10 NFL Players Who Overcame Barriers to Their Disabilities

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From Shaquem Griffin to Tom Dempsey, the league is full of inspiring stories.

With the big Super Bowl game coming up, the spotlight is on the NFL. While we have a lot of football fans here at Easterseals NJ, we’re the biggest fans of players making a difference in the disability community. Many of these players created foundations and nonprofits to help others. Below are just a handful of current and former players that showcase that anything is possible.

Keith O’Neill

The former Colts and Cowboys linebacker has been vocal about his struggle with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. O’Neill started the 4th and Forever Foundation to help others struggling with mental health.

Brandon Marshall

Marshall, a former NFL linebacker, announced he had borderline personality disorder in 2011. He’s made it his mission to spread awareness and destigmatize BPD. He even started his own nonprofit– Project 375– with the goal of “unlocking human potential through conversation, education, & inspiration.”

Shaquem Griffin

Griffin is a former NFL linebacker (and twin brother of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Shaquill Griffin) born with Amniotic Band Syndrome. ABS affected Griffin’s right hand, causing it to become underdeveloped. Griffin eventually underwent surgical amputation to have the hand removed. Griffin has worked with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a sports program for those with physical disabilities.

Tom Dempsey

The late Tom Dempsey was a kicker for the New Orleans Saints. Dempsey’s kicking foot was deformed; he wore a special boot while playing. He famously made a record-setting field goal against the Detroit Lions in 1970. The kick resulted in the “Tom Dempsey Rule” which now requires all players to use shoes similar to the NFL standard. Interestingly enough, Dempsey’s custom shoe was lighter than other shoes.

Brent Boyd

Often called the father of concussion awareness, Boyd is a former NFL offensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings. He founded the advocacy group, Dignity After Football, and famously testified in front of congress regarding the NFL’s disability plan.

Rocky Bleier

Bleier was a former halfback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sustained severe injuries to his right foot and leg during the Vietnam War. He wrote a book about his experience, Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story, discussing his injuries and his time in the NFL.

Tedy Bruschi

Bruschi, a former linebacker for the NFL and current ​​senior advisor to the head coach at the University of Arizona, suffered a stroke in 2005. After sitting out a season to recover, he was able to continue playing for several more seasons. Shortly after his stroke, he started a non-profit organization, Tedy’s Team, to raise awareness for stroke and heart disease victims while supporting survivors.

Samari Rolle

Rolle, a former cornerback for the Oilers and Ravens, has been very open about living with epilepsy. While he eventually retired, citing his illness as well as injuries sustained on the field, he’s currently the assistant football coach at a high school in Florida.

Joe Barksdale

Barksdale is a former offensive tackle in the NFL, but his impressive resume also includes singer-songwriter and stand-up comedian. Last year, Barksdale publicly shared his autism diagnosis. He mentioned in an interview with the Today Show that the diagnosis made him feel comfortable with who he is.

Eric LeGrand

LeGrand signed a symbolic contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, but he’s never played in the NFL. This college footballer fractured two of his vertebrae in a game against Army, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Since then, LeGrand has created a platform to speak out about those living with spinal cord injuries. He partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to create the nonprofit Team LeGrand. He’s also an author, sports analyst, and motivational speaker.

Of course, these are just a handful of the many NFL players with disabilities who are making a difference in the world. Who are some of your favorite players and nonprofits?

Part One: Making Nature in New Jersey More Accessible

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In this first blog of a multi-part series, we explore the importance of making sure both public and private natural resources are available to all who want to enjoy being outdoors in New Jersey. 

While there are activities where accommodations may be impossible for some, New Jersey offers a vast array of natural experiences for all. 

New Jersey is known as the Garden State but make no mistake, in addition to gardens and farms galore, NJ boasts more than 452,000 acres of natural and historic property including forests, parks, and recreation areas. Visitors are invited to take part in a variety of activities including biking, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, and picnicking. 

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Advocate for the Disability Community in New Jersey: Your Voice Matters

advocate for disability community

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard. Life came to a screeching halt, and for almost two years everything we did, like how we work, our interactions, and even getting food and common household staples became challenges.

For the disability community, life became even harder and the world even narrower. Many with sensory conditions found themselves unable to wear masks and shop. People saw their services shuttered and their hard-won skill progression erode.

