In 1999, Karen Maziar found herself at a personal crossroads. The paramedics had just transferred her eight-year-old son, Gerard, to a children’s hospital for emergency surgery.
Over the past seven years, her son had been battling several development issues like speech difficulties and motor skill problems. Now, they found Gerard had something much worse. Her son was diagnosed with compartment syndrome—a medical condition where pressure builds up in a muscle compartment. The swelling can cut blood flow off to various limbs, leading to permanent muscle and nerve damage—even death.
“The doctor told me, ‘We’re looking at total body failure or having to amputate one or both of his legs,’” Karen says. “I can still remember telling my mother, ‘I’m afraid he might die, Mom. I might have to bury my son.’”
Fortunately, Gerard was able to survive his ordeal but he ended up losing the muscle and tendons in his lower left leg. It would be a long road ahead for the family. Over the next several years, Karen visited a number of specialists and agencies in an attempt to treat her son’s various ailments which now included Autism Spectrum Disorder. During that difficult time, she was forced to cash in some of her RRSPs and even moved north to Smooth Rock Falls to seek immediate services for Gerard. Through the entire experience, she often found herself feeling lost or frustrated by the system and its many “revolving doors.”
Karen decided to do something about it. In 2004, she launched Gerard Solutions Inc.—also known as Disability Advocate Gerard (DAG)—a company that focuses on helping families find the services they need for a loved one with a mental or physical disability. It was a venture Karen felt ideally suited for after having spent several years in private home nursing and running her own marketing firm, KRG Marketing Group Inc., where she often deals with publishing and business consulting.
“When I started out with Gerard, I wasn’t sure where to turn,” Karen says. “I was handed business card after business card or put on a waiting list. It felt like I was going through a revolving door for services. There’s a lot of wasted time involved and you feel financially and emotionally exhausted. With DAG, I wanted people to get the information fast with just a phone call or two.”
Karen’s website at www.disabilityadvocategerard.com features on-line resource guides with contact info for dozens of companies, clinics and organizations as well as articles on topics like government grants and financial planning. Updated on an annual basis, her guides are available for the Canadian, American and Australian markets. Karen has plans to launch a European guide in 2013. (Gerard has taken on the role of updating all the resource guides. He’s also developed two other websites on his own, and is working towards his accreditation in Cryptozoology and Technology.)
As part of her DAG services, Karen has also assembled the DAG Team—a series of social workers, financial planners, and medical and holistic practitioners that people can contact through her website for one-on-one consultations. The DAG Team can provide assistance on a wide range of issues—everything from counselling and financial matters to independent living and occupational therapy.
“We already have DAG Teams in Toronto and Niagara,” Karen says, “and we’re hoping to eventually have U.S. teams as well. It’s been an incredibly successful concept for us.”
Hypnosis and Neuro Linguistics Programming
As part of her goal to help those with health issues and disabilities, Karen has made a concerted effort to expand her existing skills and enhance the services she provides through DAG.
Through her continuing studies in recent years, Karen has become a Practitioner in the fields of Hypnosis, Neuro Linguistics Programming (NLP) and Paediatric Hypnosis. Holding her Masters and registered with the Medical and Dental Association of Hypnosis, Karen has studied with Dr. Georgina Cannon, an internationally-acclaimed hypnotherapist who teaches at Toronto University, as well as Tariq Sattaur.
Much of Karen’s work involves using hypnosis to help manage or lessen behaviour problems with children. Karen can help children deal with a number of personal issues such as insecurity, nail biting, thumb sucking, addictions, weight loss, social phobias, bullying and concentration. Her treatments have also been successful in treating children with ADD/ADHD and Autism, and have made a world of difference with adults and seniors as well. (Karen always asks that you seek your family doctor’s permission when dealing with a disability.)
“With hypnosis, people think you can make a hypnotized person do whatever you want,” Karen says. “That’s not the case. You can’t force someone to do something against their will. Hypnosis is a way to learn the motivations behind a child’s behaviour and use positive suggestions to help them change that behaviour.”
During the hypnosis session, the child will have a brief meeting with Karen and an initial hypnotic test before the actual hypnosis. Each session lasts about an hour and children have the option of being accompanied by a parent. Although children normally see Karen for three to five appointments, most children will begin to see improvement in their condition after just one session. Karen has satellite offices in Toronto, St. Catharines and Vinleand but can also hold hypnosis sessions at a child’s home, depending on the child, location and travel times involved.
When it comes to the corporate world, Karen often works on contract or as a business consultant with various businesses. She also offers seminars and training workshops based on NLP concepts. Here, she can help employees to upgrade their skills in areas like motivation and self-confidence and enable companies to improve their bottom-line. Karen can even provide her NLP workshops to athletes and coaches to help them increase their overall performance.
It’s all part of her commitment to helping others lead better lives. Karen’s company motto is “Building One Sandcastle At A Time”TM—and it all goes back to the lessons she learned through dealing with Gerard’s health scares years ago.
“It represents life,” Karen says of her motto, “when the tides and waves can roll in and ruin your castle. The waves and tides that come in are our trials and tribulations. It’s constant…life is ongoing. And it’s up to us to rethink and redefine the architecture of our castle. We have to rebuild and reshape things, and make it stronger each time so it can catch the pressures of the waters.”TM
Karen has learned a great deal from the trials of dealing with life’s waves. And now at the age of 20, Gerard is helping to take over the company reins and demonstrate to everyone that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t build your own sandcastle.
For more information please visit www.disabilityadvocategerard.com