KYEA: Educating, mentoring, and supporting youth with disabilities in KS

Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy Newsletter
Issue #47
February 2019
in this issue
:: Through Julia's Eyes
:: Pre-ETS Empower Me Workshops Continue to Make Impact
:: Every Voice Matters- Diverse Communication
:: Spotlight On: Gracie Johnson
:: Another Perspective: Lauren Herren
:: Communicating With Those Who Have Autism
:: Advocacy Corner: Communication Etiquette
:: State and National Opportunities
:: KYEA News
:: Madonna's Corner
:: Tips for Good Communication in All Forms
:: Learn Sign Language!
:: Conversation Starters
:: Learning About Love Languages
:: YouTube Famous Couple- Squirmy and Grubs
:: Community Power: Peer Support/Peer Counseling
:: CIL Calendar

A person's hand is putting letters that spell hello on a board
Happy love month, everyone! Are you surprised not to see hearts floating all over this newsletter? Trust me, it took everything in me to resist splashing this newsletter with all things love, love, love :). BUT, since we always focus our February newsletter on relationships and love, we are going a different, yet still related, direction with this issue. What is at the heart of relationships? Well, communication is! You cannot have any type of relationship with someone without speaking to them. So, this month, we are covering all things COMMUNICATION! Read on for multiple perspectives on ways to communicate, tips for starting conversations, the lowdown on love languages, and even pictures and videos to help you learn a little sign language. We hope that this issue inspires you to use your voice and hear what others have to say.

KYEA programs are in full force right now as we are recruiting for a couple of programs and continuing our workshops across the state. We may have had a few snow days thrown into the mix this month, but it has not stopped us from our daily work of empowering youth with disabilities. We are definitely excited for Spring though!

Read on for KYEA updates, national and local opportunities, our Advocacy Corner, Community Power article, and much more!

Even though Valentine's Day is over, we hope you all know how much we appreciate you and we LOVE how you support our mission each day!

- Carrie Greenwood, Program Coordinator 
Through Julia's Eyes Julia Connellis in KYEA shirt
by Julia Connellis, Executive Director
"I Can. I Will!"

As an adult, people have often told me that I am a very expressive person.  Whether it is through my verbal words, written words, body language, or physical touch, I do my best to get my point across.  But, believe me when I tell you, I was not always like this.  Prior to the age of 25, the only ways I would express myself, other than the few words I spoke, was through music.  I cannot sing a note or play an instrument, but if you would have asked me what I was feeling, I could give you a song title that fit me perfectly.

Although many people view me as an expressive person, I will tell you a little secret.  I find communicating very hard. I have a pretty basic vocabulary, so, when I am around my professional peers, I feel very insecure and tend to be quiet.  When I am around someone I am attracted to, my words are all jumbled up, which makes me feel like a fool.  I am generally a pretty direct person, but sometimes being blunt can sound insensitive.  I get nervous every time I make a presentation in fear that I will forget what I am supposed to say, and most of all, if I have an opinion brewing inside me, positive or negative, you can read it all over my face, which I forget that other people can see.  The surprising part is that most people do not see my internal struggles I have with communication.  Many people are shocked when they find out how nervous I get with verbal, and even written, communication (like writing this article).  

What I have learned over time, though, is this- it takes practice to communicate well, and, if you are passionate about what you are communicating, people will listen.  Practice does not make perfect, but it sure does make you better than you were before.  If I know I am going into a meeting with people who I feel intimidated by, I have a few conversation starters already planned in my head to use.  If I am doing a presentation for the first time, I make an outline and practice what I am going to say ahead of time.  If I am sending an e-mail that sounds direct, I read it out loud to make sure I explain myself well and use the right tone in my message.  If I am talking to my professional peers about youth, I make sure my passion for youth comes through my statements.  Now, I still have not figured out how to not jumble my words with someone I am attracted to, but it is a work in progress!  I will remind myself as I remind you that what you have to say is important.  Do not let fear keep you quiet.
Pre-ETS Empower Me! Workshops Continue to Make Impact
KYEA staff head out to western Kansas  
Our collaboration with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) continues and is going strong! This month took us back out to the western part of the state for our 11th Empower Me! workshop. Check out the details...

