Woman's 'pinky promise' means new organization for developmentally disabled children

By Greg Miller

When it came to making a special promise to her granddaughter, Amanda Davis, Teena Talisha Bradley wasn't content to make a simple, run-of-the-mill promise.
   She made an "I Pinky Promise."
   Bradley started a new organization "out of a pinky promise that I would learn all I can about Amanda's developmental disability.
   "Amanda was having a problem one night. She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, 'Nana, why am I this way? Nana, please help me not to be this way.'
   "I told her, 'Nana will.'
   "She said, 'Do you pinky promise?'
   "We crossed our pinky fingers, and I said, 'I pinky promise.'"
   One of the purposes of I Pinky Promise, Bradley said, "is bringing together families of children who have developmental disabilities. This is to open up to the community that children this group wants to help are just like other children. They have the same basic needs. They want to go to school and be accepted.
   "We're hoping that this organization will open up doors in area schools. We want to provide funding to keep the teachers so they can provide these services to the children. Funding has been cut back so dramatically for children that have developmental disabilities."
   Six parents attended the first meeting, which was held in April. "We were all on the same accord, because we all have children with developmental disabilities," Bradley said. "We all basically want the same thing. We're open to any ideas from professionals who want to come in and share with us."
   Children who are developmentally disabled may have one or more of a variety of problems, according to Bradley, including depression and social anxiety, as well as crippling diseases such as muscular dystrophy, which can make them wheelchair bound.
   "Right now, these children are isolated," she said. "It's hard for them to interact with other children. The children don't know and the parents don't understand some of the problems. A lot of these children are not able to socialize with peers in their age group."
   Bradley and her husband, John, have adopted Amanda and are raising her as their daughter. "It's quite hard," Bradley acknowledged. "We've already raised our children, and now we're raising our children's children."
   Bradley is hopeful that a respite program for the children can be started within a few months. "We don't have a respite program here in Carter County," she said. "It would give us caregivers a break. It's hard on the caregivers, their spouses and the children not having a respite program."
   Tennessee Voices for Children, a Nashville organization, "will come in and train the respite providers, so we can form a group here in our area," Bradley said.
   The respite program, according to printed information provided by Bradley, "is a temporary, short-term care (relief) that allows family caregivers to take a needed break from the demands of caregiving." Respite Provider Training "offers instruction in providing short-term care for children with disabilities."
   Respite providers can be "extended family members, friends, neighbors, members of religious congregations, child care and health care workers, teachers, teachers' aides," as well as "anyone who loves children and is seeking supplemental income."
   Bradley notes the importance of educating the public about the need to provide additional services to developmentally disabled children. "I do want to educate my neighbor and my neighbor's neighbor and everyone else," she said. "Because we're going to lose a whole generation of children if we don't."
   I Pinky Promise meets every other Thursday in the sanctuary of St. Paul United Methodist Church, 924 Johnson Ave., Elizabethton, from 6:30-8 p.m. The group is being sponsored by St. Paul United Methodist Church and the Cedar Grove Foundation.
   For more information, call 547-0517.