Interview Deborah Bradshaw Advocate for People with Special Needs, Author of When I Ordered You

Interview Deborah Bradshaw Advocate for People with Special Needs,  Author of When I Ordered You

Friends, please get a copy of When I Ordered You by Deborah Bradshaw. This heartwarming book about people with special needs is to be enjoyed by readers of all ages and all abilities. Ms. Bradshaw wrote,“They (my sons) have taught me courage and tenacity, and to see the value and purpose in everyone.”

Deborah Bradshaw is the mother of two sons, an inspirational speaker and trainer, founder of a social media company and the author of 5 books, including her latest title, “When I Ordered You”. She is passionate about encouraging others to find the value in themselves.

Ms. Bradshaw wrote a wonderful guest post introducing her latest book. Find the links to this post and where to buy it at the end of this post. We are very pleased Ms. Bradshaw agreed to take part in our Author Interview Series to learn more about this amazing, busy woman who continues to advocate for people with special needs.

Lorna: Congratulations on all that you have already accomplished! Tell us about your son who has Down syndrome and who inspired you to write your latest book, “When I Ordered You”.  He is a young man now; however, what do you remember that was a low point in his life at school and what was a high point during that time?

<<Deborah Bradshaw:  My son, Curtis is amazing as is his brother Clayton. Curtis has accomplished so much more than I ever thought possible. One of the reasons Curtis inspires me is because he continues to teach me how to live life with joy.  He has amazing perseverance and tenacity and has taught me how to keep trying even when I felt like giving up. Through his example, he has taught me to give people another chance.

Life at school was challenging.  The school district always told me what he would not do, never what he was accomplishing. At 8 years old, in a meeting with the teachers and special education director, the district informed me that since he was not yet reading phonetically that he never would.  They told me I needed to quit having false hope. I refused to accept this idea because as an educator myself, I never gave up on any other kids who were not yet reading at eight years old, how could I give up on my son who was known to learn at a slower pace?

Because of their negativity and numerous other issues with that district, I finally moved him out completely. He found a good place in another environment and received a much better education.  I am happy to report that he loves to read; he now reads Shakespeare and his Bible daily.  He did not read phonetically until age thirteen but he never gave up and because of his tenacity and persistence, neither did I. We persevered until we found a way. Stevenson Learning Skills provided the perfect method for him.  Finally learning to read well was definitely a high point!

Lorna: How is your son, Curtis, doing now? Can he live independently? Does your community have support and services for young adults with Down syndrome when they finish high school?

<<Deborah Bradshaw: While my son could most likely live independently, at this time he chooses to live with me and I am very thankful.  We are great roommates and often, I joke, he takes care of me. He will bring me water or a snack if he sees me working and thinks I have not taken time to eat.  He completes many chores around the house and overall is a tremendous help to me.  I love our relationship as two adults under the same roof.

As far a support, he does need some guidance but I do my best to give him his independence and allow him to make his own choices. We have a friend, about his age, who takes him to some sporting events. They also attend community events. It is a wonderful arrangement since we have very limited public transportation and my son cannot drive himself.

Our community has some independent living opportunities but at home, he has his own room and he has a choice as to his activities. The independent living facilities in our area would provide him a roommate and other housemates. The schedule would be determined by group vote.

In his current circumstance and environment, he choses his activities and has many independent choices.  My son is very athletic and is involved in multiple sports.  He loves music and movies and attends many movies and concerts.  He attends an education program called Pathways Adult Learning Center a couple of days per week and enjoys his activities there. He also works within the community at a fair wage job and enjoys the freedom of having spending money. All in all, he loves his life.

Lorna: In a perfect world, what should be offered to students with challenges as they transition into adult years?

<<Deborah Bradshaw: In many communities, including ours, there are few choices when young adults transition out of school. There are few fair wage jobs and the community living situations while offered, are limited at best.  There are also few programs that create a continued learning environment; a place to babysit them is not what they need. My son and his friends need the opportunity to learn and live as adults, they need the chance to grow and have fun as well as learn new skills

I feel that our high schools often do not assist our kids in preparing for the real world.  Programs that facilitate real work opportunities would be ideal.  I would love to see more opportunities that can teach viable job skills as part of an apprentice program or intern program in high school, with the possibility to transition to work after school.

