Ben's Pages




Break Through

"Last One Picked, So What!"
We can turn it around.
( booklet on bullying
and disabilities-
good classroom read)
purchase at
Break Through Inc.
main page

Ben's Pages


Remember when your church one day invited you to a meeting?  They were going to build a house and were going to help people in crisis; perhaps paint a house.  There were many meetings to work on the details of this trip. Airline tickets, hotels, places to get fed while we were working.  After about six months the day arrived to leave the church parking lot and head to the airport. Think of this scenario. The mission team arrived at the airport. We were in line and there was a man in the line that was not a part of the mission team. We knew him from our church but had no idea he was coming.  We thought how was he able to know where we were going?  This silent person had taken many hours of planning and never said a word but now he is in line.  Yes the same line we were in to board for our mission trip.   The advisor of the trip was very concerned.  There were many questions that were floating through their minds.  The biggest one was, “What is he doing here”   Who would take responsibility” and “How would we get anything done with him being with us”.   These are questions that mission trip faced when someone came with autism.  Yes he went on the trip.  No one took responsibility as he took responsibility for himself.

After many years of mission trips he is still part of going along with us.  He travels alone to different parts of the country.  He enjoys helping people. This silent person that was involved with many meetings in the background understands the meaning of belonging to a community larger than he is. 

In this blog I hope that you will share your stories about your life and other people’s life and also want to share resources that will be helpful to the disability community of the United Church of Christ of South Dakota.

The man with autism is a part of the church.  He wants to be a part of the work and mission of the church.  I share this as I have spent time with this individual three years ago.  My wife Dee and I were invited to be a part of “Widen the Welcome” conference in Columbus, Ohio.   This individual was involved with us during our stay there.  We need to understand that sometimes we want to take responsibility but understand that individuals that seem that they are not responsible can take responsibility for their own activities.  This individual planned his trip in silence as he could not express himself so he did it in a way that was natural to him by getting his own airline tickets, hotel and other necessities. We want to let him know that he is welcome because the church is for all people in spite of our differences by the grace of God. The challenge to all of us is how wide is our welcome as a church. We must learn from him about people with disabilities and how they cope in different situations and allow them to be a part of “Widen the Welcome” in the United Church of Christ.  Will you share your stories, experiences and resources in this blog so that we all can learn from each other and become a stronger church because of it. I welcome you to be a part of this blog.--Ben D. Anderson


As most readers might know (via our Blog, Facebook  pages and our website calendar)
(Since the post below Ben has spoken in Wyoming at K-12 schools, a college and
 an organization for 2013-14 and received another grant from the South Dakota Council
on Developmental Disabilities for 2014-15 to speak at schools, parent groups and
other interested organizations.
With this grant our first priority is to rural and Native American schools.

"I (Ben) spoke to about 1670 people in South Dakota this past April 2012.
We were in South Dakota in October 2012 to speak to speak to 6000 K-12 students about
disabilities and "bullying" which has been a subject of much concern these past years. 
Teasing and "bullying" have been around a long time.  I, too, teased and "bullied" others
when I was younger but now I want to be part of the solution for people to understand that
words hurt.  Even the "teasing" we do to our personal friends can sometimes be
overdone and might really be inappropriate teasing and might very well be outright "bullying". 
 Our friends might not say anything to us when we are "teasing" them because they
want to continue to be our friends but in reality they are hurting because the teasing is
going on when it should not be going on.

We need to look at our words and actions.  Stand back sometime and look at what you
say and what you do when you are with others.  Words and actions can be "bullying"
to others.  Our hope is that we become positive people and be positive with others.

Have a great day!"

Ben D. and Dee Anderson



It is wonderful news about inclusion around the world this year of 2011.  I am excited and happy that I received the news that inclusion among persons with disabilities has been made a law in Kuwait. I had the honor of receiving a very nice letter from one of the educational heads of this new program called- "Training Gate International".  You can read about it at their website at Training Gate International

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

TO: Ben D. Anderson, CEO-Break Through Inc. 

Dear Mr. Anderson,

Thank you so much for your letter of introduction which you sent to Training Gate International (TGI) on July 19. (2011)....... 

As you suggested, we have reviewed your web-pages and are more than impressed with your spirit, intelligence and your very real passion and mission to open the minds of people to the potential in people with disabilities/special needs. Bravo for 30 years of work in this field! Your speaking agenda is impressive and we would love to get a copy of your book. You have, indeed, exceeded your original (and grossly inaccurate) IQ measure! 

