Our Little Girl Is Going To College (Part I)

          As we wrap up our education week, many of you are running around doing your last minute back to school shopping. We have been shopping all summer for our three scholars so these weeks are dedicated to getting our kids mentally ready for the next year. There is a lot to education from a student’s attitude to the styles of learning to the teaching styles to a student’s understanding of who they are in the universe. What? You didn’t get the last one we mentioned?

          Lee says: We are the parents of a multiply handicapped child. We were told when she was 7 months old that she would be blind, retarded and would not make it to her 2nd birthday. Aside from that, our daughter was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, hearing loss and left side weakness due to a stroke at birth. Our daughter, at 17 years of age, is also petite, lovingly called ‘fun size’ and cannot reach things in kitchen cabinets. With all these obstacles, you would think that she has the right to complain, ask for help or even demand special treatment.

          We knew Jeannie was going to be a little Pandora’s box of disability. We were so overwhelmed with the laundry list of disabilities that we had little time to process the implications. We never had a chance to imagine what life would be like when she was 5 or 10 or 17. One thing we did not allow was family to express pity, sadness or any kind of special treatment because she is ‘other abled’. We did not allow my Mom to look at Jeannie and say ‘pobrecita’ (poor thing) or give her the look. We never saw Jeannie as anything but perfect and expected her to give all she had to excel in school.

          She was told that she must work hard for what she wanted. Jeannie, in all of her years in school, has only ever availed herself of one provision in her I.E.P.; sit in the front of the classroom. That’s it! The reality for her is that she is a stubborn, annoying, oppositional, argumentative little young lady who has achieved so much that even doctors are surprised. She shouldn’t be able to do what she does, but she does. She confounds the professionals and makes it hard to advocate for her special needs because she does better than her fellow students.

          So how did we get so lucky? We have never taught her limitations nor will she allow others to place them on her. She is tenacious, obstinate and a general pain in the butt when it comes to trying to assist her. Jeannie does not acknowledge her deficits in vision, hearing, physicality or general social cue reading. As an example, Jeannie made herself team captain for an academic team where they needed to examine and judge cows (I know, cow judging is so rude). In other words, she was able to corral a group of teens, organize them and finds a way to be able to see a cow specimen from far away. I have no idea how she does it, but she does. 

          Next year, she will be in college. We have had to change our approach with her and have begun teaching her how to advocate for herself. To do this, we have had to teach Jeannie her limitations. She will need to be able to use her understanding of her disabilities, and the rights reserved for otherly abled, to get what she deserves. Not that she will but it is our job to prepare her to handle her needs. I think Jeannie believes everyone can see as if through a straw and cannot hear high or low frequencies and only have the complete use of one hand and misreads social cues and needs to get up on a chair to reach the milk in the fridge and is overwhelmed by emotion and …. This is why we have been ‘lucky’. She never knew she couldn’t do it.

          Paul says: I hate when we write about Jeannie. All I end up doing is writing some little blurb then crying quietly and going to bed. This post is no different. Grabbing the Kleenex and going to bed.

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