Speaker, mentor and author Cherie Faus-Smith is a beacon for victims of domestic abuse. She shines a light on survivors and illuminates a path of prevention toward healthy relationships with an end goal of helping them recognize the signs of abuse. With over three decades of real-life experiences, Cherie shares that there is hope after abuse. Her open heart has a way of bringing out the best in others. Cherie’s book “The Cycle Ended: Saying Goodbye to Domestic Abuse” details the struggles in her past abusive relationships and how she found love after breaking the cycle of choosing unhealthy relationships. You can find more information about Cherie on her website https://cheriefaus-smith.com/.
Chou Hallegra, Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC is now a Certified AutPlay Therapy Provider!
AutPlay Therapy was created by Dr. Robert Jason Grant and is a play therapy and behavioral therapy approach to working with children and parents affected by Autism and other developmental disabilities. It combines the therapeutic powers of play therapy, behavioral therapy, and relationship development approaches together in a collaborative model to assist children and adolescents in gaining needed skills and abilities.
Contact us today to find out more firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-216-0230
I'm not sure if it was seeing the ambulance go to the back entrance of the same rehabilitation hospital I stayed at after my stroke. I'm not sure if it was the conversation I had with the leasing office about my decision to vacate my second-floor office. I'm not sure if it was losing my balance five times doing physical therapy today, but today was a very emotional day.
It wasn't until I got home, hours after I talking with the leasing office, few hours after physical therapy and seeing the ambulance, that it hit me. I was sitting on the floor in the middle of my living room and in front of me were boxes and tote bags full of things from my second-floor office. That visual was all it took for me to truly see what was going on.
This day was emotional because in so many ways I had to face the reality of all that the stroke has taken away from me. It was almost like seeing my career in boxes. The ambulance reminded me of where it all started. Losing my balance in Physical Therapy reminded me I'm still not steady on my feet. At that moment, in that lonely moment, in the restraint of the four walls of my living room, I was reminded that this rehabilitation is not temporary. Recovering from a stroke is not temporary work.
Many thought I should "be fine" by now. Others told me they thought I'll be doing stairs by now. Even my doctors thought I could drive by now. My kids and I would love to do all the physical things I did in the past and for me to take them to all the places we went. We all hoped. But as my temporary handicap placard got replaced by a permanent one, and I resumed with vision therapy, reality set in.
This is the reality seven months after the stroke: I'm still not allowed to drive. I'm having more balance issues these days, and it has delayed my transition from the walker to a cane. Although my speech and vision have improved, my short-term memory and my left eye are still of concern. The pain on my left leg often makes me feel foreign to my body. It is as if I have two bodies living inside of me because my left side and my right side operate on two different functioning levels. This is my reality.
After reality set in, in that lonely living room, my thoughts shifted from the loss to the gains. I thought of how strong I've been. My stroke strengthened me, so instead of looking at all that this stroke has taken away, I will hold on to the strength I've gained from all of this. Tenacity. Perseverance. Faith. Hope. Friendships. Advocacy. And those are things that nothing will ever take away from me.
Chou Hallegra, Stroke Survivor, Counselor & Consultant
Credits:Photo by Zoe Deal on Unsplash
Ever been stranded? Not just on the side of the road but on the sidelines of life? Ever felt like you have given it your all and still things did not turn out as you expected? I been there many of times. At those times, what I wanted or needed was not always what I received from others.
Life has a way of hitting us out of nowhere and even the ones who prepare well are not exempt from the pains that come from living. The death of a loved one. Chronic or sudden illnesses in ourselves or in a family member. Broken relationships. Life is hard. Life can be painful. We do not have to live long before we experience pain and loss of some kind. And, if we are honest, we can all admit that we had a time or two (or more) when we did not feel like we had the strength to keep going.
We are so good at telling others to "hang in there" and "keep on keeping on" and I'm guilty of it as well. But, do we realize that statements like these force others to be (or at least pretend to be) invincible human beings who should not feel hurt, lost, or even defeated at times? That is misleading. That is not human.
It also makes us, the people saying those things, hypocrites. Not always intentionally but still hypocrites to the true sense of the word. Hypocrites, because we know that we ourselves had moments where we felt exactly the same way and the last thing we wanted to hear was "hang in there" or keep on keeping on". We felt like giving up and most likely all we needed was someone to listen, someone to show that they care, someone to remind us that tomorrow is another day.