Stop #11... Dodge City! The wild winter weather held off just long enough for KYEA staff to travel out to Dodge City for our day-long workshop attended by 14 youth. This workshop was held on February 5. The youth who attended were all from Dodge City. While this was a bit of a smaller, quieter group, we SO enjoyed spending the day with them! It was a workshop filled with learning moments, smiles, some laughs, and new connections with youth. Thanks to Dodge City for hosting us!

As always, we appreciate the Pre-ETS staff who helped out, along with all of the panel members and mock interviewers who took time out of their day to make the workshop a success. And thanks to Pizza Hut for sponsoring our lunch once again!

Pre ETS youth and staff and KYEA staff take a group photo at the Dodge City workshop
Youth participants, KYEA staff, and Pre-ETS staff gather for a group photo during the Empower Me workshop in Dodge City.

During the next few months, KYEA staff will be on a "full speed ahead" train of Pre-ETS Empower Me! workshops! We will head to Leavenworth and Abilene in March. Then, we are off to Ottawa and Kansas City in April. Lastly, we will head to Winfield at the beginning of May. If you are a Pre-ETS consumer, talk to your specialist about attending!
We are currently hiring for a new staff member to coordinate these Empower Me workshops. Our Employment Specialist position is available. Check it out!

Why diverse communication is important even though it's hard
Four fiverse people are smiling and holding different colored thought bubbles above their heads

"I can't understand that person, so they're not worth talking to!" "It takes too much effort to have a conversation with this person, so I just don't try." How would you feel if someone said this about you? Pretty angry and frustrated, I'm guessing! Is everyone easy to talk to? No. Does everyone speak and communicate in the same way? Definitely not. But, does everyone have a voice that should be heard? Absolutely!

We can't talk about communication without recognizing that there are so many different ways that people communicate. Having a disability may affect the way that someone communicates. They may be deaf and use a sign language interpreter; they may be non-verbal, but use a communication device; they might have a speech disability; or they might have Autism or Asperger's and not understand social cues or sarcasm. Having these disabilities does not mean that the person doesn't have things to say. It just means that you might talk to them in a little bit different way. Check out the rest of this newsletter to learn more about each of these disabilities.

Communication is not always affected by disability, though. Remember that our nation and world is very diverse. So, it's likely that the person in the grocery line next to you may be speaking a different language. Maybe they speak Spanish, or French, or Russian. Did you know that there are almost 7000 languages in our world? How cool is that?! Just because someone speaks a different language does not make them bad or "foreign" or any less deserving of a good conversation. Try to talk to them. They might just have some pretty awesome things to say! Or, even better... try to learn a new language yourself so that you can REALLY understand what they are saying!

Communication is not always easy, but it is SO worth it. Communication connects people. It creates relationships. It breaks down barriers. Every person's voice deserves to be heard. You want to be heard, so give the same respect to others. With an open mind and a little bit of patience, you really can communicate with anyone!
Spotlight On!
Experiencing the teen years as a person who is deaf   
Gracie Johnson, Silver Lake  

Gracie Johnson smiling into the camera

High school can be hard enough, but imagine being a person who is deaf. Gracie Johnson is a perfect example of how a disability can be a challenge, but it does not have to stop someone from communicating. Read on to learn how Gracie uses accommodations and a confident attitude to successfully interact with others.      
by Dallas Hathaway, Faces of Change alumni  
For some, communication happens without us even having to think about it. However, for those people who are deaf or have other disabilities, communicating with others can present unexpected factors which should be considered.

Gracie Johnson is currently a senior at Silver Lake Jr./Sr. High School. She has been deaf since birth, and has Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia with deafness. She uses a wheelchair to assist with mobility around school.

She had two cochlear implants surgically placed during early childhood. Gracie reflected the challenge of "understanding people when they talk, and that's something I still struggle with today," she said.

Gracie occasionally uses an FM system in the classroom. This device is similar to a necklace.  She and her teacher each have to wear one during class.

"This system can help increase the sound at which teachers are talking, block out other sound, and make voices sound clearer," she said.

She described how she has difficulty with keeping up with multiple conversations that are happening at the same time. Gracie explained how being deaf does not necessarily change her life, but rather how she has to modify what happens around her.  

"Instead of calling, I text. Instead of getting a big group of friends together, I stick with two or three friends," she said.

For those who are deaf, she would like to remind you that it's okay to ask "what did you say?" if you did not hear what was said during a conversation. Gracie reflected on her time as a child when she struggled with saying "what?" because she did not want others to get irritated, and not want to repeat what they said originally.  
"It's okay to say 'what' and it's okay to ask them to face you, talk louder, or talk clearer," she said.

