I've seen Ben at several venues including the MEGA Conference (sponsored by the Wyoming Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities) and he is awesome. Not only is the message 100% on point but nothing is so believeable nor so persuasive when it comes from a person with a developmental disability. "If I can do it, you can too!"
In 1978 I had a dream about helping people to knock down walls about their disability. I am very pleased this day to be able to travel and sit down with folks on a one-to-one basis and talk to them about my disability. Many times I find out they have a hidden disability and they talk about being made fun of and being misunderstood. After we get done they realize that they are not alone in that everybody has a "disability" and we must educate others not to prejudge. It has been my honor to be able to serve in this capacity as an educator to help the general public to realize that people with disabilities have gifts and talents. They are people first. My wife Dee and I thank all that read this and the many people that have supported us with Break Through Inc. for these past 32 years.
Ben was a guest lecturer in my graduate level SPED professional and family partnership class. His life story completely mesmerized my students. Many of my students later told me that Ben's story more than moved them - it changed them. Ben taught my graduate students something that classes filled with textbooks could not - how to walk in the shoes of a thriving individual who has spent a live time with a disability.
I met Ben at a National Paraeducator Conference in Salt Lake City, UT. He is just an amazing guy and with all of his struggles through his life he has created this great non profit and tool for others to learn. But not only for other adults to learn but a tool to teach with. I might work with students who might not get what Ben is doing but we have helpers in the classroom that do. I love using his story to help them understand you don't pity those in my classroom and you never under estimate them either. I think every teacher should read his book and hear him speak. Being part of the Special Needs area I strongly feel it should be a requirement.
Ben has been a long family friend and educator for over 20 years. Through the years we have worked closely with Ben sharing stories and experiances. He has a wonderful way of educating children and adults through sharing his years of gathered information and knowledge. Break Through Inc. is a large asset to all of us who work in the field with those who have disabilities.
I met Ben about 30 years ago when I began teaching. We had Special Education in common. He with disabilities and I facing day to day teaching of regular 5th graders who needed more understanding for disabled children in our class, school and community. Ben was gracious to come to my classroom each year and talk to my students about the struggles he had in school. He answered any question they had about disabilities and his disability. He won them over with his wit and frank talk. He gave the students ideas for helping, connecting and seeing each other as equals. I still hear from students who remember "Benny" and his message of Good Will.
In my early work, as a counselor and program developer with the Regional Mental Health and Retardation Center in Grand Forks, N.D. I met Ben. I found him to be a determined and energetic young man with a vision to overcome the limitations of his cerebral palsy, some at a physical everyday level and others dictated by public and professional impressions. I soon realized that Ben had the intelligence and drive to make a real and positive impact in the field of developmental disabilities. Very soon he was making contact with groups and individuals in churches, schools and other locations. He provided encouragement to those with disabilities and their family members and provided education to professionals and to the general public. His message was one that helped open doors to persons with disabilities, while breaking through the stereotypes that many people held on to. One of the services he provided was his involvement in early ground work in setting up a drop-in center in Grand Forks, N.D. for people with disabilities. In a recent contact a professional in Grand Forks I learned that the drop-in center is still operating and doing well. After having contact with Ben and Dee, in recent years, I have seen the success that they have achieved. I have witnessed the positive impact they are having, with Ben's fellow members on the Governor's Rehabilitation Council in Madison, Wi; with Dee's fine assistance in organizational aspects; and with the respect they have garnered in northern Wisconsin. It is refreshing to see them respond to calls for their involvement in events throughout the country. This program is an important one and Ben and Dee have grown with the times, through taking the initiative to obtain the training and education they need to carry this out. They have worked as a team to provide a needed service.
I hired this organizaton to come and speak to the community service providers and others about disability and what the impact really is for the individual and the family. The message delivered was clear, meaningful, and inspirational. Because they have actually walked in the shoes of disability they are able to speak in a strong and specific voice when talking about the needs, dreams and ambitions of individuals with disabilities.I have attended classes tought at other events by Ben and walked away with a deeper and more meaningful understandin of both my work and the child I am raising. (she also has a disability) The books written by Ben through Break Through Inc, have been a wonderful tool in the work in our community. Recently one of our schools adopted it as part of their curriculum!