Sometimes, we use those statements when we do not know what to say. Other times, it is simply because we ourselves feel uncomfortable with the situation. In a few instances, those statements are the easy way out when we feel inconvenienced. Yes, being there for others is an inconvenience and few of us are willing to stop and support others in ways that are meaningful to them because it is easier to simply say a quick "fix-it" statement.
People are not looking to be fixed, they want to be supported. Even on my toughest days, I do not want someone to tell me "it's going to be okay" or "this too shall pass". I want someone to just sit with me awhile and walk with me in my hardships.
Next time you see someone hurting. Please do more than give advice. Sit with them. Talk with them. Share a time when you overcame a hardship. Most importantly, ask them "how can I support you in this?" This reminds them that they are humans, just like the rest of us. This shows that someone cares. This gives them hope. This also helps you help them in a way that they want to be helped.
Chou Hallegra - Counselor & Consultant
With recent news of school shootings and other disasters in our nation and around the world, as parents we need resources to help our children during these times. We want our children to not only cope with the sad news but also to continue to thrive as individuals. Here's a great resource from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Implement some of these strategies with your children and let us know how it goes!
There's a new face at Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC and her name is Jennifer Lantz!
We all have a story about why we do what we do. If you are wondering why and how I got into helping people achieve emotional wellness, here's my story...
It was exactly 2 years ago that I sat down and filled out paperwork to become a Limited Liability Company (LLC), two years ago since I chose to face my fears and embrace entrepreneurship. It’s been a fun and scary ride. I’ve learned so much and met so many people in the past two years. I’m so grateful for all the experiences.
Today as I sit and reflect on all of this, I’m most thankful for the strength that God has given me every single day to be there for others. It hasn’t been easy. I had to face my own health issues, the toll all of caregiving, and other stressors. Regardless of the challenges, I’ve tried every single day to remain true to my calling and to be there for at least one more person; and for that, I’m very grateful.
Thank you all for allowing me to walk with you on your journey to emotional wellness. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you reach your full potential. I believe that we both have more fulfilling lives because of those common experiences. To all the agencies that trusted me enough to contract with me, thank you for investing in me as a person but also thank you for investing in Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC as a company.
As we start 2018, I vow to continue to support the people that the Lord blesses me with. I will share grace and hope with whoever I encounter. As I recover from my recent stroke, some things must change in the way I approach my work, but my passion has never been stronger.
Below are some of the things that I have planned for this year.
I’ve had the privilege to pray with some of you during our sessions but as my mobility is currently limited and I’m not able to see all of you, it will be my pleasure to connect with friends near and far and pray for you. Every Sunday nights at 9 PM eastern time, starting on 1/21/18, I will log onto our Facebook page and do a live audio broadcasting for prayer.
If you like to send prayer requests ahead of time, feel free to email me or message me (please title your message “Weekly Prayer”). I will not be sharing people’s name during the prayer time in order to protect your privacy.
Biweekly Q&A Video
I often get questions in person, by text messages or email on different topics related to mental health, disability issues especially inclusion, accommodations, and integration of mental health and Christianity. I believe the answers I give to those questions should be shared with others because many can benefit from that information.
Therefore, every second and fourth Tuesday at 12 PM eastern time, I will post a video on our YouTube channel, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. In the video, I’ll be answering some of the questions that I often receive. Once again, I will not share people’s names while answering questions. If you have questions that you like me to answer, feel free to email them to email@example.com. Please title your email as “Tuesday Talk”.
Through my work, I’ve met so many people who overcame great challenges in their lives and are now using those experiences to help others. They turned their stumbling blocks into stepping stones and found joy in the journey. I would like to introduce you to some of them. I think this will inspire all of us to see our challenges differently and use what we got for the greater good.
The interviews will be posted on our social media outlets as well as emailed to those on our mailing list on the last Monday of the month. Make sure you follow us on social media and you join our mailing list so you won’t miss out on all the fun!
These are some of the fun things happening around Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC this year. As I mentioned earlier, we will have an intern starting very shortly. I’ll be introducing her in our next newsletter.
Talk to you soon..
Those who know me would describe me as a "lifelong learner". I love to learn. I learn informally through everyday life experiences and I also learn formally by attending trainings and conferences.
I had many learning and networking opportunities on my personal and professional agenda for 2018. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend some of them due to my current health condition, but I wanted to let you know about these upcoming conferences. The ones listed below will be held either in Hershey, PA or in State College, PA. Let me know if you plan to attend any of them and please share with me what you learn.
