February 2011

My best friend died from late-term vascular dementia.  My mother’s dementia finally took her life.  I watched dementia steal the IQ of my brilliant husband.  His ability to reason slowly slipped from him as he worked feverously on an invention that he believed would change the world. 

Because I had more than a passing interest in the disease, I began studying the subject.  The latest research includes an interesting fact.  There is a dried fruit that almost guarantees that you will never suffer from dementia.  It is a  nearly-perfect food for your heart and brain.  That fruit is prunes.  Yep, the lowly substance that your mother forced you to eat when you were too grumpy could be God’s best protection against heart attacks and devastating brain drains.

It is my suspension that  armed with this evidence, marketers have rebranded the lowly prune to become dried plums. They have even wrapped the dried plums in individual packets so that you don’t have to grab a clump of the sticky stuff from a box.  

In like manner, people within the mentally challenged community are undergoing a rebranding.  As the “R” word has become a popular, degrading slur, there has been a surge in the effort to rename our population It is a valiant attempt to somehow dissolve the stigma that is attached to this disability.  Several months ago, the federal government was charged with the task of finding every time “mental retardation” was used in government papers.  These words were to be replaced with “intellectual disability.” 

Working with people who are mentally challenged, we find most of our members have an additional disability.  The majority of our population is not emotionally disabled; but most of our population has some physical abnormality.  However, once branded with an intellectual disability, it becomes a stigma that must be carried for the rest of your life.  Yet, this population comprises some of the most giving and loving people on earth.  Yes, they are people who have an Adamic nature along with all humankind.  They need salvation and discipleship.  But as a whole, they desire to please; and they want to do what is right.

While prunes are the super-food full of goodness and nutrition, they are of no benefit if no one will eat them.  Perhaps changing the tag of our members to intellectual disability will facilitate the rebranding that is needed to allow people to look beyond their inabilities to discover who they are.  Rehabilitating their image may work for our population.  I pray this will happen.

The month of March means that spring is ushered into Florida.  It is a noisy month with lots of windy days and children playing outdoors.  In Florida, our children play outside in the fall, winter and spring.  We wrangle the kids indoors during the long summer afternoons because of the prolonged and intense heat. 

Florida has more than 1,000 miles of coast line.  In March, the ocean is still stirred by the winter storms.  As the doors and windows fly open to envelop the spring breezes, those who live near the coast are treated to the evening song of moving water. 

Spring brings the smells of orange blossoms and upturned earth.  Floridians know that the delightful smells of citrus flowering will invade their autos and their walks during the months of early to late spring.  

For the mentally challenged community across the US, there is more than a passing interest regarding the spring sessions of the state legislatures.  Almost all lawmakers from every state meet to make changes, pass laws and adjust their budgets and expectations to respond to what the federal government has done.  Unlike the federal government which can print money, most state budgets must be balanced each year.  They cannot run a deficit.

As our national economy struggles to recover from what was billed as “near collapse,” the noises and smells of spring are different this year.  They include unions gathered at state capitols.  Teachers are abandoning their classrooms bringing their high school students with them.  Whether you care or don’t care about what is happening in the political world, whether you are liberal or conservative in your politics, our members’ lives could change drastically within the year of 2011. 

We must admit that many of our members often compensate their intellectual abilities with an intuitive knowledge that can be acutely accurate.  Therefore, as their Christian leadership, we must be sure that we are teaching our members that their stability is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They can no longer depend on their monthly Social Security checks or the amount allotted to them through the state and federal governments for their supports.  These entities are merely the vehicle that God is currently using to bless them and provide for them. 

We don’t know how God will choose to provide for us.  This week, the LifeWay curriculum highlighted the differences between wants and needs.  In our society, the differences have become so blurred that needs are taken for granted and wants are demanded.  During the hurricanes that hit Central Florida about five years ago, the one thing that was demanded wasn’t breakfast or water but TV cable.  While visiting one large church after the hurricanes, the pastor announced, “Please, I don’t want anyone else to ask me to pray that they will get their TV cable back.”  Interesting, no one laughed, including the pastor.

I love all the great things that God’s blessings have given to us.  It’s a running joke how many pairs of shoes I own.  I pray that God will continue to help and bless us.  However, I’m trying to educate myself and our members regarding their true security–and it isn’t in how many pairs of shoes reside in my closet.

