Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. will be offering an 8-week program, Living Well with a Disability, from 2 to 4 on Thursday afternoons, at 400 South Main from April 10 to May 29. This program will be led by Roger Frischenmeyer, Billy Thompson, and Stan Hendershot.

The Living Well with a Disability program includes eight seminar-like sessions. Topics include:

• Setting goals: Where do I want to go and how do I get there?

• Solving problems: Navigating the sometimes bumpy road to success

• Healthy reactions: Don’t feel bad without a good reason

• Beating the blues: Just do something!

• Healthy communication: It takes two to reach an understanding

• Seeking information: Knowledge is power — plug in!

• Physical activity: Use it (your body) or lose it (your ability)

• Eating well to live well: You are what you ate last week

• Systems advocacy: Living well in the community

• Staying healthy: Hanging on to the new you

People with disabilities or ongoing health concerns such as arthritis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, heart disease, or stroke, can learn strategies for living healthier lives through these classes. Research shows that taking part in programs like Living Well can lead to a 37 percent reduction in secondary conditions such as pain, isolation, fatigue, and sleep difficulties.

The facilitators all have experienced living with disabilities of their own and have years of combined experience helping people who experience a variety of disabilities.

Classes are free but the group size is limited.


University of Montana Rural Institute on Disabilities research shows that participation in the Living Well program is associated with a 10 percent decline in medical expenses:

• Emergency room use was significantly lower

• Hospital stays were significantly reduced

• Out-patient and physician visits increased slightly

University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development research reports that after completing a Living Well Iowa program, the first 142 participants describe:

• 5.8 percent improvement in overall health

• Fewer limitations in walking, bending, climbing stairs, and moderate physical activity

• Less fatigue

• Less pain

• Being able to accomplish more

• Fewer secondary conditions

• Significantly less doctor-identified depression

• Fewer doctor-identified conditions like high blood pressure, fractures

• Fewer hospital stays


If it weren’t for Living Well, I wouldn’t have gone back to work. —Jimmy Weber

Jimmy’s Story—Jimmy Weber moved to the Sioux City area in 1998 to assume responsibilities as a pastor. In January 2001, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This eventually led to his quitting work and going on SSDI. Jimmy signed up for a Living Well with a Disability class offered through the Three Rivers Independent Living Corporation in Sioux City. He credits that decision for having changed his life. Although Jimmy feels that the course curriculum is excellent, he says that the best thing about Living Well was the chance to meet other people with disabilities and to feel “normal.” He regained the confidence to be himself around others. He learned to use public transit. He says that “nuggets” such as the goal-setting tips sprinkled throughout the Living Well curriculum gave him a boost.

A woman with cerebral palsy experienced depression so severe that when I called her for the session she declined. She did say that I could keep her on the list, and eventually signed up for the May 2002 session. She now credits Living Well for helping her improve her depression. She attended every class, and at the next to last class, suggested that the class form a peer support group to continue their work. With her help, a peer support group has formed and is still active in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Another woman with cerebral palsy was using a scooter that she had relied on for a number of years. Her goal was to be strong enough to walk again. She started taking food supplements which she credits as being one of the catalysts for her improved strength. By the fourth week of Living Well she was able to walk from the van drop-off point to the classroom using a walker, about 100 yards. By the end of Living Well she had also lost weight and reported feeling great.

The Living Well with a Disability (LWWD) program was co-developed by the University of Montana and the University of Kansas.