January 8, 2018 - Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium's Symposium 2018 – The Journey of Inclusion: Experiencing the College Years. An interactive day of learning, reflection, initiative and application with international leaders, innovators and award – winning authors: John O’Brien, Bruce Uditsky and Cate Weir. Please register at -https://PIHEC.regfox.com/symposium-2018-the-journey-of-inclusion-experiencing-the-college-years (If you register for the Everyday Lives Conference, you can attend this Symposium for free!) - Hershey Lodge, Hershey.
January 9-11, 2018 - Everyday Lives Conference. Eric Carter, PhD & Al Condeluci, PhD will be speaking at this conference - Hershey Lodge, Hershey.
February 26-28, 2018 - Pennsylvania Department of Education – Bureau of Special Education Annual Conference – Making a Difference: Educational Practices That Work! . Dr Rosemarie Allen will be one of the Keynote Speakers at this conference. Limited parents/caregivers scholarships available - Hershey Convention Center, Hershey.
March 22, 2018 - Family Coaching Implementer’s Conference - Nittany Lion Inn, State College.
April 30, 2018 - May 3, 2018 - 20th Children’s Interagency Conference, “We Are Better Together - Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
May 22 - 23, 2018 - 2018 Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support (PAPBS) Network Implementers’ Forum – Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey
July 25, 2018 – July 27, 2018 - 2018 PA Community on Transition Conference - Pathways to Success: Transitioning into Tomorrow Together, The Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
August 6–9, 2018 - National Autism Conference. Limited parents/caregivers scholarships available- The Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
I hope we all continue to learn, grow, and inspire change in our communities.
I know that I don’t have to write a blog post each week, but this is a goal I set for myself. It keeps my brain and fine motors working. Writing has been so therapeutic to me, I get to work on so many therapy/recovery goals in one exercise. Hence, I will do my best to write a few sentences each week.
I’ve been home for five days now. I already had one trip to the Emergency Room, that was scary. Thank God, I’m back home. Home Health services are going well. I was looking forward to being home but being home has also been very overwhelming.
However, it’s a joy to see how much my children have grown during this time. On Monday, I watched my middle child get yogurt and cereal from the kitchen, serve himself, sit at the table to eat, then clean up the table. He also returned the yogurt and cereal to where he got them from and washed his bowl. He did all that before getting his shoes and coat on for school. He will be 6 years old in a month and completing all those tasks took lot of effort and planning. He had to overcome many organizational, fine motor and sensory challenges, but he did it! I was so proud of him.
This past weekend, my 11-year-old daughter, the oldest, asked to mop the kitchen floor. I kept telling her not to worry about it, but she found many reasons to do it and assured me she would be safe. She sure did! She moped the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom and has been cleaning many other things around the house.
Last night, the youngest of our family (he will be four years old in a few days), applied lotion on my very dry legs. He loves that texture, so he had fun doing it but when he was done, he said to me, “does that make you feel better?” I had tears. I thought I was giving him something fun to do but he was more concerned about taking care of me.
In their unique ways, my children have been taking good care of me. I’m a blessed Mama, I have great kids. I also have awesome friends who shower me with love and take care of my children and me during this time. Thank you all for your prayers, visits, cards, calls, texts, emails, messages, gifts, meals, and encouragement. You make me brave and I thank God for each one of you!
Science says it takes 21 days to learn a new habit or forgo an old one. Well, it’s been 21 days since I had my stroke and I’ve seen lot of improvements. It’s amazing how many tricks my brain had to re-learn in these 21 days. Lot of new pathways have been created in my brain and my synapses and neurons have been hard at work. I realize that everyone’s recovery from any brain injury is different and I do not take lightly the challenges that we all face. As I share a glimpse of my progress in this blog post, please be advised that it’s just that, a glimpse of reality. I still have many things to work through and some things might never get better. However, many things did get better and here’s some of what has happened in the past three weeks.
The facial nerves that were affected by the stroke are the ones close to my nose and my mouth. I somehow now have an “extraordinary” nose and tongue. I smell things I didn’t smell before - sometimes smelling my own food is too overwhelming. I remember eating something that was not spicy and feeling like my tongue was on fire. Two weeks later, I’m craving more spicy food, go figure! My taste buds are just as confused as the rest of my body.
My blood sugar has stabilized and I’m finally off the finger pricks. I also had difficulty chewing and swallowing, especially on the left side, the side that was affected by the stroke. That has greatly improved as well.
My blood pressure has also stabilized, but now that I had a stroke, I will be taking baby aspirin for the rest of my life. I started other new medications as well while at the rehabilitation hospital and most of my symptoms seem to be under control. Quite a few specialists have been added to my follow-up treatment team and I’ll have to get used to that.