After high school, Gracie plans to attend Washburn University and live in the dorms. In her free time, she enjoys painting, playing the card game, Pitch, and watching shows on Netflix. She also likes playing PlayStation with her brothers and visiting her grandparents.

I had a great time learning more about how Gracie communicates with others. Although I'm sure it can, at times, be difficult, she finds a way to adapt to the situations around her. I wish her the best of luck as she moves forward through the next chapter in her life. 
Another Perspective... 
Speaking with a communication device 

Lauren Herren, Wichita
Lauren Herren smiling at the camera- she has a small dot on her head that controls her communication device

As stated above, there are so many ways to talk to people. Sometimes, the talking does not even come from that person's own mouth, but it is still their thoughts. Some people talk with a communication device... like Lauren Herren. Read on as Lauren describes her life and her communication style...
How old are you?
LAUREN: I am 28 years old.

What city do you live in?
LAUREN: I live in Wichita.

What is your disability?
LAUREN: I have CP (Cerebral Palsy).

How does your disability affect you?
LAUREN: I am in a wheelchair because I can't walk and I have a communication device because I don't have understandable words that you can understand. Things like getting into the car takes me longer because I have a disability.

How do you communicate with people?
LAUREN: I use my body to communicate by eye gaze and a communication device.

Do you like using a communication device or do you find it frustrating?
LAUREN: I having a communication device but it is frustrating sometimes because it takes me longer to speak if I am tired or sick.

How do people react to you using a device to talk to them?
LAUREN: People are actually very surprised when I speak to them in sentences if they don't know me well.

Do you take your device with you everywhere?
LAUREN: I take my communication device almost everywhere EXCEPT the swimming pool.

What are you currently doing in your life?
LAUREN: I live in my own apartment and I have three overnight staff they take turns. I live in my own apartment Saturday through Thursday night except one weekend of the month I do Friday and Saturday night in which we started in October. I go to day services and I work for my day services part time. I am in a program at Friends University which it is called Friendship Fields. I do a variety show and it is called Laughing Feet in the fall.

What do you like to talk to people about?
LAUREN: I like to talk to people about what is going on in their lives and family.

What is the hardest part about communicating with people?
LAUREN: The hardest part talking to people they might not stand and wait there.

What tips would you give to people if they are speaking with someone who is non-verbal or uses a communication device?
LAUREN: I would give them this please don't talk to people with communication devices like babies and don't talk to them loudly like they can't hear or understand.

What are your future goals?
LAUREN: I would like to live in a house with 3 other people and get some more hours at my job.
One More Perspective...
Tips for communicating with people with autism 
by Whit Downing, KYEA Administrative Assistant and Faces alumna  

Whit Downing smiling and wearing her rubik cube shirt
Have you ever taken time to think about how the world would be different if communication did not exist? Without communication, this world that we live in would be full of chaos and misunderstandings. Communication is a vital part of any relationship. There are many ways to communicate. It is important to understand that everyone can and perhaps wants to communicate. Everyone in this world has the need to be heard, even if they are not communicating in a way that you are used to. Whether it be verbally, writing/texting, using communication cards, or even through drawing, communication is consistently taking place right before your eyes. As a 23-year-old with Autism, the way that I communicate with others has changed over the span of my lifetime. I am extremely thankful that I have people in my life who have helped me express how I feel. People who have adapted the way that they communicate, to help me.  I call those people my heroes.  
I have a question for you. Whose hero will you be today? Do you know someone who appears to communicate in a way that is different than the way that you are used to? I would like to encourage you to adapt your communication style to allow others to be heard. You never know what that could mean in their life.  
As I previously mentioned, I have Autism. I would like to give some pointers on communicating effectively with a person who has Autism. Sarcasm is something that many people with Autism, including myself, struggle with understanding. It is important to be direct and to use concrete language. Another tip for communicating with people who have Autism is to understand that, although we may not be making eye contact with you, we are still listening and care about what you are saying. Making eye contact is hard for people who have Autism. My last tip that I would like to provide you with today regarding communicating with a person who has Autism is to be patient. Often, I, as well as many others, need time to process information that has been spoken to us, and then respond. Please be patient and allow us the time needed to form a response to your statement. 
If you are a person who struggles with communication, I have a few tips for you. These are tips that have worked for me, and I hope they can help you as well. My first tip for you is to be your own advocate. If you are having a hard time communicating, let someone know. It is not a weakness to ask for help; in fact, it is a strength. Another tip that I have for you is to not be ashamed of your communication style. No shame! Finally, I would like to encourage you. I know it can be hard to communicate at times, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. If you keep all of your thoughts on the inside without expressing them, no one will know how amazing your brain and thoughts truly are.
A fist in the air ADVOCACY CORNER
A new feature where you can speak up and speak out!  