God’s Spirit Moved

Genesis 1:1 and 2

Central Theme:  God‘s Spirit moves in my life.

Introduction–Bring a book about the life of a person. Explain this is the story of a person.  We all have a story and that story begins when God does something or moves in our lives.

       I.     Have a member read Genesis 1:1 and 2

          A. God‘s movement in our lives is something which began long before we were born.

          B. God knew me and saw me and planned me at creation.

          C. God knew you and saw you and planned your life at creation.

          D. God even had a plan for our salvation.

           II.     God‘s Spirit moved.

              A. That part of God which broods with gentleness and peace began the movement of the world.

              B. This shows us that God‘s first impulse toward us was in love, not judgment.

     III.     Let’s look at the work of the Holy Spirit

              A. He is the part of God which draws us to Himself and tells us that we can be forgiven for the bad things we do.

              B. He is the part of God which constantly works with us and woos us with love.

              C. He is the part of God that is always gentle, kind and loving.

Conclusion–God‘s loving spirit brooded or moved toward our creation.

As reported by Naked Politics 


Carl Littlefield, tapped by Gov. Rick Scott to lead the Agency for Person’s with Disabilities, unexpectedly withdrew his name from consideration and said he wasn’t seeking the post. Littlefield was scheduled to appear 9 a.m. at the Senate Children Families and Elder Affairs Committee, where Chair Chair Ronda Storms was going to rake him over the coals for his handling of a sex scandal at the Human Development Center, a Hillsborough County APD provider

The center faces allegations of sex abuse and lax supervision. Storms’ committee recently sent a scathing letter about the matter, and Littlefield had little hope of surviving an in-person appearance.

Senators had wondered why the abuse issues at the group home had not been addressed in the more than two years since complaints first arrived at the office of the Tampa Bay region’s area administrator, Littlefield.

“In two years, he never reached out to me,” said Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, who called the hearing after reading an investigation in the St. Petersburg Times published in December. “In two years, he never picked up the phone.”

Littlefield’s letter withdrawing his nomination, released this morning after Scott appeared on a conservative talk show, was received by the governor’s office yesterday evening at 5 p.m.

Click here to read Carl Littlefield’s letter withdrawing his nomination.

This is a memo that came from Florida Department of Transportation.  At the end of the memo is the information contained in the brochure that was mentioned in the memo:

 Thank you for the input and comments you provided during the 2060 Florida Transportation Plan Update phase.  Attached you will find the revised 2060 FTP brochure explaining the goals identified in the plan and how we are moving forward in implementing the plan. 

For more information about the plan, please visit the 2060 FTP website at www.2060FTP.org

Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Heather S. Garcia

Public Involvement Manager

District 5 Department of Transportation

719 S. Woodland Blvd., MS 521

DeLand, FL  32720-6834



2060 Florida

Transportation Plan



Moving Forward

The 2060 FTP identified three issues critical to achieving the FTP goals and objectives: governance; investments; and immediate actions to begin implementation. The 2060 FTP calls for creating a 21

st century governance model and a strategic approach to transportation investments to provide reliable funding for statewide, regional, and local priorities. Implementation of this plan will occur as Florida’s transportation partners align plans and policies, coordinate activities, and measure and report progress toward achievement of the 2060 FTP.

Florida’s Governor, Legislature, and public and private transportation partners have the opportunity and responsibility to implement the FTP and advance critical priorities. Together, FDOT and its partners will move Florida forward through the 21

st century.


Achieve and maintain a state of good repair for transportation assets for all modes.• Reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of critical infrastructure to the impacts of climate trends and events.

• Minimize damage to infrastructure from transportation vehicles.

• Optimize the efficiency of the transportation system for all modes.




Expand transportation options for residents, visitors, and businesses.• Reinforce and transform Florida’s Strategic Intermodal System facilities to provide multimodal options for moving people and freight.

• Develop and operate a statewide high speed and intercity passenger rail system connecting all regions of the state and linking to public transportation systems in rural and urban areas.

• Expand and integrate regional public transit systems in Florida’s urban areas.

• Increase the efficiency and reliability of travel for people and freight.

