Enter your name and email address for updates from Disability Dialog

A Conversation with Conor Smenner, a Student at BGSU

By: Beth Collins

Two images side by side of a happy young man in a wheelchair.

Meet Conor Smenner. Conor is finishing up his freshman year at BGSU. He invited Disability Dialog into a conversation with his friends and family about what it's been like navigating college (and life) as a person with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. We showed up in the dorm lounge and handed the microphone to Conor. We covered a lot of territory, everything from free transportation to stigma-busting ideas. There was a lot of laughter, especially when big brother Wesley and best friend Noah share the challenges, and hilarity, of socializing with Conor. 

The following text is a transcription of this podcast. 

Welcome to disability dialogue the podcast where the Ability Center of Greater Toledo is challenging us to consider the question -  what would it take for the Toledo area to become disability-friendly, I'm Beth Collins podcast host and community facilitator. Before I introduce Our Guest for this podcast. I want to share something we hear often during disability activism conversations. And that is "nothing about us without us" suggesting that no policy or Solutions should be created for people affected by disability without the full participation of people affected by disability. Now, I know -  that's a huge conversation and for someone who spends a fair amount of time thinking I'm helping to find solutions to social issues, I struggle to fully understand what my role is as someone without a disability in creating a disability friendly community. At our last Community Forum. I asked the father of a daughter in a wheelchair what he thought about that and his response has stuck with me. He said. I think my role is To Raise Hell, shout and scream if I have to, point at the issues, then hand the microphone to my daughter.

[00:01:25] Now that I can do and I'm so glad to have the opportunity to do just that for today's podcast with our guest Connor Smener. Connor is a freshman at Bowling Green State University. He has cerebral palsy and he's in a wheelchair.

[00:01:42] Joining us is Connor's mother Wendy, his older brother Wesley, best friend  noah, and his aide Grace. Let's see what happens when I give Connor the microphone and invite him to explore the question of what is needed to become disability friendly. 

[00:02:03] Well, I think one of the main things that first popped in my head is transportation is a big thing. You know, when I was in Colorado over spring break. They had a free shuttle that would take you anywhere like around the city and it was free and you could bring whoever else you wanted on board. They had no restrictions to who you could and couldn't bring. They ran till two o'clock in the morning and I think that's one of the big things is where it starts because that's a big part of getting people like me out in the community.  And people like you what does that mean? Like there's this perception of you know, The fact that people with disabilities how they don't get out that much or they don't experience social interactions as much as other people do and I think Transportation has a big part of that. Its the barrier to everything else.

[00:03:20] Yeah, if we can't get to work, if we can't get to school, we can't get somewhere to socialize,  so free transportation. Yeah, I mean pretty much yeah. Okay, and I think you know one of the main things that stops me as I would like to be able to drive at some point. But if I want to do something and I don't have people available to transport me, and maybe  the public transportation doesn't pick me up at the area that I'm at, I have to drive in my chair to another stop. It's just very difficult for me to get there and I would rather not take all that time. Well, yeah last time we talked you shared that you have to be conscious of how far apart your class is right when you're scheduling classes for school because it takes you longer.

[00:04:26] Yeah, and even with advising meetings too where that advising office might be at in relation to me or where the classes might be at. So I think if we can start with the transportation and kind of tackle that and I know we do have public transportation that is available, but it's limited.

[00:04:52] It's limited. It's very very limited and you know talking to organizations like tarps, you know, there's different places like I would go to apply for tarps and they'd be like, oh, well, we can't pick you up where you're at because you know, we only pick up a couple miles down the road, right? So you have to get to the pickup point,

[00:05:19] So the one thing I was hoping you would share again our last conversation this really struck me was doing something simple like going to a football game with your friends. Yeah. Would you mind telling me why that;s tough for you? So I think the main reason why Iit's tough is accessible seating is the main issue.

[00:05:42] And you know being able to see all of what I would need to be able to see and being being  put in a section that's with other students as well and not just with random people that I don't really know and you're put with random people because is that the wheelchair section most of the time yes, and how does that feel?

[00:06:10] It feels very excluding, and it feels like I'm here to be a part of the community, but because of that barrier I can't be.  And hockey games you would love to go to hockey games. I would love to go to hockey games. But right now it's the same thing, you know, they they don't necessarily have accessible seating, but it's not where my classmates and peers are at.

