An author and motivational speaker from southeastern Iowa is making the rounds in the region, talking about the abilities of people in wheelchairs. Sigorney native Penny Silvius was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her early 20s. After her participation last month in the Ms. Wheelchair America program, Silvius says she’s energized to reach out to people. Silvius says she wants to talk at independent living centers, in schools to “talk to the young people before they have a lot of preconceived notions,” churches, groups like the Kiwanis, Lions and “whoever wants me.” The message Silvius brings, she says, is simple. “People in wheelchairs are people first,” she says, so don’t define a person by the fact they’re in a wheelchair or have a disability. Silvius had started her career as a Navy Corps Wave some 30 years ago when she started showing signs of M-S. After her discharge, she went to college and earned her B-S and M-S degrees in clinical psychology and became a licensed family therapist. She focuses now on writing and public speaking. She likes to ask people what a person in a wheelchair should look like. She was told early on that she didn’t look like someone who should be in a wheelchair. “Who should?” she asks. “Look to your right, look to your left, look in the mirror — it could be anyone.” Silvius is working on her second book, to follow up her first book called “Miracles in the Darndest Ways.” While some people might think specially-trained dogs are only used by the blind, Silvius has a golden retreiver named Sushi as her “service dog” on a leash beside her chair. Her dog helps her transfer from her chair to her bed or the bath tub. He picks up items she drops. He stabilizes her if she should start to fall or lose her balance. He also carries items for her in his backpack. Silvius and her husband Eric recently moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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