Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Karen Plumley
Pelham resident Lynne Aboujaoude advocates for her son, Nicholas every day.
But even harder than dealing with any of Nick’s physical issues is the fight Lynne and her husband, William, wage on a daily basis for Nick’s rights.
“It is important to us that Nick is included at school and elsewhere, and that he is given opportunities to be the best person he can be. We feel it is his right as a human being,” Lynne said. “Having a child with a disability requires us to advocate for him each and every day…it is a constant battle.”
This effort prompted Lynne, who also has two other children with disabilities, to join a local parent advocacy group that provides a bridge for families to find help for their own children with disabilities.
At the state level, Lynne has become a very active and communicative member of the southern New Hampshire advocacy group Community Crossroads, Inc. (formerly known as Region 10 Community Support Services). This nonprofit group, established in 1979, is partially funded by the state as well as through fundraising efforts and charitable donations, and provides many essential services to families of children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Lynne described several benefits they can provide, including respite, financial support for medical equipment such as wheelchairs and communication devices, co-pay coverage for doctor visits and financial help for prescription medications.
Community Crossroads is also a collaborative force, representing the needs and rights of people with disabilities. The advocacy group works with local businesses to find employment opportunities, seeks out homes and other decent living arrangements, and it partners with the school systems to ensure children with disabilities are receiving the best possible education. The organization is broken down into 10 area agencies to handle the demands of citizens throughout southern regions of New Hampshire.
“Regular communication is so important when you have a child with a disability. For example, I try to keep a foot in the school at all times. It is most effective to have a presence there so that teachers and administrators will associate a face with the family,” Lynne explained.
In addition to supporting her own family, as a member of Community Crossroads she meets with other members of the advocacy group on a monthly basis and collaborates with other families who need assistance, teaching them about the importance of communication at school, work, doctor’s offices and just about everywhere. She also helps to evaluate the needs of each family seeking help and works to provide whatever services are required.
All in the family
All the members of Lynne’s family are representatives for Community Crossroads, and for people of all ages with disabilities. Lynne’s oldest daughter, Mickayla, 16, is developing a keen interest in studying civil/human rights.
“We advocate so much as a family that she is really learning a lot about it and becoming quite a gifted advocate herself,” Lynne said.
As outspoken community leaders, the Aboujaoude family has been given a great honor—to represent the state of New Hampshire at an advocacy day in Washington D.C.
On July 23 through 25, children's hospitals patients and their families were expected to travel to Washington to advocate on behalf of their hospitals as part of the eighth annual Children's Hospital Association Family Advocacy Day. They planned to share their personal stories and experiences with Congress.
“Our family doctor nominated us to go, I guess because they were looking for people who could advocate well,” Lynne said.
Here, the Aboujaoude family will speak out for the thousands of persons residing in the state who have developmental disabilities, and they will get to voice their concerns that range from the changing face of Medicaid to inclusion for children in the regular classroom.
“People forget sometimes that as a mom, I am just trying to get my kids to be the best they can be. As parents of children with disabilities, or even if you are a child of an adult with a disability, standing up for them is so important,” Lynne said. Everyone has a right to be given a chance, to be included, and to be treated with the respect that all human beings deserve.
Karen Plumley is a freelance writer and mother of two from Pelham. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information:
To learn more about an area agency near you, contact Lynne Aboujaoude at 490-7903, or visit Community Crossroads, Inc. at region10nh.com. You may also want to check out the NH Department of Health and Human Services at www.dhhs.nh.gov.