Check out our new space in the newsletter where people with disabilities can share what needs to be changed in our communities. This month's topic:
etiquette for communicating with people with all types of disabilities! 
by Julia Connellis, KYEA Executive Director
Have you ever wanted to communicate with a person who has a disability, but fear stopped you?  Maybe you were afraid of saying the wrong thing or maybe you were afraid they would not understand you.  Well, fear no more!  Below are 20 tips to help you overcome your fear and welcome someone new into your world.

1. Do not use a loud voice when talking to someone who is visually impaired.  A visually impaired person has trouble seeing, not hearing. 
2. Do not use a loud voice with someone who is deaf.  No matter how loud you are, they still won't be able to hear you. 
3. When speaking with someone who is deaf, look at the person who is deaf (who you are having a conversation with) and not their interpreter. 
4. When you are talking to someone with a speech disability, it is okay to ask them to repeat themselves as many times as needed so you can understand what they are saying.  Everyone has the right to be heard.   
5. If you want to have a conversation with someone who uses a direct support worker, talk directly to the person and not their direct support worker. 
6. For someone who uses an augmented communication device, it may take them more time to answer your questions or have a conversation with you due to having to type out their answers.  Be patient with them. 
7. Do not talk to adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities like they are children.  No matter what their comprehension level is, they deserve to be treated with respect. 
8. Just because someone does not make eye contact with you does not mean they are trying to hide something or are lying.  It may mean they have a particular disability that makes it hard for them to make eye contact. 
9. When using social media and posting pictures or sharing posts with pictures, provide a picture description.  By doing this, people with visual impairments are able to be included. 
10. Do not chew gum or put your hands in front of your face when talking to someone who is deaf.  They may be trying to read your lips and, by doing this, you obstruct their view and muffle the sound. 
11. When talking to someone who uses a wheelchair or who is short of stature, pull up a chair so that you are on the same eye level as that person.  No one wants to get a crink in their neck because they are looking up at someone during a conversation. 
12. When communicating with someone who uses a guide dog, service animal, or an emotional support animal, there is no need to speak to the animal or make eye contact.  Especially do not pet the animal unless you are given permission to.  This animal is doing a job and, if distracted, could put their owner in danger. 
13. When talking to someone who is visually impaired, announce who you are when you approach them, and, when the conversation is finished, let them know you are leaving. 
14. Be prepared to break your words and thoughts down into simpler parts for someone who might have an intellectual/developmental disability or learning disability.  Some people have trouble understanding abstract concepts and need more concrete terms.  
News and Events
Opportunities in Kansas
- If you are a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or just someone who supports this community, then you should attend Deaf and Hard of Hearing Day at the Capitol! This will be held on March 6 on the 2nd Floor Rotunda of the State Capitol. It will be from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm. Come show your support for the deaf and hard of hearing at the Statehouse, hear speakers on various issues, and view exhibits and presentations of resources from more than 10 organizations.  
- Another day at the Capital is right around the corner! Kansas Mental Health Advocacy Day will be held on March 14 in the Kansas State Capitol. Join consumers, family members, providers, and advocates for a chance to become better informed about mental health policy issues in the Kansas Legislature and to educate your legislators about the issues of the day. Learn more 
- The Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and Little Miss Crowning Ceremony is right around the corner! The ceremony will be Sunday, March 3 from 2:00-4:00 pm at the DoubleTree Hotel in Lawrence. It is free and open to the public. Come and learn about this organization, as well as watch as the 2019 Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and Little Miss Wheelchair Kansas are crowned! Learn more     
- Needing information about jobs? Attend the upcoming South Central Kansas Employment First Summit! This event is on May 3 at the Butler Community College Welcome Center in El Dorado. It will be from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. Employment First Summit is an opportunity for Professionals, Employers, Job Coaches, Caregivers, People with Disabilities, Family Members, Students, etc. to learn about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Registration will be available in March.

