If you would have told me a few months ago that I would be excited about beginning a blog, I would have said that you had clearly lost your mind. But the reality is that I haven’t been this excited about a new technology baby since I first got dragged kicking and screaming from an electric typewriter to a computer. That ground-breaking event immediately cut years (and mucho stress) off my obsessive editing process, a fact that my husband reminds me of often (C.P.A.s love technology!). That success left me game for trying new advances before they became really old advances! Guess you can teach an old puppy….

So now I am proclaiming Long Live the Blog!— within reason of course.

Let’s start this whole writing adventure off with three fairly simple questions?

Who the heck am I? And why on earth would I blog? What is the purpose of this blog?

First, I am the author of Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations which has just been released by Jossey-Bass/Wiley (March 2006)).

I am also an award-winning journalist, speaker and advocate on special needs issues. I’ve been writing on this subject since 1990 after my second child was born and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My book is dedicated to my remarkable life experiences with my son, Eric Winter, who passed away in 2003 at age 12. It was my challenging and incredibly rewarding life with Eric that led me to become passionate about improving the lives of children with special needs. There is a lot of work to be done…

So why blog?

Why not blog? It gives me a terrific opportunity to continue to share my thoughts on special needs— and I have many unexpressed thoughts on that subject (plus, my publisher thinks it’s a good idea!). I’ll explore a few other interesting daily life experiences with readers of my work and my fans (IF I have any), including the road to publication. I couldn’t fit everything in my book, so blogging will help fulfill my need to ramble on a wide range of subjects, something that has made me a pretty good columnist— a perfect venue for someone who always has an opinion to share, especially on subjects that far too few of us really want to talk about, like disability, grief and faith. I aim to help enlighten and inform and create much-needed discussion about some tough life issues, especially as it involves special needs.

I take the power of this forum seriously. You won’t catch me ranting on about what I had for dinner, the jerk that cut me off in traffic, or whether Madonna should have kissed Britney on live television (wasn’t my favorite TV moment). I want to comment about those things with the power to foster important and valuable societal change, especially as it relates to creating better lives for children with special needs— I am a champion of the underdog and darn proud of it.

The purpose of this blog can be summed up in three simple letters of the alphabet: IEP.

To those entrenched in the special needs world, IEP stands for an Individualized Education Program— three words that hold remarkable power to freak out a lot of parents and professionals. But I’m adding a new definition to IEP, aiming to make it more user-friendly: I vote for Increasingly Empowered Parent, Professional, or Person. This blog will explore exactly what that means and how we can each achieve it.

Fact is, I’m on a mission to improve the lives of those with special needs. But as determined and committed as I am to the cause, I can’t do it alone. This world need many more empowered parents, professionals and other people who care deeply about the rights of the disabled who are ready, willing and able to stand up and be accounted for, to speak for those who cannot or won’t speak for themselves. That’s how we will create societal change that is long overdue—and help kids with special needs reach their life dreams, too. It’s no easy cause to take on, but I’m doing my best to foster change that helps make these lofty goals a reality, and I hope you will join me.

I want all kids to live better lives, including those with special needs. That means the adults in their lives must take their roles more seriously, while upping their parenting and professional games. The impact that adults have on children is huge— and can last a lifetime, whether good or bad. My commitment is to actions that lead to good outcomes for all kids.

If you want to know more about how you can help redefine those nerve-wracking letters IEP, visit my website: www.JudyWinter.com. There’s enough there to get you started.
If you have a special needs subject you would like me to ramble on about (no shortage of topics there!), send me an email and I’ll do my best to talk rant about it in future blogs.

Be aware that my book has just been released, so my life is slightly hectic right now. I will try my best to blog at least once a week (no promises!), but check back weekly for fresh stuff. I promise my next ramble will be worth the space— a tribute to that remarkable human being and important special needs advocate, Dana Reeve. Now that is a subject worth blogging about….

In the meantime, do something great to fuel a child’s self esteem this week!