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Success Stories Within The IDD Community: RJ Mitte

If you have ever seen the television show Breaking Bad, you may be familiar with the character Walter “Flynn” White Jr. White was played by the actor RJ Mitte. Mitte is an American actor who lives with cerebral palsy. 

Early Life:

Roy Frank “RJ” Mitte III was born on August 21, 1992, in Jackson, Mississippi. When he was born, he was not breathing. This resulted in permanent brain damage. He was adopted by Roy Frank Mitte Jr. and Dyna Mitte. At the age of 3, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His doctors put his legs in casts in order to straighten them. Mitte spent most of his childhood using crutches and wearing leg braces. By the time he was a teenager, his body had developed the strength to not need these devices! When he was 14, he moved with his mother and his younger sister to Los Angeles. This is where his career as an actor started to blossom.

Career Success:

Mitte is most famously known for his role in Breaking Bad, but he has held several other roles in various television series. In 2007, he played a variety of extras, including “School Jock,” on the television show Hannah Montana. These roles piqued his interest in film and he began taking acting lessons. Shortly after this, in 2008, Mitte was offered the role of Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the television series Breaking Bad. He acted on this show until 2013. He has also appeared in various short films and music videos.

Mitte has received several awards for his performances and his activism work. In 2013, he received the SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award for his role as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. on the television series Breaking Bad. The Screen Actors Guild named him as an advocate for actors with disabilities. Mitte is also a supporter of “Inclusion in the Arts and Media of Performers with Disabilities,” which aids actors with disabilities with getting jobs. He also has an award named after him – the RJ Mitte Diversity Award. 

Mitte is an active spokesperson for people with disabilities, specifically cerebral palsy. In fact, he is a celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy. He has spoken several times about growing up with cerebral palsy and the challenges that he overcame. 

“People with CP [cerebal palsy] overcome hurdles every day. One thing I’ve learned from my disability is that when there is an obstacle, you adapt and grow. You can’t let that obstacle break you down and discourage you.”

RJ Mitte

Current Day:

Today, RJ Mitte is still performing in various productions and continuing his activism work. Most recently, in 2019, he portrayed the character of Leif in the television series Now Apocalypse

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Susan Boyle and a similar success story featuring Daniel Radcliffe!

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RJ_Mitte

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2666409/bio

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-31923337

https://www.brainandlife.org/articles/after-the-role-of-a-lifetime-breaking-bads-rj-mitte/

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Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle is a Scottish singer. She is known for participating in the television show, Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. In fact, she came incredibly close to winning! 

Early Life:

Susan Magdalane Boyle was born on April 1, 1961, in Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland. Boyle was the youngest of her four brothers and five sisters. As a child, she was told that during her birth she did not have enough oxygen, which caused a learning disability. In 2012 she learned that this was a false diagnosis. During this time, Boyle learned that she had Asperger syndrome. During her school years, she was frequently bullied. But, she found peace in music and singing.

At the age of 12, she started to perform in musical productions at her school. She had many teachers who saw her talent and encouraged her to keep going! This would influence her career later in life. When Boyle graduated from high school, she trained as a cook for a short period of time before starting at the Edinburgh Acting School. Here she was able to further her musical training. 

Career Success:

In 1995, Boyle auditioned for a British television show called My Kind of People. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful. After this, she recorded a demo tape which she sent to many talent competitions and record companies. Sadly, Boyle took a break from music in 2000 when her sister passed away. She resumed her music career in 2002 but did not receive much attention. After her mother passed away in 2007, Boyle took another break from music. But, in 2009, she auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent. She sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical  Les Misérables. Her audition was met with immense applause and a standing ovation! Visit this link to watch her audition

“Unmarried women in their forties, with false teeth and tousled hair, aren’t usually held in the highest esteem by our society. The feeling seemed to be that if I could be a success then anyone could!”

Susan Boyle

Although she did not win her season of Britain’s Got Talent, she finished as a semifinalist. She received attention worldwide for her voice! Boyle was signed by Simon Cowell’s label Syco Entertainment. She released 8 albums and has gone on worldwide tours. Boyle has seen numerous successes in the music industry. To name a few, she has sold over 25 million albums, received 2 Grammy nominations and 3 Guinness World Records, and has sung for famous people such as the Pope! 

Current Day:

Today, Boyle is still an active artist at Syco Entertainment. She continues to perform on tour and appear on various television shows around the globe. 

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Temple Gradin and a similar success story featuring Andrea Bocelli!