[00:06:42] I want to ask your brother Wesley and your friend Noah. What is that  like for you guys to hear that? That's his reality. He wants to go to a football game and he can't sit with you. What do you do? Growing up with him. I don't think it's the event that scares them or the seating issue. I think it's more so the awkwardness that he feels in public, you know, it's the people he's around, He goes with me he feels more confident. He goes out with some person he don't know he doesn't want to go because they're going to leave him back in some situation, you know, so we go out.

[00:07:25] There's a smile on his face all the time like right now. Yeah, because he knows I had a good experience. I want to go out and do that again, you know, so in high school  he sees everybody in the bleachers. Okay. Well, I don't want to be down here. Nobody's gonna notice me down here, you know, so that's like we go around in BG to certain areas certain restaurants go out with the guys and he's got his wheelchair that's raised up or whatever, you know, we can get into every area so he fits in like a normal person and then like I tell him all the time - just go, you know, you don't realize how many other people around you are realizing. Okay. Now this kid here something's different here. You know, that's a huge situation that he doesn't always see that all the time. You know, that's what bugs me. Yeah. Well, it's hard to see when you're living it. Right?

[00:08:08] Right, but that's sort of the point that I'm trying to get to here. If that's difficult for someone experiencing a disability than how do they take that place when that feeling of being excluded or awkward or whatever the feeling is? I don't want to put words in your mouth.

[00:08:31] Like how do we support that without having to be with them all the time like you're his big brother Wesley? I'm just imagining you just making the place for him. Well, he doesn't have to do it. I mean llikeI said, you know, it's more of a confidence thing anything right, you know bringing out.

[00:09:02] Like I told you earlier, you know, it's we got to take five steps back before we go ten forward so I got a plan way ahead before we go. So it's hard to find people that are willing to do that. Can you give me an example of five forward 10 back?

[00:09:28] I mean let's just use dinner. For instance. You count and know what we all go to dinner. Yeah, we can't take my car. We got to take the handicapped accessible van. Yeah, we're fortunate dad got a cool van that loads out the back here. Alright, so we don't know about parking in crazy spots with the giant lines everywhere? Yeah. we're driving a van all jacked up of the rear but at least would like parking in a normal spot, you know. So then what happens it gets out there and he goes well, do we need a handicap accessible table at the high tops?

[00:10:09] Let's go by the TV or just raise his chair. So we don't have to the seating area in a restaurant. It's not a problem, you know. So, you know, but you gotta have a cool chair. Right? Right apparently have to have a van that isn't jacked up right and a cool chair. So not everyone has that right? So that's a bigger challenge Noah what do you do when you're going to a football game with Connor and you want to sit with him?

[00:10:39] Generally like the things that I do or that I feel like we've experienced throughout this. Figuring out everything we can do and the things that we can't and just trying to push for that like yeah seeing what all is possible and you know, if Connor wants to sit in the bleachers, we would try and set up in the bleachers. We would do anything possible and how would that look would you just pick them up?

[00:11:04] Oh, yeah. I have the steepest stairs in Toledo, Ohio and I'm like firemen carrying this man up and down the stairs now because we've got to hang out with the boys. Yeah, boys. Well Noah has and Wesley have you know, they've invited me over and I was like, oh, you know, how am I going to get down to where you guys are at?

[00:11:29] You know, there are stairs or there's this in the way. Oh, well, we'll just carry it. No, I mean, you know, I think a huge thing is too like I like, you know, I tell my mom all the time is it's not necessarily him being part of the group. It's just he wants to see the normal. You know you want to see okay.

[00:11:54] This is what it's like to be in a restaurant. I said that or we go out to Bowling Green out here in the weekends. I just want to sit  the party area and just see what people are doing. Yeah, that's all right. you just sit out there and then once people start seeing okay, you know this kids getting out every weekend, you know, then that's when that awkwardness goes down.

[00:12:16] You know, that's really the feedback is that. The people with the disability have to show up. We have to be seen right we were having a forum in a church and it was how does the church become more disability friendly and they said you got to come so we can create the space that is needed.

[00:12:40] And how do we know what to create if you're not there and so yeah, how do you get the confidence to be the one to show up and I think for me personally? I have to grow out of that the stigma myself that it's like oh this is going to be awkward. People are going to be staring at me and looking at me the whole time because it's to them that's not normal.

[00:13:02] Well, yeah, that's tough for anyone. Yeah, anyone that feel self-conscious about anything whether it's visible or not, right?