- Families Together is hosting more Family Employment Awareness Trainings (FEAT), this time in Overland Park and Wichita. This FREE two-day training is designed for families, youth/young adults who have disabilities and/or special health care needs, and the professionals who support them. The trainings are interactive and informative, and show that employment is possible for youth with disabilities. The Overland Park training will be held March 30 and April 5 and the Wichita one will be April 13 and 26 . Learn more

- SCHOLARSHIP! KU-SOARS (Strengthening Outcomes for All Students in Regular Settings)
KU-SOARS seeks to provide funding for scholars to complete coursework, attend a national conference, and engage in supervised teaching activities. This program provides funding to about 8 scholars each year who are committed to promoting and supporting inclusive education for students with severe disabilities. KU-SOARS scholars will earn a Master's of Science in Education (MSEd) degree as well as obtain full endorsement in low-incidence special education. Learn more 
- ADHD Teen has a few different exciting events coming up! These include a support group meeting focused on procrastination on March 5, a "Growing Up and Thriving" session on April 2 and a "Senior Leader Experience" on March 19. Learn more 
- The Brain Injury Association of Missouri has announced the dates of their annual Donald Danforth Jr. Wilderness Camp will be May 26 - 31, 2019 in Dittmer, MO. The week will be full of great activities including swimming, zip-lining, arts and crafts, paddle boat riding, nature walks, and more! Learn more   
Opportunities on a National Level
- Netflix is on the hunt for a young wheelchair user to co-lead a new family series called "The Healing Powers of Dude." The popular streaming service is looking for a wheelchair-using girl between the ages of 9 and 13 to co-star in the new show. The casting call specifically states the chosen actress must "authentically use a wheelchair" and "can be from any country as long as she speaks English." If you or someone you know would be right for the role on Netflix, email

- Check out this awesome resource for youth with serious medical conditions. Miracle Flights helps children with rare and life-threatening conditions gain access to specialized, distant medical care. Free commercial airline tickets are provided to those who are seeking second opinions, treatment and follow-up care at medical facilities across the U.S., as many times as needed. Learn more

- A woman in Wisconsin is searching for people who were born with physical disabilities to take a short survey about sexual health education. Alie Kriofske Mainella is a doctoral student who is working on her dissertation focused on this very topic. She is looking for information from people with spina bifida and cerebral palsy (and others who were born with a disability affecting muscle/movement). Take the survey

- Are you a teen that has a visual impairment and is interested in the engineering field? Consider attending National Federation of the Blind's "Engineering Quotient (EQ)" program this summer! NFB EQ is a week-long program of hands-on lessons and various recreational activities that does not require a specific level of previous engineering experience. 30 teens who are blind or visually impaired will be selected to attend this program held in Maryland. Applications are due by March 17. Learn more
Facebook logo, a blue square with a white lowercase Check Us Out on Facebook!
Keep up to date on the latest KYEA happenings, help us connect with you, and meet other youth with disabilities around the state!


Be on the lookout for our next issue that will come out in May!
Thanks for reading our newsletter this month! Learn more about KYEA by going to our website at!

