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  • Inspirational Books & Stories about Overcoming Disabilities

    As the chair of Playmakers, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sports and recreational programs for individuals with disabilities, it is my pleasure to share with you the world of literature that shines a spotlight on the incredible journeys of children and adults overcoming challenges. These stories of resilience, courage, and determination not only captivate our hearts but also mirror the ethos of our organization, where we firmly believe that every individual, regardless of their abilities, deserves the chance to thrive and shine. In this blog post, I am thrilled to share some remarkable books (some that I've had the pleasure of reading, and others that come highly recommended) that highlight the inspirational stories of kids and adults with disabilities. These narratives go beyond mere words on pages; they are windows into the triumph of the human spirit. "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio: A modern classic that needs no introduction, "Wonder" introduces us to August Pullman, a young boy with facial differences navigating the challenges of middle school. This heartwarming story beautifully illustrates the power of empathy and kindness, reminding us all that our differences are what make us truly extraordinary. "Out of My Mind" by Sharon M. Draper: This compelling novel tells the story of Melody, an eleven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who has an incredible mind but no way to communicate her thoughts. Melody's journey towards finding her voice and defying expectations showcases the importance of perseverance and the potential within all of us. My daughter gifted me this novel one Christmas. While it is a novel, it's truly thought-provoking. "Born on a Blue Day" by Daniel Tammet: A memoir that takes us into the mind of Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant with extraordinary mathematical abilities. Through his eyes, we gain insight into the inner workings of a unique mind and discover the beauty that exists in diversity. "The Running Dream" by Wendelin Van Draanen: Jessica, an avid runner, loses her leg in a tragic accident. The story follows her as she battles her physical and emotional challenges and, with determination, trains to run again with the help of a prosthetic limb. This novel celebrates the strength of the human will and the transformative power of sports. "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor: While not a traditional story, this memoir recounts Jill Bolte Taylor's experience of having a stroke and the subsequent journey of recovery. Her unique perspective as a neuroanatomist provides valuable insights into the brain's resilience and the process of rebuilding after adversity. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon: Through the eyes of Christopher, a 15-year-old boy with autism, this novel takes us on a journey to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of a neighbor's dog. The book provides an insightful look into the mind of someone with autism and challenges societal norms. These stories demonstrate the incredible potential within each individual, regardless of their abilities or challenges. They remind us that disabilities are only a small part of a person's identity and that the strength of the human spirit knows no bounds. As we strive to create a world that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, these books serve as guiding lights, inspiring us to break down barriers and offer opportunities for growth, learning, and empowerment. At Playmakers, we draw inspiration from these narratives to fuel our mission of providing sports and recreational programs that empower children and adults with disabilities to lead active, fulfilling lives. Through teamwork, support, and a shared belief in the power of determination, we hope to create a brighter future for all. If you're interested in learning more about what truly drives the many volunteers at Playmakers, and don't have the opportunity to join us at one of our events, I encourage you to consider reading one or more of these stories. In the comments below, feel free to share your favorite books that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit or any personal experiences that have been influenced by these narratives. Together, we can continue to build a more inclusive and compassionate world. With warm regards, Ron Krajniak Chair, Playmakers

