Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
Huntington Woods resident Janice Fialka is a speaker and activist who fights for inclusion for those who live with disabilities.
Fialka is the mother of two adult children, daughter Emma and a son, Micah, who lives with an intellectual disability. As a social worker, she spent 40 years working with adolescents and their families. But while caring for Micah, she refocused on disabilities.
She learned about the relationships parents with disabled children have to industry professionals and established herself as a major contributor to the national conversation about the topic. Her workshops, “The Dance of Partnership” train parents and the professionals who work with them to better understand their challenges and form creative partnerships.
Fialka now is a nationally recognized lecturer, author and advocate on issues related to disability and children.
In her latest book, “What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love,” Fialka discusses what it takes for families and communities to rise above labels that could signal a lifetime of low expectations and segregation. The book focuses on Micah’s experiences as one of the first students with an intellectual disability to be fully included in Michigan’s public schools.
After high school, Micah joined the new wave of young adults with intellectual disabilities attending college, and won a federal lawsuit that upheld his right to live in a dorm at Oakland University.
“For Micah, his situation wasn’t about having a deficiency, but was more of a civil/human rights issue,” Fialka says. “He’s not ashamed of his disability, he sees it as who he is.”
Today, Micah gives speeches across the country, serves on the U.S. Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, is a teaching assistant in the School of Education at Syracuse University in New York, uses technology to read and write and directs his funding and support needs.
Fialka’s goal for the book is to share what she and her son have learned, offering practical guidance about how to support those with disabilities. She says there are many ways people can learn about those with disabilities.
“There are so many books available about people living with disabilities, it helps to break the silence and open a discussion for questions. You can also research disability history and advocate for inclusion,” she says.
Fialka is working on multiple lectures and promoting the book through the rest of the year. Micah is writing his own book, and he will be featured in an upcoming documentary in 2018. A preview is at the University of New Hampshire website, iod.unh.edu/projects/intelligent-lives.
• Janice Fialka will talk about her book from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Book Beat Book Store, 26010 Greenfield Road, Oak Park. For more about Fialka, visit danceofpartnership.com.