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Susan-Boyle

https://www.susanboylemusic.com/about/#

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Boyle 

https://www.youngepilepsy.org.uk/news-and-events/news/susan-boyle-and-her-asperger-s.html

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Helpful Tips to Teach Your Dog How to Sit

Last week, we discussed introductory dog training tips to get you started if you’ve bought or adopted a new furry friend. If you haven’t read that blog post yet, what are you waiting for? Go read it! Now that you’ve read it, we’ll be discussing one of the first commands that you’ll be teaching your dog, which is ‘sit’. This is a great place to start and is an incredibly valuable command for your dog to know. Once your canine knows this command, it will be effortless for you to tell your dog to sit when meeting new people or to sit before you cross a street. In addition to this, the more that you work with your dog the stronger your bond will be with them!

Soul Dog Bodhi being such a good boy and sitting.
  1. Prepare to incentivize with lots of treats! Initially, you will award your dog with a treat each time they sit their backend down. It is recommended that you hold the treat in your hand and place it close to your dog’s nose so that they can smell it. After this, you will slowly move your hand from their nose to their forehead. Your dog will watch the treat by lifting their head up and sitting their rear down. Once they sit, reward them with a treat!
  2. Lure your dog with treats before adding in the verbal cue, “sit”. This process may require some patience with your canine as they learn the command. It is not a bad sign if your dog requires the treats to incentivize them for a long period. They will learn the command in time!
  3. It is recommended that you never push your dog’s hind end down. When this occurs, it may be intimidating and confusing for your canine. It may also negatively impact the remainder of your training session. Instead, return to using your treats as an incentive. 
  4. It is achievable to make sit your dog’s default behavior! What this means is that when your dog comes over to greet you, they will automatically sit down. Or when someone comes over to your home, they will sit down in preparation for the front door to open. By doing this, you will want to have treats in an easy-to-reach area. For example, you could carry some in a treat pouch that you wear around the house. Award your canine whenever they walk over to you and sit!

There are a number of tips and resources available to teach your dog how to sit! Once you perfect this command, you’ll be ready to move on to another one! Additionally, an American Kennel Club (AKC) YouTube video is linked below. YouTube videos are a great resource if it is more beneficial to see and hear how to teach a new command. In no time, your dog will be great at listening to the command and sitting!

Also, do you want to learn more about the incredible accomplishments that dogs have performed? This well-trained dog, Pickles, helped save the day back in 1966. Read more to find out what he did!

Additional Resources:

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Mental Health Tips: Simple Tools to Get Through the Day

Waking up each morning is supposed to be a joyful experience, but in reality, many humans struggle to get out of bed. I don’t want you to fear because I am here to give you a bunch of trusted tools to wake up in the morning and have a successful mental health day. Just like my previous blog soul-dogs-inc.org/mental-health-tips-easy-coping-mechanisms-to-relieve-stress/ I will share 5 tips that have been proven by professionals to reap great benefits on mental health and overall happiness. I will also discuss how Soul Dogs Inc has had a positive impact on the mental health of many of its clients. I am extremely excited to continue our mental health journey together. 

What is Considered Poor Mental Health?

Many of us tend to forget that a large amount of individuals experience poor mental health at one point or another throughout their lifetimes. Poor mental health is not equivalent to having mental illness. According to changeyourmind.org having poor mental health is defined as “Finding it difficult to manage how we think, feel, and act with respect to daily stresses.” Emotional intelligence plays a very important role when it comes to obtaining good mental health. When you are able to control your emotions you are able to think a lot more logically which leads to happier decision making. Happy decision making is one of the keys to having great mental health. 

5 Tips to Stay Happy Throughout the Day

Utilize these tips to ease yourself in stressful situations daily

  1. Remind Yourself
    • Most people don’t realize that the little things are what make us humans most happy. Leaving a simple motivational quote as the background on your phone can go a long way to increase your well-being throughout the day. Reading something as little as a quote can help you relieve stress and push you to strive for success in a happy manner
  2. Seek Happiness
    • Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t just appear in front of your face. If you wake up and feel that everything in your day is going wrong it is important to ‘seek’ happiness. This can be done by looking up a positive news article or watching a motivational video. This can also be done by offering small gestures of kindness when going about your daily routine. 
  3. Don’t Compare
    • This tip is definitely easier said than done, but I encourage you to worry about yourself. Social media and what others put online is a false reality and I never want you to forget that. Everyone goes through their own hardships and struggles. Just remember that you are individually doing your best and that’s all that matters. 
  4. Worry About Yourself
    • It’s hard to obtain a healthy mindset when your brain is filled with many worries and stresses. This is why it is extremely important and healthy to set aside some time. Whether that’s eating your favorite meal or watching your favorite show on TV before bed it is extremely important to treat yourself. 
  5. Be Kind to Others
    • It is scientifically proven when a person does good things they will feel more confident about themselves as a person. There is nothing like putting a smile on a human’s face. Examples can range from writing a nice note on your waiter’s receipt to helping out an old friend.