[00:13:18] yeah. I just messed with them and then I feel really bad and I don't like how I'm just messing with you. And then they get mad at me. But remember that feels normal to me. Yeah, that feels his because now he's like, you know that inside joke, you know something that normal people have I've got my people they get me right?

[00:13:52] It's okay. If they're mad at me, they don't have to treat me like I'm special and I think that kind of goes all back to the whole perception of how people view somebody with a disability to I mean take for instance, when Grace first met. Connor. Grace is a caregiver for Connor here at BGSU.

[00:14:13] So Grace when you first met Conor, what were you thinking, not knowing him personally what was capabilities, and then after the fact you met him were you just kind of like? Oh, I would have never thought that about him or you know your perception.

[00:14:31] It just totally changed when you got to know him. Right? So it's like that's what I've always stressed with Connor, you know, when people get to know you. You just need to break down that barrier so they can see the real you and then they're they're like, wow this kid is really capable of you know, going out there and doing these kind of things.

[00:14:52] Before I met Connor I actually did a lot of research. So I read what cerebal palsy was on paper and I have some realistic expectations and then I met him and he surpassed every single expectation I had. The first time I met him he was crawling around his room doing a bunch of stuff and we became friends instantly and he's just very confident once he gets to know someone I think a lot of times people need to just help people with disabilities break that barrier be the person to come up and say hello, you know, maybe ask them.

[00:15:23] Hey, so, why are you sitting in a wheelchair asked him that question because. Correct me if I'm wrong Connor, but I think you want people to yeah, and you know, that's a conversation starter, you know. Yeah, it's a great conversation starter. It's a great way to break the ice and great way to get to know each other.

[00:15:40] Yeah, and then, you know, obviously with my personality I can crack jokes using that and you know make them see that, you know, hey, I'm just a normal kid just like you, you know, I think we talked about this last time to Connor and it cracked me up because. We were talking about the chair as maybe a conversation starter, but when it isn't when they're shying away from it, I think he said something like I'd wear a sandwich board if I thought it would get me some friends like I mean, there's a lot of eye rolling around.

[00:17:23] Connor it really seems like you're just beloved you have people surrounding you that are you know doing everything they can to to be normal with you.

[00:17:36] I'm very lucky to have that too. Growing up with that is a lot of stuff is being you know, he's way better at it than he is now, but you know what, he doesn't see the perspective of stuff is okay, Mom and Dad do the mile man, you know, they would break their back to see this kid do anything and it's crazy.

[00:18:13] I love ya. I mean and I guess like I said, I'm very fortunate that you are people around me that I like to get out and do stuff and break the stigma of you know, having a disability and what it's like to have one. You know having people there to help help me myself break that stigma is a huge thing when you're alone.

[00:20:09] I live by myself and I'll be straight up honest. It gets lonely. I don't enjoy it. But you know, it's for right now, you know, it's the way it the way it is and you know, Me doing stuff to get out of my dorm and get out in the community.

[00:20:33] And you know go out with friends is a big thing just to kind of break that loneliness. Yeah isolation. Well, yeah, I think a huge thing is too is like you said before you got you building that confidence to do something is a huge thing, right? I used to tell Connor four years at home. You know, I think BG's the best thing that's ever happened to him.

[00:20:55] I mean him getting out of house and have a mom say this is all you well now look at the stuff you're doing that Mom was doing all these years that you could have done. Right and you know, there's countless stuff and I told him for years in high school. This is real life. You're going to make what you want to be right Langham you and I was gonna hold your hand the whole way, you know, that's just how it works, you know and BG man Connors.

[00:21:22] Shot through the roof with stuff here. It's insane. You really ask do you feel that way? I mean to a certain extent. Yes and you know to a certain extent there's still room for me to grow. I think they're always there always for all of us. Yeah, so help us help us grow Connor and how do we make this better?

[00:21:39] Not just for you, but for others that don't have the confidence maybe that you even have you know, and how do we help? I. For other people including myself, you know, it's having them, you know, maybe if they have friends seeing them do whatever it is that they might like to do and then you know, making sure whatever that is is accessible to them.

[00:22:08] And you know, if they have people around them like I do myself, you know most of the time they're gonna. Tried their best to make that accessible for that person and I think that is personally for me what builds the confidence in myself to go, you know in and to these things and go out and experience these different things Grace.

[00:22:35] Do you want to weigh in on any of that and. Like Wendy was asking you earlier what shifts you've seen since you first met him. Do you see his confidence growing? Oh, yes. Absolutely. So one thing I've noticed is Connors a very confident person, but sometimes when stuff isn't exactly accessible he kind of shies away.