I can organize my thoughts and answer questions or explain things, but the more thinking involved, the harder it is for me to produce the words on demands. For example, I can tell a story or relate something that happened earlier in the day with no problem at all. However, when presented with an issue that requires problem solving, I need more time to process the situation, think about solution, pick a course of action, then share that with others. The more thought process involved, the more time I needed.
I have also been very sensitive to sound and light. I get easily stimulated, which triggers my headaches. I’m glad to report that I have been making accommodations for myself and slowly learning to cope with stimuli.
The Good News: I will be leaving the rehabilitation hospital on December 15!
I will continue with my physical and occupational therapies once I get home.
The next big goal I’m working on is getting back to work and driving again.
Until next time, remember that you can teach an old brain some new tricks…so learn something new today!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
T’was the day before Thanksgiving…Perhaps a day to prepare for all the festivities: Making the last trip to the grocery store, cleaning the house for guests, planning recreational activities for the long weekend…But I was preparing for something totally different.
I had a scheduled surgery that morning. I ran a few errands in preparation for the surgery, drove back home to park my car since I wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. I then requested an Uber ride to the hospital.
All the people I talked to who either had this surgery or knew someone who had it, had wonderful things to say about the procedure… “You’ll be so glad you had it …You won’t have to deal with all this pain anymore… You’ll feel like a new person”. I looked forward to the procedure. It promised a new beginning. A new beginning, I had. Just not exactly the one I expected.
My scheduled procedure went well, just as expected. Once in the recovery room, I started complaining of excruciating headaches that felt very different than my regular migraines. I was taken to the observation room and given pain medication, but the headache persisted.
Then a couple hours after the procedure, I was eating a Popsicle and tried to tell a family member that my head was feeling weird, but no words were coming out. My lips were moving but no words were coming out. I could see the worried look on everyone’s faces and knew something was wrong. Within a few minutes, my room was full of people. I suppose they all came to help. Rapid response was called.
By the time the medical staff were in the room, the symptoms had progressed. I couldn’t answer questions like “who’s the president of the United States?” I knew the answer but couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t move the left side of my body. The left side of my face was numb. My left eye was drooping. I was presenting all the typical signs of a stroke.
I was then rushed to a different hospital by helicopter. The initial plan was to remove the blood clot as soon as possible; we all assumed that I had a blood clot from the surgery. Once in the new hospital, the CT scan and MRI could not find any blood clot, yet I still had all the stroke symptoms. I was put on stroke protocol and treated as such.
I was in that hospital for a week, three days were spent in the Intensive Care Unit. My entire body was out of order during that time. I had developed medical problems I didn’t have before. My entire being had changed, internally and externally.
While the changes were debilitating, I was not ashamed of them, but I slowly became aware of other people’s discomfort with my “new disabilities”. One person who had known me my entire life said, “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three kids” and by that comment I was reminded of society’s view of disability.
Ten years ago, I was legally declared “disabled” due to debilitating medical conditions. Those conditions were however invisible and apparently did not bother anyone. I have worked since, I have been a mom, a business owner, and so many other things while living with the same challenging conditions.
Somehow, as long as they were invisible, nobody cared. There were my problems, not society’s. I spent some days in bed, some days I had to call for help, other days I canceled work assignments and prior commitments. Somehow, nobody ever told me I couldn’t afford to be a “disabled woman with three kids”.
This time my disability is visible, and it seems to bother people more than it bothers me. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m having difficulty communicating. I can’t take care of my personal care needs. It’s obvious that I’m not “independent” according to society’s standards.
Does society view people with visible disability as a burden? Now that they can see my limitations, is it a constant reminder to them of their lack of support? Perhaps my invisible disabilities made me look “normal” for ten years and now all the sudden I’m no longer “normal”? Sadly, the answer to all these questions is a loud “YES” and I have read many research papers on this topic during my post-graduate studies, but I will not bore you with that.
If my visible disabilities do not bother me, does that mean that I will not apply myself to regain the functions I’ve lost? Not at all! I’m doing physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapies and I have already seen major improvements. What I’m trying to say is that I do not fear limitations. Even if I do not regain all the functional abilities I had before the stroke, I believe and KNOW that with support and accommodations, I can still have a meaningful life. Maybe my life will be even more meaningful than it’s ever been because I now have a deeper sense of gratitude, appreciation, and empathy.
