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Posts Tagged ‘Disabilities’

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This past summer I read a book that made me … ponder my career field.

I work as an Educational Assistant in a middle school. Within this field I get to work with students who have been diagnosed as having special needs (don’t we all?), as well as those who simply struggle to learn at the typical speed or style as the majority of their peers. I also get to work closely with those who teach these students, and their parents … it’s a team mentality, with all striving for the best from each particular student.

Is it perfect? no.

Is it good? yes.

I love my job!

At the end of last year, a student in the high school I worked, handed me a book and said I should read it (I learned long ago, that when a child or teen says such a thing, it is imperative that I do so). As I read, “Look Me in the Eye“, by John Elder Robison, I began to ponder my training to work as an Educational Assistant.

John is a successful adult, who happens to also have autism.

This, then, has led me re-visit the life of Temple Gandin. Another successful adult, living with the challenges that autism can bring to an individual (and those who love them).

In the past month I have been investigating these two individuals, listening to them speak, reading what they have written, on their lives, and their needs, and their strengths as well as weaknesses.

I have realized that my formal education in special needs taught me little about what those with special needs know. Instead I was taught what psychologists, behavioral specialists, doctors and teachers believe they know about everything from autism to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21) to Fragile X to hearing impairment and so on.

If a person wanted to learn the piano would you learn more from someone who studies pianos, or one who plays them?

If a person wanted to learn about cooking would they go to a food critic or a chef?

If a person wanted to learn about building a house, would you learn more from a building inspector or a builder?

I would say that in each of the above comparisons, one would learn the most from both professionals … just as one working with those with special needs should learn from those who study the various special needs, as well as learning from those with the special needs themselves.

After all, is it they who have something to teach us.

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I truly do consider it a privilege to work with the students that I do. Their ‘challenges’ are the reason that I have a job.

In my job as a Special Education Assistant, the only thing I do not like is my title … nobody wants to be called ‘special’ because everybody knows that the word ‘special’ in this context really means ‘different.’

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The guest post for today is an audio link to a broadcast from Focus on the Family (www.fotf.ca). The link is of Ben Glenn speaking about the challenges in his life, including ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and Dyslexia. It is called Living With ADD, and in his story I can see the experiences of a few students with similar challenges. I can see the rejection, I can see the confusion.

Thankfully, I do believe that today school staff, psychologists, doctors and parents communicate much more clearly to students about the challenges that they have been diagnosed with. We still tell them they are special, but we tell them they are special, not because of their diagnosis, but because they have value as a person, and, as a Christian, we share that they are made in the image of Creator God.

Numerous times I have offered my own perspectives on those with challenges, or special needs (Beautiful Disorder). I have also offered my perspective on the parents, and especially the moms of children with special needs (Moms That I Admire), as well as their perspectives on having a child with special needs (Things Not To Say To A Parent Of A Child With Disabilities). What I love about this audio of Ben Glenn is that it is from the perspective of a person with special needs challenges, and it is so worth hearing his voice.

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It was through a social networking site that I was made aware of this event and the guest post about it.

A friend from high school (now that was a while ago) ‘shared’ the post (which was about an event her own daughter participated in), and I smiled through each and every word.

As a person who works with students in both Special Needs and Learning Assistance, and as a believer that we are all given life for a reason, I am drawn to stories of those who struggle with life, due to disabilities and disorders. I am also drawn to stories of predictions of what a particular child might accomplish in life, verses the abilities that they actually can accomplish.

Such is the case in the story that Pascale LeBrasseur has told on her blog Lessons From My Daughter. I encourage you to not just read what I have shared here from her post, but also check out her story, alluded to in this post, in her pilgrimage to provide the best life she can for her daughter, Emily.

For those who do not work with students, children, and adults who have challenges, know that what they want is what we all want … to be known (acquaintances), to be cared for (family) and to be liked (friendship).

Yesterday afternoon was magical!

It was magical for Emily, for her team mates from the Field of Dreams, for all the parents standing there and taking pictures and making videos, for the volunteers, for the Hub City Brewers and for the Blue Jays organization and former players!

Yesterday was something money can’t buy for our kids with various ability levels.

Look at this video of Emily!

http://youtu.be/UyDdPl_QgLA

If you are new to my blog, you are probably thinking that Emily is a pretty poor baseball player.
:)

That’s ok! I get it….

The guy pitching was close to her, he pretty much gave her the ball before she kinda ran to first base…

Allow me to help you see the magic in that short video.