You mentioned that Dr. Ashleigh Molloy was the source of "connecting" with us. We met him at the CEC Conference in National Harbor, MD, and are really excited that he will be coming to Kuwait to share his energy and enthusiasm as we work to improve the lives of people with disabilities here in the Middle East. At present, students with special needs are served in separate schools, so we are at the beginning stages of helping educators and the public understand how important it is to focus on abilities, not on "dis"... 

You mentioned that you would be available to come to Kuwait to speak -- to groups of parents, students, educators, or the public. At the present time, we are committed to hosting 12 five-day workshops this fall, and anticipate being involved with the beginning stages of our TGI-CEC program to support the Ministry of Education's project to bring inclusion into Kuwait's schools. This will be an on-going process, and while, at present, we do not anticipate a venue which would justify bringing you to Kuwait; we do know that there may be such possibilities in the future. So we are happy to know of you and of your availability and will certainly keep you in mind. 

Thanks again for contacting us. If you will go to our website: www.tg-i.com, and look under DEWAN, you will find that we have a weekly meeting in which people with disabilities share themselves, their dreams, skills, and feelings, with the public. In Kuwait, this is a first, and we are happy to have a vision and mission that can open these doors of possibility for people with special needs and their families in this part of the world. 

With warm regards,--TGI Team-- Carol Marshall


"Mr. Ben Anderson visiting from Wisconsin, self-advocate who was a speaker at a conference out in Austin. Then he joined our TAAID (adult meeting) here in San Antonio.

What a place for him & his wife Dee to observe so that he could share to everyone else about such a park there is for many individuals whether young or young at heart, no one is forgotten."
February 25, 2010---- Irma Canfield

Morgan's Wonderland- the only park of its kind in the world

Can you imagine going to a park that everybody could enjoy even if you are in a wheelchair? That person could swing, ride the train, fish and much, much more.

While we were in Texas my wife and I were invited to preview a new family park in San Antonio. We were welcomed by the staff of Morgan's Wonderland. We spent the day looking, participating and seeing other people and their families having FUN without being limited in enjoying the activities. What joy it brought to Dee and I that somebody had the vision to create a park like this. Please visit their website at  Morgan's Wonderland

It is truly a "wonderful" Wonderland! Imagine seeing and hearing people with disabilities having fun at Morgan's Wonderland park. The uniqueness of this park is that it for everyone and it is FREE to those that have a disability.

Hopefully in the future we will see these parks all over the U.S.A and other countries. You will come away with a smile on your face as you realize that in that park everyone can enjoy the activities.

Ben D. Anderson

From Ben's Desk--"Ben has a point"

The Need for Awareness Doesn't Stop"

One Sunday I walked into an eating establishment. I was met by the host. He said,-- "I'm sorry, but I think you've had too much to drink so would you come back another day."

For some reason I began to talk to him about my disability, which is Cerebral Palsy. The conversation went on and finally he said,

"I'm sorry I misunderstood - would you please follow me so I could seat you?"

I took the time to help him understand that I had a disability. He took the time to listen and to ask questions. It's important to be able to have a two way discussion when talking attitudes so both parties understand each other. The need for awareness doesn't stop there. Everyday someone is helping someone else to become aware about the issues facing persons with disability.

What are you doing to help to make others aware?

Please email and tell us


Ben D. Anderson CEO-- Break Through Inc.

See Ben's "Parent Groups" page at Break Through Inc. for information regarding his workshops and speaking for parents and families.

"Looking Beyond the Cover"- by Ben D. Anderson-

I am reminded about human behavior as I think back about my childhood as a person with a disability. I remember all the times that I was picked on by my peers. I could not understand why? As I became an adult I discovered that people who pick on others are normally struggling with their own self image! I have asked many young people about this as I have traveled throughout the United States and spoken on the subject of disability. I have two questions.

#1- How many of you have been teased?

#2- How many of you have teased others?

Surprising enough,  I find almost all the same hands come up on both questions. Only a few brave souls  admit they struggle with self image. I would like to share a story with you that I often share with teenagers about 'Looking beyond the Cover'.

Once upon a time there was a crowd of people in an outdoor mall. In the middle the mall was a huge box. People were using the box to lean on. A little boy and his mother approached and the boy asked his mother if he could go and see the big box? His mother had been shopping all morning but finally gave in to her son and said they would go and look at the big box. As they got closer to the area the mother lost track of her son. She glanced up and saw him going through the legs of the grown ups so he could get closer to the box.

Like a parent she was embarrassed. But the boy got closer and closer to the box and when he got to the box he began to unwrap it as it was nicely wrapped with gift paper.

Suddenly the boy heard a tiny voice that seemed like it came from inside the box The boy continued to unwrap. And sure enough, as he opened the box there was person inside! The crowd was amazed and asked,

"why were you inside the box?"