I will not apologize for having disabilities, visible or invisible. I’m a beautiful human being inside and out. What you see or do not see does not define who I truly am. Get to know me and other people that society calls “disabled”, then you will realize that we are all able and disabled in our unique ways. Every human being has both strengths and weaknesses.
Now, look at the title of this article again, but only read the words in capital letters. You should read I CAN BE ABLED. Yes, people can be "abled" by the respect they receive from society and that respect starts by assuming that they can have meaningful lives.
If we assume that people can have meaningful lives, regardless of their functional limitations, then we start supporting people in achieving lives of purpose, and therefore, there will be no room for statements like “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three children”. In fact, I will joyfully be a "disabled" mother of three "disabled" children because our family has embraced disability as part of our human experience. It’s time the rest of society gets with the program!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
P.S. Hallegra is my middle name. It comes from the Italian “allegria”, which translates into “allegresse” in French or “glee” in English. Therefore, Hallegra means lively joy or gaiety, which I want to identify with even more in this season of my life.
I like that Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC....
- Changes lives
- Helps others integrate their faith into their emotional wellness and other services they receive
- Was inspired by life experiences and continues to keep it real
Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC has a new riverfront office located at 2843 North Front Street, Suite 203 - Harrisburg, PA 17110
Remember why I reduced my work hours this summer? Well, here's what we've been up to:
- My daughter is taking piano lessons. She also started gymnastics again.
- My middle child is making new friends and having new experiences at my friend's house who takes care of him on those 3 days that I'm working.
- My youngest has been busy expanding his engineering skills, taking things apart and sometimes putting them back together (and this is not always a pleasant experience for the owner of the item :)
- As a family, we have fun going to the creek and enjoying nature once a week. We also visit our local libraries often and enjoy the summer events. We are finally putting our YMCA membership to use and going for a swim and I started walking on the track again last week. I'm hoping to resume with the aerobic classes as soon as my lungs get stronger.
Speaking of those lungs of mine, some of my bloodwork came back with some deficiencies but those still don't explain why my lungs are not getting enough air so, more tests are coming my way :( But I have felt the power of those prayers and I wanted to thank all those who have been praying. I'm feeling a little better each day and had more energy to do some fun things with my kids, like impromptu dance parties and going to the playground. I've not been feeling the best but we found ways to have fun.
Living life to the fullest is not waiting for the problems to go away, it's finding ways to enjoy the life you have today. How about you? How are you incorporating some fun into your life?
I hope you have a fun fourth of July and a fun week!
Are you sick & tired of being sick & tired? “The Sick Mom’s Guide to Having Fun Again” will lead you through a journey of fun and laughter, so you can LIVE your life again, not just exist. Filled with 19 missions of fun, 100 fun things to do with the kids, even when you’re exhausted, and much more, the Sick Mom’s Guide will keep you smiling and help you rekindle your joy.
Check out what happened when Chou Gabikiny and Jen Hardy had a virtual meeting to talk about Jen's book and how to starting living beyond our diagnoses and enjoying life to the fullest.
The book is available TODAY! Grab it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0714H94MG?ref_=pe_2427780_160035660
Today is Father's Day and I want to celebrate with those who are celebrating. Happy Father’s Day to all the biological, adoptive, foster, and step fathers, as well anyone who is a father figure to others. Happy Father’s Day celebration to you, if today you are taking your father out for dinner or you are offering him a gift or just hanging out with him, maybe you are enjoying the day with family and reminiscing about your dad.
My heart also goes out to those who are hurting today. Maybe you have painful memories of your father. Perhaps your father is no longer living or your father may be physically and/or emotionally distant, this short message is for you.
If you are finding it hard to celebrate Father’s Day, may I encourage you? Before you were born, before you were placed in your mother's womb, before even anyone on earth knew who you will become, there was a God who fearfully and wonderfully created you and He loves you so much more than anyone on earth. His love is unconditional and His ways are perfect. So if you have no one to celebrate today, may I suggest that you celebrate his love for you? He's your heavenly Father who loves you no matter what. He's always been there and He will always be there. He promised not to leave you nor forsake you and His promises never fail.
Something else you can do today is to look around you, around your community, your church your place of work, and try to find those people who are there for you. Family is not always blood-related. I like the verse in Psalms 68 verse 6 that says that “God puts the lonely into families”. Perhaps your biological father is distant physically or emotionally or is no longer living, but has God blessed you with another family? Who can you celebrate today ? Maybe it's your neighbor, maybe your step-dad, maybe it’s a pastor, an uncle, a mentor, etc. I'm sure if you look around you'll find people who would welcome the opportunity to spend time with you. Maybe you have people who have already blessed your life in so many ways and today can be an opportunity for you to celebrate them.