Emily was diagnosed with Cri du chat syndrome in October 1999 when she was 15 months old.

At the time, we were told (amongst other things) that she would never walk, understand us, recognize us, communicate with us, her brain & body would never function properly.

Now… remember that video!

She is exactly where she needs to be, standing on her own, swinging that bat around to warm-up, keeping her eyes on the pitcher and on the ball. Her eyes are telling her brain that the ball is coming and her brain is telling her arms and hands to move at the exact time required to hit that ball. Once she’s made contact with the ball, she puts the bat down and runs to first base. At first base, she high fives…. Roberto Alomar!

Who’s Roberto Alomar? Come on… really? You don’t know???

Here’s his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Alomar

So… now that you know all the things Emily would never do and that not only she’s awesome on that video, she’s also playing baseball with former Blue Jays player and Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar….

Let me ask you again, how is that video?

I admit that my voice is annoying but overall that video is amazing!!!

The afternoon was beyond anything I could have imagined.

Look at Emily’s team!

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Look at those smiles!

We made first page of the local newspaper

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I wished the newspaper would still let you read it on-line for free, I would have love to give you the link to the article because it’s great. They talk about the Blue Jays players but they mostly talk about our players.

See these guys with Emily?

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She was chatting with them while the “Blue” were at the bat!

The guy on the left is Sandy Alomar Sr. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Alomar,_Sr.

Later on when he was signing Emily’s new Blue Jays t-shirt, I asked him what they were talking about earlier…

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Turns out Emily was telling him about hockey and Justin Bieber….

LOL…. she talked to a former MLB player about her favorite sport to watch….. Hockey!!!

How awesome is that? Talk about full honesty, no pretenses, no BS… just 100% Emily truth.

In the newspaper article, they mentioned how one of our player asked Duane Ward if he plays Super Mario. :) The guy won 2 world series but our player wanted to talk about video games … and apparently, Duane is not really good at video games.

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3 years ago, Emily lasted 15 to 20 minutes a week at baseball than wanted to go home, Now she stays for the hour and a half. She gets there, says hi to Lexie, Jacob, Pascale, Taylor and so many more… She gives Brent a hug, says hello to Pat (the field of dream pitcher) than look for Mikey. He’s number 7 for the Hub City Brewers and he is Emily’s favorite guy. Not sure why she picked him… but over the last 3 years, that guy has allowed her to talk about Justin Bieber as much as she wants. He is helping her learn to catch the ball… that’s a work in progress and he is not giving up. In previous years, when Mikey was not there, Emily used to be completely lost but now she can go see another player and manages just fine.

When people look at our kids they see their differences, they see their disabilities.

Yesterday on that baseball field, I only saw abilities…. abilities of various levels. Everybody at the same level, it’s easy when the game is just a game. Everybody went to bat and went around all the bases. Nobody counted points, not because they are all winners but because it was a game! It was fun!

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Grey or Blue team didn’t matter, they all cheered for each other, they all high fived each other, they all laughed and ran and played!

Yesterday was the kind of day you can’t buy for our kids, this is the kind of day that happens only when a group of amazing people get together and believe in a common cause…

…..

Thank you to all that made that day possible!

Yesterday, Emily’s baseball team was invited to participate in a 90 minutes baseball game with some former Blue Jays that were in town as part of Blue Jays Honda Super camp

http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/tor/baseball_academy/honda_super_camps_en.jsp

Emily’s field of Dreams team exist because of the Hub City Brewers, their wifes and girlfriends, their friends and some other great volunteers…

Those guys, all have jobs, they train with their team, they play games from Spring to Fall and spend 1.5 hour per week with our kids, playing baseball. Making each and every single one of them feel like a pro baseball player.

http://www.hubcitybrewers.com/field/

The opportunity to play with the Blue Jays was made possible by an alignment of stars and the contribution of not only the Blue Jays and the Hub City Brewers but also the involvement of Baseball Canada’s challenger program.

http://www.baseball.ca/eng_doc.cfm?DocID=521

Thank you to all of you!”

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As it was past 10:30pm when I sat down to write, and my brain cells were simply comatose I have done what I do not often do … I re-posted a blog post from the past. This one came easily to mind as I had been in communication twice today with moms of kids with special needs. It is these moms who I most admire. Let me explain …

I am a mom, and I am a special education assistant … but it was becoming a mom was what gave me a better understanding of the people I would be called upon to assist … the students and their families.