  • I Am A Baseball Player

    We're very pleased to share this post by Susie Haendiges (Miss Susie who know her from our dance program). We hope you enjoy hearing about her and her son's experiences with Playmakers. If you have a story you'd like to share, please feel free to connect with us and we'll be happy to post your story. Two years ago, I embarked on a journey to California with my incredible son, Jared. At 15 years old, he was a remarkable kid, but his path was shaped by unique challenges due to his autism. One of these challenges was building connections with others. Jared didn't easily make friends, yet he never seemed to mind. Moving to a new state was tough but necessary, yet it weighed heavily on my heart. We had left behind the only home Jared had ever known, the friends he'd made in school, his brothers, and his father. He was like a fish out of water in this unfamiliar place. I tried to keep him connected to his friends in Texas through texts and emails, but he resisted. In his mind, he had left those friends behind with his old life. While he didn't seem to feel like he was missing out on anything, I yearned for him to experience the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a group. Something New Then, one day, something extraordinary happened. We stumbled upon Playmakers (then called Beach Cities Miracle League), a hidden treasure that would change our lives forever. Joining the Playmakers baseball program was a turning point for Jared. Suddenly, he became a part of something bigger—a team, a community of kids who accepted him for exactly who he was. It was about more than just baseball; it was about belonging and feeling successful. Jared's confidence soared as he proudly donned his baseball uniform. A Baseball Player In fact, he would eagerly wake up early every Saturday morning and put on his uniform before I could even remind him to. He looked forward to his games all week long. My tall, gangly child started learning skills at his own pace and ability, and he thrived. He became confident in his playing abilities and developed a strong interest in watching baseball games with me. I'll never forget the day I suggested trying a new sport. He stared at me, completely incredulous. "I'm a baseball player," he stated emphatically. My boy had discovered his place and his tribe. He finally belonged. A Place To Shine What's it like at Playmakers? Having expanded beyond baseball to include basketball and dance, it's a place where volunteers work tirelessly to ensure every child, including Jared, plays and feels successful. They're like guardian angels on the baseball field, basketball court, and dance studio, nurturing the joy of each child's heart. Today, I proudly repeat, "He is a baseball player." But also more. So much more. Thanks to Playmakers, my son has found his tribe, his place to shine, and a newfound love for baseball. It's a journey that warms my heart every time I see him step onto that field, surrounded by friends and mentors who see the incredible potential in every child. And, fellow parents, your child can find their place too, just like Jared did. Playmakers ( can open doors to a world of belonging, achievement, and community for your child.

  • Preparing Your Special Needs Child to Return to School

    Dear Parents and Caregivers, As we approach the upcoming school year, I want to extend my warmest greetings to each of you. The journey of raising and nurturing a child with special needs is a remarkable one, filled with unique challenges and triumphs. As a parent, guardian, or caregiver, your dedication and love are truly inspiring. The transition back to school is an exciting and important time for all children, but for children with special needs, it can also be a period of anxiety and uncertainty. However, with careful planning, open communication, and a collaborative approach, you can help create a smooth and successful transition that sets the stage for a fulfilling academic year. 1. Open Lines of Communication: Effective communication is the foundation of any successful partnership. Reach out to your child's teachers, therapists, and school administrators to share essential information about your child's needs, preferences, and challenges. By fostering an environment of open dialogue, you can collectively develop strategies that cater to your child's unique requirements. 2. Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Review: The IEP serves as a roadmap for your child's educational journey. Prior to the school year, review the IEP with your child's education team to ensure that it accurately reflects your child's current strengths and challenges. Discuss any necessary updates and set achievable goals that align with your child's development. 3. Familiarization and Preparation: For many children with special needs, the unknown can be particularly daunting. Arrange visits to the school, classroom, and even meet the teachers and staff before the school year begins. This can help your child become familiar with their new environment and the faces they will encounter, easing potential anxieties. 4. Create a Routine: Children thrive on routine, and those with special needs often benefit even more from a predictable schedule. Work with your child to establish a daily routine that includes school, therapy sessions, playtime, meals, and rest. Consistency can provide comfort and stability. 5. Collaboration with Professionals: Your child's success is a result of a collaborative effort between home and school. Share insights gained from therapy sessions or other interventions with your child's educators, and likewise, inform your child's therapist about their experiences at school. This collaboration can provide a holistic perspective and lead to more effective strategies. 6. Foster Independence: Empowering your child to take on age-appropriate responsibilities can boost their confidence and self-esteem. Encourage tasks such as packing their school bag, selecting their outfit, or organizing their materials. Gradually promoting independence prepares them for a more active role in their school routine. 7. Focus on Social Skills: Navigating social interactions can be challenging for children with special needs. Collaborate with teachers to create opportunities for your child to practice social skills in a controlled and supportive environment. Playdates, group activities, and cooperative projects can help develop these vital skills. 8. Self-Care for Caregivers: Supporting a child with special needs can be emotionally and physically demanding. Prioritize self-care and seek a support network of other parents, friends, or professionals who understand your journey. When you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to support your child's needs. In conclusion, the journey of preparing your special needs child to return to school requires patience, understanding, and collaboration. By fostering open communication, maintaining routines, and promoting independence, you can ensure a successful transition and a fulfilling academic year ahead. Warm regards, Ron Krajniak Board Chair, Playmakers

