Drawing heavily on her mother's journal, her own experience of growing up in a family bound by secrets
and unable to express pain, as well as her background as a clinical psychologist,
Dr. Gross presents on a variety of topics that include
the destructive nature of culturally-based shame and how to lessen its impact,
how to discover your authentic self and increase your capacity for intimacy, as well as how to create inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities that acknowledge, rather than
silence, their differentness.
Here are just a few of her presentations:
How Disability and Silence Shape a Family
Dr. Anne Gross grew up with a disabled mother. Yet Carol, who was paralyzed from the waist down after contracting polio in 1927 at the age of two, never talked about her disability. Without an ongoing dialogue around their shared differentness, Anne and her mother were robbed of an opportunity to show compassion for each other. It wasn't until after Carol died - when Anne read her mother's journals - that she realized this silence was not a choice but a necessity for living in a society that viewed the disabled as outcasts. By blending historical information about the early treatment of polio with her experience of being raised from birth by a paraplegic mother, Anne presents a rare and unique personal glimpse into the impact of disability on both a mother and her daughter.
Overcoming Adversity, or Lessons Learned from Growing up with a Disabled Mother
In the face of adversity - such as an illness, problems with our children, a divorce - we often become so consumed with fears that others will reject us if they know us for who we truly are that we silence our perceived imperfections. But is there a price we pay when we focus solely on presenting the picture of the perfect family? In this inspiring and eye-opening talk, Anne draws on her own experience of growing up with a disabled mother where her family's need to present the image of perfection led them to never talk about her mother's paralysis. This robbed her family of an opportunity to show compassion toward each other and led to feelings of isolation that weakened the bonds of intimacy across several generations of her family. In this presentation, Anne shares her own inspirational journey to break free from the silence of her past and transform adversity into a growth opportunity to form deeper bonds with those she loved.
Tempering a Positive Attitude with a More Balanced Approach Can Enhance Feelings of Inclusion
As parents of children with disabilities, our greatest hope is that our children will find acceptance by society. And the first place we turn to is the schools, believing that as long as the educational system can accommodate and recognize the strengths of our children, it will go a long way in helping them live contented and purposeful lives.
Although our current system of inclusion works for some children, for others it pressures them to silence or downplay their differentness, leading to feelings of isolation, self-blame, and shame if they fall short of the hoped for goal of fitting in "just like everybody else." In this presentation, Anne demonstrates the importance of acknowledging the range of emotions children have related to their disabilities as well as being part of an inclusive classroom. Only by opening up the lines of communication regarding children's disabilities with honesty, respect, and genuine curiosity can children truly feel accepted.
The Hidden Emotion of Shame: What, Why, and How to Overcome It
Shame touches us all to varying extents and for a variety of reasons, yet it is strikingly absent in our conversations and in our training as mental health professionals. As a result, many therapists fail to recognize this emotion in their patients, with some experts citing this omission as a contributor to premature termination.
Against the backdrop of her own personal story of growing up with a paraplegic mother at a time when society viewed disability as a shameful thing, Anne demonstrates how this toxic emotion can impact multiple generations of a family. Geared towards mental health practitioners, participants will learn what shame is and how it differs from other emotions, how shame manifests itself and why it is so destructive, and how to help patients overcome this toxic emotion.
Testimonials:"Anne Gross gave a moving and inspiring keynote speech at the 2011 Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Awards Event, talking about her book The Polio Journals, Lessons from my Mother. She immediately engaged our diverse audience (people with disabilities, service providers, family members, politicians and others) sharing her story, her mother's story, and the story of millions of people with disabilities. She talks about an issue that is rarely raised--the mere fact of acknowledgment of what it means to have a disability. She correctly equates failure to discuss routine challenges posed by disability with a sense of shame that creates barriers on par with any architectural barriers. She weaves real life with sociological facts, and is one of the few speakers who has been able to address the real life hardships of disability within a family system without resorting to pity or ignoring societal discrimination. She does not imply that the civil rights component of our movement should take a back seat to discussing feelings about disability--but points out that we can exacerbate the societal oppression when we allow silence to create a sense of shame by refusing to discuss personal elements of disability with those closest to us. As a person with a disability, her talk and her book, gave me a new insight into the perspective of non-disabled individuals who are close to those of us with disabilities, either by choice or circumstance. As someone who has dedicated her professional life to enforcement of a law that promotes integration, I realized that this insight is crucial as integration will be achieved only with the support of our non-disabled allies. These allies, usually family members, can only support us if they are granted full access to our lives.
Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Stacey Weisberg, LPC
Director of Mental Health & Community Services
Jewish Family Service of Colorado
Marcia H Rioux, PhD
Professor, School Health Policy and Management and
Professor, M.A./PhD Critical Disability Studies
Co-GPD, Graduate Program Health Policy and Equity
Director, York Institute of Health Research
Director, Disability Rights Promotion International
President, Rotary Club Denver Southeast
Author, The Fine Art of Small Talk
Program Chair, Smoky Hill Rotary Club
Anne has spoken to several organizations, including:
Service Groups: Many Denver area Rotary clubs including Rotary Club Denver Southeast, Aurora Gateway Rotary Club, Cherry Creek Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Aurora, Smoky Hill Rotary Club, and Littleton Sunrise Rotary Club.
Disability Organizations, including a keynote address to the annual Colorado Cross-Coalition Annual Awards Ceremony, Jewish Disability Awareness Day Conference at Jewish Family Service of Colorado, Peak Parent Conference Center on Inclusive Education, and the University of Minnesota Conference on Inclusive Education.
Mental Health Organizations, including the Counseling Center at Jewish Family Service of Colorado.
Community and Religious Organizations, Temple Sinai, 49ís Contemporary Forum at Montview Presbyterian Church, Holy Shepard Lutheran Church, Denver Chapter of Hadassah, Women, Wine and Wellness, and Denver area book clubs.
To book Dr. Gross for a speaking engagement, email her at