In my job I am very aware that God has entrusted ‘my’ students:

first, to their parents …

and w a y down the line, to me.

I am also aware, because I am a mom, that I do not know what is best for them … God didn’t entrust the students to me first.

I am not always right … ask MY kids!

I work with ‘my’ students about six and one half hours a day, for a year, maybe two or three … their moms are with them for life.

To be a mom of a child with special needs means living with public scrutiny, public embarrassment and public shame.

To be a mom of a child with special needs means living with a large host of professionals who ‘are better educated’ about your child’s ‘needs’, than you.

To be a mom of a child with special needs means constantly having to hear what is ‘wrong’ with your child.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.

I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

Mother Teresa

But …

To be a mom of a child with special needs also means …

being a mom to a son or daughter

who you have dreams for

(what good mother doesn’t?)

who you have fears for

(what good mother doesn’t?)

who you love, with that unconditional love that is called ‘Momma Love’

(what good mother doesn’t?)

PERIOD!

I remember well the day I realized how heavy the weight can be to be a mom of a child with special needs. The mom was bringing her daughter to school, and I asked how the new ‘special’ air mattress for her child was working. The mom’s reply was that she had just had her first full night’s sleep in YEARS. Now I do not mean one or two years … this ‘child’ was about sixteen years old …

Then there is the mom with a child who, as a toddler, would sit still on a blanket when out at the park. And the other moms of toddlers would tell her how ‘lucky’ she was that she didn’t have to run around after him … when, inside, she so wished that her son would need her to run after him.

Then there is the mom whose son is mostly non-verbal, and can be violent and aggressive. She spends most waking hours ensuring that she knows where he is, as he is a flight risk. When her son does express affection, adoration and love it is never to or for her, because her son only has eyes for other males.

Then there is the mom who spent many years doing homework with / for her son, so that he would not be embarrassed that his work was obviously ‘inferior’ to that of his classmates.

Then there is the mom who has taken on the task of raising the special needs child of another woman. And that child’s special needs are the direct result of the actions of the child’s birth mother.

Then there is the mom, whose child has been so discouraged by teachers, leaders and other adults that don’t ‘believe’ his diagnosis, preferring to think that this student is simply ‘lazy’. And this child, so beaten down by the bad attitudes of some teachers, leaders and adults in his life that he has chosen to be viewed as bad over being seen as stupid. And his mom has picked up the phone far too many times to hear the school principal’s voice to tell her of another antic causing harm to people or property.

And then the mom of the child with Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21) who NEVER goes out in public, with her child, without facing strangers staring at her child …

“Hey, keep staring at me and you just might cure my disability.

Then we can work on YOUR social skills.”

Anonymous

How many of us, as parents, as moms, have said, ‘I wish my son, my daughter could stay a baby forever’? To the mom of many special needs children, that wish of yours can be like a curse to them. As they might have a child who will never live independently, or have a job, or learn to drive, or learn to count, or be toilet trained.

I like to think that I have thick skin, but I know that mine is nothing compared to the mom of a child with special needs.

For anyone out there who is the mom of a child/children with special needs, may you know that …

I don’t know more than you, about your child

I don’t look at your child as a disability to our society

I don’t look down at you

I don’t know how you feel

… and there are many more, who feel the same way.

All that to say, I just wanted to give you some positive ‘air time’. And to tell you, that if I have worked with your son or daughter, I have respected, appreciated and prayed for you …and may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“Perseverance is not a long race.

It is many short races one after another.”

W. Elliot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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l_10coffeeshopGC

I love receiving gift cards … especially to coffee shops! They just seem such decadent gifts to receive. They allow me to drive-through for a favorite drink, or take one of my daughters out for a treat … and it is free for me. The best thing is, it is the gift that just keeps on giving, because usually there is still a balance on the card to use at another time.

Recently I was reminded of what gift is better than a coffee gift card.

The other day, a student was excited to see me as he walked into the front doors of the school. I stopped to greet him. With a million dollar smile all over his face, he said he had something for me. An end of the year, thank-you card was placed into my hand. It was handwritten by him … “Mrs. Weaton” written in one corner … his Mom did not help with this card (my last name is spelled Wheaton).

I have to say, seeing the misspelling of my name made me more eager to open and read what was inside, but I was in a bit of a hurry to reach another destination, and had already chatted longer than the time I had. We said our good-byes, and I promised to see him later that afternoon.

