Two year anniversary with Networks

To my Networks Family;
Well, I have been at Networks for 2 years and I finally connected the dots to identify what is the underlying difference between Networks and everywhere else I have every worked. This week as I was doing research on topics that are hot in OT and how they may connect to our work, I gathered articles on Technology and client centered planning and taking care of caregivers, but another article caught my eye. It was a CE article in my OT journal, Authentic Leadership in Occupational Therapy by Melissa Sweetman OTD, OTR/L, So as is typical, I take the test at the end before I read the article to see how familiar I am with the content. As I am reading the questions, I realize that I truly do know what this is but really didn’t have a label for it. Why? Because it was describing the leadership style of Networks! Now it all makes sense to me.

Here is a summarization of the article:
Authentic leadership is an evidence-based approach that enables us to effectively serve as leaders. We frequently interchange the terms “management” and “leadership” as if they are one in the same. Perhaps the most well-know description of management vs leadership is attributed to Bennis and Nanus (1985) . “ Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing”. Leaders focus on the big picture-envisioning the future and developing a strategic path to successful outcomes. They inspire followers to joint together behind an optimistic vision of the future. The focus of management is not on self-actualization or personal fulfillment of employees but instead on matching job tasks to talents to get a particular job accomplished.
The article defines three types of leadership.
1. Assigned leadership: person is assigned a leadership role within a group. However merely holding the title of leader does not make someone a true leader.
2. Emergent leadership: Someone who has influence over others but does not have an official title. A leader can emerge from within a team.
3. Shared leadership: Leadership functions are distributed among group members. No one person has total power . The purpose is so increase the participation of other members of the organizational team. A study conducted by Drescher et al (2014) found that when leadership is shared there is a greater sense of trust within an organization and greater organizational performance is noted.

The concept of Authentic leadership emerged after the corporate scandals of 1900s and early 2000s. Authentic leaders are honest, genuine and trustworthy, true to their own personality or spirit. They behave in a way that aligns personal beliefs, convictions, needs and feelings with actions that are genuine and sincere and reflected in their body language.
Authentic leadership is defined from several perspectives.
1: Intrapersonal: emphasis on self-knowledge, self-regulation, and self-concept.
2. Interpersonal: interactions between leader and followers
3. Developmental: Leadership can be developed over time and does not have to be an innate trait or skill.

The components of an Authentic Leader are:
1. Self-awareness: deep examination of one values, identities, emotions, motives and goals. This process occurs over time.
2. Internalized moral perspective: the ability to act on ones personal beliefs and ethics without being influenced by others.
3. Balanced processing: Ability to remain open minded and consider other’s points of view
4. Relational transparency: ability to acknowledge one’s own perspective while exploring the perspectives of others.

Research has shown that authentic leadership leads to successful outcomes.
1. Laschinger, Wong and Grau (2012) found that authentic leadership led to reduced bullying in the workplace, and decreased emotional exhaustion .
2. Wang, Sui, Luthans, Wang and Wu (2014) found a positive influence on follower performance, especially for those who demonstrated lower levels of hope, efficacy, resiliency and optimism.

Leadership takes time and conscious effort to develop. Steps for fostering Authentic leadership.
1. Allowing time for self-awareness through reflection. This could be journaling, exploring inventories or tests that help provide insight to communication styles, relationships, values and thought processing.
2. Clarify your values and be comfortable with the fact that not everyone shares them.
3. Be open minded and willing to consider the perspectives of others. Development of Perspective-taking.
4. Consider the perspectives of others in an unbiased manner. This is the ability to consider situations not as having only two sides (black or white) but as having multiple possibilities. (shades of gray)
5. Develop relationship transparency. Be open and honest in communications and actions with others. This will encourage others to feel more comfortable sharing suggestions, concerns and ideas. Use that old assertive training technique of the three part “I statement” I feel _____when you ____and I would like _____.

Leadership and management are frequently used interchangeably yet are significantly different. Leaders are visionaries who inspire others to achieve outcomes and managers are task-oriented, systems experts who rely on processes and such as planning and budgeting to achieve goals. Authentic leaders see followers not simply as human resources but as human beings each with distinct needs, values, visions and talents.

After reading this article, my vision has become clear regarding what Networks is and how it works. I see a true shared authentic leadership style, something I had never experienced before.
When I first started, I struggled to see who was “in charge” . Was it Rosa? She formed Networks. Was is Shauna? She helps organize us. Was it Jess? She was mentoring and guiding me. Everyone seemed to have a significant leadership role and skill set. Since Networks evolved before the trendy term, “Authentic Leadership” of the early 2000’s, it appears a very intuitive group of people got together and started leading with this style which has continued on.

Perhaps you all knew what Authentic leadership was and jumped right in or maybe you were like me and tried to see the management style of leadership and couldn’t really find it and felt a bit perplexed as to why you only can catch glimpses of it once in awhile as it pertains to just day to day operations. I am grateful to have come across this article to help turn the lightbulb on for me.