Skills such as money management, teaching them the public transportation system, teaching them to deal with conflict and real life issues would be a much needed skill that would improve their lives.

The ability to live as independently as possible is crucial. Just because our kids have challenges does not mean they don’t become adults.  Appropriate programs where they continue to learn new skills and increase their current skill level would be ideal, a place where they are respected and treated as the adults they are.

Appropriate public transportation that would allow those capable of travelling independently to do their grocery shopping, and attend community events is something that I would like to see offered in more communities.

When I Ordered You by Deborah Bradshaw - Raising a Son with Down SyndromeLorna: You wrote that one of your favourite lines in “When I Ordered You” was, “What I didn’t order were the things I would have to do and learn to help you to be your best but in teaching you to be your best, you have taught me to be my best”.  What are some things parents raising children with Down syndrome usually end up learning?

<<Deborah Bradshaw: I believe that we all have the opportunity to learn major life lessons from our kids.  It is often said that kids with Down syndrome are stubborn. I prefer the term tenacious.  My opinion is that anyone who has to try as hard as most children with Down do to walk, read and talk must be tenacious to keep trying and to succeed. When most others would have given up, they continue. This has taught me not to be so hasty when something is hard. If something is not working, I find a different way to achieve what I need to accomplish.  That is definitely something I learned from my son.  To believe the best in people and always give them the benefit of the doubt is another.  To see and understand that everyone struggles but together we can be our best.

As a parent of a son with Down syndrome, I believe it is our job as parents to set good boundaries for them, to teach them how to focus their energy and use that tenacity to help them accomplish their goals not just use that tenacity to get their way. In teaching Curtis how to be his best, he has indeed taught me to seek the higher road in life.

Lorna: When your son, Curtis, was younger, you were involved with the “Buddy Cruises” and even wrote a few books about them.  Their mission is the following: “To provide educational opportunities and resources for families, while promoting awareness, acceptance, and inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome and Developmental Delay through unique venues.” Their web site explains that their annual conference at sea is a unique event with something for all ages and abilities. Presenters address a wide range of disability related topics during interactive workshops. Their events are supportive of families touched by all a disabilities. Buddy Cruise sets sail every October. 

Please share your experience as an Ambassador for the Buddy Cruise. 

For a few years now, our company, SentioLife Solutions, Ltd., donates to the Buddy Cruises. We give them SentioCHEWS for their silent auctions.  This year, 2017, they expect 225 families, so we will give them 225 business cards with a 20% Off Coupon Code to buy our Chewelry

Cruising with Buddy (Traveling Buddy) (Volume 1) by Deborah Bradshaw <<Deborah Bradshaw:  We are actually still involved with the Buddy Cruise. It is one of our favorite organizations and allows us to have the opportunity to share the joy and gifts of our kids. We arrive to board the ship and sometimes the other passengers see our large group and question out loud why they chose this week.  However, once on board the ship, attitudes begin to change. These passengers see, joy, they see tenacity, they see personalities, and they begin to see our kids as real people.

By mid week, they are hanging out with us, participating, carrying on conversations and learning about our world.  Every single year, by the end of the cruise, I have been asked when we are going next year because these passengers who were so reticent, want to journey with us again.  I hear statements like, “I have a neighbor who just had a baby with Down syndrome. I am going to go tell them about this trip.” Or, “I have a bagger at the grocery store who I think has Autism. I am going to go have a conversation with him, now I know what to say.”

Where else can we have the opportunity to positively influence so many people in one week and help to create lasting change in regards to attitudes about our kids.  Occasionally, I write slogans for the Buddy Cruise and a few years ago I wrote the slogan, “Changing the World One Cruise at a Time!”

The profits from the books that I wrote for the Buddy Cruise go to support the mission. “Cruising with Buddy” introduces the mascot and is a social story that explains what to expect on the Buddy Cruise.  It’s a fun book to help kids remember the Buddy and Friends: Buddy's friends may have challenges but they also have amazing abilities! by Deborah Brandshaw journey or learn what the cruise will be like.  The book “Buddy and Friends” are true stories of the abilities of some of the Buddy Cruise family.  It’s time we speak of our kids’ abilities instead of their “disabilities.”

