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Symposium shows kids how to live without dad and mom

by Merrie Leininger

Becoming independent is tough enough; if you have a physical disability, it may feel like you are alone in the world.

Paulette Irving, adaptive physical education teacher for the Douglas County School District, said some of her students had asked questions about “life beyond Mom and Dad,” so the “Living with a Disability Symposium” was born.

Physically disabled students and their parents and teachers from Douglas and Lyon counties, Lake Tahoe, and Carson City were invited Thursday to listen to speakers on topics including assisted living and participating in sports.

The participants watched an “inspiring” video on physically disabled people who water ski, road race, ride bicycles and swim, Irving said.

“It showed the kids there are more things they can do with their life,” Irving said.

She said the younger kids had fun making friends with other students just like them and the older children learned a lot from the speakers.

Irving said most important for parents was networking with other families.

“It’s important to come together and know there is somebody just like your son nearby,” she said.

Peck Nagel, mother of Ted Nagel, 40, one of the speakers, said the seminar made her realize the positive changes that have come about since Ted was a child.

“I was impressed by the interaction (the children have) with each other. When Ted was small, children that were handicapped in some way were kind of hidden from other children,” Nagel said.

When Ted was three years old, the youngest of her eight children, Peck began speaking to groups about disabled people and took him with her.

“He did more making people recognize what I was talking about at age 3 than anything else,” she said.

Ted Nagel spoke to the students about coping with their handicaps and being able to expand and grow and not fearing things they think they can’t do.

His business, 4 C Sons Independence Center, helps disabled people find jobs so they can earn money and feel like a part of the community.

Virginia Dempsey and Jared, 8, live in Carson City and she said any new information is helpful to her in raising her son.

She said Candace Cable, who spoke about becoming active in sports, opened her eyes to new possibilities for Jared.

“Sometimes, with a disabled child, you just don’t think he can do that,” she said. “But the enthusiasm was helpful. He liked the game they played.”

Irving organized a soccer game using large therapy balls. Children who participated who have the use of their legs had to hold their hands behind their backs.

Katie Campbell is a teacher at C.C. Menely who brought Megan Clark, 5, with her. Campbell is a special education teacher and Megan is her only physically disabled student. She uses a walker.

Megan said she liked playing soccer with the other students.

“I’m good,” she said with smile.

Campbell said it was interesting to hear to listen to the adults who “have made it through life with a disability.”

Veronica Holsey is the mother of Jonathan, 8, a student at Pinon Hills Elementary School.

She said Jonathan loves sports, especially basketball, and the talk by wheelchair racer Cable was inspiring.

“It was good to hear about the different kinds of equipment so he can participate in different sports. He wants to learn to ride a bike and we have been trying to find the funding to get him one,” she said. “It’s nice for him to see he can do more than what he has been told he can.”

However, Jonathan said his favorite part of the day was meeting new friends.

“That’s the best part,” he said.

His mom said it is nice for him to see he is not alone.

Will Carrasco’s mom, Liz, agreed.

“Knowing you’re not all by yourself is important,” she said. She said he is very attuned to other kids in wheelchairs, but doesn’t often get to meet them.

Will, 4, is in the TEDDY program at Gardnerville Elementary School. He wore his cowboy hat and vest to the seminar.

His teacher, Janie Lowe, said the day was sort of a class reunion for her, because she has taught many of the students in the room.

“It’s nice to see how the adults are able to adapt their environment and it is really exciting because I see them at such a young age,” Lowe said.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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