Love my Networks family!
So happy to be celebrating my 2 year anniversary with you all!

Tracy

Positioning Matters

Positioning Matters!
By Tracy Lapreziosa, MA, OTR/L

Did you ever visit someone’s home and they have this huge comfy couch that they direct you to sit on?
Looks comfy, so you sink yourself down onto the cushions. You sink down in and your hips are slightly below your knees and your back is not against the back of the couch. You feel like you are sitting in a bit too much of an alert posture so you push yourself back in search of the back support. However, as you move backward, the back of your knees hits the end of the seat so unless you want your legs sticking straight out like a child, you are kind of stuck. So you lean back to rest against the back of the couch. Now you find yourself in an awkward uncomfortable position of having the top of the pelvis tilted back and the bottom forward causing you to slouch big time.
Of course, now your host offers you a drink or snack. Do you stay in this position or wiggle your way back to the hyper-alert position? If you stay in the slouched position, you may end up having difficulty swallowing your food or drink and of course you can’t reach anywhere to set your items. You wiggle forward to the very front edge of the seat so your knees are lower than your hips and you can refrain from slouching and hopefully have access to a coffee table to set your beverage. More importantly, you may need the table to push yourself back up to standing when it’s time to leave!
Does this sound familiar?
Why does posture matter?
Positioning is so important for our comfort, physical health and ability to function at our best. Recently, we have all been reading and hearing about how sitting too much increases our risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, so we now are focusing on the need to get up and move and take breaks. However, there are a number of things to keep in mind when choosing a seat that we need to sit on for longer periods of time to complete activities, work tasks or even relaxing with a friend.
First, we need to consider the height of the seat. If our feet can rest flat on the floor, it will provide a strong base of support for greater stability for maintaining appropriate posture and using our hands to do work. Our knees, hips and ankles should be at approximately 90 degrees. Have you ever sat on a higher stool type chair with no rung to stabilize your feet? It gets quite fatiguing and you begin to feel the pinch of nerves on the back of your thighs. Do you remember having that seat in grade school where your feet didn’t touch? What did you do? Most young children who are not given appropriate seat heights are either wiggling all around due to fatigue or have their legs and feet wrapped around the chair legs to give them a stable base.
Next we need to think about the depth of the seat. If the seat is too deep like the comfy couch, we will not be able to rest our feet on the floor for support and have access to a back support at the same time, which will promote slouching and poor posture and all the difficulties that develop with malalignment of the spine when trying to complete basic life activities, work tasks or leisure pursuits. Our hips/ backside should touch the back of the seat while feet are flat on the floor. When we are in the proper position, our arms and hands have greater stability and control to complete work or fun leisure activities.
Our body should always be directly facing and aligned to whatever activity we are doing. If using a work surface, it should be below chest level and materials placed where we can best see them without flexing our head forward too much. If we try to complete our daily activities with poor posture, it can lead to health issues, aches and pains, limited mobility, attention and energy to get through the day. Posture does matter during work, school, everyday life activities, and play!

Networks @ 25… Wrapping up our year of celebration!

Networks @ 25 logo

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

 

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

This month we are overjoyed to bring you some thoughts from a few more of Networks’ folks…. their perspective on what Networks is! ♥

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Networks is … helping people to grow where ever they are.  My first memories of Networks go way back to the 1990’s.  Not long after I received my Master’s degree and was having problems finding a job, I realized I would need to plan my own destiny and figure things out for myself.  So, I decided to apply for a grant and I asked Networks to look over the proposal because I had never written anything similar before.  I still remember Harriet Gordon sitting with me on my apartment floor reading through piles of printed pages to make sure everything was in order.  Back then, I was using a computer, but it was necessary to have several copies of the proposal, and for a blind woman with very little computer experience, it was no small feat.  But Harriet came over and proofed everything and I actually did get the contract.  Since that time, I have often sought help from Networks, and now I am part of it—helping others in their efforts.

    – Suzanne Erb; Accommodations Specialist, Networks

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Networks is…..

Never ending encouragement and positive support

Equal opportunities for all

Teamwork

Way of Viewing the world of accessibility … Universal Access and opportunities

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Ready and willing to provide training and support

Kind, caring and knowledgeable

Sharing of hopes and visions

   — Tracy Lapreziosa; Assistive Technology Lead, Networks

———-

Several years before there was a “Network” Mike and Rosa asked me what I saw for my son’s future.  Mitchell was almost 8 at the time.  I shared my vision of what I hoped his future would be and little did I know at that time that Networks would play a role in making my vision a reality.  I saw my son living as independently as possible in a place of his own, having a real job and making spending money.  He liked being around people and was already a part of his community, but I hoped for more.

When Networks was founded, I sometimes was invited to present at training sessions as  a parent to give my perspective to trainees; primarily employees in the ID system in Philadelphia.  Mike felt it was important for them to hear from real people living with children and adults with disabilities and what we would need and expect for the future.  Keeping a finger on the pulse and bringing reality rather than just theory into the classrooms was always important to Mike.  Just presenting theory was never enough.

