Youth & Family Disability Resources: January 2015

Whoa, 2015 is off to a busy start! You won’t have any shortage of things to do this month.

Youth Mentoring Day at the Massachusetts State House. Partners for Youth with Disabilities will be one of four mentoring organizations highlighted at Youth Mentoring Day at the Massachusetts State House at 10am-1pm on Thursday, January 22nd! There’ll be food, activities, speeches by legislators, and a presentation featuring one of our very own matches. Admission is free, but attendees are required to RSVP online. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Megan Carthon at mcarthon@massmentors.org.

WGBH High School Quiz Show.  Join the studio audience for Season 6 of WGBH’s award-winning High School Quiz Show between January 24th and February 2nd! On the show, 16 Massachusetts high schools compete in a head-to-head academic competition. Tapings are a fun activity for families, a great way to support local schools, and an exciting opportunity to see behind-the-scenes at WGBH. Reserve your seats now!

See “Selma” in the theaters for free. African-American business leaders in Boston have pooled resources to raise $110,000 to provide free admission for 11,000 students to attend the historically significant movie, Selma. The target audiences for these screenings are 7th, 8th and 9th graders – but other students in the general age range will be admitted. Accompanying adults will also be admitted for free. Find out which Boston theaters are playing “Selma.”

Hot Chocolate Hunt. When in doubt, take your mentor or mentee on a hot chocolate tour around Boston! Try some mint-nutella hot chocolate, salted caramel white hot chocolate, or aztec hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. You know you want to.

Taza Chocolate Tour. And you know you also want to go on a tour of Taza Chocolate Factory in Somerville! Learn how Taza makes its delicious Mexican-style dark chocolate and try samples for the cheap price of $6.

The Sports Museum. Huge sports fan? Check out The Sports Museum at TD Garden! They’re open every day from 10am-4pm except for holidays and TD sports events. You can see the ball that changed history, the shoes that gave the Pats their first Super Bowl title, and more!

Sensory-friendly showing of “Paddington.” On January 24th, AMC presents a sensory-friendly showing of “Paddington”! Auditoriums will have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to dance, walk, shout or sing. Local AMC theaters include: Braintree, Burlington, Framingham, Methuen, Tyngsboro.

Skate Night at Roller World. Roller World in Saugus hosts Skate Night every Friday from 3 to 11 p.m. and every Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. It’s about $8.50 per person ($7.50 if you arrive before 6 p.m.). What are you waiting for? Put those roller blades on and whizz around the rink!

MLK Day Open House at the MFA. From 10am-4:45pm on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, January 19th), the Museum of Fine Arts offers FREE admission to all, with performances, arts and crafts, and exhibits in honor of the holiday! A great activity for the whole family. Go to the MFA website for more information.

Ice Skating at Frog Pond. Frog Pond is open to the public for ice skating every day of the week! Dig those ice skates out of the closet and give them a whirl. The fee for admission is super cheap (only $5 for those 58 inches or taller). When you feel like taking a break from the ice, you can always relax at the Frog Pond Cafe, where there’s mac & cheese, belgian waffles, hot chocolate, and more!

Belmont World Film. Belmont World Film brings you this year’s Family Film Festival on Friday, January 16th and Monday, January 19th at the Regent Theatre in Arlington!  You also have the option of attending the Family Film Festival at West Newton Cinema on Saturday, January 17th and Sunday, January 18th. You and your clan can watch family-friendly films from around the world!

Bank of America Student Leaders Program. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation’s Student Leaders® Program is accepting applications for 2015. If selected, you’ll get a summer eight-week paid internship with a nonprofit organization selected by the bank and get to attend a week-long, all-expense paid Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. from July 12th-17th, 2015.  The Summit introduces students to aspects of civic, social and business leadership and provides them with skills to create positive community change. Apply for the program by January 31st, 2015.

Autism Insurance Resource Center Webinar.  Want more information about how to get the best insurance for your child with autism? Need to access treatments under ARICA, the autism insurance law? Learn more through this webinar, offered at 10-11:30am on Wednesday, January 21st. Before the webinar, take a look at this document on how to obtain the right coverage: Mass-Health-PA-general instructions-01-14-15. Pre-registration is suggested, but not required. If you plan to participate, please email info@disabilityinfo.org. In the meantime, you can call 774-455-4056 and email info@disabilityinfo.org with any questions.

Planning a Life Workshops. We’re looking at you, parents of children aged 14-21! The Federation of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) is holding two workshops at the Schrafft Center in Boston from 8:30am-3:30pm on Friday, January 23rd and Saturday, January 24th.  They’re sure to be jam-packed with information about how to prepare your child for high school and the years after. Learn more about the workshops.

Visions of a Community Conference. Wow, the Federation of Children with Special Needs is busy this month! They’re organizing this conference about special needs resources and education at the Seaport World Trade Center on Saturday, March 7th. Find out more and register for the conference at the FCSN website.

Disability Book Review: “Lock In” by John Scalzi breaks new ground

The cover to "Lock In"It’s incredibly rare to see characters with disabilities in mainstream fiction. They are a minority group that is routinely overlooked, and even if a book does include a character that has a disability, the character generally falls into one of a few cliches: either their disability is used as a source of inspiration, as the character struggles all book long to “overcome” their disability and succeed despite it, or (and this is quite common in sci-fi and fantasy) their disability is used as a source of magical power or ability. While the first trope is tired and falls into the “inspiration porn” trap, the second one is a cop out that cheapens the impact of having a character with a disability, as the author can easily ignore any actual limitations or challenges that disability would cause. They may not have use of their legs, but who needs legs when you can fly?

Lock In by John Scalzi is one of the first mainstream books that I’ve read that attempts to break free from both of these cliches. Set in the near-future, the premise of the book is that a new disease has swept over the Earth and infected nearly everyone at one point or another. In most people, the disease is akin to a bad case of the flu and they recover, but in a small percentage of the population, it causes “lock in” — a condition where the person is completely paralyzed but their mental faculties remain intact. So over the course of a few years, there are millions upon millions of people that have become locked into their bodies, and the world is forced to adapt to meet the needs of this new segment of the population.

The book’s protagonist is a young man adult* that is locked in, and the plot touches upon so many aspects of life with a disability: the stresses of finding accommodations, starting a new job, dealing with discrimination, living independently, and managing your own healthcare needs. Through the lens of this fictional illness, Scalzi also shines a light on many of the big questions and debates around disabilities, identities, and disability rights that are so relevant today. And he does this while telling a seat-gripping thriller that won’t put you down until the last page.

*Thank you to the comments below for clarifying that the main character’s gender is never specified. Whoops, I’m showing my own biases!

Scalzi’s protagonist is one the best examples I’ve ever read of a character with a disability. They are empowered and strong, and their disability never becomes a crutch, object of sympathy, or plot device. It’s simply a part of who they are, and they have to work with their own limitations and strengths as they unravel the mystery at the heart of the novel. I’m not sure if it was Scalzi’s intention or not, but in Lock In, he has taken a stand against the historical cliches of disabled people and created a character that is fresh, new, and very, very welcome.

For another take on Lock In from a disability perspective, check out David Perry’s review over at The Huffington Post.