Saturday, June 29, 2013

An Interview with an expert: Gregory Ruzzin: Brother/Filmmaker

Alyssa: What did you learn from making our movie, "Lost Child?"? How did you get inspired to help me with the blog? 

Greg: The movie gave us the opportunity to reconnect since we haven't lived in the same state in many years. I learned about your daily challenges and it was eye opening.

The blog grew out of our conversations after the movie wrapped, about what was next. We wanted to keep the work going and the conversation rolling even after the movie. I thought it important to keep your voice out there so people can learn from you. The blog also came about at a time where you were wanting to learn more about computers and this gave you an opportunity to do something on your own.

Alyssa: What was it like growing up with a sister with special needs?

Greg: I would say that growing up with you was like growing up with any brother or sister, special needs or not. Like you, Mark (our older brother) and I were learning about the world and you were a part of that learning. I never felt like we were that different from other families, but Mom and Dad always made sure to treat you the same. They made a huge effort to include Mark and I in the effort to help you get the support you needed. We never resented the extra attention you got, like other siblings I have met. We never felt that because Mom and Dad made it a family thing. We were all in it together. Definitely a team effort.

Alyssa:  How has the movie changed your perspective of people with disabilities?

Greg: I feel that I have a broader view of what you are up against, as well as of how the world we live in isn't as accepting as it could or should be. This experience made me more aware of myself and the expectations that we place on other people. It reminded me that everyone is their own person and does things in their own way.

Alyssa: Has this experience made you more of an advocate?

Greg: Yes, definitely! The movie turned me from a brother into an advocate.

In fact, I am working on a documentary film project called "The MagicChair" and you are helping me with it. It is our goal to create a place where individuals with disabilities can tell their own stories, and your story will certainly continue to be one of those.

Best wishes,
Alyssa Ruzzin

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An interview Megan Baer - Community Life Coordinator and Life Skills Tutor - Center for Independent Futures

Alyssa: Hi Megan. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Do you see any patterns of need amongst the adults with disabilities you serve? 

Megan: The patterns of need I observe are:
            -Job placement
            -On the job support

-Support in managing social connections

-Helping individuals with disabilities to advocate for themselves while out in the community
 -Because people with disabilities communicate and interpret things differently, people often get taken advantage of in stores and on the street. 

-In regards to the families we serve, we often help support families in knowing that we can support individuals with disabilities while also honoring the person’s hopes and dreams. We often work with families in breaking assumptions and segregative thought patterns that make up the disability support system.

Alyssa:  What are individual’s lacking in order to live the lives they want to live in their communities? 

Megan:  The biggest flaws in my opinion both nationally and here in IL are in regards to social connections. People with disabilities don’t often have the opportunity to ‘bump into people’. The institutional model that currently prevails in many states as well as here in IL offers little flexibility and choice. We put people in structured day programs despite personal interests, passions, desires, chemistry or connections. There is limited availability in where these folks can work and how they spend their days. 

We need more focus on creating meaningful connections for individuals with disabilities. We can’t expect jobs and social opportunities in the community to magically appear without individuals advocating and making connections with potential employers and friends.
Beyond the lack of funding for support services, we are lacking agencies with progressive models that value an individuals right to choose the life they want to live.

Alyssa: How do perceived needs and wants differ between disabled adults and their caregiver, guardian or support network? 

Megan: There are reasonable fears instilled in parents regarding their children from the time they are born regarding what their child will, wont, is and isn’t capable of. The ability to take reasonable risks is a human right. It is a big part of growth. Making mistakes and learning coping skills is essential to a full, independent life.

Alyssa: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

Megan: You’re most welcome.

You can learn more about the Center for Independent Futures and the important work they do at: