Friday, July 29, 2016

Light It Up Blue! Anita Lesko, a nurse with Asperger's syndrome helps others with autism spectrum disorder

Anita Lesko, RN, MS, CRNA

So how does a person with Asperger's syndrome move forward to become a nurse anesthetist, military aviation photojournalist, author, public speaker, advocate and founder of a non profit organization?

Just like the answer to "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" 


On Anita Lesko's website,, she recounts
"When I was in elementary school, the Principle said to my mom that I would never amount to anything. Prior to 1994 when Asperger’s got translated into English, children went undiagnosed, and were simply viewed as the weird kid who didn’t fit in. The school system had no idea what to do with me. As I’ve now come to learn as I meet others my age, this was how it was for us back then. There was no such thing as early intervention, BCBA’s to work with you, no kinds of therapy, nothing. But here’s what I can tell parents with children on the Autism Spectrum: There’s really only one way to get better at socializing and functioning in society- and that’s PRACTICE. Get out there and interact with people. Sure, you’ll make plenty of mistakes. But it’s not about falling. It’s about getting up. I feel like I truly have a gift to share with millions of people. I’ve built a bridge from my Autistic side over to the Neurotypical side. Because I’ve worked at a job that literally forced me to interact with hundreds of thousands of people over the past 26 years, and being the only Autistic person in an ocean of “normal” people, I’ve learned how to interact AND act in the typical world. I never had any therapy, interventions, no drugs, no NOTHING. Just plain old fashioned interactions with others." 

In an article published on the CDC web site Anita Lesko stated,"My gift of Asperger disorder gives me the ability to have what I call my ‘laser focus.’ It’s the ability to stay focused on a project for extreme periods of time with total focus and concentration. For example, once while in the emergency room for a broken wrist, the anesthesiologist who came to give me sedation started talking to me as we waited. He asked what I was studying in college, to which I replied ‘nursing.’ He suggested I become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. My ‘laser focus’ took over, and a year later after receiving my Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I was accepted at Columbia University in their Master’s degree program for Nurse Anesthesia. I graduated, passed my Board exam, and have been working full time ever since!"

Anita Lesko, RN, MS, CRNA

With enormous thanks to Anita for sharing her story and for her tireless efforts advocating for people impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Read more about Anita in an article published on the CDC website.

Visit Anita's website and learn more about her books and "Flying high with autism foundation".

Friday, July 22, 2016

Nursing students with disabilities awarded scholarships for 2016

Nursing students with a wide range of disabilities are increasing in number every year. Disabilities may include hearing loss, low vision, learning disabilities, limb differences, paralysis, mental illness and chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and movement disorders.

Financing an education can be a challenge for some students with disabilities. In addition to routine expenses (tuition, room and board, books, uniforms, transportation), some students may need to purchase an amplified or electronic stethoscope, computer software programs, or audio books—as well as medications, hearing aids, therapies, prostheses, special equipment or custom alterations to uniforms and lab coats. Working a part-time job may not be possible.

Scholarships are available from, a nonprofit resource network for nursing students and nurses with disabilities. The organization provides links to disability-related organizations, technology, equipment, financial aid, employment opportunities, mentors, blogs, continuing education, a speaker’s bureau, legal resources, social media groups, research and related articles.

The organization has been awarding scholarships to nursing students with disabilities since 2003. The awards are based on academic performance, letters of recommendation, financial need and an essay which answers the questions: “How do you plan to contribute to the nursing profession? How will your disability influence your practice as a nurse”? The awards range from $250.00-$750.00. is honored to announce the winners for 2016!!!
Alexa Jo Palmer from Philadelphia, PA will be attending Widener University in Pennsylvania.

Alexa Jo wrote,  "I took a diagnosis that would usually be negative and made it into something positive. During my short time at the hospital, my nurses and doctors provided me with such great care that I realized I wanted to go to college to become a nurse".

Kayla Connelly from Clackamas, Oregon will be attending the University of Portland in Oregon. 

Kayla wrote, "I want to become a nurse because they are the ones who provide the most hands-on care to patients. They are there to hold your hand in the worst of times, and they are there to cheer you on in the best of times. I experienced this from the nurses who have taken care of me throughout my life. I hope one day that I will be the nurse who is just as compassionate, dedicated and knowledgeable as they are."

Deborah Burgess from Gorham, Maine is a nursing student at St. Joseph's College in Maine.

Deborah stated, "My personal life experiences have made me understand what it is like to be in someone else's shoes. I am able to be the nurse that is my patients shoulder to cry on, ear to listen and hand to hold.....Working with the elderly is my passion. It takes a certain amount of patience, caring and providing dignity and respect to work with them."

Reanna Somkhan from Andover, Minnesota will be attending nursing school at Winona State University in Minnesota.

Reanna wrote, "My dream has always been to work at Children's Hospital...... I want to be there for the children and families that are just beginning their journey. I can provide compassionate care as I know what they are experiencing. I hope to provide encouragement to the parents as I share my success story with them."

Congratulations and best wishes to all!!!

The scholarship awards are funded through donations, grants and proceeds from book sales of “The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities”, “Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses working with disabilities” and “Nursing students with disabilities change the course”. To make a donation, please visit

The scholarship application can be downloaded at

Appreciate your support!


Monday, July 18, 2016

The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities

They’re strong. They’re persistent. They’re resilient. They’re exceptional nurses.

Read the true, inspiring stories of nurses with disabilities who overcame significant odds—managing physical and mental challenges on the job—and continued to be a nurse through it all.

You’ll read of a nurse who has a learning disability and developed his own system of accommodation.
You’ll find out about a nurse who experienced an amputation after many conservation surgeries and found a way to keep working.  
You’ll learn about a nurse who worked through a terrifying hurricane and developed mental illness, and learned important lessons about herself to help her conquer it, and continue being a nurse.
You’ll hear the stories of what it’s like to lose hearing while on the job as well as develop vision deficits while nursing.
In all these stories, the nurses’ resilience is what helped them pull through adverse situations, made them stronger and more effective nurses in the end.
Also included is practical information on how to navigate the vocational rehabilitation system including a guide to requesting services, a sample accommodation request letter to share with an employer, as well as information on how to best disclose a psychiatric disability.
Whether you’re a nurse or a student with a disability or you care about a nurse with a disability, this book will leave you inspired and prepared to be an exceptional nurse yourself.
The new book is available in print and on Kindle.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Books for nursing students with learning disabilities

Are you looking for some helpful books for this semester or to get a head start for next semester?
Here are a few good resources. 
Some may be available in your local or school library.


Please feel free to add comments or additional suggestions.

With thanks!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A nurses's cane: Let's decorate one!

Lisa Lobdell, RN 
has Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and
works at the Veterans Hospital in  California. 

She wrote, "my goal was to not have a cane by Christmas 2005. Although I told myself if I was destined to still have it, I would decorate it with red and white ribbon and make it look like I was walking around with a candy cane." (2014, p.118)

Lisa went on to say, "When patients would see my cane they were interested to know what had happened. I think it made them feel more connected to me as they knew I was patient as well as a nurse. By hiring a nurse with a disability, employers are hiring an individual who has experience firsthand in dealing with a disability. The person is an asset to a medical facility, patients and staff." (Lobdell, 2014, p.118)

Reading this inspired me to explore different types of decorative canes. I found canes in a variety of colors; beaded, jeweled and floral prints. They are made from different materials and exotic woods in a wide variety of styles. Handles vary from being shaped like animals to baseballs to Sherlock Holmes.

But, I didn't find a cane for a nurse!

So why not design or decorate a cane for a nurse?

 Paint your paradise. Get out your magic markers, crayons, paints, ribbons or colored pencils. You can even use duct tape as seen here.
Let's do this!

Please share your creations!

With thanks,


Lobdell, L.(2014). If you Can't Move to Australia, Find a Group of Australians: Nursing with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (chapter 10). In D.C. Maheady (Ed). The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform