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By opening our eyes, minds and hearts to possibilities, we can support our sons, daughters, friends and neighbours to live interesting, challenging and joyful lives. I know it seems a bit cliché, but after writing about people with disabilities for 30 years, it seems to me that what people want most is to ‘do’ with their lives, not merely exist or always be ‘done for.’
Flourish: People with Disabilities Living Life with Passion is the result of a lot of thinking about what makes a vibrant and interesting life for son Jim. I talked with a lot of people who have also thought about what constitutes a good life for themselves and for others. Beyond that, I’ve included 25 stories of people who have been encouraged and supported to pursue passions, and helped to uncover interests they never realized existed within themselves. Most of these are first-person stories, and I’ve always been pretty picky about preserving authentic voice. You’ll also meet people who have helped ignite that spark and who believe in the person’s ability to imagine, and still others who share what pursuing a dream has meant in their own lives.
People with disabilities have historically been surrounded by low expectations and stereotypes that perpetuate an ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach to support. To be happy and to have a rich life punctuated by intriguing, engaging and sometimes thrilling experiences that feed one’s soul, people with disabilities need others to be creative, expansive and willing to take some risks. Flourish is more than a collection of stories. I hope it offers encouragement and ideas from our family’s experience, and from that of others intent on helping people with disabilities discover their own unique gifts and potential.
Among her works are Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections: People with and without Disabilities Together at Mealtime (Brookes Publishing) and Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities (Brookes Publishing, since translated into German, Italian and Korean.) Flourish is her eighth book. She’s a prolific local writer who contributes to a variety of publications, including Saskatoon Fine Lifestyles, Fine Homes and Saskatoon Home magazines.
PRAISE FOR THIS BOOK
“I fell in love with Flourish after reading just the first page! As I moved from story to story, I thought, “Why can’t every ‘behavior’ meeting start with a discussion of this book?” And then I thought, “Why can’t every IEP meeting start with a discussion of this book?” And then I thought, “Why can’t every transition meeting start with a discussion of this book?” How different our work and our world would be if we all focused on this way of thinking. Not only will this book make you want to support other people in finding their passions, discovering their talents, and creating their “bucket lists,” but it will make you want to do the same for yourself!” – PAULA KLUTH, Ph.D., author, Just Give Him the Whale: 20 Ways to Support & Honor the Passions & Interests of Students with Autism and “You’re Going to Love this Kid”: Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom. www.paulakluth.com/
“I am warmly attracted to a unique and unrepeatable man: Jim Schwier. Although experts might point out his disabilities, I am so impressed by how he has, with a smile, for 16 years mopped the pool deck and handed out towels at the YMCA. At St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, he greets members, hands out bulletins and takes up the offerings. He sweats, jokes and laughs side by side by side with his folks in their large garden; he shovels snow, plays cards, cooks meals. His days are filled with responsibilities and friends. In our pen pal relationship, and on rare visits, I will always be known as “Bob Brewsky,” a name I treasure. I am convinced that all the happiness that I perceive in this family stems from their ‘flourishing’ life. Now comes this book. Karin began ‘as a way to think about what makes our son Jim happy.’ But she couldn’t stop there. She widened her net around the world to see what makes others flourish, too.” – ROBERT PERSKE, advocate, author, Circles of Friends: People with Disabilities and their Friends Enrich the Lives of One Another, Darien, Connecticut. www.robertperske.com/
“Finally…a riveting read that reveals the secret to supporting people with disabilities to create a life worth living. The secret? It has nothing to do with disability! Karin gracefully reveals the ingredients: passion, belief, laughter, creativity and tenacity. Flourish is a thoughtful and insightful journey of hope.” – BETH GALLAGHER, author, Intentional Teaming, Director, Life Works, San Diego, California. http://lifeworks-sls.com/