Tag Archives: Disabilities

Benefits of Dementia

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and Eleanor Dickinson, Dickens Fair, San Francisco 18 Dec 2016

On this, my daughter Jessica‘s birthday, I want to honor and thank her for her creativity, love, and generous heart. It is such a pleasure that she and Matthew live here in San Jose, not only because I love and want to spend time with them but also because Jessica has made time each week for my mother Eleanor (her grandmother), to help her get all that she can out of life, despite her dementia and other health challenges.

In a recent conversation, Jessica told me she keeps a mental list of what is good about dementia. After a pause during which I reoriented my thinking about this degrading and frustrating disease, I remembered that in 2008 I made a similar list of some of the benefits of having a disabled child.   Here is Jessica’s list, plus some additions:

Benefits of Dementia

  1. Good Surprises: Jessica told me about man with dementia who would order socks or books or other needed items for postal delivery. By the time the packages arrived, he had forgotten he himself had ordered them. He was sure he had a loving friend sending him surprises that were just what he wanted.
  2. Making a Statement, Again: When my mother saw Jessica in a politically provocative tshirt, she was delighted. Later that afternoon, Eleanor noticed the shirt for the first time, and was delighted again.
  3. Keeping Contact: When my father Wade died in 2011 at the age of 85, Eleanor lost her greatest fan. They had been married for 59 years, fighting and arguing all the way. Eleanor’s dementia has softened that loss. Sometimes she speaks of Wade as if he is in the next room.

What would you add to this list of the benefits of dementia?

Dickinsons at the Dickens Fair, San Francisco 18 Dec 2016

Eleanor Dickinson, Christmas 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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TEDx Bay Area 2014


I very much enjoyed attending my first TEDxBayArea, hosted at Amazon Lab126 in Sunnyvale, California. I was invited by TechWomen mentor Francine Gordon and was happy to meet many sister TechWomen mentors there, including Eileen Brewer who got to speak to the audience for a minute at the end.

Having had some days to reflect on this exciting educational and networking event, here are the presentations that made the most impression:

  • Jackie Tabick (Rabbi in UK): “The balancing act of compassion” (2009 recorded TED talk)
  • Barbara Bogatin (Cellist at Marin Chamber Soloists): “The Art of Failure”
  • Leslie Blodgett (Creator, bareMinerals Cosmetics) and Colaine L.A. Roepke (self at self): “Let it go: An experiment in forgiveness”
  • Dr. Clifford Saron (Assoc. Research Scientist, UC Davis): “Compassionate Empathy: What children with autism have to teach us about our world by entering theirs”
  • Liza Donnelly (Cartoonist and Columnist at Forbes): “Harmony Through Humor”

If you get a chance to attend a TEDx, do it!

16 January 2015 update: Read the web writeup on the event – including several tweets by me!









Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Paul was Admitted to SJSU!


My son Paul was just admitted to San Jose State University (California’s first public institution of higher learning – founded in 1857). He will be studying Art and Studio Practice for a SJSU Bachelor of Arts degree. Paul will graduate with his Associate of Arts degree in Studio Art from Foothill College in June 2014 and start at SJSU in September. We are so proud of him! You can see Paul’s art portfolio on his website: Paul’s Element.

I am particularly happy that Paul got his acceptance package after reading yesterday’s sad article “Students With Disabilities Aim For A College Degree, But Often Get Stuck” (by Joy Resmovits in The Huffington Post). In my last blog entry about Paul’s progress, I presented some of our challenges with the educational system. Paul’s hard work and dedication have now paid off. Hooray!


Images Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson


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Paul Applying to San Jose State University


I am delighted to write that my son Paul is finishing up his last year at Foothill College and applying to transfer to San Jose State University (SJSU) in 2014. In addition to studying Studio Art, Paul is interested in becoming a credentialed art teacher for children with disabilities. Samples of his art are below – with more in his online portfolio: Paul’s Element.