When Mitchell reached transition age I happened to run into Mike one day near my office, a block away from Networks’ office downtown, and we caught up.  He offered to get involved with Mitchell’s transition and our district agreed to contract with Networks to do just that.  Networks staff got to know Mitchell during the spring and used the extended school year time to do community based assessments and job development for him based on his skills and interests.   They saw the strengths and potential in a young man who most people only saw his multiple severe disabilities.

Mitchell came out of that summer with a job he still has today; 17 years later.  Additional work opportunities were developed for him when he was leaving school.  At about that time, I was asked to serve on the Networks board where I still serve today.  While we have all changed over the years since then, Networks has maintained it’s philosophy supporting a ‘can do’ attitude.  As we celebrate a quarter of a century of Networks, my hope is that while changes continue to occur in the organization and the ID system and service areas expand, the basics of the beginnings of Networks will carry forward as the guiding principles of the organization for the next 25 years!

Ruth Landsman; Long-term Friend, Advocate, and Networks’ Board Director

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Networks is… opportunity, possibility, dignity and choice. Networks is… passion, hard work, creativity and discovery. Networks is… holistic, honest and open-minded. Networks wholeheartedly believes in each individual person and their potential. Other people ask, “why?”. Networks asks, “why not?” Why not do everything we can to provide people the supports they need to live their best lives? Networks is… giving it your all even when meeting resistance from The Way Things Have Always Been. Networks is… progressive and forward-thinking. The only way to be.

Nikita Arnett; Transition and Research Liaison, Networks

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Networks is a group of beautiful people, working to serve others in the ways they are inspired to help.  It’s about empowering, healing, supporting, making connections…and I don’t even know the half of what all these wonderful folks do!

Jeremy Duke; Wholistic Practices Team Member, Networks

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At its core, Networks is an organization of people devoting their lives and careers to help other people.

These days it seems that such an occupation is becoming less and less “fashionable”.   Starting with the “me decade” of the 70’s, success has been increasingly defined in terms of personal achievement and self-service.  Yet Networks has been steadfast, continuing to pursue Mike and Rosa’s original vision with consistent and remarkable success.  While my contribution has been marginal, I am proud to have been a part of the family for these 25 years.

Paul Bartolomeo; Attorney, Friend, Inaugural Board Director, and Board President

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And last of all, Tracy offers us a look back at this 25th year and how we have celebrated…

Networks: Celebrating 25 Years!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it launched us into a year of reflection, sharing, and gratitude to all those who helped us realize our vision and joined in our journey to where we are today.

Where to begin?

Rosa started us off with a launch of the historical video of the “birth” of Networks sharing how it all came to be!    We began meeting regularly eagerly planning fun surprises and ways to show our thanks to our supporters.

In January, we honored our 2nd most senior individual still at Networks, George Callaway.   Did you check out the video?   We expressed our gratitude to Anthony Gallasso a former Networks team member for leading and guiding George to his employment at Networks.

March began with a giant thank you to the Assistive Technology Advisory group participants who helped guide the direction of our focus and delivery of Technologies for Independence and Control.  The group included friends of Networks and others in and outside of the field to bring objective insight and considerations of our AT work.

Jessica shared a beautiful description of our Wholistic Practices in June to celebrate our work in this area.  Alternative modalities such as massage, meditation, energy work, breathing techniques aromatherapy and much more are real options for EVERYONE, not just tree hugging folks!

In September, Shauna shared how our Community and Organizational Development has evolved and changed to meet the needs of those we serve and support.   Styles and topic areas have changed with the times as we assist groups of varying sizes.  Networks may be small but our ripple effect has been instrumental in bringing change and growth to many over the years!

Throughout the year, staff members, board members, Networks friends and supporters have been sharing personal thoughts of what Networks is to them.  As you read each one, it is evident how much Networks has impacted not only those we support with our services but our own team members and our personal supporters.

And, of course, we will end the celebration year, with good eats, games, music, dancing, singing, playing, sharing and reminiscing at our Anniversary Party in Philadelphia.  Looking forward to the energy of a room filled with love and gratitude!

Plans are in full swing for the future of our next 25 years!  This coming year will be filled with more trainings, plans for expansion, and helping other organizations.

 

Networks’ Community and Organizational Development Services: What It’s All About

Networks @ 25 logo

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

*****************************

This month we offer…

Networks’ Community and Organizational Development Services: What It’s All About

“Ours is a blend of business savvy and giving back to the world.”

This tagline has been part of our Community and Organizational Development service description for many years, but what does it really mean?

Since Networks’ beginnings way back in 1992, we quickly learned the importance of not only applying best practices within our organization, but also passing them along to others. And more than 25 years later, as we continue to evolve and learn more about this ourselves, we share these often-tough lessons with others. In a sense, herein lies the core of our work.