From personal experience, I believe these tools will create a healthy and happy mind. When practiced the right way you will see a better version of yourself bloom before you. 

Soul Dogs Inc and Mental Health

Soul Dogs Inc is a place where many individuals with an IDD come to work on different skills and their mental health. Soul Dogs Inc has proven through the usage of therapy and service animals that the mental health of individuals with IDD’s has increased rapidly. These individuals participate in group activities, excursions and different programs like ‘train the trainer’, where different parts of their brains are exercised. Growing social skills and job skills increases confidence and the overall mental health of these amazing humans. 

If you would like to learn more about mental health check out these links:

https://www.inreachinc.org/media-center/news-archive.html/article/2020/11/09/5-ways-to-stay-positive-in-trying-times?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhr2FBhDbARIsACjwLo3iJhH9IkHqJHyf6l11haEyNBmFD5JqiNyX91D1HL3DhiFd1qLzdv0aAkj0EALw_wcB

https://www.changeyourmindni.org/about-mental-health/what-is-poor-mental-health

By Zoelle

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Success Stories Within The IDD Community: Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is an American scientist and animal behaviorist. She is best known for her work of creating a humane system for the slaughtering of livestock. Her experience with Autism aided her in creating this system.

Early Life:

Mary Temple Grandin was born on August 29, 1947, in Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, Grandin did not speak until she was three and a half years old. When she was young, the only formal diagnosis she was given was brain damage. Grandin was not formally diagnosed with autism until later in life. 

Grandin attended many different schools up until high school. School was occasionally difficult for her as she was taunted by some of her classmates. In fact, she was expelled from  Beaver Country Day School at the age of 14 for throwing a book at a classmate who made fun of her.

After Grandin was expelled from Beaver Country Day School, she went on to attend Mountain Country School. It was here that she came up with her idea of the “hug box” or the “squeeze machine.” She had many supportive mentors at the Mountain County School. 

When Grandin was 15, her parents got divorced. A few years later, Grandin’s mother married Ben Cutler. Grandin spent her summers on his sister’s ranch. This experience was key in shaping the rest of her career. 

Career Success:

Grandin is known widely for her research and ideas on the humane treatment of livestock, specifically in the case of slaughter. She is also recognized worldwide as a spokesperson on autism

Living with autism allowed Gradin to connect with animals and think in different ways. As mentioned previously, Gradin did not speak until she was three and a half years old. She expressed herself in nonverbal ways. Verbal communication is not needed to interact with animals. Grandin’s experience with autism enabled her to connect with animals because she thinks in pictures. Similarly, there is scientific evidence that animals also think in pictures and have sensory-based memories.

“Animal cognition has similarities to autism cognition. Animals are very aware of small, sensory details in the environment. People on the autism spectrum excel at work involving details.”

Med.Stanford.Edu

When reflecting upon her childhood, Grandin recognized that she often sought out “deep pressure stimulation,” like a hug, when she felt overwhelmed. When working on her aunt’s ranch, she realized that this might apply to slaughtering livestock as well. During this time, the animals are overstimulated, so “deep pressure stimulation” would calm the animals down.

After several prototypes, Grandin developed a “hug machine”/ “squeeze chair.”  Grandin’s invention has been proven to have a calming effect and is now used in several different scenarios. This has been adopted with slaughtering livestock and in some therapy programs for children and adults living with autism.

Current Day:

Despite facing many challenges when she was growing up, Grandin used her experiences with autism to her advantage. Living with autism allowed her to think differently and see issues from another point of view, eventually leading to her success. In 2010, Grandin was named 100 of the most influential people in the world under the category of “Heroes” by Time 100. She also starred in her semi-biographical movie. Today Grandin is a faculty member at the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.

Be sure to check out our previous success story featuring Stevie Wonder and a similar success story featuring Angela Bachiller!

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Temple-Grandin

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/11/5-questions–temple-grandin-discusses-autism–animal-communicati.html

https://www.bancroft.org/bancroft_stories/temple-grandin/ https://www.templegrandin.com/