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A message from Chairperson Donoven
By Katherine Donoven
We are all facing uncertainty right now. In the last few weeks, each day has brought new information and concerns that alter the way we expect life to unfold. Today, I am supposed to be in Cambridge, Massachusetts to present on team building. My trip, like so many other events lately, was canceled. My daughter is home from school. It is all very unsettling. The sudden shift reminds me of how I felt when I learned my daughter had an extra chromosome and the life that I was expecting for us changed. Before Sarah was born, I imagined how beautiful she would look, wondered whether she would like dance classes, and what she would like in school.
If you are looking for examples of how to thrive when life throws you challenges, I urge you to look to the self-advocates, advocates, and family members who make up the community of people with disabilities. We know how to thrive when life changes.
The Council is still meeting. Last week, we held our first video teleconference meeting! We are making plans for training new advocates, collaborating with local businesses to foster competitive integrated employment, and building inclusive communities. Our staff is still answering your calls, emails, and social media inquiries. We might just be doing it in a slightly different way than we were a few days ago. Doing things in a slightly different way is something that people in the disability community know how to do well.
Many of the members of our council have already faced circumstances where the way they expected life to be suddenly changed with a diagnosis of a developmental disability. Having met these challenges, our council members and our community are stronger, more flexible, and more resourceful. Over the years, we have built networks of friendship; we know how to seek out reliable information and separate fact from fiction. We lean into faith instead of fear, we adapt to change, and we support one another with grace and kindness.
When Sarah was born, I was like every other new parent. I thought she was the most beautiful baby ever born. She loves to dance – but she now tells me “Mommy, you stop dancing,” and she loves science. March is National Disabilities Awareness Month. Rather than looking inward, we can share our ability to adapt to life’s changes with our friends and neighbors. We are all going to be doing many of the same things we have always done – working, going to school, shopping, exercising, and caring for our families – we are just going to be doing them in a slightly different way. We know how to do this.
About Katherine Donoven
Katherine Donoven is a parent advocate and attorney from Sherwood, Arkansas. She is the Chairperson of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.
About the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities
The Council is a federally funded state agency that promotes integration, inclusion and independence for Arkansans with developmental disabilities. Council members are self-advocates, relatives and/or caregivers of individuals with DD, state agency directors, and representation from nonprofit and private organizations. The Council works to encourage self-advocacy; to remove barriers to information, services and support; to advocate for policy changes; to develop and support coalitions; and to educate community leaders. For more information about the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and its mission, browse more pages on this website GCDD.arkansas.gov, or call 501-682-2897. Follow the Council on Facebook and Twitter @gcddar. You can also find Arkansas GCDD on YouTube.