In the earlier years, this work took the form of things like: Assistance with systems planning, our popular (and often required) Trainers’ Training Series on various topics, and such hallmark courses as The Basics of Supervision and The Communication Mentors’ Course.  And as our audiences have challenged us in many ways to offer more, we have tried our best to rise to the occasion. For some, this has meant offering a customized curriculum on-site. For others, it was exploring remote offerings like our current “Think-In” format, which are regularly-scheduled conference calls on various topics.  And at times, offering our expertise with those involved in forming their non-profit, or providing “incubator” services to new start-ups.

Not only have the style of some of our events changed, but also the topical areas as well, in order to directly reflect the changing times. All of this, while staying true to our organizational mission. Within our Community and Organizational Development service area, we assist groups of varying sizes – from a small team or a board, to a large group, or a whole system. We do not set limits on our potential to impact our important work.

As the cliché goes, “be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change.” And while Networks’ is small in number, our ripple effect has brought about meaningful change and growth amongst hundreds, if not thousands over our organization’s history.  Perhaps that pebble is an innovative training series. Or a retreat. Or a workshop on a needed topic. Or even assistance with a long-term strategic plan or initiative.

And as we continue to grow, we look forward to offering more innovation, more creativity, and most importantly, relevant learning opportunities.

Networks @ 25…. more stories from the heart!

Networks @ 25 logo

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

This month we are overjoyed to bring you some thoughts from a few more of Networks’ folks…. their perspective on what Networks is! ♥

———————————–

What is Networks to me?

Wow! So many thoughts come to mind – and memories. I first became involved with Networks while “looking for another way” to do things. I knew there had to be better ways to interact with, teach, and support people than I was being shown. At Networks I found people with similar values, passions, and beliefs. All people should be valued, and be fully included in their communities, and are deserving of respect. I came to as many Networks’ trainings as I could.

 When I was approached about coming to work at Networks I was ecstatic… Unfortunately, events in my life made it impossible for me to accept at that time. The folks at Networks understood, and I was thrilled to be able to join them a year later. I started out helping those who were moving out of Embreeville State Hospital to envision and plan for lives in their new communities. It was a privilege to be part of this project.

When surgery resulted in my losing the use of my voice for some time (a little over a year) my friends / colleagues stepped up to help me find a way to have a voice. They also stood by me while I explored new areas of expertise, and began working with the technology at Networks. As a result of these experiences I discovered a new passion – ensuring the accessibility of technology for all users. Networks supported me as I explored this new passion, and secured my Masters degree (with Networks’ help and support) in Information Technology in Education.

This October it will be 22 years since I came to Networks. I have not only found like-minded colleagues, but I have also found friends and family. We have worked and played together, sharing smiles, laughter, and tears. Thank you Networks for not only providing a place to support people the way they should be, but also for providing an environment where people are encouraged to learn, grow, and explore new experiences / passions, while working together to make our communities welcoming to all!  

(Diane Kehoe: Director of Technology Services)

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Networks is…  creating opportunities for everyone to be the best version of themselves. I first learned of Networks when I was an intern with the Philadelphia Department of Intellectual disAbility Services. Initially, this internship was supposed to last two months. However, thanks to Networks’ programming and support, I was able to stay on and work in the department through graduation. 

 Over the course of my two and a half years at IDS, I had the chance to participate in disability rights workshops, help develop employment and Lifesharing PATHs, and create written and video spotlights on a number of self advocates. These work experiences have had a lasting impact on my life. In fact, after leaving IDS I worked for a Supports Coordination Organization (SCO) in Philadelphia for three years. If I had not worked at IDS or worked with Networks, that would not have happened.

 Without Networks, and the incredible people I’ve met through the organization, I wouldn’t be who I am today. When the Networks team comes together to solve a problem, they do so with a level of creativity, thoughtfulness and understanding that is par to none. Because of my experiences with Networks, I make a conscious effort to always use inclusive language and strive to include everyone – regardless of ability – in conversations and in projects. They have truly left a positive impact on my life that has made me a better person, employee, wife, sister and friend.

Networks is working to make the world a better place. I consider myself lucky to be a part of the organization – and am thankful for everything they do to support individuals with disabilities, like my brother, Arik. Here’s to 35 more years of groundbreaking work! 

(Alyssa Shaffer: Wise Guide and Board Member)

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Years ago, I visited the Valley Forge office and noticed the lovely collection of wands on Rosa’s desk.  Of course, a wand is often associated with magic, which is easy to associate with the work of Networks, but there are other definitions of the word “wand” that I think work too.

When a wand is a device admitting a beam, Networks supports you in finding your path.

When a wand is a target in archery, Networks is a place that people have grown to know as a place to come for answers and support.

 When a wand is a security device, Networks will listen fully and respectfully.

 When a wand is a beauty tool, Wholistic Practices provides centering, physical and emotional healing through reiki and other types of bodywork.

 When a wand is a stick giving length or leverage, Networks’ many training opportunities give our communities confidence and knowledge to live fuller lives.

Networks is a place to go with a question, and to be empowered to find answers. Networks is wands.   

