Friday, December 7, 2012

A Behind the Mic Reflection: World Cerebral Palsy Day 2012

Cerebral Palsy: An umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement.  Wow, that's the dictionary definition used to describe people with Cerebral Palsy!  I mean really.... what's up with "non-contagious motor conditions" as part of the definition?  The things that are contagious about me are my laughter, my smile, my humor, my hugs, my heart, my imagination, my need to be with friends and family (btw, I cherish these relationships deeply.  They have kept me level and focused and able to deal with the changing landscape of my cerebral palsy).  My love affair with news is extremely contagious...(I know it is in my blood... I'm just sure of it!).  What about my excitement to try new things and my desire to travel the world?  I want to be an actress, live in New York City, work at CNN (Anderson Cooper will think I'm FANTASTIC!) :))  I love to meet new people and I'm really interested in who they are.  Encouraging people is my forte.  When I see a friend with a tired, sad, at their wits end expression on their face, I love to turn it into laughter and a smile!  All of these aspects to my personality make me proud of who I am.  But, I'm even more proud that I didn't let all the hardships and struggles that CP has tried to beat me down with, squash my spirit!

Have I always been this positive?  NO.  I was hit like a ton of bricks ten years ago and thought my life was over... that I was worth absolutely nothing!  I was shocked, I mean, I went from this carefree, high spirited girl to this shell of a person that, when I looked in the mirror I didn't even recognize the reflection staring back at me!  I was shattered, my heart broken...all the hopes, dreams and goals I thought were right in front of me were actually miles away, and it would take a tremendous amount of work to get there!  As I look back now, even though the journey was hard, and trust me, some days it still IS,  I have learned to love myself day by day and appreciate my own unique way of accomplishing my goals. (And the people who have helped me get to those goals - you all know who you are, and I thank you from the very depths of my heart!).   So, to all of you who may be going through this journey of self-discovery - I am here to tell you, you can do it!!  It will make you stronger, better and more resilient.  Rely on those who love you and feed and nurture your potential, and never let negative thoughts cloud the beautiful person you know you are!!  Don't let the disability define you.  YOU define what's possible even with the disability...  With your incredible ABILITIES!!! :)      

So, on this Cerebral Palsy Day 2012, even though the actual day is now distant,  I leave you with this: Educate, Empower, Inspire - Show  everyone how Brillant you are!!

Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by the Arc of Indiana

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Assistive Technology know how with Wade Wingler!

Wade Wingler got into assistive technology when, as a 10 year old kid, he obtained his first computer.  Even at that early age he was able to take the leap into writing software. As he grew up, he had the privilege of watching his friends and family work with people with disabilities.  Later, he studied social work and sociology in college.  After explaining this, Wade told me "My story stopped being interesting at that point."   But, as I listened to him further, I realized that his story doesn't stop being interesting at all!  In fact, his story just keeps getting better!

Twenty years ago, it all started with a reply to a newspaper ad seeking someone who couldTeach people with disabilities how to use computers. With his interest peaked, he applied and became,  Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads,  and you can tell he enjoys every single minute!  Technology has made a major switch from the DOS computers to now having Google Driverless Cars, Iphones, and IPADs....  For many of us, the technology boggles the mind, but not for a tech savvy guy like Wade! :)   In fact, after I interviewed him,  he excitedly told me that he had a check in his pocket and was going to make the grueling trip to the Apple Store to buy IPADS for the Easter Seals Equipment Lending Library!  Truth be told, the trip was not going to be grueling for him at all!!  As the field of technology transformed, Wade decided he didn't want to keep this vital information about assistive technology to himself.  That's when the podcast known as Assistive Technology Update was born!  The idea for the podcast came from the fact that as Wade says, "There was always so much assistive technology news coming across my desk, I got to thinking, how can we share this information?"  