I could not wait to open the envelope, and read what he had written inside.

When I did finally have the opportunity, his words filled me with pride in how well he communicated, how neat was his handwriting, how specific the events of the past school year he communicated.

His note was full of reminders (to me) of what he and I, and others, had shared this school year. Even though our schedules were such that we shared so little time together this year, we had shared so much with the little time availed to us.

I smiled as I absorbed each word, my heart filling with each deposit.

My deposits to him were born out of a pay cheque … his deposits to me were born out of thankfulness.

My deposits to him came from my strengths … his deposits to me were born out of his weaknesses.

My reason for working with him was his disability … his reason for writing this note was his abilities.

The words of Paul (2 Corinthians 12: 9) came to my mind, after reading this precious note:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This note, full of memories and thanks, is far better than any gift card … it is truly the gift that keeps on giving … because there is always a balance still left on this card.

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After a week of being removed from the Olympics, due to a fun filled vacation, my eyes are glued to the television, and the internet to get caught up.

I was watching the finishing qualifying heat for the mens 400m race, which featured a preliminary story about South African runner, Oscar Pistorius. This handsome young man, with that charming Jo’burg accent, runs, not on feet, but blades. Due to a defect at birth (leading to double amputation), he has no legs below his knees.

Not only has he had to endure the physical struggles with which he was born, but he also recently had to struggle, legally, to be allowed to compete in events beyond the paralympic distinction.

Now, think about this, it was believed that his disability gave him an advantage over the other competitors …

I would have to agree … his (and anyone else of limitations plus a will) disability does give him an advantage over the other competitors. As a man with limitations since birth, he has had to work harder, been more driven, more focused and more determined than his fellow competitors.

Oscar has been known to tell of a childhood memory when he and his brother were preparing for school. His mother said to his brother, “you put your shoes on.” Then she turned to Oscar: “And you put your legs on. And that’s the last I want to hear of it.” Oscar lost his mother when he was only fifteen, and on his right arm is a tattoo of her birth date, as well as the date of her death.

On Oscar’s website is a quote, “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.” How can one not respect a man who is able to take the preconceived thoughts of the past, and turn them around for a future perspective, filled with hope.

And, speaking of hope … on his left shoulder is tattooed the words of 1 Corinthians 9:26-27:

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I do not know of Oscar’s motivation for life. I do not pretend to know of a personal faith in the God who allowed him to be born disabled, as well as who allowed him to be born with the ability and drive to run. I only know that he could not sleep one night in New York City, and chose this verse to be tattooed onto his body.

In an interview for the New York Times, by writer, Michael Sokolove, Oscar said, “he gets no special thrill from defeating men with two biological legs. To do so would be to dwell on his own disability. “You have to move past it,” he said. “Everyone has setbacks. I’m no different. I happen to have no legs. That’s pretty much the fact.””

May he continue to inspire, at the Olympics (where he did not qualify for the 400m finals, but who is yet to compete in the 400m relay with his countrymen), and in life.

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It didn’t start with a picture …

This time it started years ago, while listening to a radio broadcast. What I heard did not make any sense to me … “today we will be speaking with an abortion survivor …”

That one sentence intrigued me enough to keep listening, to buy the guest speaker’s book, and to encourage my hubby (then a youth pastor) to find her.

The result of that one sentence, heard in passing, was the meeting of this courageous woman, a fantastic youth retreat, and the understanding of another view on the subject of unwanted pregnancies.

I do not pretend to know or to understand all of the details pertaining to all unwanted pregnancies. There are many reasons for a pregnancy to be unwanted. Still, I do believe that there are two individuals involved, and for this reason, I do believe that both individuals need to be considered in the decisions for the futures of both.

I remember seeing the heartbeat, just the heartbeat, of one of our unborn babies … beating so beautifully, so perfectly. Having seen ultrasounds of empty or unresponsive sacs, that heartbeat was the most beautiful image to me, to us. Unfortunately it was beating in a fallopian tube, and both the tube, and the heartbeat, had to be taken.

Abortion is a complex issue.

I know and understand the decision that I made, and I know the consequences … all of them, of that decision. I do not believe that most women make their decisions knowing all that is being decided, or all of the consequences. Two heartbeats, one is that of the mother, the other is that of her child. Both are lives of value.

Here is a link to the story of Gianna Jessen, abortion survivor …

Abortion Survivor

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