Tag Archives: disabilities

Diversity Conference Statement on Disability Pride Month

Those with disabilities have recently observed Disability Pride month in July. On July 26, 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act became law. The changes it has brought about in the ensuing three decades have done much to make Americans acknowledge and work together to overcome things that discriminate against the disabled, whether they be physical barriers or work conditions lacking appropriate accommodations.

The Diversity Conference celebrates the attorneys, litigants, consumers of legal services – indeed, everyone – no matter where they may fall in the range of abilities.  Our mission statement expressly includes those with disabilities, stating:

“The Diversity Conference (DC) was established in 2010 to bring together Virginia State Bar members interested in promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and in ensuring that Virginia meets the legal needs of an increasingly diverse population. Diversity refers to, among other things, race, age, ethnicity, gender, religion, education, disability, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. The DC recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of all people and offers opportunities to serve the profession and the public through various programs and educational sessions.”

We celebrate your pride month with you.

A Brave Little Virginian

By: Patrick & Dolores Heidenthal*

“What though the field be lost?

All is not lost; th’ unconquerable will,”

-Milton. Paradise Lost

We all rejoiced when Henry was born. It was not to be for long. When he was five weeks old, Henry was medevaced to the hospital with a heart infection (cardiomyopathy); it was discovered that he had a chromosome 20 irregularity.  The unofficial diagnosis is Bardet Biedl Syndrome.  

Our dear little boy entered toddlerhood with developmental delays, decreased muscle tone (hypotonia) and vision degeneration beginning in early childhood (Optic Nerve Hypoplasia); our journey into medicines uncharted waters commenced.

Physical therapy built his muscle strength and he began kindergarten using a walker.  Henry now is able to walk with the help of ankle braces and a white cane.  He has also been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and has intellectual disabilities.  This assortment of special needs exist simultaneously but independently and it is amazing how Henry traverses each one daily.  

He never complains and his courage serves as an example for the entire family. Even when his life hung in the balance, he made efforts to cheer the rest of us up. Reminding us of Tom Payne’s advice on life from his Kyrelle: “A little pain, a little pleasure…”

Finding help for Henry’s mixture of disabilities has been an arduous task.  Loudoun County and the county schools have been a core help from the beginning.   Henry receives a yearly Independent Education Plan (IEP) which sites measurable goals for his development toward independence.  

However, even with verification of his need to receive special services, such as:  speech/language therapy; occupational therapy; mobility therapy; vision therapy; the services are limited or not always available.  For example, Henry has a Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI), but he receives this instruction only one hour a week.  

Henry can read and write braille by hand or with an electronic braille reader, but he still needs assistance while reading and how will he become proficient if only taught one hour a week?  

Therapeutic horseback riding offers physical and mental benefits and was recommended and was at first given, but not consistently.  Now Henry’s parents pay for a weekly lesson.

Music therapy has long been known to promote speech but is not provided by the county or paid by insurance.  “A Place to Be” uses professional music therapists to help Henry navigate and overcome life’s challenges using music.  Henry receives weekly lessons and sings a solo twice a year to a large audience and loves every minute of it.  

Physical Therapy was prescribed by his doctor, but our young man is on a waiting list because at 14 yrs. of age, he must have an adolescent therapist and none are available.  

Henry is in high school now and never misses a day.  He sings on the school bus and is liked by all his drivers, teachers and aids.  He joined the percussion section of the band and is in a before-school “Bud Club” that introduces him to other students.    

Henry has a cooperative gentle disposition and though now blind is listening to everything going on around him, even when you think he is not.  He has a gift for music and language, plus a fantastic memory; ask his German teacher.  He has a sense of humor that shows up unexpectedly.  

Similar to most families who include a special needs member, we have learned to be thankful for the kindness, wisdom, and love given to us by professionals and non-expert help given daily.  

Yet throughout all of his travails, Henry has been steadfast in his courage and optimism. He never complains, and in his courage we have found inspiration. He has proven to be our “Brave Little Virginian.”


  • Dolores Heidenthal, Hadley School for the Blind, Winnetka, IL (2015) awarded certificate for  “Braille Teaching Methods for Adolescents and Adults.”  She serves children with health, intellectual and developmental disabilities through the VA Dept of Medical Assistance Services (VADMAS.)  For more info about Consumer Directed Services Program, visit http://dmas.virginia.gov.  
  • Patrick J. Heidenthal is a retired CPA and licensed realtor and has a BA degree from Rutgers University and received his MBA from Monmouth University.  Patrick and Dolores have lived in Virginia for 31 years and their most impressive credential is that they have been married 50 years with 5 grandchildren and 1 great grandson.

Autism Speaks U brings Autism Awareness to Colleges and Universities

The Autism Speaks U program supports students, faculty members and alumni in their awareness and fundraising efforts to support Autism Speaks and its mission. Autism Speaks is enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow. Since its inception at Penn State in 2006, Autism Speaks U has raised millions of dollars to help fund the mission of Autism Speaks through student-organized events and Walk Teams.

Our chapters, led by their president(s) and vice president(s), are made up of students on the spectrum, students who have family members or friends on the spectrum, or students who want to make a difference in the autism community. Throughout the semester, chapters:

  • Have one-on-one advisement calls with the Student Initiatives Team in the beginning of each semester
  • Attend three webinars hosted by Student Initiatives
  • Host fundraising events, volunteer within their local autism community, and host other events to provide a greater understanding and acceptance of autism
  • Fill out a semester report to summarize the work they did and provide feedback on the Autism Speaks U program and how it can continue to grow.

Autism Speaks’ Mission

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understand and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Through partnerships and collaboration, we are committed to:

  • Increasing global understanding and acceptance of autism
  • Being a catalyst for research breakthroughs
  • Increasing early-childhood screening &  timely interventions
  • Improving the transition to adulthood
  • Ensuring access to reliable information & services throughout the life span

If you’d like to start an Autism Speaks U chapter at your college/university, please register at www.Autismspeaks.org/U. For more information on the program in general, please reach out to David Berenbaum, Sr. Coordinator, Student Initiatives, at David.Berenbaum@autismspeaks.org.