[00:22:59] He doesn't really want to do it which I could understand why. So one huge step that people can take as making those environmental environmental factors more accessible for people with disabilities and Connor is capable of anything any other person can do it's just it takes him a little more time and I think people with disabilities, sometimes they need to remind themselves that because sometimes they lose that confidence and they see other people doing things and.

[00:23:31] Because it takes more time and more effort. Sometimes they don't think they can do it. And so I think it's very important to educate the people around us that people with disabilities can do just as much as we can do and sometimes remind them of that themselves, you know, just building off of that.

[00:23:51] I mean, that's a really good. That's really good Insight also at this last Forum. There was a mother of an 11 year. And she said that she had to tell her child, you're going to have to teach people how to be with you how to help you. You're going to have to educate everyone around you about what you need and she said it broke her heart as a mother to have to put that on her 11 year old and she just wished that there was someone that she could connect this eleven year old with to hell.

[00:24:27] This kid build some confidence and being their own spokesperson. She hated that she had to do it and I immediately thought of you and I thought I wonder if Connors thought of mentoring someone that's you know, similar situation and just struggling or maybe you already are and you know, I have I have thought about that, you know partly because you know, it's something that you know, my parents have said, oh you'd be good at that.

[00:24:57] Like doing something like that, but you know like you were saying to put all that responsibility on an 11 year old that's a lot of responsibility and it's very scary as a mother. Well and you lived it. Yeah. I remember you saying like it was hard for you. Oh, yeah, you grow up having all this stuff around, you know, that's why like I always feel like I said, you know.

[00:25:22] My mom's always holding your hand here. So you comes and hangs out with me. It's just me and him. Okay, I'm be harder on you. You know, this is you need to realize you know, because it's hard it's hard like eleven-year-old. You gotta put all that weight on it. So that's a lot of weight, you know, that's you know, they already got half of their stuff cut off of something, you know that they can't do so you got all that on top of that, you know, and I think for me when that realization happened was when I came to be BG, you know it.

[00:25:51] To be honest it kind of smack me in the face when I came here because talk about taking the training wheels for me, you know, they were all taken off, you know, everything was on me now and on me to you know, be the one to say Okay, I want to get them do this or I want to go, you know.

[00:26:14] Participate in this thing. It wasn't something that my mom and dad were saying like, oh, you should be a part of this it was on me. Now. This is real life. Yeah, that's all it is. You know ever since you've got out of the house what you don't want to come home. You know, I'd say it's I so I hate coming.

[00:26:32] He's so confident up here. It feels good up here. He's got his own stuff, you know wakes up in the morning. Okay. What do I want to go? Do? Yeah, what do I do about it's not waking up and going. Okay well, Your mom told me I got to do this this and this and all, you know, I got to do this this and this and you know Grace and Brittany are here to guide you along with it, but they're not going to hold your hand right now.

[00:26:52] So he's gotta make it I think a huge thing with kids with disabilities is making their own decisions because not a lot of kids do that, you know, you know we go to the even a huge this is a small thing, but it blows my mind. My mom takes me to go out to get food she orders for it right sometimes depending on what it is.

[00:27:10] I take him out roll down the window in the back of the van. I'll tell her what I want to know. Like that's just how he is, you know, because I would order the whole menu is how you go. He'll order everything. He's you know, he's himself and another thing is to close. How far you've come with that you don't you're going he goes in the mall and the kids like I want that looks cool.

[00:27:31] You know, let me try that are you don't because that's a huge thing to you know, that it's a huge confidence thing you feel comfortable in your clothes, you know, some people go out, you know, like the I'm first birthday. He had had these shoes for years. I teased him. I was gonna buy them. Yeah, so I go out and I wait in line for hours.

[00:27:48] So now you go out wearing a pair of sweet shoes. Just like everybody like we go over the mall people like David when you get those that you know like that. This will help build his confidence.

[00:28:03] You know, that's a huge thing. Yeah. Wendy did you feel like you're getting thrown under the bus for being a mother? This is like true because sometimes it takes Wesley's perspective me hearing that to make me step back and say, you know, I'm enabling him, you know, and I think. For part of that reason is I get why he doesn't want to be back at home because you know it when he's in the dorm, you know, there's so much more that he does by himself and he has so much more confident doing that and it's probably something I would be doing for him when he was at home.

