About Courtney Blewett

I am the Manager of Mission Delivery for MSAA's MRI Access Program. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and over two years of clinical experience working in MRI. In my free time, I love spending time with friends and family and will seize any opportunity to be by the ocean or the beach! Fan of the NE Patriots!

Back to School for Children with MS

Going back to school is an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking time for any child. But for children with MS, returning to the classroom can pose some unique challenges. In this post, we will explore how children with MS and their families can navigate the back-to-school season with confidence and ensure they have a successful and fulling academic year.

Create a supportive environment:

Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication between parents, teachers, and school staff. Engage in the discussion about the child’s MS diagnosis and any specific needs or accommodations they may require.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Work with the school to create an IEP tailored towards the child’s needs. This plan may include adjustments in the classroom, physical accommodations, or extra time for assignments.

Peer Education: Educate classmates about MS to promote understanding and empathy. This can help create a more inclusive and supportive environment in the classroom.

Emotional Support:

Counseling Services: Offer access to counseling services to help children cope with the emotional aspects of living with MS.

Peer support groups: Encourage participation in support groups where children can connect with others that are facing similar challenges. This can bring a sense of connection with peers and can also aid in building friendships.

Parental Support: Parents of children with MS may also need emotional support. Seek out local or online support groups for parents.

Going back to school can be a rewarding experience for children with multiple sclerosis when the right support and accommodations are in place. By fostering open communication, creating a supportive environment, and addressing the child’s needs, families and educators can help these students thrive academically, emotionally, and socially. With the right support system, children with MS can look forward to a successful school year ahead.

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Preparing for an Emergency

Emergencies can occur suddenly and without warning. For individuals living with MS, or any other chronic disease, medical emergencies and natural disasters can present a real challenge. Emergencies sometimes cannot be avoided, but being prepared ahead of time can make the world of a difference.

You know your body and limitations better than anyone. Plan for your own safety as you are best able to know your functional abilities and possible needs during an emergency situation. It’s important to prepare your surrounding friends and family as well and inform them of any accommodations you may require. Create a personal support network around you that consists of people you trust within your home, school or workplace. Write down your emergency contacts and provide them with your number and address as well. They’ll be able to recognize your capabilities and needs and be able to provide immediate assistance during an emergency situation.

Create a personal checklist and evaluate what assistance and resources you need before, during and after an emergency. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for an unexpected emergency – medical or natural disaster.

  • Water – have liters of water or several water bottles handy.
  • Food that won’t spoil such as canned food, energy bars and dry food. Don’t forget the can opener!
  • Battery powered flashlight and radio
  • First aid kid
  • Prescription medications
  • Copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Toiletries – toilet paper, hand sanitizer, utensils
  • A whistle in case you need to call for help

For individuals that have mobility challenges, they often require more detailed planning in the event of a disaster. Some individuals use power chairs or wheelchairs which can pose a challenge in the case of a power outage. It’s important to have a back-up power supply or have a manual wheelchair as an alternative. Another tool to consider is a medical alert necklace. This allows you to call for help with the press of button.

While disasters and emergencies can affect everyone, their impact on individuals with mobile and physical needs can pose a challenges. By taking a few steps and preparing ahead of time, you will be better prepared to face any unexpected emergencies.

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Ready for Takeoff!

It’s that time of the year… travel season!  Traveling is an exciting way to broaden your horizons, whether it be a day trip, visiting friends, or exploring a new city. The thought of traveling while having MS may be intimidating, but with plenty of planning and preparation, a fun-filled vacation is at your fingers tips, in spite of MS.

An MS diagnosis does not have to stop you from seeing the destination you’ve always wanted to visit. There are many ways to make traveling with MS less stressful and more accessible. Before traveling, have a conversation with your doctor and talk about any health concerns and how to plan and renew any medications you need to take with you.

If you’re traveling by plane, notify the airline ahead of time if you require a wheelchair or any specific accommodation. The airline can arrange transportation throughout the airport to your gate and can assist with expedited access through security.  

When it comes to hotel accommodations, research the hotel ahead of time to ensure they have handicap-accessible rooms and an elevator. Consider booking a room on the ground level if you have limited mobility. Depending on how your medication is stored, confirm with the hotel if the room has a refrigerator so you can store any medications that require refrigeration.  

Take time to research and plan your daily activities beforehand. You want to hit all the top sites that interest you and make the most of your trip! Write down the places you would like to visit and ensure these locations are handicap accessible or have elevator access. It’s important to incorporate rest breaks into your agenda so you do not overexert yourself and become fatigued. Don’t forget to hydrate too! Especially in warmer climates, overheating, and dehydration can be risk factors.  Pack water bottles, and cooling devices, such as a cooling vest, to prevent overheating.

So, take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of and make it a reality! Don’t let Multiple Sclerosis stop you from traveling. With planning and preparation, anything is possible. At the same time, know your limits and plan accordingly. Enjoy and HAVE FUN!

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Take Control of Your Summer

Summertime is here and that means backyard barbecues, lounging on the beach or by the pool, outdoor fun, and leisurely walks. For many folks, these activities are enjoyable activities in the summer months. However, if you have Multiple Sclerosis, these activities on hot summer days can be challenging.

Exposure to warm temperatures can cause an exacerbation of symptoms for heat-sensitive individuals. It may feel like your world narrows during the summer season, but there are many ways to stay cool and reclaim the carefree feeling of the season.

Bring the beach to you! Sitting on the beach in the blazing sun may be the last place you want to be if you have heat sensitivity. So how about getting the “beach vibe” while still being cool at home?  You can create the full scene right in the living room of your home. Grab a beach chair, turn on some feel-good music, and sit back and relax in the AC. Nowadays, there are a plethora of candles that have scents that smell just like the beach. They are so realistic, you’d swear you’re smelling the same thing!

Cook-in instead of a cookout!  Bring your friends and the barbecue to the comfort (and coolness) of your home. Chop up some bright, fresh fruit and mix up some frozen yummy drinks. Order takeout instead of cooking by the stovetop, or perhaps one of your friends is a grill master and enjoys grilling up some goodies.

Enjoy the cool, late summer nights! One of the best parts of summer is the longer days and the cooler evenings. Take advantage of the breezy summer nights and sit outside. Watch nearby fireworks, or simply just sit and listen to the sounds of summer.

The summer months can be a challenging time for heat-sensitive individuals. The key is to plan ahead and do what makes you feel the most comfortable. Get creative and make your summer experience your own. Make this your best summer yet!

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MS and Mental Health

Whether you live with a chronic illness or not, there are many reasons why people struggle with mental health.  Facing the complexities of life and other stressful factors, the line between feeling down and having depression can often become blurry. Even if you’re not clinically depressed, it is normal to feel low occasionally, but this doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when living with Multiple Sclerosis, this condition may complicate things even further.

Multiple Sclerosis affects everyone differently. Although symptoms vary from person to person, it’s common to experience difficulty walking, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Without a doubt, these physical symptoms are challenging. However, emotional challenges and mental health struggles can be just as, if not more, debilitating.

Fortunately, mental health awareness has come a long way in recent decades which has resulted in more research about the role mental health plays in our well-being and how to address it. Maintaining your mental health while living with MS can be managed through coping strategies. Here are a few ways to improve your mental health and emotional well-being:

  • Don’t overexert yourself. Be kind to yourself and have grace. Listen to your body and do what your body can handle.
  • Consider therapy. Engaging in therapy can be an effective way to recognize your emotions and feelings and evaluate them to better help you.
  • Focus on life outside of MS. It’s essential to remember that MS does not define you. You are so much more than your diagnosis! Focus on your goals, projects, and fun plans. Take a step back from the demands of MS and nurture your mental health.
  • Prioritize movement and exercise. Exercise has abundant benefits for the mind, body, and soul. A few activities can include chair yoga, walking, bicycling, or swimming.  Find a hobby that you enjoy and that you can physically and emotionally partake in.
  • Locate a local support group for MS patients.

