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Javier Robles speaks to Kean students about his experiences living as a quadriplegic!

On March 12th, 2012, the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) hosted their event Life with a Spinal Cord Injury in the University Center Little Theatre. Javier Robles, a quadriplegic suffered a neck injury at the age of sixteen. Robles fell off a tree in Branchburg Park in Newark, New Jersey and he was found three hours later by his family and was taken to University Hospital in Newark. His first encounter after the accident was with doctors, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

Directing his attention towards the occupational therapy students, Robles stated “It is very important for you to be positive and be the best you can be with patients. You will be their first contact after an incident and many do not have a support system to give them advice or encourage them. What you say will be gold to some of your patients.”

After his accident, Robles decided to go back to high school and realized he could no longer achieve his dream of joining the air force to fly planes. He was maybe a B- or C+ student that never really thought about college. Robles stated: “Going back to high school, I felt like a completely different person I lost a lot of friends because they were scared to talk about disabilities. You never want to put yourself in a position where society thinks you are different. If they are uncomfortable that is their problem, not yours.” Roble was accepted into the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program at Rutgers University, where he served as a program counselor during his undergraduate career. He graduated with his Bachelors in Sociology and Puerto Rican Caribbean Studies. He then attended Seton Hall University Law School. For 12 years, Robles worked for the state of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services- Disability Services, where he was in charge of numerous programs, staff and budgets dealing with disabilities. He also oversaw personal care assistance program and cash and counseling program state-wide..

Stephaine DeJesus, the historian chair-person for SOTA, stated “It is also important to hear Javier’s story because it shows that people with disabilities can live a normal active life. He showed us that although he has a spinal cord injury at a high level he can still do things we all do. He drives a car, has kids, and works. By showing positive examples of people with disabilities we educate society about what is possible. We also, start looking at people with disabilities as employees, citizens, parents, and equals.”

To help him with daily tasks, Robles has a service dog named Janus from Canine Companions for Independence. This non-profit organization trains assistance dogs to people with disabilities and to professional caregivers providing pet assisted therapy. Service dogs are trained for two years to work with a disabled person as well as understanding commands and praises. Service dogs can get items out of the fridge, pick up things off the floor as well as get an individual motivated to do something. Robles showed Janus’ abilities by having him pick up his cell phone and put it on his lap.

Robles speaks at elementary schools and at hospitals to share his story and experiences. He also provides guidance and mentorship for other disabled individuals. After 28 years of living with a spinal cord injury, Robles still has a great deal of faith that science is closer to a cure. He stated “There is hope for the future and research is progressing. So much is being discovered every day.”

By Strawberry Gallagher

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