A weekly podcast keeping you up to date on the latest developments in the world of Assistive Technology for people with disabilities?  Yes, please!!  The half hour show is produced every week, filled with latest news, interviews, show notes and much more!  Listeners from all over the world have tapped into this all access look in to the world of assistive technology!  What an impact this podcast has on those in need of assistive technology!  

The podcast is the best of both worlds for this podcast host because it offers him the ability to be "a little bit social worker and a little bit nerd."  Wade is a great guy to meet and a perfect host for this podcast!  If you haven't listened to the podcast, I encourage you to do so.  It is a wonderful resource for the the disability community and beyond!

Thank you Wade for answering the newspaper ad twenty years ago - all your efforts are making a difference in people's lives and making our lives easier to live!  Thank you!  Thank you to Easter Seals Crossroads as well, for being forward thinking people and continuing to show that people with disabilities are people, with potential to accomplish great things, with support from people like you!

"Hi Everybody this is Michelle Fischer, host of A View from My Window and this is your Assistive Technology Update, Via Behind the Mic"

Listen in to my interview with Wade at the link below: /

Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from my Window, a podcast produced by the Arc of Indiana

Listen to Wade's Podcast, Assistive Technology Update here:  /

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jumping into the Twitter-sphere! (tweet, tweet!!)

Twitter is complicated! So thought my brain :)

The plunge into Twitter has been a long time coming.  Why, you ask?  It was due to my own thinking that it was going to be too complicated.  Trust me, it happened with Facebook, too.  Fear of the unknown and getting accustomed to "the lay of the social media land".  Hashtags, @symbols, tweets..... What if I put a hashtag in the wrong spot in a tweet?  Or what if I don't put the @ symbol in the tweet that let's a person know I'm talking to them?  Will they feel ignored?  What in the world is a retweet?  Is it loud?  Will someone be offended if I retweet something that is now old news, but to me, is something I think looks cool?   Kinda like....if a friend of yours goes to the mall and buys a hip dress and then you go to the mall two weeks later, and realize the next time you see your friend that you have the EXACT SAME DRESS!!  (gasp!!)  HA!...Ok, Twitter for me, wasn't quite life-altering, but it was much easier then I thought it was going to be and REALLY fun!  I have met and connected with a lot of nice people so far, and hope to keep connecting more and more!

I'm an internet podcast show host of a podcast called AView from My Window.  The podcast takes you inside the lives of people with disabilities. Their stories in their own words, the services they receive, and the organizations that help make their lives better through their advocacy and hard work!  I'll tell you more about how AView from My Window got it's start in another blog post, but that's why Twitter has come into the life of this podcast show host and I'm certainly glad I get to share the podcast with all of you!  I hope you enjoy listening as much as I love hosting!   It's truly a dream job!

I'm Michelle Fischer, Host of AView from My Window....and I have entered the TWITTER-SPHERE!!!!! (Tweet, Tweet) :)

This Twitter-shere is not like Facebook!?!
If you forget this when talking to someone, will they feel ignored?!?!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Special Olympics State Games- More then just sports...

In life,  it can be all too easy to get caught up in the everyday goings on, the routine things.  Life can be tough... and that's why it's so important to look for the silver lining and learn from others.  The Special Olympics State Games in Terre Haute, Indiana on June 2nd, 2012 at Indiana State University, was an event that did just that!  Disabilities disappear and athletes are refreshed and revived!   Sports provide the starting line of self improvement, confidence, determination and discipline.  What makes the Special Olympics State Games such a feel good event in addition to sports, is the people behind the scenes - people who give of their time, energy and resources to make sure that a CAN DO spirit lives at these games every year!  One of the highlights for me is hearing what makes the athletes proud to be a Special Olympian! Their faces glow!!
President/CEO Mike Furnish and Board Chairman Buzz Lail

Another highlight is talking to President/CEO Mike Furnish (and its not just because he told me this year that talking to me was the best 15 minutes he has :) Mike is one of the most dedicated people I have seen directing an organization like this!  His heart and soul show on his sleeve when he talks about Special Olympics!  This year, along with Mike, I met a new friend, Buzz Lail - Special Olympics board chairman.  Buzz is a dedicated amateur athlete who has competed in triathlons and many more sports.  And when I asked Buzz what athletes take for granted sometimes, he didn't hesitate to say with confidence, "The ability to do it tomorrow.  When I was younger, I didn't understand that I would have limitations and that they would change over time.  I knew it, but didn't understand it.  Our athletes come into these games with apparent limitations, and they know that those limitations will change over time,  just like the rest of us, but they face their limitations bravely".   I liked Buzz the second we started the interview because Buzz sees every athlete as a talent in their events, and just as good an athlete as he is.....the SAME.....Thank you warmed my heart by your comments and your commitment to Special Olympics!!

Interviewing Olympic Runner, Andrew Peterson 
Special Olympics Indiana strives to provide, what Mike says is, "a you can atmosphere" which translates into a person's mindset and attitude, along with a feeling of support which allows the disability to disappear and the person and who they really are to shine through - the transformation is unbelievable!  Thank you Mike for inviting me to experience the transformation of people's lives that is known as Special Olympics!!

Buzz said it best: " Some sports may get your body or your feet, but Special Olympics gets your gets all of you."  I invite you to experience Special Olympics for will be glad you did....I'm sure glad I experienced always brings a smile to my heart!

For more information on Special Olympics and Special Olympics Indiana go to:

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mom: Thank you for being YOU! Thank you for seeing beyond the disability!

When a woman gets pregnant with her first child, there is always excitement that radiates from her, they call it the "pregnancy glow".  Happiness and joy fill the hearts of the parents-to-be, thinking of all the possibilities that will be opened to their little one as he or she grows.  Everything will be just perfect!  As a mom especially, you want nothing to be wrong with your child.  No one wants their child to struggle. They would rather take on the struggle themselves, rather than their child.

On May 8, 2012,  I interviewed Kerry Fletcher and Kathleen McAllen, two moms who have kids with disabilities. This interview was one of the most touching and emotional interviews I have done! And I thank both of these ladies so much for opening up their hearts and giving us a view into the joys of raising a child with special needs, along with the heartbreak of the diagnosis and the grief of their child having to deal with the lifelong struggle that they never asked for.  I admired both Kerry and Kathleen's attitudes when they talked about that first diagnosis.  Kerry looked at it this way : "We had been seeing delays for a while before we got the diagnosis, so the diagnosis was the cherry on top.  We knew why and we had answers so then we knew what direction to go."  When I asked Kerry how she sees the future for her kids, she said : "That's why we have the IEP set up at school to direct them.  We don't know what that future will look like yet, but we try to look at all angles and are hopeful that they will be independent and have jobs"

Kathleen said: "My husband and I are both practical people, and so with the diagnosis, we thought, ok, we're not crazy...this is we have something to work with."  In the same breath, both moms agreed that there is a grieving of the loss of what you think is going to be.  It is a process for not only moms, but dads and siblings and even other family members who live far away. Kathleen gave a word of encouragement to people who make the extra effort to get to know those who have disabilities: "Make that extra effort to get to know them, you will get more than you give!"

The diagnosis of your child with a disability is not the end of the world.  It's the beginning of a new world... one to get used to and to be informed about.  Kathleen and Kerry have been through all the uncertainty, but have come out on the other side....and they hope that their story helps others to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This interview also hit home for me.  My mom has been my cheerleader and advocate for many years now.  She has helped me through the ups and down of my teenage years into adulthood, coping with the shadow of my disability. The things she said and did allowed me to put the challenges aside and view these opportunities as a chance to grow and flourish and she was by my side through it all!! Mom: THANK YOU!!

Thank you to all the moms out there who care so deeply for children with special needs! Your love is such a gift to us! "A Mother's love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible"-Unknown Author

For more information on chapters of the Best Buddies program, go to: to find a chapter in the state you live in.  For information locally, in the Indianapolis area, go to:

Michelle Fischer is the host of A View from my Window, an internet podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

E=Mc2 + the Autism Society of Indiana = Celebrating the brilliance that is our children!!

What is brilliance to you?  Einstein was brilliant because he could solve super complicated math equations.  Thomas Edison was brilliant because he invented something we use everyday, the light bulb. These two men excelled in each of their fields, using the principles of light to make a light bulb, and the sequence of numbers and how they go together to solve mathematical problems.  Both of these skills I have yet to master, in fact, I will never figure them out!  Both Einstein and Edison are public figures that are renowned for their brilliance and that appreciation is something that we realize everyday. We would live in a dark world without light bulbs and we wouldn't know how to bake a cake without math.

 What though if the brilliance inside a person is not readily seen by the naked eye?  Some may say, "If you have to look closer, it must not be there".  Children and adults living with autism have brilliance, it just may take time to see it.  The Autism Society of Indiana's Dana Renay sees the brilliance that those with autism have, so much so, that for the month of April, which is Autism Awareness Month, she urges all of us to "Celebrate the brilliance that is our children".

 There is one thing to help us see the brilliance that people dealing with autism possess, and no, its not a complicated math equation.  Dana says "It is simply education and awareness.  Once we start talking about autism as something that is amazing and that brilliant things come out of people with autism, people will start to embrace it, instead of push it away and the more confident the person on the spectrum will be to try things they haven't tried before".  The saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child", which means that parents need help in the raising of their child with autism.  That is where the Autism Society of Indiana steps in.  When I interviewed Dana, she also brought along with her, Lauren Hoffman, an Indiana Ally.  Lauren was one of the sweetest, happiest and committed Indiana Allies.  She has been touched by autism in her own family.  Her 19 year old brother has autism and is doing brilliant things, so in her work as an Ally, she no doubt thinks of her brother as she works to help others!!  Thank you Lauren!!

The people who work at the Autism Society of Indiana have experienced the heartbreak of the first diagnosis to the overwhelming joy of seeing goals of life, even small ones, being reached by those with autism.   Help and support is what is needed when times are tough and uncertain - especially when it comes to a diagnosis such as autism for a precious child.

A helping hand is what the Autism Society of Indiana wants to be for you!  They want to help find the brilliance that is your child!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

United Cerebral Palsy 2012 Attitude Dinner- teaches that a positive attitude means everything!

Logo for the Annual Attitude Dinner.  Love it!

For the last two years since working for the Arc of Indiana as the host of  "A View from My Window", I have had the pleasure of knowing the two rockstar ladies of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Indiana.  First, the amazing Executive Director Donna Roberts whom I interviewed on my show about what UCPAGI does, and second, Brandi Linn,  the incredible Development Director for the organization.  These two ladies are the driving force behind the organization that looks at people with disabilities and focuses on what they are ABLE to do!

They are cheerleaders beyond compare for people with disabilities - and not because that's what it says to do in their job descriptions, but because they both have a genuine heartfelt desire to see others succeed.  They are a team that helps reach that persons' ultimate goal: NOT to be defined by cerebral palsy!  In fact, every member of the UCPAGI team which forms the Board of Directors and Development Committee, have the same goal.

I look forward to the Attitude Dinner every year.  This night beautifully showcases every conceivable ability that people with disabilities possess and then giving them utter joy by recognizing the courage, effort and lessons they teach all people about how a persons' attitude, a positive attitude, can help them achieve goals and do what others may see as impossible!!  The Awards Ceremony is the best part,  LOTS of happy faces!! :)

I received the 2012 Character Award!
If that is not incredible enough, another feature of the dinner is the always anticipated essay contest, where elementary and middle school students in grades 3-8 share their refreshing perspectives on who people with disabilities really are.  These young writers have been able to look beyond the disabilities of others, based on their own experiences.  It always warms my heart to read the insightful, thought-provoking writings of these students!  If I was in school as a child now, I would be so grateful to have any one of these students in my class!  Thank you to the teachers and parents for teaching these bright young stars to look beyond what's different on the outside and see that it's what's on the inside that counts!

