Students attend disability symposium
MINDEN – They can do anything you can do.
That is the message the school-aged participants came away with from the second “Living with a Disability” symposium at the Carson Valley Inn.
Guest speakers ranged from the manager of an apartment building for disabled residents to medal-holding disabled skiers and downhill bikers.
Bill Bowness is disabled and a ski instructor at Alpine Meadows Tahoe Adaptive Ski School in the winter and a water ski instructor in Mississippi during the summer. He showed a video of himself water skiing, doing jumps and slalom skiing, eliciting “oohs and ahhs” from the audience. He also showed water and snow ski adaptive equipment that he uses, which the kids played with as he spoke.
“I don’t care if they do these activities, whatever activity is manageable for that person is fine. But it’s important to let them know it’s available for them. If you show them a disabled person skiing, that’s going to make going to school or living on their own seem less like a dream,” said Bowness, who is also on the U.S. disabled teams for both water and snow skiing. “Role models who are also disabled are few and far between.”
Trevor Snowden of South Lake Tahoe played a video of his national title-winning race on a four-wheel downhill bike.
“I was a professional (snowboarder) at one time. Just because I’m paralyzed doesn’t mean I can’t be again,” he told the group.
One of the oldest participants in the symposium was Brendan McNulty, 19, of Gardnerville, who was paralyzed in a backcountry skiing accident a year ago Wednesday. McNulty said he’s excited about being able to ski again.
“I missed last season because my accident was at the very beginning of the season. This season, I want to get up there and see what I can do in one of these things,” he said after Bowness’ presentation.
Brendan’s mother, Cheryl McNulty, said the symposium was helpful.
“It’s amazing when you get around other people what you learn,” she said. “At the time, you think it’s the end of the world. But when you get people together and see how far people can come and what they can do, it means a lot.”
James and Shaw Lamb said they often feel cut off from other families with disabled children. James Jr., 11, is in the 6th grade at Scarselli Elementary School and liked visiting with other disabled children so much at last year’s program, the family came back again this year.
“We feel very isolated. Playing-wise, all the houses in this area have stoops, so he can’t get into them. He has only one friend on the block he plays with,” Shaw Lamb said. “There aren’t any team sports in this area; there are in bigger cities. But just knowing there are this many people in the area, we could have something like that started.”
Symposium organizer Nina Dunn, who works with most of the students as a physical therapist, said the program was geared more toward the kids this year.
“The idea was to get kids who need some assisted living together so they will know each other and we can show them, yes, they can live on their own,”she said. “It’s also a good time for us (adults), who know each other by phone to see each other.”
Dunn, who said living away from their parents when they are older is a big concern with some of the children, played a video about a resident of Frost-Yasmer Estates in Carson City. The apartments have low counters and space under them for a wheelchair to fit, so residents can sit at the counter and do dishes or prepare dinner. There is also no carpet so it is not difficult to maneuver a wheelchair.
The students also heard from Wayne Bachand of Nevada Seating and Mobility, who demonstrated the voice-activated control that can be hooked up to many household electronics.
Douglas County School District Superintendent Pendery Clark promised the 30 students, teachers, therapists and parents during the opening remarks that the school district would help keep the symposium, which is sponsored by the school district and the Nevada Department of Education, an annual event.