(Gerry Arango: Longtime Friend, Supporter, and Consultant)


Networks is comforting, loving, joyful, and easy….. and yet also struggling, demanding, hard, and sometimes riddled with gut-wrenching questions.  Networks is a kaleidoscope of shared dreams.  Networks is swirling blurry visions and crystal-clear pointed direct steps. Networks is hand-holding and hugging, while also kicking-in-the-butt to action.  Networks is outspoken and humble, shining examples and always most comfortable in the background.  Networks is an amazingly 25 year old ride of truth.  Networks is my family, my home, my history, my present, and my forever future. 

(Rosa McAllister, Co-Founder and Organizational Advisor)

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Networks is more than a job. It’s family. I have been connected with Networks since 2000. I was looking for work at the time. OVR got me in contact with Networks and I started looking for work. There were quite a few times that I almost was able to get a job but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. There were many trials and tribulations but one constant was always Networks.  

 It took over four years to finally get my job.  Getting my job changed my life. Before my job I didn’t really do anything except watch TV and movies. It gave me purpose and I felt like a productive citizen. It made my life complete. Getting my first paycheck felt amazing. The most important part of Networks are the people. The people at Networks are what makes it what it is.   

(Andrew Vizuete: IT Support and Service Specialist)

—————–

So what is Networks?  As I sit here writing, I am just about to leave an inclusive surfing event in North Wildwood. While at this event, I really saw what Networks is……..

 Networks is about dreaming to live life to its fullest, whatever that may be.  This came to me as I stood in the water, watching and listening to a young lady waiting for her turn to surf.  She says to her mom that she wants to be alone in the water.  Her mom says no, she will stay together.  The look of sadness was evident on this young lady’s face.  A few minutes later, it was her turn to surf. Finally, she got a wave and for those few seconds, as she rode the wave in, she was in the ocean on her own.  Her smile was contagious.  There was a moment of pride when she said, “I did it, I did it by myself!” and the smile on her mom as she said, “Yes, yes you did!” Networks is about EVERYONE living the life of their choice.  Living with whom they want, living where they want, and working where they want.   

(Joe Murphy: Supports and Technology Coordinator)

Networks @ 25… Wholistic Practices

Networks @ 25 logo

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

——————————

At Networks, we’ve done a lot of innovative, creative, and what some might consider “off the wall” things over the years.  I think we kind of pride ourselves on that. 😉

One of the more recent “off the wall” areas of exploration has been getting into offering our newest service area, “Wholistic Practices”.

I am sure there was talk consisting of, “What in the world are those hippy tree  huggers doing now?” when we first started openly advertising these new activities.  We’re not all hippy tree huggers at Networks, but some of us are… some of use like to wear tie dye, Birkenstocks, run wild and free among the country side… sit around campfires and sing songs while playing a guitar… play in the ocean, connect to the community, embrace and believe this world is for everyone, make change, push boundaries, hug, laugh, eat good food, touch and connect with others, hmmmm… well then maybe we are hippy tree huggers (without the tie dye and Birks on everyone)!

We are a fun group of marauders, no doubt.  And we also believe deeply that everyone is connected and relationships are vital to our existence.  Touch is as important if not more so… those who we’ve had the honor to walk with over these 25 years live in a desert of touch – and, in turn, a desert of loneliness… and potentially a desert of (un)wellness.  We want to change that.  We want to show communities and systems that “alternative” modalities (such as massage, meditation, energy work, breathing techniques, aromatherapy, sound healing, and more) can be real and viable options for everyone – to increase our place in this world.  And our wellness in life.

In a time when the world is swirling and feeling (at times) tumultuous and uncertain, we want to show there is a small light.  There IS a way to explore different.  There ARE additional ways and considerations to support ourselves and those we are honored to support.  The beauty of it all?  It’s not hard.  Wellness, however that exists for a person, should be a true and viable option.  People shouldn’t have to go to a “special” center for massage or seek treatment from a practitioner “specially certified to work with [insert the condescending terminology of your choice]”…  We want to create a lasting change.  Bodywork practitioners can (and do!) adapt their practice.  Can’t get in an anti-gravity chair to get reflexology?  No problem.  We’ll lay on the floor to get a good angle to hone in on those pressure points on your feet.  Supporters don’t think she/he would like to get a massage?  Come on… let the person decide for themselves!

Let’s gently (or maybe not so gently) push the norm and status quo of what we think “wellness” should be.   The person you support lost 5 pounds in the last month, hasn’t had any “aggressive behaviors” in the last 2 weeks but concurrently, takes 15 medications a day, doesn’t have a job but attends a social group 3 times a week, is ostracized by their family, lives with a history of trauma, has no “FRIENDS” (other than the folks who are paid to be with him…) – but they’re happy, you say?  Their doctor gave them a good bill of health.  But, is this person living well??  It’s all in terms of what we view as living well and being “well.”  Did we every ask this person what they think living well looks like?  Or how they would like to live???