Let us know what you think about our newsletter! If there is anything that we can do to make our newsletter more accessible or more interesting to you, please call us at 785-215-6655 so we can make the change for next time.
Carrie Greenwood
Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy
Donate to KYEA!
Do you believe in the KYEA mission of empowering and supporting youth with disabilities in our state? Consider making a donation! We appreciate any and all support to help us keep changing lives!
(just click on the DONATE button)
Sharing all things new in our KYEA world...
KS Youth Leadership Forum Seeking Enthusiastic Volunteers!  
A group of KSYLF delegates and volunteers take a picture while signing love The 2019 Kansas Youth Leadership Forum is going to be here before we know it, and we need quality, enthusiastic volunteers! Do you like working with high school students with disabilities? Do you have the skills and passion to facilitate groups and motivate young adults with disabilities? Then we need you!
We seek committed, enthusiastic people who are willing to devote a week to this great program. Yes, we realize that a week is a big commitment, but you will not regret it, we promise! Just ask any of our past volunteers who have been changed by this program.  
The 2019 KSYLF will be held on July 8-13 at Washburn University in Topeka. Volunteers can be KSYLF alumni, past volunteers, or anyone in our state who is over age 18. Our volunteer application deadline is MARCH 8. Apply to serve as a volunteer today!  
Faces of Change Extends Application Deadline... Apply Today!  
Faces of Change logo with a face that has arrows around it Are you someone with leadership skills who would like to use those skills to change your community? Faces of Change is still taking applications for our 2019 class, and we have extended our deadline to March 11!
Faces of Change is a leadership program offered by KYEA, designed for young adults from the ages of 17 through 25 years old.  Faces is an advanced leadership training and focuses on civic engagement and commitment to others.
The goal of Faces is for you to sharpen your existing leadership skills, as well as explore what leadership style works for you. This program is geared to assist you in learning about motivating others, various communication styles, working as a team, using mentors for guidance in leadership, and creating a community change project.  Faces aids you in exploring a change that you wish to make in your community.  You will make new connections with peers and with innovative speakers who are leaders from across Kansas.   
Faces meets one weekend per month for seven months in Topeka.  There are fun and challenging group activities and after hours opportunities to socialize.  Oh yeah, did we mention it is free?!  Have we piqued your interest yet?
If you are interested in applying, please contact us by email at to get your application.  There is a process for applying and being accepted, but don't get nervous about that, just get your application and get started.  Applications are now due no later than March 11, 2019.
Madonna- a fluffy white poodle wearing a pink and purple bow
Madonna's Corner!

Our therapeutic manager shares her unique way of communicating!     

If you've stopped by our office even once, you have been exposed to Madonna's unique way of communicating. You may think that she is just a dog, but Madonna is proof that every living creature finds a way to get their thoughts across. Check it out!     
As a poodle- a cute one at that- I find it very hard to speak to humans.  When I talk to my dawgs (dog friends), I bark, growl, run after them and sniff their butts.  In the dog world, this type of communication is common, but humans just don't get it sometimes... especially the sniffing butts part!  So when my mom (Julia) adopted me, I knew I had to figure out how to communicate with her, especially since she cannot see me.  Below are a few things I do to get my mom's attention:

1. If I see an animal outside, I growl in a low and deep tone.
2. If I see another human approaching my dog house (home) or work, I have a high pitched and excited bark.
3. When I am in a real lovable mood, I kiss my mom on the lips.  She hates this because she cannot see it coming.  I love doing this for the very same reason.  Hehehe!
4. When my front paws and head are low and my bottom is in the air, that means bring it on!!!  I want to play!
5. When I have to use the grass outside (potty), I jump really high in the air and I whine.
6. When my mommy calls me and wants to cuddle, but I do not want to, I stand right outside of her reach.  She can't see me so she doesn't know I am there.  Hehehe!
7. When I want my mom to get off her cell phone, I put my head or body in between her and and the cell phone.
8. When I want someone's food, I make my eyes look sad and I smack my lips.

Some ways that my mommy communicates with me that is confusing are:

1. Sometimes she gives me pieces of her human food... just pieces!  I see her plate full and all I get is pieces??
2. She yells at me for barking so much.  The nerve of her to yell at me and tell me to be quiet when she is yelling herself!
3. When she wants to play, she throws my toy so I can fetch it.  What, does she think I am some kind of animal or something???  I am too sophisticated to fetch!
4. When mom is happy, it shows on her face with a smile. When I am happy, it shows on my butt with my tail wagging.
5. When my mom is crying, she wants to hug me and squeeze.  Doesn't she know her tears will make my hair frizz???

As you can see, my mom and I speak in two different languages.  While she may not understand poodle talk sometimes, and I definitely struggle with human talk, one thing is for sure... we wuv (love) each other so much!  Take this time to show someone you wuv them.  Make someone smile or someone's tail wag.  You will quickly see that your love makes others happy!