  • Southern California Agencies for People with Disabilities

    In my last blog, I talked about "Finding the Right Support for your Child with Disabilities". Since that blog, I've been asked by a few of you for examples of agencies in Southern California that help kids with disabilities. Here are a few of the agencies with which I've either had personal experience, or whom others have shared with me. Tichenor Clinic for Children Tichenor Clinic maximizes children’s abilities by providing access to therapy & parent support. Their therapeutic programs are free of charge. Tichenor Clinic exists so that families who most need it can access quality care to help their children thrive. Regional Centers: These centers serve as the entry point for accessing services for individuals with developmental disabilities. There are 21 regional centers in California, and they can provide assistance with diagnosis, case management, and access to services. AbilityFirst: AbilityFirst is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to individuals with disabilities, including job training, recreational programs, and independent living services. They have several locations throughout Southern California. Easterseals Southern California: Easterseals provides a wide range of services to individuals with disabilities, including early intervention services, assistive technology, and employment and training programs. Children's Hospital Los Angeles: This hospital provides a comprehensive range of services for children with special needs, including diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. The Help Group: The Help Group is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services for children and young adults with special needs, including education, therapy, and vocational training. The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD): CARD provides services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder, including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Exceptional Children's Foundation: This nonprofit organization provides a variety of services for individuals with developmental disabilities, including early intervention programs, vocational training, and community integration programs. United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles: UCP of Los Angeles provides a variety of services to individuals with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, including early intervention services, assistive technology, and independent living programs. Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center: This center provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities in Los Angeles County, including case management, service coordination, and access to services. Speech and Language Development Center: This center provides services for children with speech and language disorders, including assessment, therapy, and educational programs. California Children's Services: CCS is a State program for children with certain diseases or health problems. Through this program, children up to 21 years old can get the health care and services they need. CCS will connect you with doctors and trained health care people who know how to care for your child with special health care needs In conclusion, there are many avenues that you can explore for support for your child. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Don't be afraid to talk to other families who may have already worked with these or other organizations to understand what they experienced. Always do your research. Links for some of these resources can be found on the Family Resources page of Playmakers website. Visit this page often as we will resources as our families share their experiences with us. While there are many good organizations out there to support you, your child, and your family, remember you are your child's best advocate. With warm regards, Ron Krajniak Board Chair, Playmakers

  • Finding the Right Support for Your Child with Disabilities: A Guide for Parents

    Introduction: Raising a child with disabilities can be both rewarding and challenging. As a parent, you want the best for your child, and finding the right support system is crucial to ensure their overall development and well-being. In this blog, we will explore various avenues for finding support and provide valuable insights to help you navigate this journey with confidence. Educate Yourself: The first step in finding support for your child with special needs is to educate yourself about their condition. Understanding their strengths, challenges, and specific needs will empower you to make informed decisions. Consult medical professionals, attend workshops, and connect with support groups or online communities dedicated to your child's condition. This knowledge will serve as a foundation for seeking appropriate support. Build a Support Network: One of the most valuable resources for any parent is a strong support network. Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors who can offer assistance, lend an empathetic ear, or provide respite care when needed. Surrounding yourself with individuals who understand and support your child's unique journey can significantly alleviate the emotional and physical burden. Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting professionals who specialize in your child's condition is essential. Start by contacting your pediatrician, who can refer you to specialists such as psychologists, therapists, or speech and occupational therapists. These professionals will assess your child's needs and offer tailored interventions and strategies to support their development. They can also guide you in accessing additional services and resources available in your community. Explore Special Education Services: Public schools are required to provide special education services to children with disabilities. Contact your local school district's special education department to initiate an evaluation of your child's needs. This process will determine if your child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan, which outlines specific accommodations and support services they will receive in an educational setting. Connect with Support Groups and Nonprofit Organizations: Support groups and nonprofit organizations can be invaluable in connecting you with other families who are navigating similar experiences. These groups often offer parent support meetings, workshops, and social events that provide opportunities to learn from others and share your challenges and successes. Additionally, nonprofit organizations dedicated to specific disabilities or conditions can offer resources, advocacy, and financial assistance. Utilize Online Resources: The internet is a vast resource for information and support. Numerous websites, forums, and social media groups are dedicated to special needs parenting. These platforms allow you to connect with a global community, access educational materials, seek advice, and share experiences. However, be cautious and verify the credibility of information you find online. Visit our website for links to information about federal, state, and local assistance, health and wellness programs, recreational programs, and other fun "stuff". Seek Financial Assistance: Raising a child with disabilities can bring additional financial burdens. Investigate financial assistance programs, grants, and scholarships available for families in similar circumstances. Contact local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and disability advocacy groups to explore funding opportunities that can support your child's therapy, assistive devices, or educational needs. Conclusion: Finding support for your child requires time, effort, and perseverance. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. By educating yourself, building a support network, seeking professional guidance, connecting with support groups and nonprofits, utilizing online resources, and exploring financial assistance options, you can provide your child with the comprehensive support they need to thrive. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and remember that your dedication as a parent is the most valuable support your child could ever have. I've learned more about how to help my own child by talking with other parents of children with disabilities than almost any other source. If you're already familiar with Playmakers and our programs, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities to get to know other Playmaker's families by registering your child for one of our programs (Baseball, Basketball, or Dance), or joining us for one of our Parent BBQs. Their experiences can not only help save you time and aggravation, but more importantly help you provide the life you want for your child. If you aren't familiar with Playmakers, visit our website for links to information about federal, state, and local assistance, health and wellness programs, recreational programs, and other fun "stuff".