Let’s dance more… laugh more… sing together and eat good food – together.  Let’s work together to explore what it means to be well and how we can assist others to live their lives well and in how THEY WANT.

Let’s stop making decisions for others, let’s stop putting the brakes on trying something new (“Massage?  But she/he HATES to be touched!” …do they, really?).

Let’s stop dictating what someone else’s life looks like and is formed into being.

Let’s ask more questions.

Let’s try more things.

Let there be more responses of “HELL YES!” instead of… “Nope, that won’t work for ‘my’ person.”

Let’s connect.

Let’s do this…. now!!


Children dancing in Asia

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?”
–Gabrielle Roth

Networks @ 25 – Stories From the Heart ♥️

Networks @ 25 logo

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

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This month we are overjoyed to bring you some thoughts from a few Networks’ folks…. their perspective on what Networks is! ♥️

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Networks is a lot of things but for me, Networks is an idea.  It is an idea that every single being must be fully included, heard, respected, and treated well and wholly… all in creating and visioning a more equitable and just society and world.  Networks is a safe place to ask “Why?”, “Why Not?”, and even admit, “I don’t know… but let’s figure it out.”

When I came to join Networks nearly 15 years ago, I was a bright-eyed energetic 20 something and thought I knew it all.  I think they brought me into the “family” for my tendency to (sometimes) be a spitfire.  As I moved through the days, weeks, months, and finally years of being with Networks I came to realize I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and where I had the opportunity to stretch and grow (sometimes painfully!).  I was given a solid foundation in my previous “lives” with other organizations and employers in various positions.  

My greatest teachers were those who worked (and work) at Networks, who are affiliated with Networks, and whom Networks has had the honor to “walk along with” (individuals, families, teams, etc.) over the years – and even those who have pushed back against Networks and the work we do.

Networks is a BIG, bright idea that is now 25 years wiser.  I am honored to call Networks my employer, my teacher, my family.

(Jessica Stover:  Director of Training and Consultation)

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Ever since I can remember, there was Networks. My mom, Michelle Sparling, started working for Networks when I was a baby.  So for me, Networks is family. I grew up going to beach retreats where Rosa taught me to float and where Mike taught me to surf.  It was during a Christmas party at Networks that I first learned I loved BBQ chicken pizza.  Going to the Valley Forge office and drawing ridiculous pictures of Mike on white boards was always fun, but most importantly, learning that EVERYONE deserves to be treated as an equal.

Networks isn’t just a business, it’s a family. When I was in high school, Mike passed away. I remember being very confused and wondered what would happen with Networks. For my whole life, I knew Networks as Mike and Rosa.

In college, I decided to study Psychology. I loved working with people and growing up I had incredible examples such as my mom, Rosa and Mike. I wanted to do something like them. I wanted to work with people, I wanted to change lives like I saw them doing. In college, I had to complete an internship. I asked my mom if I could do an internship with Networks.  I absolutely loved it! I remember thinking how cool it was that I grew up a child of Networks and now I was interning with them!

After I graduated college, Jessica Stover asked me if I wanted to help with event planning for Networks. I was going to be WORKING for Networks! I no longer was a child learning how to float in the ocean, drawing pictures of Mike on the white board, or eating BBQ chicken pizza while the adults played “cut throat Santa” (a fun version of gift giving), I was an employee of Networks for Training and Development!

Networks to me, is family. Ever since I started working for Networks I’ve thought to myself, “I want to make Mike happy.” I think to myself, “If Mike were here, would he be pleased with how I am handling myself? Would he be impressed with me?” Networks, isn’t just a business, Networks is home.

Surfer Life

The ocean was clear
The tide was still
Surfers sitting on their boards,
waiting for a wave.
I thought of you.
The sky was blue
The clouds were serene
The sun piercing down its rays,
I thought of you.
I stepped in the water
My heart beating fast
The waves were coming with force.
I closed my eyes,
and thought of you.
I gripped the board,
taking a breath,
and laid it on a wave
Knowing you were there.
My body against the board,
looking at the open blue water
waiting for the perfect wave.
I saw you smiling from behind
As the wave rolled under me
I kicked my feet
pushing me forward
my heart was pounding
I stood to my feet
I thought of you.
I heard your voice
your laughter was loud
I knew you were with me
just like when I was a little girl
holding my hand cheering me on
I felt you there
thatʼs why I thought of you.

(Laura Sparling McCall:  Social Media and Marketing Coordinator)

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For me, the seeds of this Networks dream were sown more than 25 years ago over a slice of pizza in center city Philadelphia.

Our founders, Mike and Rosa, had a dream to help people and I was asked to help with tax and business setup.

Many slices and stories later, here we are still celebrating the Networks dream.

(Michael Fittipaldi: Former Treasurer, Board Member, and Friend)

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Networks is a small organization, but we are big in passion and commitment to what we do. I have seen that all at Networks truly believe in what they preach and practice: People with disabilities, any type of disability, should be fully involved in every aspect of their community. True full community involvement allows people to live the quality of life they should have, and I have seen how that effects people, both the person with the disability, and their family and friends, in a very positive way. It has been very rewarding to have worked for Networks these past 19 years and I look forward to continue helping with Networks mission for many years to come.