Dealing with emotional wounds can be really difficult and it takes time to recover from them. So I'm not taking lightly the fact that today you might be grieving so hard that Father’s Day hurts. Please consider this : It’s in the deepest wounds that we found the most beautiful healing story. God promises to turn our ashes to beauty and I believe dealing with father wounds is no exception. Knowing that you are loved and that you have a Heavenly Father creates the foundation to seek out His perfect love and in the day-to-day life you might need specific strategies to recover from these emotional wounds that you carry and that's something that counseling can be help with.
How can our communities support those who are hurting on Father’s Day?
On Father's days, churches will often have arts and crafts for kids to do in Sunday School classes, like make a card for Dad. Most likely the preacher will be talking about fatherhood. Although those things are good in their own merits, they can become painful ways that people have to relive some of their hurts.
Maybe our communities can be more inclusive and ask kids to create a craft for not just dads, but also grandpas, uncles, brothers, older siblings, and any other male role models that are part of their lives. Maybe instead of just talking about fatherhood, the sermons can more inclusive as well and talk about all the men in our communities that take on those father roles and stand in the gap for so many. But of utmost importance, I hope that all the sermons point us to the Heavenly Father who is always there and always carries us through all of our painful experiences.
I leave you with this:
If Father’s Day hurts, our Heavenly Father's arms are always open and He puts the lonely into families. And in the multitude of counselors there’s safety and healing. So today celebrate your Heavenly Father and reach out to others who can help you recover from daddy wounds.
No matter your situation today, I hope that you find ways to enjoy this day that the Lord has made.
walking with you on your journey to emotional wellness
Three years ago, I left my comfortable position as a Case Manager so I could be fully devoted to the care of my sick child. A year and half later, I launched Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC as a mental health counselor and a disability consultant. Why am I sharing this?
Well, it’s been a year in half since I became a business owner and I have not looked back since. I enjoy what I do and my family gets to be part of it all. My own mental health journey led me to helping others achieve wellness but it was my children’s medical and developmental needs that opened my eyes to the needs of people with disabilities and chronic health issues, their caregivers and siblings, but also the professionals who support them. I first became a disability advocate because of my children, then three years ago when my own physical health started deteriorating, my passion for the disability community grew even bigger and I decided that I needed to extend grace and offer hope to people with disabilities and chronic illness, and the people who support them.
Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC started because of my own struggles and my children’s challenges. I stayed home because of my children and as this endeavor grows, I’m reminded of where I started, or rather why I started all of it: my children and my determination to live beyond diagnoses. There you have it!
It’s summer and my children need me, not because they are sick but because they are well and this summer we are making it a priority to have wellness memories, and that’s why I’m changing our business hours for the next few months. I want to be fully present with the people who make me who I am, a mom, a caregiver, an advocate. As I shared in one of my videos, I’m on a quest to live on purpose and this summer we will do just that. We might not have anything extraordinary planned but we decided that we will make everyday life feel extraordinary.
Chou, living on purpose
Today is the last day of May and to end our Mental Health Awareness Month, I felt compelled to share my mental health story. It's okay to be vulnerable, it's okay to seek help. Let's end stigma, one recovery story at a time! #mentalhealthawareness#letsthinkagain #endstigma #pleaselive
Hi everyone, this is Chou Gabikiny again. For those who do not know me, I'll reintroduce myself again. I'm Chou Gabikiny, the founder of Grace and Hope Consulting, and my organization provides training, consultations, and counseling to help people achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives.
Today I want to talk about person-centered practices in the home. Those of you who are familiar with what I do know that I'm a certified trainer for person-centered thinking. Often when people think about person-centered practices, they think about person-centered planning and how we use it to plan for services for people, but it's actually a way of thinking that looks at the individual, what's important to them and for them and being able to make the distinction and actually incorporating that into everyday life. So I'm just going to share a little bit about how I use person-centered practices in my home.
I have three children, they're all very unique, just as your children are, and they're all very different, just like any of the children out there...but knowing what's important to each of my children helps me parent them in a way that is more supportive to them. So I'll talk about my daughter for example.
My daughter does not like to be rushed, this can be true for all three of my kids, and it goes beyond just the feeling of being rushed. When she's rushed she gets very overwhelmed and then it becomes hard for her to actually plan her next step. Since I know that…that's who she is, that's something that she needs, then the way I parent her I give her extra time to complete tasks. That's just one way I use person-centered practicing in my home.
