to watch the service on a monitor and she said she didn’t like how that made her feel. So it was really nice to hear that she felt welcomed and comfortable.

As a mom, caregiver myself, I know first-hand the daily battles, struggles, victories, achievements and strength it takes to do it every single day. It’s not always peaches and cream and its not always smooth sailing, but I will admit, it is ALWAYS worth my time, my love, my support and my efforts to help my children and others within our community.

Me holding sis Shana’s newborn baby girl, Novalee. Such a precious baby. She was born premature, but God has blessed her with good health.

I am sharing these short video clips to show the glory of Gods special people. I was told by one caregiver that today was her very first time hearing her client pray and that it touched her heart. These families come from all kinds of different walks of life, Autism, ODDS, Epilepsy, Dementia, Developmental delays, mental health challenges but we all come together here in one place, unified as one body in Christ. We know our loved ones diagnosis but it’s like white noise to us. We only speak, write about, refer to it because it’s how others can identify with us at times.

I truly hope to possibly inspire others by sharing this. And maybe if you happen to be a minister or pastor of a church, you too will become inspired to begin a similar ministry in your town. There are many families just like mine, just like these, that would love an opportunity to come together at church and feel welcomed, accepted and understood. Again, this is not your typical quiet service. We cater to the needs of the people and their families as we realize the sensory issues and the other need to express themselves openly. We are all Gods people. We are all loved. We are all unique and wonderfully made. Created by God in his image and his likeness.

So to that other parent, caregiver or individual who’s reading this and living with health care challenges, don’t ever let someone shame you or make you feel less than worthy, just because your blessed to be who you are, or the person your caring for. Don’t allow others to stigmatize you. Hold your head high, walk in confidence and be proud of the life you have! Share your story to inspire others.  Tell your story to educate others.

I hope I was able to encourage someone this evening!

Thanks for being here again.

Operating in my purpose! While helping others. #Journey #Advocacy #MentalHealth

Hi everyone!

I’m super excited to announce my latest achievement in completing NAMI’s family-to-family support program! This was a 12 week course. But we managed to finish in 11!

Next up, I am registered to become trained on facilitating their Ending the Silence program! Which is exactly what I am passionate about. This program is geared toward teens and youth. It is designed to educate and bring awareness about mental illness and mental health. I’m so excited to become official in the coming months. I’m passionate about this program because it hits home for my family and the experiences we had as my son battled his illness while in middle school, high school alone and isolated. We were his only trusted support system. Outside of our home it was kept under wraps because of the shame, stigma, and fear. So I am using my journey to give insight to others.

It is all strictly volunteer based. So if others are looking to become involved you can go to nami.org and sign up to become a member or apply to become a facilitator with your local affiliate. NAMI has many affiliates in various states across the nation.

I challenge you to do your part to help create change and end the stigma!

Thanks for the continued support!

Here’s a wealth of information about ABLE accounts! #Disabilities #Money #Assets

Last night I attended “The Gathering” which is a open group meeting held by NAMI Pierce for the community. A local affiliate that I am a member of and involved with. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness for those who may not have known.

This would be my first time attending the gathering event. I’m so glad I went because the topic of discussion was about the new ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities.

I had already heard about this service finally being offered in our state but didn’t know all the details.

There are some good benefits to having an ABLE account. The fact that the individual is allowed to save more than $2000 in their account without it being considered an asset with a maximum of up to $100k saved. And in this ABLE account those funds aren’t considered an asset when and if the individual should need to apply for Washington Apple Health, DSHS SNAP, TANF, food stamps, DCYF (childcare), HUD section 8 are all ABLE exemptions. Pretty cool right?

I also learned the qualifying expenses to spend from the ABLE account are basic living costs, housing, transportation, education, assistive technology, employment training, personal support services, legal fees, funeral, burial expenses, health and wellness, financial management costs. So in otherwords, they are able to spend on groceries, dining out, pay rent, and all the other things necessary to utilize their monies for.

There were a few downsides I wasn’t too fond about but it might be seen as beneficial for others. The individual would NOT have any access to withdrawing cash from a bank or ATM. Although I did ask the question, what if the individual uses their prepaid MasterCard at the grocery store and tries getting cash back at the register? I wasn’t given an adequate answer, instead I was told, “their not supposed to do that.” So I reiterated once more, “so their not supposed but they can, or their not supposed to and they won’t be given this access?” Still no clear answer, just informed that because the program is so new, kinks are still being worked out. So if anyone reading this actually knows the facts please comment to share that helpful info.