  • Enhancing Inclusivity: Resources for Disability-Friendly Camps and Vacation Spots in SoCal

    Greetings, dear readers! As the Chairman of Playmakers, I'm always keen on promoting inclusivity and ensuring that every individual has access to unforgettable experiences. Today, I'm thrilled to share what I hope you’ll find is the first of many insightful blogs. As the school year winds down, our thoughts turn to questions about what we can do this summer that every family member will enjoy. In this first blog I wanted to focus on resources for finding disability-friendly camps and vacation spots in Southern California. Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes and vibrant communities, this region offers numerous opportunities for individuals with disabilities to embark on remarkable journeys of exploration and relaxation. So, let's dive into this treasure trove of accessible destinations! 1. Accessibility Guides and Directories: To help you search for disability-friendly camps and vacation spots, there are various online resources readily available. Websites like Disability Rights California, AbilityTrip, and California State Parks provide comprehensive accessibility guides and directories. These platforms offer detailed information about accessible accommodations, attractions, outdoor activities, and amenities, ensuring a hassle-free planning experience. 2. ADA-Compliant Campgrounds: Several campgrounds in Southern California adhere to the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, for instance, offers accessible campsites, trails, restrooms, and beach wheelchairs. San Onofre State Beach and Leo Carrillo State Park are also renowned for their inclusive facilities, ensuring everyone can enjoy the great outdoors. 3. Adaptive Recreation Programs: Southern California boasts a range of adaptive recreation programs designed specifically for individuals with disabilities. Organizations such as Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and AbilityFirst offer tailored activities like adaptive skiing, surfing, kayaking, and hiking. These programs provide a nurturing environment that empowers participants to push boundaries and discover new passions. For other similar programs, don’t forget to visit the "Family Resource Guide" page on our website. 4. Disability-Friendly Theme Parks: Southern California is home to some of the world's most iconic theme parks, and they prioritize accessibility for all visitors. Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood have comprehensive accessibility programs, including accessible parking, companion restrooms, and priority access to attractions. Knott's Berry Farm and LEGOLAND California also strive to provide inclusive experiences for individuals with disabilities. 5. Specialized Vacation Rentals: A growing number of vacation rental platforms now offer specialized listings for individuals with disabilities. Websites like VRBO, Airbnb, and TurnKey have search filters that allow you to find rentals with specific accessibility features such as wheelchair ramps, wide doorways, and roll-in showers. These options offer the comforts of home while accommodating individual needs. 6. Community Organizations and Support Groups: Don't underestimate the power of local communities and support networks. Reach out to disability advocacy organizations, such as Easterseals and the Independent Living Resource Center, or connect with online forums and social media groups. Engaging with these communities can provide valuable insights, personal recommendations, and heartwarming stories that will inspire your vacation plans. Conclusion: Southern California is a remarkable region brimming with awe-inspiring natural beauty and captivating experiences. By utilizing the resources mentioned above, individuals with disabilities can embark on unforgettable adventures, discovering many different inclusive camps and vacation spots that cater to their unique needs. I encourage you to explore these resources and take full advantage of the abundant opportunities available. If you have any stories about your favorite vacation spots or get-a-ways you’d like to share, let us know. We’ll include them on our website so that others can benefit from your recommendations. Until next time, happy planning and safe travels! Yours truly, Ron Krajniak Board Chair

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