I have my son, Gabriel, the middle child, he does not like to be bossed around (to put it bluntly). He likes to have control over things, he likes to have control over what impacts him. So knowing that...again I'm the parent but I can power struggles with him forever or I can find a way to respect what's important to him and incorporate that into my parenting style.
So what does that look like? Instead of me telling Gabriel, "I need you to do this right now." I could do that, there are times where I get to a point where I say that, but what works best for my son is when I explain what's going on: "This is what we need to do...this is why we need to do it...and this is how you can help us do it." By doing that I just gave him the power to actually be part of this end goal that the family has, and he feels empowered to contribute. When I’m asking him to do something I'm not just bossing him because
I'm the mom, but I am actually helping him to make those decisions, make those choices so he can be part of something bigger and do something to help the entire family. He loves that, and it works!
My younger one, he has sensory issues. In another video I did, I talked a little bit about it. Because I know he has sensory issues, then I address those needs because it's important to him that things are done a certain way. Instead of just doing whatever I want, whatever will work for me as a parent, what will make my life easier, I kind of turn it around and do what will make life easier for my child. And that doesn't mean I'm going to enable every behavior out there, no; but it actually helps me prevent behavior by including what's important to him.
The focus of Person-Centered Thinking is finding that balance between what's important to someone versus what's important for someone. When we think about what's important for someone, we're focusing on health and safety: people taking their medication, people living in a safe environment, people being somewhere where they're not abused, so we think about those things. Health and safety are the main components of what's important “for” someone.
By the way, the best for people is going beyond that. I can be safe and healthy but be miserable. I can be safe and healthy and be bored, that's not fun for anybody. So person-centered thinking actually incorporates this added value to people's lives that is what's important “to” someone, what makes them tick in a good way, what are the things that make them smile, what are the things that bring joy to them, what are the things that actually make a whole lot of difference in their life, like the things that they like to do. It can be that they like their coffee cold, maybe they like it with two cups of sugar, might not be healthy, but again, it's finding that balance. Supporting people in a way that incorporates what's important to them help them have meaningful lives.
If you're just providing health and safety, people will be miserable and then you get more behavior, now you might get more attention. Then you're not meeting your outcome goals. You're not meeting your goals because people are just not happy. All of us want to live a life that's free from constraints whatever that be, we don’t like somebody to have control over us.
When we incorporate what's important to someone it actually helps to give people power, instead of serving people or supporting them in a way where we have power over them. When we use person-centered practices, we're actually having power with them because we're incorporating what's important to them so they can have meaningful lives. We’re showing them that we value what's important to them, we value what they want, and we do our best to make that happen. And that doesn't mean that we have to fake it. No, if we cannot do it right, find someone who can do it right, but it is important for all of us to do it.
This thing is just not for people with disabilities, it's not just for people who need extra help per se, this goes for all of us. Person-Centered Thinking practices are for all people regardless of age, regardless of gender, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of your background or your ability level, your function level, it doesn't matter. We all want better lives, we all want meaningful lives, we all want lives that make us happy so that's why we must practice Person-Centered thinking.
If your agency can benefit from this strategy if you can benefit from it… Honestly as a parent, my goodness, just learning about those tools myself made a lot of difference in how I parent my children. It made a lot of difference in how I even treat myself.
The Person-Centered Thinking training is usually two full days. I can break it down into four half days. Through this training, you learn to gather information about the person and find meaningful information that you can use to help them have better lives.
We look at tools like important to and important for. In trying to make that distinction and incorporating that throughout all the other tools that you learn for the training. We also look at other tools like the morning routine...what are those things that make for a good day for someone. We do what's working, what's not working, so looking at certain situations and it becomes a good decision-making tool.
This one, for example, I just had to use it recently when I needed extra care for my child and we tried a setting and we had all these little things that just did not work and made it more stressful for me and more overwhelming for my child. I had to sit down and use that tool (the What’s working and What’s not working).
Once you get comfortable with these tools and you actually get to the point where you're not using it like on paper all the time, it becomes this thinking process; cause before you plan you have to think. And if you start thinking in a way that's person-centered, then your planning, your actions, your treatment plans, become person-centered. So again, that training is really useful for all of us.
I just shared a few examples, of how I changed the way I parent to be a more person-centered parent... but you can use this for an agency. You can use that at home, in society. All of us can benefit from Person-Centered Thinking training. So if you need it, want to find out more about it, please contact me. I'll be glad to share information and set time to talk with you.