Have a wagulous (fabulous) day!
An Important Tool in Life 
Tips for good communication in all forms  
by Josh Ruoff, KYEA Social Work Intern and KSYLF Alumni '12

Two ladies are talking at a table with pen and paper on it and one lady is motioning with her hand
Effective communication is the #1 important skill employers look for in new hires. But apart from making you a good hire, effective communication skills are essential to your success in life. Why? When you are able to effectively express your thoughts, opinions, and needs, those around you will more clearly understand you and be able to provide you with feedback and guidance. Communication comes in many different forms: Verbal, non-verbal, and written. 
When communicating verbally, speak clearly and use the proper tone for the environment which you are in. For example, if you are in an interview, you aren't going to yell your answers or mumble them. You're going to enunciate and speak in a confident and friendly tone. 
Non-verbal communication is what your body is saying to those around you. Are you using good posture? Are you making eye contact? Are you dressed well? Have you practiced proper hygiene? Of all the communicating we do in a day, 80% of it is expressed non-verbally. If I show up to a meeting and slouch down in my chair, I am telling those around me that I am not interested and don't want to be there. 
Good written communication skills may be the most difficult to master. One thing to remember is, who is my audience? If you are writing an email to your boss, you wouldn't use the same language as you would if you were texting your best friend. Another good tip is, ALWAYS proof-read before sending it! That doesn't just mean read it yourself in your head once. First, read it out loud. Reading it out loud will help you to hear what it sounds like. This can help you catch grammatical errors, but it can also help you hear the tone of how your words come across. After you have proof-read it yourself, have someone else proof-read it as well. Having another set of eyes and ears to catch errors can be helpful if you have been looking over it yourself for quite some time.  
If you learn to use communication effectively and properly, it will be the most important tool to your success in life.
Want to talk with someone who is deaf?

Ever wanted to learn a new language? What about sign language? This type of communication is used when speaking to many people who are deaf. Sign language is not easy to learn, but it is doable... and you've got to start somewhere! So, why not learn how to finger spell the alphabet? Click on the picture below to bring it up close and learn the sign for each letter.
A chart of how to hand spell each letter in sign language
And more sign language...

Now let's move on to some basic signs. These three videos below help you to have very basic conversations with sign language. Click on each and give it a try!

A dark haired female is signing hello

A dark haired female is signing a sentence to introduce the video
I Want to Talk to People, But Don't Know Where to Start!
by Josh Ruoff, KYEA Social Work Intern and KSYLF Alumni '12  

Some teens are gathered having a conversation
Starting the conversation with someone is the most difficult part of getting to know them. Once you are over the first few sentences, the talk usually flows. But how can you get the conversation started?

Here are eleven great conversation starters:

1. Compliment them on their clothing or appearance. Everyone likes to be admired. Also, when they tell you where they got an item of clothing or that they just had their hair cut, that gives you something else you can talk about and away you go!  Ask then why they like the store they got the clothing you admired and where else they like to shop. It might even get you a further meeting to go shopping with them. 
2. Ask their opinion on something they like. If you find they have a favorite topic - ask them lots of questions about it. People love to talk - preferably about themselves! If you give them a chance to do that, you will have quite an easy time of it, and will still be seen as a great conversationalist. 
3. Find out the person's name, and use it. Use it early on and use it often. You will be viewed as caring and thoughtful. 
4. You could also ask "have you taken these classes before?" Yes, I know that is a closed question, but it may well encourage more conversation from the other person, since they are probably interested in the classes and have an opinion on them. 
5. If you are in a home, comment on a picture or an ornament. All you are trying to do is break the ice and make sure the silence ends. After that, it gets easier. 
6. If you have met the person before, but you are not quite sure what to say to them now, you could always ask what they did over the weekend. Even if they say they did not do much, that can lead you into sympathizing about the horrible weather that kept you in or small talk about the TV. 
7. If there is a big news story at the moment, ask if they caught the news. If they say no, you can say something like "Oh, I was just wondering what happened about..." If they haven't heard of it, you can explain it to them. 
8. Have you met the person before? Perhaps you recall them saying that they were having a holiday or birthday. Ask how it went. People like it when you remember things they told you. It makes them feel noticed and cared about. 
9. Latch on to the time of year. If it is close to Christmas, for instance, ask how it went or how their preparations are going. 
10. Have you been to [a local restaurant]? That is a good one as most people are interested in eating. 
11. What kind of music do you listen to? That one is particularly easy to slip in if there is music playing where you are.