Raising a kid with disabilities is a challenge and I am proud of Paul and of our whole family for his successful progress. Paul has been blessed with some remarkable and excellent teachers – to whom I am forever grateful:

Paul also had more than his share of poor teachers but we survived them. I only ask that they and…

  • …the teachers who did not want disabled kids like Paul in their class:
  • …the administrators who told us that Paul would be lucky to get to college:
  • …the head of school who kicked Paul out because his disabilities were bringing down her scores:
  • …the career counsellors who took Paul and the other disabled kids on a tour of the sewer plant:

Please consider this…

Jane Goodall went in the back door to become an ethologist. That’s something I’ve thought about a lot, because people with autism usually have to go in the back door. We have a lot of trouble following the normal paths. We don’t do very well in interviews, which are a big problem for us, and a lot of autistic people also have extremely “uneven” academic skills. An autistic person can test at the bottom of the IQ range on one subscale and at the very top on another. For example, I had great difficulty with algebra because there’s no way to visualize it.  I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing if there weren’t any back doors.

Dr. Temple Grandin, 2009
In 2010, Dr. Temple Grandin was listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the “Heroes” category.

Wish Paul luck in being accepted!  We will hear back from SJSU by March 2014.





Images Copyright Katy Dickinson and Paul D. Goodman 2011-2013


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My son is going to college!

OK, you would think that all of the graduation-from-high-school stuff last month would have tipped me off but I was still very excited today when my soon-to-be 18-year-old son Paul finally registered for his Fall classes at Foothill College today! Foothill is a 53-year-old community college set on 122 wooded acres in Los Altos Hills, California (south of San Francisco). Their web-based registration system is still messed up so Paul finally gave up and went to the school to register in person but it is done at last. He will take Intermediate Algebra (lecture and lab), Ceramics, and a study skills class. He met with a college counselor at the Disability Resource Center who recommended this light load his first quarter so he could get used to being in college.

I am so proud! When your kid has disabilities, you take every little progress as a triumph!


Images Copyright Katy Dickinson 2010

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Lions’ Fundraiser, “Hot San Jose Nights” Car Show

From 7-11 am this morning, the Willow Glen Lions Club served 220 pancake breakfasts during the first half of its two-day charity fundraiser at the Hot San Jose Nights vintage and historical car event (Santa Clara Fairgrounds).  We gave away free helium balloons and made balloon lions for the little kids. All proceeds will go toward this summer’s camp scholarships for the Diabetes Society (in Willow Glen).  The Willow Glen Lions are also collecting eyeglasses to be recycled – given to needy people at no charge.

The car show features a huge variety of vehicles, including a historic Kenworth truck, sports cars from many eras, a red 1957 Chevrolet, a tank, and a huge motorcycle, the world’s largest, said to cost $300,000.

Here are some pictures from today:

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Images by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher, Copyright 2010

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Paul Graduates High School!

After much struggle, my son graduated from High School!  Hooray!  Paul graduated with his Palo Alto High School class of 2010 in a ceremony attended by his parents and grandparents. His sister Jessica listened by cell phone to Paul’s name being announced as he walked to receive his diploma. Jessica is in Washington DC, where she is working as a summer intern for the Polaris Project (“For a World Without Slavery”).

Paul made his way through High School despite his social-cognitive learning disability, dyslexia, dysgraphia, brain surgery, and debilitating headaches. He stubbornly continued to do six or more hours of homework every day (including weekends) up until the week of finals – catching up after we were Stranded in Egypt over Spring Break. He took a CPR Saturday class just before finals after a last-minute note from the school said he needed that training to graduate. Other kids in Paul’s class were honored for their academic, sports, and musical achievements. Paul won through to the end, and that was good enough. We are so proud! This week, Paul is going to visit Jessica in Washington DC (his first solo trip).  He starts at Foothill College in August.

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Images Copyright 2010 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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