• Integrate modal infrastructure, technologies, and payment systems to provide seamless connectivity for passenger and freight trips from origin to destination.

For more information:





a new era for transportation in florida

Improve the security of Florida’s transportation system.• Improve Florida’s ability to use the transportation system to respond to emergencies and security risks.





Develop transportation plans and make investments to support the goals of the FTP and other statewide plans, as well as regional and community visions and plans.• Coordinate transportation investments with other public and private decisions to foster livable communities.

• Coordinate transportation and land use decisions to support livable rural and urban communities.

Transportation partners will be working together to achieve the six goals identified in the FTP over the next 50 years. Three goals focus on how transportation supports Florida’s future prosperity and quality of life. The other three focus on the performance of the transportation system.


he Florida Transportation Plan (FTP) is the state’s long range transportation plan. The FTP is a plan for all of Florida – including local, regional, and private partners responsible for transportation planning and funding decisions. The FTP identifies goals and objectives to guide transportation decisions over the next 50 years.

The 2060 Florida Transportation Plan marks a new era of transportation in Florida and calls for a fundamental change in how and where Florida invests in transportation. The FTP defines transportation goals, objectives, and strategies to make our economy more competitive, our communities more livable, and our environment more sustainable for future generations.

The department conducted extensive public and partner outreach as part of updating the FTP in 2010. A 29 member committee was formed to draft the 2060 FTP. The committee represented diverse interests from throughout the state: all levels of government and all modes of transportation, business and economic development organizations, community and environmental interests, the military, and private citizens. A statewide summit, 12 regional workshops, nearly 300 briefings at partner meetings, two statewide webinars, and an interactive website helped FDOT gather input from an additional 10,000 Floridians.

Goals and Long Range Objectives






Maximize Florida’s position as a strategic hub for international and domestic trade, visitors, and investment by developing, enhancing, and funding Florida’s Strategic Intermodal System (SIS).• Improve transportation connectivity for people and freight to established and emerging regional employment centers in rural and urban areas.

• Plan and develop transportation systems to provide adequate connectivity to economically productive rural lands.

• Invest in transportation capacity improvements to meet future demand for moving people and freight.

• Be a worldwide leader in development and implementation of innovative transportation technologies and systems.


Plan and develop transportation systems and facilities in a manner which protects and, where feasible, restores the function and character of the natural environment and avoids or minimizes adverse environmental impacts.• Plan and develop transportation systems to reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.





Eliminate fatalities and minimize injuries on the transportation system.

Provide a safe and secure transportation system for all usersMake transportation decisions to promote responsible environmental stewardshipInvest in transportation systems to support a prosperous, globally competitive economyMake transportation decisions to support and enhance livable communities

Ms. Huiwei Shen, Project ManagerOffice of Policy Planning

Florida Department of Transportation

605 Suwannee Street, M.S. 28

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

Phone: (850) 414-4800

Fax: (850) 414-4898

e-mail: huiwei.shen@dot.state.fl.us Please visit us at:



My husband, Frank’s eyes flickered in mild recognition until the wild look of confusion and dismay returned.  My sister had approached him as he sat in the hallway facing the nurse’s station.  He has been diagnosed with late-term dementia.  His broken hip meant an extended stay in a skilled nursing facility.  My sister’s short visit was pleasant and comforting for him.  Even though he may not remember most of the people who visit or that they came to see him, he revels in the company and delights in every minute.

At times, I’m tempted to compare the mentally challenged community with other disabilities such as dementia.  I know the differences are great but the similarities are also huge.  That day I was struck with both the similarities and the differences. 

Dementia slowly (or  quickly) steals large portions of the cognitive understanding of its victims.  Like an infectious, leaking virus in the brain, dementia symptoms eventually become more the character of the person than the original personality.  One caregiver confided, “It was as though my mother left me inch by inch, slowly, softly creeping away until another individual appeared one morning.   I would wake up to another, different person. Once again, I felt that I’d not had the opportunity to tell my mother good-bye.”  The caregiver moved in her chair in soulful remembering, ” The first realization of the process was hard; but each time it happened over the 15 years of her decline, it never got easier.” 