The other thing I wasn’t too fond of is that there us a $10 minimum transaction amount, and a $15k withdrawal amount. The number of withdrawals are unlimited daily and no transaction fee. But in order to spend from the account, it is only by online purchases, paper check, or their option of prepaid MasterCard. And its advised the individual use the funds for qualified disability expenses ONLY, and maintain records of their purchases.

There is also a fee for the prepaid card. It’s $1.25 per month so I had asked if they load $10 and don’t wind up spending the $10 does it fee itself out from being dormant over the period of say 8 months? Answer was yes. So basically, don’t load the card unless you know those funds are going to be spent. Again, there is no access at an ATM, or any financial institution. It’s is also prohibited for online gambling or illegal transactions which is a good thing.

The other downside, is that because this is NOT a credit card with a line of credit, if they use it for reserving a hotel stay, rental car, or things of that nature, they need to make sure to load the appropriate amount of funds in the event that the company may decide to preauthorize a set amount to hold their reservation. Meaning that set amount is not accessible to the individual until that hold falls off.

I could go on and on about all the details of the ABLE accounts but I would rather anyone who’s truly interested to inquire for the accurate information themselves. You can click the link within this article here to go directly to the website, or you can find the link on the main page of my website listed under resources.

So that’s a little bit of information to share with others who receive SSI, SSDI or are disabled who don’t receive these benefits but their disability occurred prior to the age of 26 and would meet the criteria.

I hope I was able to enlighten someone with this small wealth of information. One last thing I will provide here are 2 present contacts for these ABLE accounts with Washington State which may be difficult to find on the website.

Peter Tassoni, Disability Workgroup Manager – (360) 725-3125 peter.tassoni@commerce.wa.gov

Chris Gagnon (360) 725-3131 Christina.gagnon@commerce.wa.gov

FYI- At times I share other people’s articles to help them gain exposure or to help spread awareness about their journey with their life. I’m here to help others and to advocate for what I believe in. I’m here to be the voice for others who haven’t found the courage to use their own yet, but still want to get a message out. I’m here as a mom, advocate and friend, not a Mental health professional. Just using my experiences and knowledge to hopefully help others who are uninformed.

Have a great day! And don’t forget to follow me on my new social media outlets:

Twitter – @StigmasNo

Instagram – @Stigmas_No_More

Facebook – @Stigmasnomore.com

Or you can always contact me privately here by clicking “email me” or email me directly at: Stigmasnomore@gmail.com.

Thanks again for being here and I appreciate the positive feedback that some of you have already given me. I truly appreciate it. It helps me to know that my time, work and writing efforts are not in vain.

An amazing night for my son! #Hope #Inspired

Gotta love my son’s energy & enthusiasm. Be sure to click the links within the article and you’ll see the video clips.

This passed Wednesday I received a last minute phone call, unexpected while I was watching t.v. It was the coach from specialized recreation activities center and he asked, “Hey, what are you guys doing tomorrow night?” I hesitated and slowly said, “Umm, nothing really, why what’s up?” He said, “I have a really unique opportunity for Erik and you guys to go to a baseball game.”

Initially I thought the coach was going to say he needed my son to fill in as a team player for something. But then he mentioned baseball but had minimal information for me. He said another coworker of his would be contacting me with the details.

Long story short, the coworker called me and asked for my permission to give my number to someone else who would call me with even more details.

I have to admit we are not the “baseball” family but we have gone to a couple minor league games before. And I admit I grew up around baseball, softball my entire childhood because my dad and mom played, so I know the game well. Just not a fan of the sport, maybe because I was forced to go to every single game, tournament and travel for them too as a kid.

Anyways. So I got the call from the person in charge of this unique opportunity and he explained that he is with a non-profit organization called “Sons of baseball” and they host families with developmental disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Their mission is to provide a unique opportunity to give a great experience, all expenses paid and to make it a special event for the child with the disability or life-threatening illness. And he said my family and my son, came highly recommended and selected by someone he reached out to.

My son arriving at the stadium. Shaking hands with their media guy.

Initially we were told by the coach, that it would probably be a meet up time around 530ish in the evening. So that would be doable. But it was actually 3pm. So what did this mean for us?

