Monica Sagen, Lori Shepard’s Mother, was born prematurely in 1936 and immediately diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Well before words such as “inclusion and Supported Employment” existed, doctors told Monica’s mom she would not live an hour, a day, a month, a year, five years and then after that, they admitted they didn’t know how long she would live. 80+ years later, she’s pretty sure she has outlived them all.
Growing up, most people would look at Monica and see a disability, but she only saw limitations that meant she needed to do things differently. And, with a strong faith and a stronger sense of humor, she gets things done in her own way. Monica married and had (7) yes, SEVEN children! Her oldest, Lori, grew up to co-found Avenues Supported Living Services, along with her husband Scott. Lori’s lifelong exposure to her mother’s fully inclusive life inspired her to seek the same for all people.
Monica has said, “As an octogenarian, one of the advantages I have over my friends is that I had long ago accepted that I can’t always do things the way others do.”
“I never drove a car and always relied on either public transportation or friends for rides. As my friends were “losing” their driver’s licenses and needing to come to terms with depending on others, I was way ahead of the game there. As they began to use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs to get around, they were envious of my power chair, reachers, and ability to navigate the environment despite limitations imposed by my body. I became not the “friend in a wheelchair”, but just another old person using equipment to get around. My Cerebral Palsy no longer needs to be explained on a daily basis.”
Monica believes that: “Everyone has a story. Listen to people’s story before attempting to tell them what they should/can/can’t/must be doing. And, then remember that this is MY life and YOUR opinion.” Her life story is proof that finding a way to get things done does not have to be legislated and expensive. Monica went to public and private schools, worked typical jobs, met her friends and spouse the same way others did, raised her children and otherwise participates in life without any “programs” dictating a protocol that must be followed.