Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Mother's Collection of Stories

Thank you for visiting this collection of my mother's stories. My mom, Connie, passed away in December 2011 at the age of 68. She grew up in South Dakota, moved to Iowa in her late 20s, got married and raised two children. She also did it while having a certain form of Muscular Dystrophy.

Mom wrote these stories over the years, for writing classes she took, or just simply to write. Many of the stories are personal, with details about her growing up in South Dakota or her life in Iowa. There's even the story, The Green Light, about her learning to drive at the age of 28.

There's also the story about the passing of her mother, The Night That Changed My Life, where Mom wrote about how her mother's passing ultimately led Mom on her path to Iowa, her husband and two children.

Some of Mom's stories she wrote out by hand, others were typed. All have now been entered here to share with whoever wants to read them. I hope this site serves as a fitting memorial. -Connie's son, Steve, June 2012 

Introduction: Connie from South Dakota 

Growing up in South Dakota
Going out on her own
Life in Iowa
Disability awareness
Mom's Family
Mom's 1994 paper on education of children with disabilities
Creative Writing

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Learning Cannot Be Scheduled

This is a paper Mom wrote in the same class as she wrote her From Dependence to Independence paper. In this paper, Mom talks about children being ready for school, and sometimes learning at different paces.

Near the end, though, Mom adds the personal notes that make these papers so great. She references her experiences on the playground as a child. She also remembers her one year at the local crippled children's school when she was about 13, as giving her her voice. She's previously written about the school as letting her down academically.

She talks about how the family got through Mom's sister-in-law's family coming from Germany, when each family didn't know the other's language.

The photo is of Mom in the 1960s, from her photo album.


Society has set down a schedule for everyone in regards to their formal education. When a child has reached five years old, he/she attends kindergarten, at six he/she starts first grade, and so on. Education is set down in an orderly manner - or is it. Is a child always ready to learn at these scheduled times? Some kids are not. Does this mean that they are slow? Or does it mean that they are the proverbial "late bloomer." How do you get a child ready; and how do you keep them interested in school.

There are times when you have to stop trying so hard. The individual has to find out for himself. Not all education after all, comes from formal learning in schools. Sometimes the best lessons can come from "the old school of hard knocks." The lessons of "life" can prepare the child for the formal schooling later. Learning cannot be scheduled, nor is it derived from books. More and more older students are returning to school to either complete earlier attempts at college, or to enhance the individual's personal goals.

When the child is younger, of course, they will need guidance. They will not be able to choose for themselves, so it is up to the parents and teachers to keep them interested and ready. Small children need to be enthusiastic about learning, at whatever level they are at. To quote John Ciardi, a noted American teacher and writer, "No one gets to be a human unaided. There is not time enough in a single lifetime to invent for oneself everything one needs to know in order to be a civilized human."

This philosophy is good but I don't feel that we need to know it all. What we need is enough knowledge to get along in this world of ours. Perhaps we can even help change the thoughts of one or two other people along the way; than I would say we accomplished much.

The first education we received, of course, came from our family. This family unity and protection will say much for the child on how her individual personality is set. If she is to be aggressive, it will show here. If she is to be shy, it will show here. Special talents can be brought out here also. Setting play blocks in a certain fashion can be a form of art work or construction work. It will by no means seal her fate in any way, but all of these little creative talents need to be rewarded and encouraged.

By making this early learning a fun experience, you can teach the child that exploring new subjects will be fun. As the child begins preschool or kindergarten, this fun way of learning continues. It takes a lot of patience to work with a room full of 5-year-olds. Here, however, the real personality will come out. Whether it is social time, when the kids interact with each other, or rest time when perhaps one child will not rest. The particularly shy child needs guidance here. Maybe to the point that you discuss with the parents as to whether he is ready for this world yet. Again, not everyone will learn at the same pace. This means nothing except that they are an individual.

As the child grows up through the Grammar school, we need to watch carefully for the slower child. This child cannot get lost in the system. These are the most important years to keep the child interested in the basics of math, reading and writing. There needs to be some extra help here if needed. Once these children are lost in these lower grades it is very difficult to get them back to the proper level at the higher grades. It takes all the fun out of school if the child cannot keep up.

