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Tzvi Schectman
BY Tzvi Schectman

8 Amazing Motivational Speakers With Special Needs

Over the years we have heard many inspirational stories about individuals with special needs who have focused on their abilities and have accomplished some pretty amazing things in their lives. Some of these individuals have gone on to help motivate others to look past their challenges and focus on the talents and abilities that they have.

Here are 8 motivational speakers that are spreading the messages of ability, inclusion and most importantly, Yes I Can!

Robert Pio Hajjar: Ideal Way

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In 2006, Robert Pio Hajjar, born with Down syndrome, and Addie J. Daabous, Robert’s aunt, founded Ideal Way. During an atypical conversation about Addie’s frustrations with her successful business, Robert suddenly suggested that they have a higher calling in life: to create an organization to help people with intellectual disabilities. They started Ideal Way and Robert proudly donated his life savings of $62.05 in small change as seed money.

Today, that $62.05 is framed and displayed in the Ideal Way office. It symbolizes Robert’s generosity and devotion to the dream of creating a better world for people with intellectual disability.
Website: ideal-way.ca

Marc Elliot: What Makes You Tic?

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After spending the first six months of his life in St. Louis Children’s Hospital, undergoing seven experimental surgeries, Marc became known as the “miracle baby.”

However, Marc’s challenges did not end after he left the hospital. At the age of nine, he was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes him to make involuntary motor and vocal tics. As Marc grew older, his tics manifested in many different ways, from “ticcing” inappropriate words to blurting out random noises, including barking like a dog and chomping his teeth.

Over the next 10 years, Marc struggled to live a normal life in the suburbs of St. Louis. After graduating in May 2008, Marc embarked on a nationwide speaking tour. The tour was intended as “just something to do” before he became a doctor. Over the past three years, Marc has spoken to hundreds of groups and organizations, reaching out to more than 100,000 individuals in the United States and internationally.
Website: marcelliot.com

Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds Of Minds

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Autism activist Temple Grandin talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.
Website: templegrandin.com

Mike Berkson and Tim Wambach: Handicap This

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Handicap This! is a live stage show with a message of possibilities. From performances at the University of Illinois to the nationally recognized stage of the North Shore Center. They have received rave reviews, standing ovations, and left the audience cheering for more.

Mike Berkson, born with cerebral palsy was told he would never talk,  works with Tim Wambach  to stir your senses, challenge your thinking, and wake up your attitude. Their show is a provocative look at friendship, breaking down barriers, and living with handicaps – most of all about everyone’s potential.

Their true story pushes the envelope and encourages everyone to examine the concept of their own abilities. Mike and Tim’s story will raise awareness about people living with severe physical handicaps and inspire individuals to achieve their own goals and dreams.
Website: handicapthis.com

David Harrel: A Little Potato and Hard to Peel

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David Harrell is an actor, writer, speaker, dancer and disability advocate. Originally from Brunswick, Georgia, he now resides in New York City. He holds a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has worked as an actor throughout the country over the last fourteen years.

His latest show ”A Little Potato and Hard to Peel is a captivating and transformational journey. What starts out as one man’s challenge to accept his own strengths and limitations becomes a compelling charge to all of us, challenging us to look more closely into our own lives.
Website: davidharrellonline.com 

Michael Bortolotto: Positive Rebel

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Michael Bortolotto, is a successful professional speaker who lives with Cerebral Palsy. For the past twenty-two years people of all ages have been inspired, motivated, educated, and entertained by his “CAN DO” attitude.

By using real life experiences and examples, he encourages and persuades his audience to rethink, what they may believe is impossible to realizing anything is possible by being determined, persistent, and focus on the end result.
Website: positiverebel.ca

Roger Crawford: Center Court

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Before Roger Crawford inspired others on Center Stage he achieved phenomenal success on Center Court. Sports Illustrated has recognized Roger as “one of the most accomplished physically challenged athletes in the world”. He has lived out the principles of perseverance, unshakable optimism, and overcoming adversity and eloquently communicates with audiences today. Roger’s remarkable life story is a powerful example that . . .”Challenges are inevitable, defeat is optional!”
Website: rogercrawford.com

John Quinn: Someone Like Me

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John Quinn tells the incredible story of despite being born with cerebral palsy, how he pursued his boyhood dream of a career in the United States Navy. John’s powerful story of overcoming numerous life challenges has enthralled audiences around the country.

By openly sharing his living with cerebral palsy, John is not only educating those he comes in contact with, but telling the story of a brain disorder that affects over 800,000 people in the United States. John raises awareness by showing what is possible and by getting people to focus on his ability – not his disability.
Website: johnwquinn.com

Who is your favorite motivational speaker with special needs?

Tzvi Schectman

Written on January 11, 2013 by:

Tzvi Schectman is the Family Coordinator for the Friendship Circle of Michigan and the Editor of the the Friendship Circle Blog. You can connect with Tzvi on LinkedIn and Google+
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