(Doris Kalina: Director of Administrative Services

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A place I call home.  A place for believing, trying, practicing, learning, experimenting, stretching and growing.  It’s a place for sharing, guiding, and giving, too.  Really, when you think about it, isn’t home a place to do all these things?

I remember when I began working at Networks, more than two decades ago.  I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” Working the “Networks Way” was different than any place I had worked. It didn’t take long, however, to get into a groove and figure out how I fit into such a unique place, but I sure had lots of learning to do, and that’s one of the great things about Networks.  It is a place to continually learn and not rest on our laurels.  It is a place for standing up for what’s right, for people, and for situations. It is also a place to work with a great group of people!  Over the years, we have all had some great times working and playing together, living life, raising families, and being there for one another all the while, doing what we love, in a place that we feel we can make a difference.  That is what home is all about! 

(Michelle Sparling:  Employment and Transition Director)

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The pediatricians examining my three-year old son delivered what they presumed was very bad news.  There are special places for children like this, they concluded solemnly, and once that was settled I could think about starting over, having other children, enjoying a new life.  They saw only one barrier to achieving this sensible outcome, and that was my unreasonable attitude:  I had spent the diagnostic evaluation telling them how well-adjusted, bright, funny, and interesting this child was.  Fortunately, a hefty dose of realism was within their healing mandate to provide: they wrote a script for psychological counseling and treatment, to begin at once.  For me.   

It is this kind of incident, played out by any number of well-meaning people in our lives – medical professionals, family members, school staff, neighbors – that can demoralize a person with disabilities (yes, even a small child) and their parents.  It is all too easy to start doubting ourselves in the presence of deeply entrenched belief systems wearing the protective camouflage of expert knowledge, common practice, common sense, or what “everyone knows” to be true.  Who do we think we are, anyway, to argue, to annoy, to insist that the world needs to change?

Being part of a community of like-minded people becomes urgent.  You can’t be a parade of one wearing an inclusion heart on your sleeve and carrying the banner for diversity.  You need a circle of friends who share your vision.  So I began watching and listening for the messages and the actions that let me know I was in safe company, and would not have to defend or explain the attitudes that, in the eyes of my son’s diagnosticians, called for corrective treatment.  Every time I met such people, it felt like a homecoming to a family I had not known I had.  It was a great relief to be among others who understood my and my son’s experiences, and who connected, shared, advised, laughed, brainstormed – and, at crucial moments, just showed up for us. 

Is it any wonder that these homecomings began to multiply, person by person, into an entire community?  While my son was still in his teens, many of the people I had gravitated toward during his early years were in the initial stages of organizing a community, Networks for Training and Development, now known to many in Pennsylvania and beyond simply as “Networks.”  That single word hints at how it works:  you don’t need to be an employee of Networks to identify yourself as a member of this evolving community of practice, values and support.  Through Networks, the “unrealistic” expectations that got me into trouble with my son’s diagnosticians continue to be nurtured rather than dispelled.   It remains my destination when I want to think clearly and breathe free.  

Happy 25th, Networks!   Please keep a light in the window for all of us!     

(Pat Amos: Longtime Friend, Collaborator, and Board Member)

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Networks is… a family.  My involvement with Networks began when my parents founded the organization when I was 12 years old, and I’ve seen firsthand how close-knit everyone at Networks has been throughout the years, with a feeling much more like family than simply co-workers.  They treated me like family when I was a teenager, they welcomed me in as a family member when I began working with them while in college, and they’ve continued to support and accommodate me as family does when my life took me to new places and in new directions.

(Michael Landes: Webmaster)

Networks @ 25! …Honoring our Assistive Technology Advisory Group…

Networks @ 25 logo

 

 

 

Can it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Photos of Networks from the past 25 years with a 25th birthday candle in the middle

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

——————————

A Thank-You to our Assistive Technology (AT) Advisory Group…

Several years ago, Networks established the first of 4 advisory groups.  This and subsequent advisory groups were born out of a need and wish to look more deeply at the work we have offered to people, teams and organizations with deep heartfelt desires to assist in creating lasting change and to provide alternatives to the status quo of traditional support systems.

The AT Advisory Group (connected to our service area, “Technologies for Independence and Control”) was a guiding light as we re-thought deeply (and sometimes painfully), “Should we continue to do this (specific) work… how can we re-offer our skills to others… what areas should we (and should we not) focus…” and more.  During the beginning of this Advisory Group we, at Networks, were seriously thinking about our focus and the delivery of Technologies for Independence and Control in the face of questions at that time coming from the outside world.  We chose to invite not only friends of Networks, but also people in and outside of the “field” who would bring to the table highly objective insights and considerations of this very work.

While some on this Advisory Group have since moved on after offering us their personal and professional assistance, we wish to sincerely thank each and every person who was a guidepost along the way.