[00:28:39] So, you know, I have to back up now Wesley's good about saying. Hey, no, you need to just he needs to do this and he's experienced it himself because you know, it's a it's a learning process. He's gaining more confidence and Independence be doing it and he feels better as a whole person. So then I have to and he's making you know, he's him here.

[00:28:58] This is kind of you know, like the same mom standing here helping you. This is him. Yeah. See this is where you know ever since the day one you I don't know how I'm gonna do this man. I'm aware call them. I was like to do this. Two weeks later and ask why you won't come on with no. I ain't coming home.

[00:29:15] No, like he was having a blast up here. And you know, I think like my brother said that first week, I called everybody I knew back home. I'm like, I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do this and I just like give it time, you know, and then they call me two weeks later. Completely changed him. So what changed in those two weeks, you know, I think it was just.

[00:29:43] me coming to the realization in myself that I can do this and this is achievable, you know, it might take a little bit more time to you know, do these things but it is achievable if I try hard enough. Well, like Wesley said five steps forward ten steps back. Yeah when I always tell them to you know, He being surrounded by a lot of people that are very successful.

[00:30:09] You know, my mom and dad are very, you know, they're great people. They're very, you know, successful people, you know people that were surrounded by that are very confident successful people. Okay, then Connors he's okay. What am I going to do in five years from now. I always tell them name another kid in a wheelchair has been 12,000 feet, you know.

[00:30:28] Yeah. What are you going to do when you're finished with school? You know, I like to say that I have it all figured out now, but honestly, I don't you know, I don't know, you know, I came here and I still don't know what I want to do. I think I haven't figured out what I'm not entirely sure where you at with it.

[00:30:52] I recently made the major switch to Communications, so. Definitely like this type of thing or you know, the type of thing that I didn't Colorado kind of change my tune a little bit and I just got just being on the radio. Yeah. So using your voice, you know, and I kind of realized with you know, my classes last semester and some of my classes now, you know the classes that weren't my gen Ed classes and the classes that you know, I just had to take to get out of the way, but the classes that were actually for my major I sat down and was like, I'm not happy with this.

[00:31:37] You know, I need to do something that I enjoy and I'm just sitting here because right now I'm trying to just figure out what I wanted. I think your voice is very powerful. You know, that's that's a huge huge thing. You know, I went can't your camp for instance. Connor goes up on stage in front of like 12,000 kids like we're sitting at home on the couch most kids my first time none of the campers.

[00:32:05] They're even they didn't even know who I was or is the camp, you know, it was so it was a camp It's called Spring Hill Cam and I went there for four or five years as a camper. And you know ended up working there for two summers because I enjoyed it so much. I enjoyed it so much because why you were there and you felt like your I was myself to all the people out that camper going to mile, you know, this kid's gonna if you want to do is going to do you know that that was he did he come home and he was like depressed because he wasn't at that camp you hit him that hard.

[00:32:47] It really did.  and like you there, yeah, and you know, I think. Part of me growing that confidences. Yo, Me growing that confidence Within Myself also choosing the friends and the right people to have around me that are going to enable me more to do that. You know. Well, I want to ask know what away in like any stories about your body Connor and anything that's really moved you or.

[00:33:21] Made you afraid mean I'm sorry, but I was kind of wanted to know you know, when what was your take on Connor? We first met him. I mean, you know that kind of goes back to that breaking down that stigma of what people think Connor who he is what he's capable of that type of thing. So was there a stigma for you so.

[00:33:47] Day one the first day of high school. We all met in the chapel of St. John's and you got it in front of everyone knew no one there. I mean besides the people that you went to grade school with but like, you know knew no one and you just got up and you started talking and you're like this is who I am like just because.

[00:34:09] You know, I'm in a wheelchair doesn't mean that I'm any different from anyone of you and that was the one time that I was actually listening in the chapel. But you know from from that moment forward, you know, we shared first period together and it was I'm pretty sure it was me and David we were just talking about playing video games and you're like, hey, like what's what's your name on I just trying to get them in conversation and from that point forward like, you know, we went home that night we play video games together, and we've been friends ever since.

[00:34:35] It was from that initial impression. And you know, I have a cousin that has cerebral palsy as well. So like it was something that's been in, you know our family as well and you know figuring out the different just kind of the difference of you know, being around and stuff like that. So with Connor when I when I saw him I was like, you know.