I would pick up my son from school early because he needed time to come home and complete his daily routine, eat his snack and do everything he normally does after school. I was hoping for the best possible outcome. But I’ll be honest, I was uncertain and I was prepared to leave before game time since the game wouldn’t start until 705pm.

I have to get straight to the good stuff. Not only did my son do SOOOOO good, he managed to make it from 3pm until 1030pm when the game ended, and he truly enjoyed himself thoroughly. He even surprised us by working through his sensory issues of the fireworks that were lit off with every home run. Of course, I went prepared, I brought his music ear buds and his noise reduction headphones to put over those. There was even an unexpected fire evacuation and he was a trooper, and didn’t freak out. It was Star Wars night so initially when the alarm sounded, we all thought it was a sound effect from Star Wars but it wasn’t. And we had just gotten food and sat down to eat when this occurred so there was many unexpected challenges through the evening and I have to say I was so proud of his growth and this evening proved to be another milestone for his development and maturity.

My son with his personalized jersey before entering the gate.

Had this been a few years back, we would not have lasted for more than an hour and either the fire alarm and especially the fireworks would have scared him to the point of having tunnel vision and demanding to leave, while screaming bloody murder, but he didn’t! Not to mention, my husband was expected to be able to ride with us to the event, but got off work later and met us there. So usually my son, would become impatient and demand to have us both present and have a tantrum, but he was so well behaved.

He received royal treatment. Tony Parks is the man who was the host and his sister. These two were amazing and genuinely passionate about their involvement. I could tell their heart was in it and not just going thru the motions.

They made sure we were comfortable at all times. Erik was given a baseball to have the players sign, unlimited concessions, got to go out on the field before the game, sit in the dugout, meet the players, and we were all given personalized jerseys sized to fit each of us. We were given the tour of the stadium and the media room. He was also honored on their streaming baseball channel. The most memorable moment of the evening, the announcer mentioned all our names and also thanked Erik for being there, and my son replied with a very loud, “YOUR WELCOME, YOUR WELCOME!” I gotta love this kid!

On the field while the players warmed up.

This was the most amazing eventful day. And it showed me that prayer does work, my long years of not giving up on his developmental issues has paid off and Erik proved me to remain hopeful for his growth and future development. This would not have happened had it not been for the Sons of baseball organization and Tony Parks, his sister Tiersa and the person who recommended our family. It felt good to be honored and to just have others doing something nice for my son.

Tony, Erik, Tiersa. After the game was done. Proud moment. We made it!

I shared all the details to hopefully spark some hope inside another mom who has been thru the daily struggles of raising a child with special healthcare or mental health challenges or both. Never give up hope! What doesn’t happen today, might happen tomorrow. Just because its not now, doesn’t mean it will never happen for your child. Celebrate the smallest achievements.

Blessings to you!

Share your story for God’s glory. #MentalHealth #Journey #Truths

This is a thought that came to me this evening. As a person who has been flawed, imperfect, of many mistakes and poor choices along the way and finally one day becoming to the knowledge of Christ, I am unashamed of my journey. Struggles and ALL, because there is power in my story when I can admit my flaws, share my struggles, and exemplify God’s compassion and righteousness through HIS grace.

I have found that the top reason why others either lose faith or won’t even come to Christ is because somewhere along the way, they have been hurt, or mislead by someone who claimed to be “perfect” in Him.

We can strive for perfection but we aren’t without sin. (1 John 1:8)

Instead, just being fair with my soul and keeping my flaws before the throne of grace has helped me to become a more effective witness and better at forgiving my own self. I don’t condone sin, but I’m also not without it, but I also don’t wilfully practice it either. And it’s only because of Gods grace and mercy that I can continue to share with you all.

Be blessed.

Aiming High, Striving for Perfection, Seeking God daily.

-Erika Brooks

Sometimes we need others to pull us, not push us. #Encouragement #MentalHealth #MOM #Advocate

As a person, mom, advocate, wife, friend, stranger, caregiver, voice, I think I can speak for myself and others when we have felt like a failure, lost hope and felt like giving up, that we just needed some encouragement.

The important thing is we didn’t completely give up, or we wouldn’t still be here. We were able to find at least one thing that brought us back to a glimmer of hope to keep going.

In my life, I’ve had plenty of hardships and so many trials that have come to rock my foundation in my faith with the Lord. But He never gave up on me, so I chose to never lose my faith in Him.

Just to name a few…..