The person said, "You put me in that box. I am a person with a disability and often have been made fun of as people misunderstand me. They look at my disability and rather than the person I really am. Why the box? The box becomes a 'safe place'. You put me there and I put myself there. At least there is more conversation about the box than my disability."

We human beings have a tendency to look at the outside of a person and begin to judge them by that.

Thankfully, there are people, like the boy in the story, that are able to look beyond the box, unwrap it, and to help that person to become his or her friend. Looking beyond the cover is the key to getting to know a person. I hope this story will help you and encourage you. Number one -- to understand that you are not alone in needing to find friends that will go beyond the cover to find your true self. Number two--- to avoid judging people by the cover and look deep inside to see the real person.

I understand about being overlooked and being chosen last. It has happened to me many times. It is a human behavior to look at the cover. My challenge to the us all is to look beyond the cover and find the wonderful person. Today I realize that I am a lot more than what people think I am. You are also a person with great gifts and talents. Let's all realize that we can go beyond our situation and dream about a great and adventurous future.


Ben's Comments on South Dakota April 2012 Tour

"He was a fourth grader. He was crying as I stopped and asked him "why" and he shook his head and didn't answer me. One of his teachers said-"Thank you for being honest". Did I touch a nerve? Perhaps, as I was speaking to some grade school children about "bullying". As I learned later, he had to hear my message. He was one of the kids that was perhaps being a bully to others. His teacher said it was good for him to be honest.

Sometimes feeling bad is a good thing. In that process we learn lessons. At least I have in the past from my own mistakes and need to ask forgiveness from others.

In the last two and half weeks my wife and I have traveled throughout the State of South Dakota lecturing to students about "disabilities and bullying". It was a great time but we will leave this tour with a reminder that we all make mistakes like the boy needed to come face to face with reality. I ask will you make a promise not to use the "R" word
(Retard) as we interact with people that we might not like or understand? Words hurt. I have been a victim of hurtful words and my own shortcomings been a "bully" myself.

This tour we saw almost 1700 people that heard my message. How about you? Can you take up the challenge of not using negative words like the "R" word. Can you also take the challenge of not bullying others? South Dakota has been a good time and a hard time for people to listen to my message as they come to grips with their own reality. But I left with a "High Five" with that young boy. We are now hopefully friends as he will remember the promise that he made."-- Ben

Using Language That
Hurt Other People

The other day I received a request to write a piece on the subject of using the word "mentally retarded" that is being used by students to make fun of other people.

I would like to share with you the open letter that I sent to that individual. Let's remember that words hurt people as we face a big problem in bullying in this country. I have been bullied as a kid and realize that now as an adult I would like to be part of the solution. I hope think about my comments as you read them.

Dear Students,

It came to my attention that students across the country are using the word mentally “retarded”. I would like to plead to you that you quit using the negative word “retarded” as it is a slang word against people that have disabilities. In effect, telling anyone that they are retarded is bullying and not acceptable conduct.

The word describes someone that has a low IQ or does not do things at the same pace as others. A person like me that was born with cerebral palsy finds it a very hurtful word because it wrongly describes people. I believe that all people have gifts and talents in their own way. We all have disabilities even though they might not be visible. You too might have a hidden disability and it would be hurtful to you if someone found it out about you and began using that term of “retarded”.

As of October 5th 2010 our President signed “Rosa’s Law” into effect which requires that all Federal Documents must use the word “intellectual disability” in lieu of “mentally retarded”.

I hope this helps you not to use that negative word. Thank you.

Your friend,

Ben D. Anderson


Ben’s Reflections

As I reflect on these last 30 years. I’m not only amazed about where this organization has been, but by the people that have touched my life and allowed me to be a part of theirs. One important piece of the organization in the early years was to do home visits. To sit down with families, listen to them, discuss their child, and try to give them some encouragement. I have always enjoyed getting together with families because many of them become life long friends.

It is always fun to meet different congregations and to represent people with disabilities. What a humbling experience it is to have someone come up afterwards and say, “Your words have touched my life.”

Whether it is at school, camp, church or an event it is joyful and challenging to work at youth gatherings.  Youth are full of fun and excitement and many times I get caught up in their energy.  You can’t help but get caught up in their energy. Kids add a new point of view and new hope.

 After being at many businesses and universities I can see that people are interested in learning how to relate better to others with disabilities and how to deal with their own disabilities.

 It is really hard to know the impact of the message I have given over the years. But one hopes that it helps people.  Many times I have received notes from someone I have been with in the recent past and they talk about what my message meant to them on a personal level.

My wife Dee and I look forward to meeting many more friends in the next decade.

Ben D. Anderson