Program to Inspire Confidence in Children with Disabilities

Published: Jun. 12, 2012 at 7:51 PM EDT
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For the first time, The Department of Education held an "I'm Determined Project" on a college campus at James Madison University.

The two-day event for people with disabilities helped all who attended.

Being young with a disability is not always an easy thing to overcome. The trials and tribulations of school, combined with one's self-doubts, can lead to a dangerous state of mind. That is what the I'm Determined Project has set out to change. John McNaught is the State Coordinator of the program and he said they want to inspire confidence.

“For a lot of these youth, they've been hearing life their whole educational life everything they can't do,” said McNaught. “So, we try to flip the switch. What can you do? What are you good at? What are your goals? What do you want to be when you grow up? We try to drop all the barriers.”

Through problem solving and self awareness exercises organized by their peers, young people, like Tori Saylor, said the impact was monumental. She has never missed a summit since the project was started because it has helped her so much.

“They showed me that it was ok to have a disability no matter what it was,” said Tori. “Them helping me with that and teaching me self determination has turned me into the person that I always thought I could be.”

Her father, Bob Saylor, even noticed a huge change.

“She's grown from a person that had essentially no social skills, no interest in having social skills, not interested in communicating with human beings. You saw her today, this is how she's grown,” said Bob.

According to first timers at the summit, they felt the results right away.

“I don't doubt myself anymore,” said Cierra Russell, a participant. “I've actually found some fulfillment. It filled an empty hole. It was empty before and now I know I can do it.”

This year's summit was the largest in the I'm Determined project's history. More than 160 kids participated. The Department of Education plans to keep the event at JMU in the future.