Lorna: Tell us about another book you penned, 7 Days to a Gluten-Free Diet that came out Dec. 30th 2015.

<<Deborah Bradshaw: About 8 years ago, I was extremely ill with multiple symptoms.  I went to numerous specialists and no one could find the cause.  Eventually I got to the point that one physician told me to get my affairs in order as I had 6 months or less to live.  My symptoms were numerous and severe. I had muscle weakness, balance issues, exhaustion, severe pain and seemed to be in a constant mental fog. Everyday I took multiple prescriptions and supplements to try and minimize the pain and the symptoms but nothing was working.

Our rheumatologist, upon hearing the suggested limitation of my life span, suggested that they check me for celiac disease. The blood test was negative but after a biopsy, they saw distinct symptoms of the disease.

My son with Down syndrome was having multiple symptoms as well. He had joint pain, stomach upset, petite mall seizures and it was even suggested due to his cognitive symptoms that he might have early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  He was losing his ability to read and his speech was less clear.

In order to research Celiac disease for my own benefit, I found the book “Gluten Free for Dummies” by Dana Korn. In her book, she listed 20 symptoms commonly found in patients with undiagnosed Celiac disease.  My son had all 20 symptoms.

We both decided to go gluten free and within a few weeks our symptoms improved dramatically.  I had been walking with a cane and within two months, my balance had returned and I no longer needed my cane. The time period for significant recovery in both of us was about six months.  I am happy to report that neither one of us have those symptoms now. My son does have rheumatoid arthritis but his overall pain and well being have significantly improved. He now lives with much less pain.

As a result of our significant improvement, people constantly asked our secret.  When I revealed that a gluten free diet had alleviated our symptoms, improved our quality of life and in my case, literally saved my life, I would hear comments that it was an impossible task to go gluten free. And so I decided to write about how it could be done with step-by-step instructions.

In the book, I discuss how to eat in a restaurant, how to eat with friends and how to talk to your school or daycare.  The book also discusses cheating.  Some people will tell me they are gluten free “most of the time.”  Most of the time does not work; you have to commit to the diet. The book tells you how to do everything from set up a kitchen when others in the home still eat gluten, to providing easy recipes to get you started and even helps you find which of your favorite junk foods you can still enjoy.

Each day gives you a specific task to accomplish. Of course you don’t have to complete each step in one day but you certainly could.  The point is that if you want to go gluten free, this book will give you a simple and easy plan to accomplish your goal of a gluten free diet.

Lorna: You have served on multiple boards, organizations and committees to promote advocacy and inclusion.  What positive outcomes for individuals with special needs do you see taking place because of all the work folks like you are doing?

<<Deborah Bradshaw: The Buddy Cruise is a prime example of the positive changes that have happened. By helping to change public attitudes about our family members we improve the lives of our family members.

I have also seen significant positive changes in education and the rights of children in education. Sometime the progress seems to be slow but it is happening. When I look at the battles I had to fight when my son was a preschooler versus the battles most parents of preschoolers with differing needs have today, I see the significant progress.

Healthcare and research in healthcare have improved. In many cases, symptoms and medical issues that were believed to be just part of the life of a person with differing needs, are now being treated and in some cases even cured. Physician and medical provider attitudes have also continued to progress.

Public opinions have changed dramatically since the birth of my uncle in 1940 who had Muscular Dystrophy. However, the work is not yet done.

We need to continue to work together to develop more opportunities for our kids. Sometimes it is tempting to say that we are too busy and on occasion that is true. There are various seasons of life but if you have the opportunity to jump in and make a positive difference, I would encourage you to do so.

If we all work together, we can impact the world.

Lorna: Thank you so much for the very interesting guest post introducing “When I Ordered You” and now for this interview. All the best in your future endeavors!

Follow Deborah Bradshaw:

Read also: Review of When I Ordered You by Deborah Bradshaw7 Days to a Gluten-Free Diet by Deborah Brandshaw – December 30, 2015

Buy Books By Deborah Bradshaw:

  • Buddy and Friends: Buddy’s friends may have challenges but they also have amazing abilities!-June 16, 2015

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.