Thursday, November 29, 2012

OH NO, I HAVE WRITER'S BLOCK

I have been writing this blog since July.  I always knew the day would come.  The day when I can't think of anything to write about.  That day is today. 

I am sitting in front of my laptop, my typing finger poised over the keyboard, ready to strike a letter  and... nothing.  I'm panicking.  I have to come up with something intelligent to say.  I can't miss a week because then,  I will get out of the habit of blogging and it will  be difficult to start again.  What am I going to write?  Then, an idea came to me.

I remember being in first grade.  Every morning the teacher would print our names on the chalkboard and we were all supposed to print our name underneath.  My classmates were able to print their names almost perfectly. I couldn't.  My attempts  to print my name looked like chicken scratches.    I knew what the teacher wanted, but my brain could not get my hand to cooperate. It was humiliating to have to try, and fail, every day while the other children were successful/

Apparently, the teacher didn't realize how hard I was trying to print my name like everyone else.  She did nothing to encourage me.  To be honest, I think she was a little disgusted by the fact that I couldn't print my name. 

This morning ritual went on for months until, one day, I did it.  I printed my name on a workbook.  The teacher saw what I had done. There were no words of praise to acknowledge what a struggle learning to print my name had been for me.  Her response was,  "Well, was that so hard?"  I couldn't tell her then, so I'll tell her  now and hope that, wherever her spirit is, she hears me. Yes, Miss Gifford, it was.

In second grade I learned to use an electric typewriter.  I didn't have to worry if I could write or not. My  "Writer's Block" was gone.  I could express myself and complete my classwork like everyone else. 

I remember being chosen to have my picture in the School and Home Newspaper,  using my electric typewriter.  Quite an honor for a seven-year-old. The photographer and physical therapist came to my classroom.   I was supposed to type as if no one was watching me.  The photographer snapped the picture.  The physical therapist got angry because I'd hit the wrong key. (This woman wore her hair in a bun all year, but took it down once a year  to be a witch in the school's Halloween parade. The day of the photo, I think the witch appeared a little early.)  Why couldn't she have been happy that my picture would be  published and that I'd be representing the school?

I know the teachers in the sixties did the best they could, but sometimes,  I still wonder where the compassion and understanding was.  It may take a disabled child a little longer to complete a task.  They may complete the task in a little different way, but they'll  get it done.  All they need is a little encouragement, understanding and love.






   






Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR

I have so many blessings in my life.   Through the year, I forget to stop and  give thanks for how fortunate I am.  Thanksgiving is almost here, so I want to take this opportunity to take a minute to count my blessings. 

I am thankful to God.  I believe each day is a gift from Him.

I am thankful that I'm still living in the house I grew up in and have caregivers to assist me.  Living in the house has made it easier for me to cope with the loss of my mother.  I'm thankful for my family.  They support me, even when they don't agree with my choices.  Without the assistance of my brother, Bob, I know things would be a lot more difficult for me.  I  am thankful for my Maltese, Lucie.  As I said in a previous post, she is truly a doggie diva, but I wouldn't trade her for anything.

I am thankful for my neighbors.  They watch out for Lucie and me and help us whenever they can.

I am thankful that I have an accessible van.  I don't have to depend on public transportation the way the majority of disabled people do.  I know how lucky am.  I never take my van, and the freedom it gives me, for granted.

i am thankful for the time I spent at the independent living center.  While the job may not have worked out, it was still a learning experience.  I learned that every job doesn't always run the same way.  Jobs, like people, are different and you have to be able to adapt and go with the flow.  I am thankful for my volunteer job at my library.  I get to be around books and work with great people.  What more could l ask for?

I am thankful for Facebook.  Social media has allowed me to reconnect with friends, make new friends, join writer's groups and share information. (Oh yeah, the games are a lot of fun too.)

And finally, I am thankful  for anyone who reads this blog.  It makes me feel good to know that you take time out of your day to read my blog. That you think what I have to say is worth reading.  I appreciate your comments.  I don't pretend to know everything and I think we can learn from each other.

Whether you're counting the number of touchdowns your team scores in the game this Thanksgiving, or counting how many pieces of pumpkin pie you've had, don't forget to count your blessings too.