[00:34:57] I'm someone that really likes troubleshooting and wants to go the extra mile and Connor's the same person, you know, he's always spirited about everything and wants to do everything. He possibly can and I think that's what made us connect. So well with each other's we both wanted to figure out what we could do and so far.

[00:35:13] It's been what five years now and we one more sound a lot like, you know, we went sailing and it was like we walked in there and it was like. You know, do you have like one of the ramp things that you can pull down there? Like now there those are only for kids and we're like not we'll make it work.

[00:35:31] So we did we did got him down a little ramp and across all of the lanes because they put us on the very end staff wanted to fight us but we did. Yeah, and it's like if there's something that we want to do we're going to do it and I think that's been something that not only in our friendship has helped but like me as a person like that.

[00:35:50] Shown me, and I believe Connor himself is you know, we've kind of grown as people together to figure out that we can do much more than what we think we can yeah.  Socially for you, you feel awkwardness like you didn't know what to do with Connor socially because I'm always telling Connery. No, I think that's a people don't perceive what he can do socially.

[00:36:16] So I'm always telling him he needs to make the initiative say hey, not you. Just want to hang out even like when he started you guys started being friends. I you know Connor would try to reach out to you and say do you want to hang out to kind of a lot of people don't know what your capabilities are.

[00:36:33] So you need them and give suggestions. So let's go to the movie. Do you want to go bowling or something? Like you can't just leave it open-ended. It's because we did you ever feel like you didn't know what to suggest because you didn't know what he was capable of. I think it started that way at first is like, you know figuring out like where the limits are but then it got to a certain point where it's like do you want to do this?

[00:36:54] And it's like yeah, it's like whatever whatever happens like even if it fails we're going to try and so I think that's the thing that we're trying to get people aware of in our community is how do we make everybody feel that way about people have this ability to do you mean is it just is it just you know Connor being more?

[00:37:13] Forward with everything and more outspoken about who he is and what he needs. It is disabilities are or something else that needs to happen. Well in Noah's story it was Connor that stepped forward. So to speak and said this is who I am and then no one responded to that had he not done that I want.

[00:37:37] Yeah, what would have happened? Like yeah, you got to make the initiative, you know, and that's the thing is you're not like Mom said you're not going to get the text from somebody that knows you and say hey, this is the movie night where I doing. Nope. You got to make the move, you know, yeah.

[00:37:55] It's like this for instance time you go out to a bar or wherever you go. You see a good-looking girl or whatever. You know 90% of dudes aren't going to go up there and say what's up, you know, I will and that's kind of what you know that because it's a person is but that breaking that trail that's very oh, yeah that breaking that barrier..

[00:38:17] This is the same thing he deals with you know, so just not a different level and you know, I think. Nor correct me. If I'm wrong, you know as we started, you know, hanging out together and doing all these things you realized my limits are slim to none for sure, you know, and there's not a lot that you know, I am not able to do you know or not that I'm not able to do but won't want to you know participate in another big thing is too is like.

[00:38:53] Is I saw growing up as might you know, Mom and Dad worry. Okay, we're here. Where are you going? Like we were talking about where you going to be? I don't worry about where you're going to be here in the next, you know five years because I know you're going to do something and you know, and he knows that you know, but sometimes it's like I said that confidence thing to build, you know, Connor Connor brings in a root you bring them into a room that this there's no.

[00:39:19] Well Connor you have a microphone and school's almost done for the semester true. Yeah. So is there something that you're interested in that you're looking for for your summer that you could use your microphone and ask for what you want?

[00:39:40] Maybe like an internship at a Communications company or firm or something. Like that would be right up my alley and something that I would definitely like to do just to get my feet wet. So to speak maybe to work with a Communications person, right? In a Communications Department.

[00:40:05] Yeah for an organization. So maybe like the Ability Center work with their Communications team and work with them and start kind of getting my feet wet in the field a little bit. So help them find their voice. Yep.  Are there any questions you want to ask these guys anything that you're curious about again?

[00:40:28] You have the microphone I mean. I guess more for more for knowing you know, and we kind of already touched on this. You know, what Drew you to me as as as a person and we kind of already touched on that because you know, a lot of people they're not. Specifically drawn to me, you know, once they get to know me like we've been saying, you know, they're drawn to me but you know, as you know, that first initial impression you may not be as approachable right and you know now that you know me for for other people that might be in that first initial impression phase, you know, what can they do to kind of put their foot forward and be like, hey, I want this person to be my.

