Michelle Lawrence MA MPH

Recent Articles

Somali parents struggle with trauma of childhood autism

New legislation promises more help for low-income families
 
By Michelle Lawrence

Contributing Writer

 

“It’s an awesome feeling to change policy so that equality is from the get-go and from the gate for all kids. This new law/policy will help children on fee for service Medical Assistance and Managed Care who are mostly low-income and disproportionately minorities. This is victory at its best!” says Idil Abdul, autism advocate (see “Mother of autistic child fights for equal care,” MSR, May 2). On May 16, the Minnesota State Legislature passed an autism therapy (ABA and Developmental Therapy) coverage law, which was subsequently signed into law by Governor Dayton. Unfortunately, many families struggling to cope with the illness are not confident the new law will address their needs. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

This barbeque season, try something new!

Barbeque season has arrived at last! Time for outdoor cooking under the sun with friends, family, and good music! Having a special meaning for many Black people, the barbeque feast is a tradition that dates back many generations and has passed the test of time. While the layout and form of our barbeque meals may differ across regions and families, the staple items displayed are pretty solid — ribs, chicken, potato salad, greens, slaw and baked beans. OK, perhaps spaghetti and mac and cheese, too. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Mother of autistic child fights for equal care

Proposed laws could disadvantage Black and  low-income people

 

By Michelle Lawrence

Contributing Writer

 

“State legislators want to create two different healthcare policies for kids with autism: one that generously covers the privately insured, and the other that gives minimal coverage to the poor and publicly insured, but both using state funds,” says Idil Abdull of Burnsville and mother of a 10-year-old son with autism. At age 11, when Abdull came to the United States from her native country of Somalia, she knew very little English and very little about American politics. “The only thing I knew about America was Superman and Rocky [the movie], she says.”

Some 20 years plus since arriving on North American shores, Abdull is now very fluent in both English and the parlance of American politics. “If nothing else, I know how to be loud,” she says. Like many other families, Abdull says she went through a period of denial about autism. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Fish doesn’t have to be fried to taste good

 

If you’re a diet-avoider like me, spring usually marks the time for getting creative about cutting down on foods high in fat and shedding excess pounds and inches gained over winter months and the holiday season. Though it’s still too cold and likely illegal to fish right now, keep in mind that as residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes we have access to a variety of fresh fish known to be high in protein and to contain a good source of magnesium and potassium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium — nutrients that promote heart health and digestion. So, this year, think about getting that fishing pole out of the garage or basement and putting it to use! Of course, buying fish from your local market is always an option, and there are many varieties to choose from — whiting, perch, tilapia, salmon, walleye and cod to name a few. It’s really your choice. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Feeding the spirit of your space

While I usually write about food for the human spirit with recipes and ideas on how to enchant and nurture it, this time I’d like to write about feeding the spirit of the space. Yes, the spirit of the space, which includes our homes and personal spaces. Some time ago, I began taking special note of how sisters and brothers around me decorated their personal living spaces. My goal in making these observations was to glean more about the essence of people based on how their spaces were kept and decorated. At the risk of sounding snob-like, I must admit that more often than not, the spaces I observed didn’t seem “alive.” Sure, there were lavish furnishings, pictures and home decorations, but mostly it seemed

that the space had been directly copied from flashy advertisements created by furniture sellers. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Eliminating health disparities is Liberian native’s passion

 

By Michelle Lawrence

Contributing Writer

 

People of African heritage in Minnesota experience higher rates of chronic disease, morbidity and mortality compared to nearly every other cultural group in the state, according to fact sheets compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health. Yet, despite these dismal facts, which would discourage some and certainly overwhelm others, there are women champions in our community. One such champion is Dr. Wilhelmina Holder, executive director of W.I.S.E (Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment), who work diligently every day to improve the health status of Minnesota residents of African heritage, and to reduce disparities among them and other cultural groups in the state, particularly residents of European American descent. Growing up in her native country of Liberia in West Africa, Dr. Holder learned from concrete experience that access to health care can improve health statistics and save lives. “I am driven by the teachings of Jesus Christ,” she says when asked of her personal and professional motives. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,

Share your heritage — cook with your children

Whenever I hear my pre-adolescent daughter say, “Mom, I’m hungry!” I’m reminded of how much things have changed since I was her age. At the risk of sounding like I grew up on Little House on the Prairie, I would like to add that at her age I could cook, clean, and otherwise run an entire household; my mother made sure I had been thoroughly prepared for womanhood. So, given that it is now my role to help prepare others for womanhood, Tuesdays have become “family cooking night” at my home — the children (females and males) engage in family meal preparation — from menu planning to shopping, chopping, cooking, table-setting and dishwashing, everyone plays a part. As they have been learning more and more about African American history and heritage, my daughters have begun to take a deeper interest in African cuisines and dishes unique to peoples of the African Diaspora. On a Tuesday night within the last 12 days of Christmas, my daughters decided that they wanted to cook Jolof rice from West Africa, candied yams, and collard greens. Continue Reading →

Filed under: , , , , , , ,