In spite of my youngest son dying twice, being in ICU fighting for his life only having been here for 2 months & suffering seizures, developing into significant delays in his growth. He is still alive, he is a light in a dark room, he is a joy to have around and he loves the Lord. He has a heart of compassion, he is a prayer warrior. God is using him just as he is. He is my son, Erik and when all odds were against us, we never gave up.

In spite of my oldest son, sailing through life, meeting every milestone early, highly active athlete, friend to many, and then it seemed like the wind blew bipolar our way. He has been chosen, elected and selected to live with bipolar disorder, and he is in a battle nearly everyday but he has overcome depression and graduated as a honor grad. He is here to break the stigma that others have about people with mental illness. He is one in a million.  He is the most gentle, kind-hearted person one could come to know.  He has compassion and empathy for others.  He loves to make others laugh.  He has a spirit that brightens a room.  He is a warrior.  He may have got knocked down but he ALWAYS gets back up. He has bipolar but bipolar doesn’t have him! I believe he will continue to achieve every goal and dream he has set for himself and God will make his enemies his footstool.  He is not Bipolar, He is my son, Carl.

In spite of my youngest daughter, living with depression and anxiety, abused by her own sister. She has had to fight her way through so many moments of fear and anxiety. She has survived through both mental and physical abuse. Being bullied down through her years of public school and groomed by her sister behind the shadows. Having lost her voice along the way, afraid to speak or advocate for herself.  Appearing nonverbal to others. Being diagnosed with epilepsy and not allowing her suffering to predict her future.  She is unbreakable. She is stronger because of her journey. She allowed her faith in God to be the small still voice when she once lived in isolation. She is a different person now, she has found her voice and she is unashamed to speak her truths about her journey. She is an inspiring artist and she is beautiful inside and out. She has a heart of compassion and a willingness to help others. She is empathetic and motivational to others. She is my daughter, she is my mini me. She is Selena.

 

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They just needed encouragement to keep going. Especially in some of their darkest times. They needed someone to suffer right along with them. They needed someone to show them they are valued, important, loved, and accepted. They needed someone to help them to stand again after being broken. They needed someone to pull them instead of pushing them. They needed to feel supported when it felt like everyone else had walked away. They felt like the world and everyone else was all against them, so it was a must to make them feel complete opposite of those negative emotions. And who better to be that someone than their mom.

Parents don’t give up on your children!  They need you even when their actions and words say otherwise.

I thank the Lord for my journey. I’m thankful for the strength to endure this race. I’m thankful I have never given up completely. I’m thankful to be chosen to carry out God’s assignment. I’m thankful for God closing doors that I wanted to enter. Because through those doors closing, it has guided me into finding my own purpose. Not worrying about being someone else or wishing to have a different path. I’m just thankful for my own.

You see, sometimes the path God lays out for you doesn’t always seem like it makes sense at the beginning, but as you journey along, you can discover your true purpose and where you belong.

Yes, it can be exhausting at times. But I would rather be exhausted doing what I know is right, than to be energized doing what I know is selfish. It’s all about balance, time management, knowing what battles are worth warring over and which ones don’t need you enlisted.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. And thank you for the love and support through the kind words, comments, and emails. I’m encouraged that I know I’m able to inspire others.

Be blessed!

The voices of many: Recovery & Gratitude #MentalIllness

This is a collaborative collage I created to share others comments.

Since most of us are visual people I know most people enjoy looking at colorful things more than reading letters.

This was created to share some insight from actual people who live in recovery with their mental illness. These are their words, their voice, not my own. Please respect their journey as I share with everyone. I have not listed their names and chose to keep them anonymous. Even though they have given permission.

Thanks for being here once again.

I truly appreciate everyone’s feedback and continued support as I am just a mom on a journey to try and offer help to others beyond my own children.

My goal is to enlighten, inspire, educate, and make others aware and informed about mental illness and the challenges from my eyes, especially within our public school system. I really hope we can end the stigma. I have a long journey ahead but it’s been worth every moment thus far.

Have a blessed day!

It’s only temporary. #Inspiration #Hope

If there’s one thing I have learned along my journey with life and God, its this. Sometimes God put me in temporary inconvenient places because He was preparing me for a permanent position with promotion. So when your dealing with hardship, just know it’s only temporary. All that stressing is just a pathway to your blessing.

I’m talking about what I know, not what I heard. I’m speaking from my own experience and not that of someone else’s.

I’m hoping to give others some inspiration and encouragement this evening.

Thanks for being here. Hang in there! It’s only temporary.