Multiple Sclerosis is a challenging diagnosis that can pose mental health impacts on individuals. It’s essential to recognize when you’re feeling down or just not yourself. Make self-care a vital part of your daily routine. There may be times when self-care techniques are not enough. In this case, it’s essential to seek professional help and speak with your doctor. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you are having a difficult time. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength to know when you need help.

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Spring Awakening

As the winter months dwindle into our rearview, spring season awakens and brings the opportunity to refresh our mind, body and soul. Spring season brings longer days, warmer weather and a plethora of natural beauty which allows us to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us.

After a long and dreary winter, stepping outside on that first warm day of Spring can welcome a sense of liberation. Feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin has a calming effect and the gentle breeze is simply refreshing.

Spring awakens the beauty of nature – birds singing, flowers blooming and lush greenery. This season more than ever is the ideal time to connect with nature. Going for a leisurely walk or sitting outside and listening to the sounds of nature is good for the soul. You can enhance this experience by practicing meditation or mindful breathing. Close your eyes, quiet your mind, and take a deep breath in…. It may sound simple, but mindful breathing is a great tool to be present in the moment and feel more grounded and centered in nature.

Unplug to recharge. Without a doubt, one of the best parts of spending time outdoors is disconnecting from our screens. In the world we live in today, it’s easy to get consumed by our screens, whether it’s our phone, laptops or television. The Spring season is the perfect opportunity to take a break from technology and immerse ourselves in nature. Disconnecting from screen time can allow us to focus on the present moment and listen to our mind, thoughts, and feelings.

Spring is a season of renewal. It brings forth the opportunity to refresh our mind, body and soul and connect with nature. Take advantage of the longer days and pleasant weather. It can be as simple as opening a nearby window and listening to the sounds of nature or grabbing a chair and sitting outside. Enjoy the simplicity and beauty of nature, and who knows, you may even discover new passions and interests along the way.

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Young Adults and MS

Young adulthood is without a doubt a fun and exciting time of life. It is a time of adventure, embracing independence and navigating life. It is also a time of pivotal life moments; graduating college, buying a first home, getting married and establishing a long-term career.  This is also the period of life where Multiple Sclerosis is most commonly diagnosed. Although MS can occur at any age, onset usually occurs in young adulthood.

Coping with an MS diagnosis as a young adult, and at any age, is challenging and can also be confusing. Having to make complex medical and disease management decisions at a young age doesn’t exactly come naturally. It’s critical to engage in shared decision making with your doctor and embark on a journey that is right for you. Shared decisions will spark ownership over your health and increase a sense of control over your diagnosis.

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It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

At the start of the New Year, many people have set new goals and they are committed to completing those resolutions throughout the year. But here’s the thing – it’s very common for people to lose that motivation by the time February rolls around. Why is that? Well, many people set goals that are too broad, too complicated or simply outside of their comfort zone.

So, what can you do to stay on track with your goals? There are several ways to motivate yourself and keep yourself going month after month.

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Self-Care in the New Year

As the New Year approaches, setting resolutions becomes a common topic in everyday conversation. Making drastic, transformative resolutions can cause us to feel overwhelmed at the start of a new year. Instead, focusing on self-care and making small changes in our routine can lead to big changes down the road.  Setting smaller goals have a higher chance of being successful – and more satisfying – than striving for larger and more challenging goals. Making small changes in your daily routine can help enhance your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Here are a few goals for the new year that would help support self-care practices:

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Magical Holiday Traditions

By Courtney Blewett

There is a reason why the holiday season is considered the most wonderful time of the year. Embracing holiday traditions is one way to make this season merrier and brighter. Whether it be carrying on family traditions or creating new ones – traditions bring a sense of nostalgia, joy, and comfort.  Traditions are unique to every family, but no matter how we all celebrate, there’s one thing we all have in common: the holidays are meant to be enjoyed with those we love.

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