Persons with developmental disabilities are born with the delays in their cognitive abilities.  Unless a form of dementia overtakes their brains, their minds will develop and mature like any other person.  They can learn.  They merely learn more slowly. 

David is a fascinating person.  There is much going on in his brain.  David has a quick smile and almost never complains.  However, David is not able to express his feelings and desires in a normal amount of time.  That does not mean that the feelings are not there.  One week, I asked him a scheduling question.  He looked at me smiling; but he didn’t answer.  On the way home, he blurted out in his quick manner, “Next week.”

The conversation that followed was peppered with my questions concerning what was happening next week.  A quizzical, amused expression overtook his face as he repeated, “Next week.”  Finally, I realized that David was answering the question that I’d asked three hours before.  He was able to answer the question.  However, his processing time was limited.  I learned that I needed to allow him a couple of hours before I’d get an answer to any questions I asked. 

Therefore, our routine became pretty set.  I would ask him questions when I picked him up on the way to Special Gathering; and he would answer them on the way home.  He was completely able to answer the questions; he just needed process time to do the task required. 

Each of us learn differently and process differently.  It is the same with people who are mentally challenged.  They are individuals with hope, dreams and aspirations.  They want a job, a meaningful relationship with the opposite sex.  They want to able to pay their bills and engage in meaningful hobbies.  Most of all they desire a relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Open to the Gospel, these men and women are able to know God and to embrace the marvelous claims of Christ.

Living on the Space Coast, every pastor in our county understands that they must know something about the space program to interact effectively with the men and women in their congregations.  The same is true within the mentally challenged community but different.

Not sure what is happening in other states; but in Florida, companions and respite care providers are replacing families in the tasks of attending social events.  This is probably a good trend for families who need the respite time.  It is also good for the agencies and private providers who need the hours of work.  Part of this trend is a result of more and more people who are not able to attend a work program during the day.  People who are mentally challenged may be allowed to work three or four days rather than five, as has been the practice for several decades.

In building a relationship with your members, there are several things which are effective.  First, you might want to supplement your income by doing respite care or providing companion services.  If you have your degree, you may want to do support coordination or start your own agency.  While this can have great disadvantages, there is no way to build a relationship with professionals, like becoming one of them.  At Special Gathering, when support coordination first came into our state, we became an agency for a time.  While the State of Florida fought us because we were a “church” program, we are now able to understand the systems that are in place.  As things have changed, we have been able alter our knowledge about how the system works more quickly and easily.

Most people will respect you if they believe that you understand who they are.  This is especially true with the professionals who work within the mentally challenged community.  Few people actually take the time to understand or appreciate their profession.  Therefore, if you are knowledgeable about their job, if you attend state training sessions and you are seen by them as interested in the professional aspect of our community, you will win over their hearts.  They will begin to know that you are more than “the preacher” or “church lady.”  You are equally concerned about the systems under which they must labor.

No one goes into this profession for the money.  They do this because they care about people.  They want to make lives better.  However, without the Lord’s touch, it is easy to become caustic and jaded because the hours are long and the paperwork is maddening.  Most people are on call 24 hours a day.  In short, it can be a difficult job, with little pay, and less respect.

I’ve found that most professionals appreciate that you remember them and their names.  They want to hear from the tone of your voice and the looks of concern that you care about them.  No.  Your ministry isn’t to the professional community; but earning their respect can make your ministry easier.  Here are some things that have worked for Special Gathering.

  • Try to become a part of the professional community by becoming knowledgeable about the state systems and programs.
  • Learn the names of the people with whom you interact.
  • Include them in decisions and ask for their advice for social events, if appropriate.  I became a good friend to one group home manager when we began to plan outings and trips to the amusement parks together. 
  • In the course of conversation, it isn’t a bad thing to let them know what your degrees are.  If you don’t have a degree, coyly interject your credentials to do ministry. 
  • Nobody likes a braggart but interjecting  credible facts about your life isn’t bragging.
  • Stop to speak to the professionals that you encounter.  Ask about their families and their lives.  Learn about their cares and concerns. 
  • Pray for them during your devotion time.

Time is the thing that will help you in this area.  These men and women are caring and concerned folks who are a vital part of the lives of your members.  You need them to respect you and that respect must be earned.

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