                                                                                      

Monday, November 12, 2012

INCLUSION IS A BEAUTIFUL THING

Believe it or not, there are still people in the world, who think that disabled children should not be mainstreamed.  They think that having disabled children in class, with their able-bodied peers, is a distraction.  That teaching a disabled child takes too much of a teacher's time.   Time that should be spent teaching an able-bodied child. 

What about what a disabled child can add to the classroom? Children can learn compassion, acceptance and the importance of helping one another when a child with a disability attends class with them.  If children have a disabled child in class with them, they will grow up with the awareness that a person with a disability is just like they are. 

l loved being a Brownie/Girl Scout.   The experience was one of the happiest times of my childhood.  The Brownie  troop leader was a member of my church.  The week before I attended my first meeting, the troop leader talked to the girls about me.  I don't know what she told them,  all I know is they accepted me and always found a way for me to be a part of whatever they were doing.  The girls didn't see my disability.  They just accepted me as their friend. 

I'm sure you have heard about the high school student, with Down's Syndrome, who was  voted homecoming queen by her classmates this year.    The fact that able-bodied students elected a young woman with a disability to be homecoming queen is awesome!  The students voted for her not because she was disabled, but because of the kind of person she  is. The students saw a person first, not her disability.  I hope we see more acts like this in the future. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended a public school for the physically disabled for thirteen years.  I would have given anything had mainstreaming been an option back then.  Had I been mainstreamed,  I would have developed better social skills.  My grade school education was adequate,  My high school education left me unprepared for college.  After my freshman year, the high school teacher left.  The teacher who taught Spanish, Shakespeare and for whom writing a term paper was a requirement to graduate,  was replaced by teachers who only taught the basics. They did nothing to prepare anyone for college.  I understand why.  When you have students at all different levels of intellectual ability together, it would be difficult to meet all of their  needs effectively.  I missed out on a lot, not only socially, but academically as well. The only positive thing about my high school years was that, in my senior year, I was able to take two courses at a community college in preparation for college that fall.


I often wonder what my educational experience would have been like if I had been given the opportunity to be mainstreamed.  Would being mainstreamed have made me a different person?  I'll never know how it might have changed me.

For anyone who thinks a child with a disability is a distraction in the classroom and should not be mainstreamed, remember the qualities I spoke about earlier.  Aren't those qualities we want all children  to have?  If you think about what an able-bodied child can learn from a disabled child, they are not a distraction in the classroom at all.  They will only enhance another child's educational experience.






Thursday, November 1, 2012

DO WHAT YOU SAY AND SAY WHAT YOU MEAN

I'm not a quitter.  At least I wasn't, until last week, when I quit my volunteer job at an independent living center. 

A little over a year ago, on the advice of a counselor from vocational rehabilitation, I contacted the center in search of a part time job.  I was informed that there was a program that started off as a volunteer position, but  if I did a good job, at the end of six months, I would  be considered for a part time paid position with the center.  The position was similar to that of a mentor to other disabled individuals.  I felt it would be a good job for me as I would be able to use some of my skills as a social worker when offering support and encouragement to others.  I would work hard to prove myself.  I was determined to become a paid employee.

I came from a work environment where I did my work on my own. I was responsible for learning software, teaching my classes and if I was sick, I either had to find someone to teach the class in my place or make up the class at a later time.  If I was learning new software, and had a question, I asked for help.  In the program I was in, at the independent living center, there is a lot of hand holding.  People call to remind you when paperwork is due and when to attend meetings. It seemed  to me that sometimes one person didn't know what the other was doing.    I wasn't used to that and it was very difficult for me to adjust to.  In my opinion, if someone has to remind you of your duties, you are not really doing things on your own. It goes back to what I've said before, if we as disabled people say we are like everyone else, we should be able to do our job on our own just like everyone else.

I completed my six month volunteer period.  I was told my work was "meticulous."  My interview and position appointment kept being put off.  Each time I wanted to quit, I'd call my boss, he'd address my concerns saying someone would call me concerning my paid positioon and I'd agree to stay.  I was given more responsibility, but the call for a paid position never came.  Since I was still a volunteer well after the required six months were up, I stopped going to meetings because I felt my time was my own as a volunteer.  When I mentioned my six months being up I was told they say six months, but it could be longer.   I couldn't deal with being put off anymore.

From the beginning I was clear about what I wanted, part time paid employment. I feel bad about the way things turned out. The center does great things for disabled people and I was excited to work for them.  I know I did the best I could and it's time for me to move on, but a part of me will always wish things had turned out differently