Those are eleven ideas to get you started, but the key is just to say SOMETHING. Make it small and make it light. Good conversation starters are only as good as the response they get, so make sure whatever you say is easy to reply to.
The Key to Making Relationships Better...
Remember each person's love language!
by Johnna Godinez, KYEA Program Assistant   

A girl and guy sit on a bench next to each other outside and are smiling
How many of you want to feel truly loved, respected, heard, understood, and cherished? Maybe you should check out this awesome book, the "Five Love Languages." A therapist named Gary Chapman came up with these languages after years of helping married couples with their communication. He speaks about two relationship hacks, or tips for success. The first hack is, when you identify your own Love Language, you can tell others what makes you feel loved. Cool hack #2- when you know another person's Love Language, you can communicate with them so they may experience the warm fuzzies too. The five Love Languages are:

1. Acts of Service - What makes these folks feel most loved are others' actions. For instance, locking someone's car for them, scraping their windshield, or fixing something that is broken. 
2. Words of Affirmation - Noticing positive attributes about another person and telling them about it. Are they kind? A hard worker? Do they cheer you up? Do they inspire you?  
3. Receiving Gifts - Warm fuzzies happen when these folks are given gifts. Think flowers, gift cards, movie tickets, etc.  
4. Quality Time - Spending time one-on-one with no distractions is the secret to communicating this love language. 
5. Physical Touch - Warning, only appropriate touch is meaningful and necessary for this love language. For example, a hand placed on one's shoulder, a hug, a handshake, or a high-five will do.

If you want to take a quiz to find out what your personal love language is, go to: 
People with disabilities want to have relationships too!

Shane Burcaw is a 26-year-old author, speaker, vlogger, and nonprofit organizer who lives in Minnesota with his girlfriend, Hannah. Oh, and one more thing, Shane has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Hannah is able-bodied. Together they run a hilarious, candid YouTube channel titled, Squirmy and Grubs. Click below to see their channel!
A guy who is wheelchair mobile takes a happy picture with his girlfriend who is able bodied
More Relationship Resources

Looking for more articles and resources related to disability, dating, and sexual health? Check out this really cool website-
Community Power!
Circle with different types of disability logos
Highlighting centers for independent living throughout the state
A word from Johnna Godinez, Program Assistant - "February's newsletter theme is communication of all kinds. The Core Service focus this month is heavy on communication too. Our youth writer, Rachel Bell, who is an excellent communicator herself, explains the Core Service- Peer Support/Peer Counseling. Thanks Rachel!"

by Rachel Bell, KSYLF Alumna '16     

I talked to Macy Collins, an Independent Living Counselor with RCIL (Resource Center for Independent Living), located in El Dorado, Kansas. I asked her "What is a core service?" Ms. Collins informed me, "It is a basic service that every Center (for Independent Living) or CIL provides." There are five Core Services that are provided in the State of Kansas: Information and Referral; Advocacy; Independent Living Skills Training; Peer Counseling/Peer Support; and Deinstitutionalization/Transition.
Peer Support or Peer Counseling is youth supporting each other in different ways. Individuals with the same disability, or whose experiences are similar, are paired together by the CIL. The individual with the most experience provides information, guidance, advice, etc. When partnering the youth, they take it case by case to see where there is the best fit. After being paired, they will meet anywhere from twice a month to multiple times a week depending on the goals. Individuals can meet wherever they are most comfortable. Those places will vary depending on the goals. For example, if wanting to learn how to cook, the peer with more cooking experience will give lessons to the other peer at their home. The purpose is to set goals and help youth break down the barriers that could potentially hold them back. This also helps them feel they are not alone.  
For more information, please contact Macy Collins at (316) 322-7853 or
Blue calendar
CIL Calendar
Want to get involved with your local CIL? Here are exciting upcoming opportunities:

Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (Pratt)  
April 4
8:30 am - 2:00 pm
Pratt County Fairgrounds
Contact Tasha Konrade for more information-  
LINK (Hays) 
LINK collaborates with Hays Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Eligible youth with a disability or disabilities should apply to be a "little." Once accepted to Big Brothers and Big Sisters, LINK staff are assigned to each youth with a disability. Once a week, the LINK staffer ("Big") eats lunch with their "little" at school.
For more information, contact Laura Denny at
Independence, Inc. (Lawrence) 
AUMI Jam (Adaptive Use Musical Instruments) 
March 26 and April 30  
4:30 - 6:00 pm
Lawrence Public Library (707 Vermont)
RSVP to Ranita by the 15th of each month at (785) 841-0333, ext. 115.

Look a t the Independence, Inc. website for the cooking club, movie club, and other exciting groups or contact Ranita at (785) 841-0333, ext. 115.  
*To have your CIL's event dates listed in future issues, contact Johnna at