Maple Grove Woman Educates Others About Disabilities
Having disabilities can be life changing. One Maple Grove woman is doing her part to advocate for others with disabilities.
“My boys have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” says Sharon Kotula of Maple Grove. “They had been exposed to alcohol in drugs before they were born. Even though they have high intelligence they struggle in so many different ways.”
Sharon Kotula is the mother of Tayvius and D.J. She has been an advocate for her boys since she adopted them.
“Their disability is not visible,” said Kotula. “You can’t look at them and know that they have a disability. They are very articulate, they are handsome young men and they do have a lot of talents. At the same time the parts of their brains that have been affected make mainstream schooling very difficult for them.”
Partners in Policymaking
To become a better advocate for her boy, Kotula decided to take the Partners in Policymaking training.
“The program is an advocacy training program for people with disabilities or parents of young children with disabilities,” says Brenton Rice, director of Partners in Policymaking.
The training lasts eight months. Since the program started in 1987 around 10,000 people have graduated the program from Minnesota alone.
“We are trying to change the way people think about people with disabilities,” said Rice. “We want to enable employers to find them. These individuals do want to work, they do want jobs and they can do the work.”
Class Participants Learn From Each Other
The classes are a combination of people who have disabilities as well as parents of children with disabilities.
“The 50/50 blend is what we try to do because they learn so much from each other,” said Rice. “A lot of times these parents have really young children with disabilities but they have never really been in contact with adults with disabilities.”
Kotula says seeing adults advocating for themselves gives her hope that her boys can live a normal life once they are older.
“Regardless of their disabilities they are thriving and they are such contributing members of society,” added Kotula. “They have the can-do attitudes and it’s helped me so much just in that way. Also, I am able to look at my children’s disabilities as being minimal compared to some of the other people with disabilities too. I am able to focus on their strengths. For that reason alone, it’s already been priceless.”
For more information about Partners in Policymaking you can visit their website.