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5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Next Telehealth Therapy Appointment

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Next Telehealth Appointment

Telehealth for Your Mental Health

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Let’s face it – 2020 has been a bad year for mental health. Not only have our lives been upended by a deadly pandemic, one of the best ways to cope with the mental backlash has been affected as well. Attending therapy can be beneficial in many ways; however, during these challenging times therapy can provide additional support. Thankfully, telehealth is quickly becoming the new and accepted alternative to traditional as opposed to in-person therapy.

With the rise of secure streaming technologies, we can meet with our therapist while staying safe in the comfort of our own homes. Still, this can be different and sometimes require us to make adjustments if we’re going to get the most out of our telehealth sessions. Here are some tips to help make this transition a little easier:

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  1. Check to see if you have access to the right technology for your appointment. Different providers have different platforms they’re using to administer telehealth sessions. Do you need a computer? A microphone? A broadband internet connection? Speak with your provider beforehand and ensure you have the equipment you need to speak with your therapist.
  2. If you don’t live alone, finding a private place for your appointment can be difficult. You want to make sure others in your home cannot overhear your conversations. Ensure those you live with know you are having an appointment and ask them to respect your privacy by staying away from the room where you are having your session. Utilizing earbuds or headphones with a microphone attachment can be helpful for this as well. You won’t have to speak as loudly and you’ll be the only one who can hear your therapist. You can ask your housemates to put on headphones during this time as well (ask them to catch up on their latest podcast or listen to some music)
  3. Try to minimize distractions during your session. Turn off your phone, email, and any other notifications that could pop up during your appointment. Maximize the chat window so you don’t see anything on your desktop that could catch your attention. Also, remember to clear your physical space as well. Maybe leave yourself one thing to fidget with if that keeps you focused, but otherwise try to keep your space clear and clean so you can focus on your session.
  4. Since you are not “commuting” to and from your therapist’s office, allow time to decompress after your session. Sometimes that commute allows for a recovery time we don’t often consider, with that buffer removed from your therapy routine, you need to make time for a transition. Allow yourself 10 minutes after your session to listen to music, stretch, or do some yoga prior to return to normal household activities.
  5. Not commuting to therapy also allows individuals a greater chance of keeping therapy appointments because there are fewer obstacles to overcome. However, don’t allow these appointments to catch you off-guard just because of their convenience. There are still often penalties for missing an appointment. Set a reminder on your phone for a few minutes before the appointment to ensure you’re on time and prepared. The more you do this, the more of a habit it will become.

Remote Counseling Works!

We hope you are able to use these tips to make the most of your next telehealth therapy appointment. It’s incredibly important to take some time to nurture your mental health during this time of isolation and uncertainty. We hope you’ll take advantage of telehealth counseling, but there are also steps you can take to provide self-care. We encourage you to read up on our tips on how to stay “mental healthy” during the pandemic. Easterseals offers telehealth accommodations for some services so if you’re interested, please visit our website and let us know how we can help.

Do you have any other advice on how to make the most of telehealth appointments? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The Pandemic Mental Health Advice Not Enough People Are Talking About

Covid-19 mental health

Here’s What You’re Probably Not Hearing Enough of…

If you check the news or head to social media, you will surely be met with endless headlines of COVID-19 related news and health warnings. You will probably be given tons of virus-related advice and instructions on how to stay physically healthy. What you are less likely to hear, however, is a reminder to check in on your mental health.  

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7 Tips to Improve Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Quarantine

Mental Health during Covid-19

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has issued a stay-at-home order and many New Jerseyans are struggling to deal with the isolation. There is a toll “social distancing” takes on our mental health. When you have a mental illness, that toll is multiplied. Luckily, there are steps you can take to manage your mental health until this pandemic ends and we can return to normal life. 

Here are 7 tips for keeping “mental-healthy” during a quarantine:

1. Technology to Keep in Touch

There is no replacing face-to-face interactions with your family and friends. Still, a close second is using video call apps that can show you a friendly face when you’re feeling down. Keep in touch with iPhone’s built-in Facetime function or try some of the free apps listed here for Android or here for desktop.

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Medication for Mental Health: Stopping the Stigma – Part I

Medication for Mental Health

Medication for Mental Health

It’s time to talk about medication. Not for a cold, not for an infection, but for managing the symptoms surrounding mental illness. Specifically, we’d like to address the stigma that surrounds just one of those three examples we just named. Taking medication for mental health should be treated no different than taking an aspirin for a headache. Something is causing us distress and we take medication to correct the issue. It’s as simple as that.

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