Cynthia Haddad

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Celebrating Specialized Housing and Ron's Home Sweet Home 🏡

Posted by Cynthia Haddad on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 @ 06:30 AM

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Celebrating Specialized Housing and Ron's Home Sweet Home

My Brother's Journey to Home Ownership

By Cindy Haddad, Ron's Sister and SHI Superfan

Last month, I joined a group of families online to view the premiere of From Self- Advocacy to Independent Living, a documentary film telling the inspirational story of David and Margot Wizansky and the history of Specialized Housing, Inc.

Ron's home in Arlington, MASpecialized Housing, Inc. (SHI), pioneered the concept of people with disabilities owning their own home within a supported community. This simple description doesn’t come close to describing the enormous positive impact this living arrangement has provided for SHI residents and their families.

While my older brother Ron resides in a SHI home in Arlington, MA, watching the documentary made me think about my own journey with SHI, one that started over 25 years ago.


I attended an adult sibling meeting held by the Arc of Greater Boston (now part of Northeast Arc) and the speaker was Margot Wizansky. As she described this first-of-its-kind, amazing living situation, I thought WOW:

  1. I can provide a stable environment for Ron 😊 and
  2. I don’t have to move into the family home 😀 and
  3. Ron and I do not have to live together! 😁

At the time, SHI had a house with a space available in Harvard Square and my Mother and I went for a visit. Everything about it seemed perfect; the staff and residents had tremendous positive energy and the house was awesome. It had an unbeatable location and was very close to a bus line that ran right by our home, a great benefit since Ron knew how to use public transportation.

Ron had told us that he wanted to move and we rushed home, excited to share our good news. Well, I was in for a surprise; Ron had no interest in moving into a house and sharing space with several people! I had thought that coming from a big family, he would have no issue living in a house with 10 people. I had thought I knew best but had forgotten to ask Ron what his thoughts were before moving ahead. Ron then moved into a different housing arrangement which, years later, he outgrew.

Ron Out & AboutOver the years I have spoken with many families of the adults who reside in a SHI home, including some of the first residents of the first house in Brookline. They hold these residences in the highest regard for the longevity of staff, stability of community and environment of independence, respect and support. I always thought, Ron deserves all of this.

Two years ago, when working with a SUPPORTbroker at the Arc of Massachusetts and our DDS service coordinator to find a change of residence for Ron, they suggested a SHI home in Arlington, our hometown. Well, seeing is believing and all the accolades have proven to be true. Ron loves his condo, the staff is great and during Covid, when it was unsafe to go to work, he and his housemates have provided support for one another. While the model is well-known now, and not fit for everyone, it has brought out the best in Ron.

Ron and Jackie This holiday will be different for various reasons, but I am taking time to focus on and be grateful for the brightness provided by so many in my life, especially on behalf of Ron. I give thanks to the entire SHI family, but especially to Jackie, Ken, Josie, Sharita, Uche, Heather, Michael, Chuck, Ted and so many others for their wonderful care of their residents and keeping them safe during Covid. I am grateful for the amazing pioneering parents and their children who have led the way for us and to their other siblings who carry on. I continue to stand in awe of Margot and David for their vision, leadership and incredible belief and advocacy (even beyond Mass Advocates Standing Strong), on behalf of people with disabilities for decades.

Their light shines brightly- watch the video!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Housing

The Power of Love: Happy 60th Ron!

Posted by Cynthia Haddad on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 06:00 AM

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The Power of Love: Happy 60th Ron!

By Cynthia Haddad

Happy 60th RonFor my brother Ron, it has always been about his birthday. Every summer of my adult life, the phone calls would begin with “Are you getting ready for my birthday?”. It would be Ron calling, giddy with excitement, wanting to talk about the plans for his upcoming birthday. The thing is, his birthday is on January 6th.

After telling him how excited I am about plans for his birthday, I remind him that it is my birthday coming up next in August, and then my children in November and then our brother Steve’s is in December, and THEN it will be his birthday, 6 days after the New Year.

Ron has always been, and will always be, “the special one” in our family. This past January was his 60th birthday and we had a big party to celebrate this milestone. It was a surprise party and Ron had a great, great time – especially after he recovered from the shock of it all!

Ron&parentsBeing with him on his 60th birthday, immersed in the warmth of family and friends and seeing the extraordinary love my parents have for Ron, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

While they are getting up there in age, their joy and focus on Ron, even after celebrating 60 birthdays together, is so fresh and true; Ron will never grow old in their eyes.  

 

Looking Back…

Celebrating Ron’s 60th was also a time for me to reflect back on my parent’s love and devotion to Ron since we were young; a time when there were no entitlements for children with disabilities. 

After being told her son was “not educable”, my Mom, as one from a generation of pioneering parents, advocated for her son’s education even though there was no basis for her to do so. She was empowered because she believed in Ron and she knew what he had inside of him.

In 1972, Massachusetts passed landmark legislation, known as Chapter 766, guaranteeing all children the right to a free and appropriate public education. Without this law, coupled with my mother’s advocacy efforts, Ron would have never achieved so much, including:

  • Being one of the first people with special needs to graduate from Minute Man Tech.
  • Representing Massachusetts in the International Special Olympics.
  • Having been gainfully employed after high school throughout his life.
  • Living outside the family home, and so much more.

Ron is now a viable part of our society; he works, has friends, goes on trips, lives in an apartment with supports, and is a fully participating member of our family.

Today…

We cannot even imagine what it was like for parents of children Ron’s age and older with special needs.  At that time, the state’s view was that children with disabilities should be kept in an institution.  Parents were told their child would most likely never work or be a part of the community, and other negative stories of a very difficult life ahead. My mother knew parents who literally had their daughter living in a closet in order to protect her from being removed from their family and sent to an institution. 

We’ve come a long way. Thanks to the pioneering parents and to the countless parents and advocates who still passionately fight for children to receive needed supports and believe they should be allowed an opportunity to live a full and a meaningful life in the community.

Tomorrow…

Ron & cindy

My parents are my heroes. The power of their love for Ron is beyond what I can describe; they have put everything aside to care for and champion him his entire life. As devoted as I am to Ron, I must admit that I do not have the same degree of love for him that my parents do. He is my brother and I am not expected to; I have my husband and children to focus on. 

How do I care for him through the ups, downs and every days without losing myself in the middle?  How do I honor my parents and pass that intense love forward from generation to generation?

 I have found my answer in knowing my limits, what my capacity is and when I need to ask for help from my brothers, my cousins, my friends, my colleagues, and professionals. I know we can never replace our parents’ love but we can surround Ron with a network of family, friends, staff and community who care.

Ron is not just “the special one”, he is the very much loved one by many!

 Now…

I just came from seeing my brother, Ron, and he is very excited… about turning 61 next January!

A very Happy Valentine’s Day to my loving family!
To my parents, my husband and children, and all three of my brothers…
I thank you for the power of your love.

the Sibs

 

Tags: parents of people with disabilities, siblings