It was such an honor to receive the 2012 W. Thomas Schemmel Character Award as host of  "A View from My Window".  What a wonderful night!  The excitement was just like I was getting a Grammy!! Thank you so much!!

One aspect this year was different than years past.  Brandi Linn faced a serious health crisis when it was found that she had developed two brain aneurisms and was leaking spinal fluid.  After having brain surgery, her comeback was remarkable.  As Colin Vaughan described the account of her recovery in detail, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.  We are so happy to have our Brandi Linn back on her feet and healthy again!

With one Attitude Dinner in the books for this year, next year is another chance to be inspired by people helping people. What is the primary motivation for helping others? Attitude, Attitude, ATTITUDE is everything!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from my Window,  an internet podcast produced by the Arc of Indiana

I wouldn't be the anchor I am without the wonderful staff of  the Arc of Indiana!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ken Oguss- Inspiring others through the art of storytelling

Ken Oguss grew up in a family of storytellers. Its just what they did.  Everyday happenings would be turned into a story.  Storytelling was something that his mother told his older sister to teach him, allowing his imagination to be at its full potential!  Now, he uses that imagination that was allowed to grow during his childhood, and brings it to every aspect of what he does. Whether it was his job as a librarian, the host of Riley Children's Hospital's The Hello Show, or his new project which involves producing a series of Employment videos for the Arc of Indiana.  The focus is on finding meaningful employment for people with disabilities and he artfully and gracefully uses what gives him so much joy- the power of story!

What makes Ken so excited about storytelling?  He tells me:  "There are so many methods to telling a story....I get to be a film maker, an audio recorder, a photographer, a musician, a painter and an author".  These are the things that make Ken a master of the storytelling world and he uses these different tools to make the stories he tells come alive!

"Everyone has a story", he tells me, and Ken is just the person you want to tell your story to.  He really takes time to understand the kind of person you are, so he captures the essence of what makes you, YOU!

Capturing the essence of a person involves putting yourself in someone else's shoes and that is what Ken has done from the very start of getting this video project off the ground.  Even though some things are new, he's accepting the challenge because his desire is to show that people with disabilities are people that can offer many things to the community when they find meaningful employment.  That's something all of us desire, whether we have a disability or not.

Ken Oguss inspires others through storytelling, but who really gets inspired is the person who's story is being told, because the storyteller captures the unique art of storytelling with YOU in mind!

Learn more about Ken, the world of Digital Storytelling, and The Arc of Indiana's Video Project by checking out the links below! -Get to know Ken Oguss! Learn about the world of Digital Storytelling! Learn how your story can be featured in The Arc of Indiana's Video Project!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View fom my Window, an audiocast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Disability Awareness Month reminds us to look at the Abilities of others!

Ah!  Disability Awareness Month is here!  It not only gives me a chance to tell my story, but it also gives people with disabilities from every state a chance to tell their story, and most importantly, turn the meaning of the word Disability into a word with a positive meaning.

The purpose is to show that people with disabilities aren't people who lack ability, but they abound with ability!  The amount of ability is in the eye of the beholder! 

What better way to show that ability than to live, work and play in the community, which is this year's theme!  Those who choose to recognize and support a person's abilities, show real courage and strength, especially when the trend has been the opposite. 

People with disabilities want to be the same as everyone else and being in the community helps them achieve that goal! 

This should be the goal of all of us EVERYDAY, not just when the calendar says: Disability Awareness Month, but striving everyday to see the ABILITIES of others- disabled or not.

Michelle Fischer is the host of "A View From My Window", an internet podcast, produced by the    Arc of Indiana.