Alright, thank you. Remember everybody's meaningful, everybody's important and everybody wants a better life. Be the person that allows others to have the best life that they want for themselves. And that's why I teach person-centered thinking.
Happy Mother's Day!
Hello everyone, this is Chou Gabikiny. For those of you that don't know me, I'm the founder of Grace and Hope Consulting. I'm a board-certified Christian counselor and a certified cognitive behavior therapist. Today I just wanted to wish all the moms out there happy Mother's Day!
Today is one of my favorite days because not only I get to encourage all the mothers, but it's a special day that my kids remind me that they appreciate having me as a mother. They're young so they do things maybe a little differently but even the smallest thing touches my heart.
Today I just want to encourage the mother, the one who's doing it all, and maybe you are doing it alone and it is hard, and it is stressful. It is overwhelming. I just want you to remember that what you're doing… it is an investment and there is going to be a return on this investment. It might be hard today but just wait and see. I know I talk a lot about long-term because I want you to plan for the future, brighter future, so yes in the moment it might be stressful but remember your kids need you and you are building the next generation of brave people, brave women and men, and responsible people who will contribute to society and make a big difference in the world, so stay encouraged.
Also, try to cherish this moment. Try to cherish the moment that you have right now with your children, they grow up so fast. My oldest just turned 11 like a month ago and I can still remember the day I brought her home. I remember when she was just born. Oh my goodness, I was a first-time mom and in a foreign country and I was alone and saying that I felt overwhelmed would be an understatement, right?
Again, cherish that moment, they grow up so fast, and those little things they do today might be annoying but looking back those are the things that make life a little more colorful. So enjoy your kids today, enjoy your family today and remember that what you're doing is making an impact in the long run, that you are the one taking care of and building that next generation of women, men, of people bringing change to this world. Stay encouraged. Keep at it. Stay the course. keep up the good work and know that you are valued. Yes, you are valued. What you do, no one can do what you do.
I read a while back somewhere about...I can't remember, I'll paraphrase it, I don't remember exactly how it was written but something to the extent of “God knew that you could do such a wonderful job that's why He gave you the kids that you have”.
I'm going to speak now to mothers of kids with special needs. The journey is long, it's tiresome. All the doctors’ appointments, all the therapy appointments, the sleepless nights and all the people you have to coordinate, the care that you have to coordinate day in and day out. It is hard but God knew that you are able to do it, that you are stronger than what you thought, and He will never give us more than we can handle.
Sometimes we might feel like "we cannot handle it anymore," but there's more strength in us. I can make a whole two-hour video about the strength that I discovered in myself when I started taking care of my children. I learned that I had more patience than I thought I did. I had more strength than I thought I did. I was more organized than I thought I was just because again, through those times of need came those skills. It was by necessity that I discovered who I am and what I’m good at. I had to become that person in order to provide the care that I provide to my own children right now. But through that process it made me who I am today, it made me this...I can go on and on, but I learned to advocate because I had kids who need someone to advocate for them. I learned to navigate systems of care because I had kids who needed someone to navigate the system for them, and I became a parent that was living more in the moment because I needed to live in the moment and enjoy even the smallest milestones.
I remember with one of my sons, he was maybe nine months by the time he could sit. He had a physical disability at birth and when he started sitting I made a big deal out of it. Many people didn’t understand why I made such a big deal about my son sitting up. Perhaps they didn’t realize how hard we've worked for this, how many therapy sessions we had just to get to this point right, and the frustration itself when you're trying to make everything fit in the calendar and get everybody's needs met.
Again, on this Mother's Day, please know that you are special; that what you do is very worthwhile. Nobody can do what you do and that your children see it. God sees it, and that you are irreplaceable.
Keep up the good work and enjoy your day. Maybe nobody will give you flowers, buy flowers for yourself, I do that. It's like if you can’t always wait for someone to do that for you. If your kids are young like mine, they can't do much but maybe they might do a drawing for you, and that's great; maybe what you wanted was chocolate and flowers, or it was a treatment at the spa. Whatever it is that you think you need in order to celebrate Mother's Day, do it for yourself. Don't always wait for other people to do it for you, especially when there's nobody else around to do it. When you learn to recognize that what you do is enough and that you are enough, you start treating yourself accordingly, and the way you treat yourself tells people how to treat you. So happy Mother's Day!
Alright, stay encouraged gals!
Chou writes about disAbilities, mental health, parenting special needs children, faith and everyday life.