[00:41:20] And I think that you know starts off with I mean you initiated that like you came up to me and you know ask me like to hang out and stuff like that and I think that's something that people might be afraid of it first as like, you know, I don't know if this is going to be you know, any different and it's not like in the long run.

[00:41:42] It's like if I would hang out with you like I would hang out with anyone else and bright, you know, that's just how it was so I think. That for other people if they see someone that's just like it should be seen no differently like especially with you like I mean, you're so speared and you get around and talked to so many people and you know what the community at st.

[00:42:02] John's is by the end of the four years everyone knew who you were everyone knew what you were capable of and you know, you impacted that Community entirely and yeah, so it's like inside stories I can tell there's a lot. There's a lot of Inside Story. What do you think people are afraid of initially?

[00:42:24] I just think that it might be a thing that it's like I don't know.  What is possible I think it's the the unknown that people are afraid of that Grant. It's you know, what is possible and what could happen and you know not to say like what am I getting into but it's just like I think that that's a thing that.

[00:42:48] As you know, Connor becomes more outspoken about this and you know showing that people's interactions and you know, Connor hanging out and you know going around BG and stuff like that is not only does that Inspire his confidence and the people around him, but I think it inspires those that are in similar situations.

[00:43:05] And then those that are in the situation of a normal, you know by standards like this is is no different like there isn't anything too actually. You don't be worried of our be worried about unknown like it's it's completely yeah, I think another thing too is the reaction they're going to get back from from the confrontation.

[00:43:24] You know, it's not.  you don't know if you're going to get in normal conversation. No, you don't know you're going to get if they can talk back to you some some kids can't you know I'm sure Noah seen it with kids that are non-verbal. They know how to get what they want.

[00:43:42] Yeah, they know, you know, then I mean I've worked with kids Connors been around and they going to get what they want. They know how do you know so you figure out how to get your needs met down. Yeah, whether if it's whether it's verbal or nonverbal. 

[00:43:56] I'll always tell Connor and I'm not just saying because you're my son but the profoundness of you and the reaction you have on other people what you can teach them just by being you, I'm saying these people that are working with you and these people that are your friends these relationships that you're building you are teaching them.  In so many different ways and I think they and I am.

[00:44:42] I've just learned so much and I don't take this for granted anymore. I don't think you know what I mean. I just look at things so totally different now just because I've met you are so many positive things that I've learned from you and I hear that from everybody, you know, so it's not just.

[00:45:03] I got so much I could teach you or make you aware up or just and that's another way that you can be breaking down that stigma to it is really much of a message to and I've always told you that and I think for me my reaction to when people tell me that.

[00:45:25] There is no response, you know, because I don't know what my mind is completely blown. I don't know. We don't realize like I don't and I think that's the good thing. You know, the good thing is that I don't realize that that's happening. Right? I think that's that's normal to a lot of people just aren't aware of the effect they have on on others.

[00:45:48] I think we all could probably speak to that if someone's telling you about yourself and. You don't see yourself that way or maybe you're just humble.

[00:46:04] we're all hanging out. I got to meet him and you know, and it's sometimes he has a hard time accepting that. He doesn't get a lot of people coming up Zoom, you know, so I got buddies, you know, that would kill to come out here for a weekend hang out of them just to see we was you know, and that's he doesn't believe that all the time because I know he doesn't and I tell them all the time but you know, he's made a lot of my buddies.

[00:46:34] I mean you me and Noah, you know, we're all buddies. You know, we're all hanging out,  I had on hand car last week or a couple weekends ago where you know. I was out and an individual that you know goes here came up to me and he was the one that started the conversation and that to me is not typical.

[00:46:58] So for me I was like, whoa, what's what's going on here, you know because that's not typical for me. And where did it go? You know it when we exchange contact information and now we're you know now we're friends and that's that thing. I was trying to tell him his people see you when you're out and who you're hanging out with so if I take Connor out to go where we're going.

[00:47:22] Okay, he high-fived this guy. Okay, he's been talking to this dude for 20 minutes. Okay. I know this girl. That she's talking to him and there was a well, you know, so this kid's got something going on here. Yeah, so that's how you made that connection. You know that, you know, yeah, you know, that's just how it works is you always stumbles on over and the next thing you know, you know, you got a guy text you hey, this is what we're doing tonight.