Each advisory group functions a bit differently – with a different scope and set of goals – all offer us, and the world at large, unique considerations.  Their opinions and points of view continue to be invaluable and create opportunities to push ourselves further organizationally and dream of a future which is bigger, brighter, and more inclusive than it is today.

To read more about our service area, “Technologies for Independence and Control” and to also see who is currently members of this AT Advisory Group, please read further here: http://www11.networksfortraining.org/services.php#technologiesforIndependenceControl

Networks @ 25! …Honoring George Callaway…

Networks @ 25 logoCan it be??!!

Unbelievably, yes, Networks is now 25 years old!

While it’s certainly time to celebrate, it is also important to remember all those who have traveled with us, helped us, challenged us, cheered us on, & joined with us over these amazing 25 years.  You helped us realize our vision & assisted us to become more of who we are today.

Together we have

  • fought injustices & discrimination
  • encouraged others to find & raise their voices
  • re-imagined schools, workplaces, communities, & lives
  • assisted groups to coalescence around important issues
  • found solutions (or at least some parts of solutions) to change the world to embrace ALL people.

We are still going strong & look to the next 25+ years of hard but exhilarating work.

But first, we will be taking time each month this year to look back, honor, & celebrate.

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George Callaway smiling and looking at the camera

George Callaway

This month we are thrilled to honor George Callaway, the 2nd most senior person still at Networks!  George is probably the best known Networks’ employee and has served us in more ways than any of us can count — copier of reams of training handouts, transcriber of many workshop evaluations, teacher, trainer, jokester, techie extraordinaire (especially phone systems), shoulder massager, great hugger & consoler on tough days, transportation guide (especially mass transit systems), and so much more!

Image of Anthony Galasso sitting a computer desk and smiling

Anthony Galasso

And George would not be at Networks if it were not for his good friend and Networks’ former employee, Anthony Galasso.  It was Anthony who George 1st visited and helped, and helped yet again… leading to George being employed by us.  It was Anthony who was George’s 1st job coach.  And it was Anthony who remained there with George long after he moved on from Networks continuing as George’s good friend and champion.  We can never thank you enough, Anthony, for all you gave us…. including George.

Love you both forever!

And here’s a fun version of George’s story!  Enjoy!!

https://youtu.be/yeq7mVPifhc

What is NOT assistive technology?

Recently on a listserv (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology – www.qiat.org) , a question was posed which caught my eye, “What is and what is not assistive technology?”

WHOA!  That could be a pretty heavy question…!

question marks

What?

At Networks we think everything is assistive technology (AT) and are always looking and exploring different, new, and creative AT, accommodations and adaptations.

What unrolled on this listserv and the responses were nothing short of fantastic and did not disappoint.  If anything, it spurred us to think even more deeply and fully confirmed so much of what we’ve known for years.  We’ve been in situations where a support person didn’t feel AT should be afforded to a person because they saw it as a “crutch”  (my brain was boggled!) where, in fact, it was (in the end) a full support for the person in question to do their job (yes!  a paid job in the community earning a competitive wage!) more effectively.  There are still SO many misconceptions and false beliefs surrounding assistive technology, accommodations, and adaptations.  Part of this is, potentially, just CALLING it assistive technology — these two words alone sets apart things as special and only for a particular group of people…  But, this is a conversation (and posting!) for another day.

We compiled nearly all of the thoughtful responses below.  But, before you read further, ask yourself…  what IS and what is NOT assistive technology?  We hope you’ll leave you thoughts in the comment section & let’s get the conversation started!


What is Assistive Technology, Accommodations, and Adaptations?

 AT is….

  • a game changer
  • access, transforming
  • problem-solving access
  • about asking “how can we…?” and “what can she/he do with the right support?”
  • about discovering new strategies and tools to expand access and opportunity
  • about building the best toolbox
  • a team effort, including the person
  • a process of involving more than just the person to access potential
  • goal driven
  • a dynamic process
  • evolving and constant research
  • (can be) magical
  • a journey, not a destination
  • a tool
  • a process
  • a tool used by a person
  • to express themselves and interact with the world
  • dynamic and ongoing
  • everything
  • a set of words that creates something “special” for a person / creates a separate group (not good!)
  • a state of mind, analogous to the maker movement
  • a state of mind is not all that compatible with the status quo and business as usual

 AT is not….

  • a crutch, cheating
  • quantifying deficits
  • about justifying why something has always been done a certain way
  • done
  • always high-tech
  • a magic wand
  • one size fits all
  • causing an unfair advantage
  • an immediate fix
  • a destination
  • a specific device/app/piece of equipment
  • the complete solution
  • a persons identity [i]
  • a product
  • thinking for a person
  • making connections between ideas for a person
  • analyzing information for a person
  • completing an assignment for a person
  • providing an unfair advantage for a person
  • a one-time event
  • without continual attention

[i] Unless the person using the AT defines it that way

Adapted from QIAT (Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology) Listserv, November 2017