[00:47:43] We're going to go, you know, so I go out. I didn't even know he was out there. He called me a you out here tonight. I'm on my way song. So, you know, yeah, and I think you know. Me also learning not only that like going out without him but not only that learning learning who when I'm out with however learning who I can and can't be around, you know, you can pick people out very well who are real and they're going to help you write and you know, and you know that I've taught you that and you know that you know, because when when you take somebody out there your legs right when I go out with you.

[00:48:22] On your legs or are you all what Colour you go out with Steve and you're like, oh that you're my legs tonight. Tell me where we're going. You know, they gets there. He's in that situation and then he just thrives on top of that society and I think the think with people that don't know me, you know, it's that first interaction getting them to think as we said before that five you.

[00:48:44] Five steps forward or ten steps ahead, you know getting them into that mindset ever. They might hang out with me a couple time, you know getting them into that mindset. Okay, like this is the way he thinks so when I'm out with him, I have to think that way so that that we can be safe and we can all have a good time.

[00:49:04] You know, you have to learn that though. I had to learn that and I also have to teach other. And that's not an easy thing to do. I remember when you called me because that exchange contact information with that guy. Hey, you think it's a good idea. She was just go you go go hang out on them getting you're getting rough water.

[00:49:26] Give me a call and I'll come get you. You know, what they that's you got other people that you know, you got to build that confidence because then he's more outgoing now that we've come from Connor. I'm staying at home all weekend. I don't want to go out to any see John's events, too. Hey, what's up?

[00:49:40] What are you doing this weekend, man? Alright Caesar. We doing this weekend man, you know, he's calling everybody see what they're doing. Right? I love Wesley's idea though for a response to what's it? Like, what do you need from me to be your friend? And you say I just need legs? Yeah. That's it.

[00:49:58] That's all I need and you know also somebody. To be my wife eggs and willing to go the extra mile to kind of make sure that and I think the other thing is too it's a it's a okay. What do we have in common here? No, because Connor, you know, that's like anyway, we don't all get along with each other.

[00:50:18] How to socially interact oh, yeah and what to do and what not to do.  Started but he would say hey, this is even respond to this. How does this sound you know, so it's new to him, you know because he's having more, you know, social interactions and. You know, if you have you're not used to that it's very awkward.

[00:51:18] Connors Awesome with words but then again it comes back to that piece. We're okay. Do you think that that sounded right so that I will get a response because he's afraid so many times. He's never gotten a response that he wants to and that's why by saying make sure you say hey Point Blank.

[00:51:35] then I just lost a friend right because he takes his so heavy and that's one thing I've learned about you is is stuff that you don't realize you're doing is huge on kids that don't have stuff like that.

[00:52:01] You know, it's not always about what you say. You know, I think. It's more of the action thing, you know Connors had Connor it bothers him more that people look at them the more people talking about her, you know, and that's a huge thing in bothers me to we go somewhere.

[00:52:16] It's like whoa, you know what's going you know, and that's the thing is you got it. Like for instance said that you know the kids. Okay, I got to get the air horn out make all the noise and all but that's what you got to do to get the thing past, you know to say, okay. This gives not too crazy before, you know.

[00:52:33] Before I came to BG you know, I was like that kid who was like, okay. It's it's great to you know, be the one to make all the noise, but personally, I don't want to be there because personally for me like I don't like to draw attention to myself if I don't need to you know, and what I've learned from coming to BG is.

[00:52:59] Sometimes you have to do that and sometimes you have to make yourself. What kind of stupid to get people to notice you. That is true if you yeah, that's what worries for me. Yeah, that's how you find the people you want to be with.

[00:53:14] I want to hang around with you know, that's that's all it comes down to it. I got buddies. I want to hang out with him because they see okay, man. This kid he's getting at it. He knows what he's doing.

[00:53:34] so there's fun. So you're able to say okay there I can connect with them, right? I was curious about things and was you know passionate and you guys connected in that way. Yeah.

[00:53:58] Well Connor you certainly have made an impression with me and I hope that we can find a way for your voice to continue to be heard.

[00:54:07] I mean you're teaching by being you that's clear right guys. Grace you agree? And I think that's a good place for us to wind this up for this time. I'm hoping there will be other times. I want to say. Thank you to grace and Connor and Wendy and Noah and Wesley for being part of disability dialogue the podcast check us out at disability dialogue.com or find us on Facebook search disability dialogue.

[00:54:38] Thank you guys so much. Thank you.

The 65+

Population in the U.S. is predicted to grow by roughly 90% between 2010 and 2040

Hamilton Lombard, Demographics Researcher UVA

People with disabilities are the largest minority group any person could join at any time