There are programs in a lot of schools around the country that bring in some of our senior citizens to aid with the extra help needed for these children. This works very well and benefits both the seniors and the children. The children in the lower grades see these seniors as perhaps the grandparents the children may or may not have or see very often in this transient world we live in. There is much to be learned from these seniors other than reading or writing. Their experiences can keep the child interested in learning.

As with the slower child, we must also think of the fast learner or the advanced child. These children soak up everything you give them. It becomes a challenge to keep these children excited about school. One way could be to use these children as tutors of sorts with the other children. Let a good reader help a slower reader. The teacher will have to monitor this at first to make sure they are benefiting each other. This responsibility with both parties could help them. Extra projects for the advanced learner in a subject that is of interest to them. I do not believe in most cases that a child should be advanced to another grade. They could take subjects with that grade, but should for the most part stay with their own class.

A child on the playground, playing a game, or just watching. An experienced teacher can tell a lot from this scene. These are the social skills that we learn, when we are ready to learn them. We all know that children can be cruel and this especially can happen on the playground. I got to a point in school that I hated recess, and especially noon hour. I was glad to get into the upper grades when we didn't have any. I was so shy it was difficult to play in large groups. I was fine in the small group setting. In organized games we must see to it that everyone gets to play. Nothing is more hurtful than not to be chosen for each side. The self confidence is gone. There are times though, when the children need to be left on their own to get involved. Here is where your real leaders show up. This does not mean that the "wall flowers" will not be leaders in the future. Sometimes when children grow and are outside of this usual group of kids they begin to emerge and bloom. I believe that I was like that. Painfully shy in grade school, I went away to school one year and learned that I had a voice and sometimes it was worth talking, and people listened.

We cannot force people to think the way that you think. History taught us that from the famous "Great experiment" with the Indians with the William Pratt schools. He thought he could make the Indians into white men. It is fine to teach the Indian how to read and write and all about the white man and how they learn, but you cannot stamp out their basic personality or heritage in the process. People must be free to think for themselves. This kind of brainwashing is never permissible, although it has been tried throughout history.

No we cannot force learning on anyone but we can add to their knowledge. Sometimes there can be an exchange of knowledge. When I was a little girl, my sister-in-law, who came from Germany when she married my brother, decided to bring her sister and family here as well. Their escape from behind the "Iron Curtain" was the topic of many dinner table conversations. They had two daughters, one of which was my age. They spoke no English and of course I spoke no German. There were many afternoons spent with little more than sign language spoken. I feel I learned a lot that summer, and I'm sure that they did. Children left to their own resources can make it fine.

Much of this learning that I have spoken of is not necessarily learned in the formal school setting. Mr. Robert Pirsig, a noted teacher and writer, said that classes do not stop when you leave the school. He says the "real university" has no specific location, but is a state of mind, a continuing body of reason itself. Along with this reason, I feel, is the common sense that has to be in all of us if we are to survive. I have known a lot of well-educated people, with many degrees, but lack a basic concept of common sense. Their thought process is locked in a book somewhere and they can't bring it out. Then there are many people that I have known, who, like my mother, had very little formal education but could relay all kinds of common sense. If I had my choice, I would take the common sense over the book learning. When you have common sense, you will achieve the goals of a "real university."

Connie, May 14, 1994

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paper Research: Remembered As

This is the tenth, and final, of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own.

I'm leading this one off with a two-paragraph opening to this project of Mom's. The opening is the final piece of this project to post.

In the process log, Mom talks about including those with disabilities in activities. At the end, she talks about what she wanted to be remembered for.

The photo is of Mom at her retirement party in 2009.

My definition of interpersonal intelligence as it pertains to my special project is this. Many disabled children and adults are left out of the extracurricular activities in many schools. All the activities are centered around the able-bodied, such as basketball, baseball and almost any sport, many clubs. These organizations are not geared for the disabled child. Sometimes with the right encouragement from a friend or teacher, it wouldn't take much to make the club available to the child.

Schools can be made accessible to anyone with any kind of disabilities, with some simple accommodations. These kinds of obstacles can be referred to as interpersonal problems. When these physical obstacles replaced, the disabled student can settle down to the fine art of learning. Without the worry of how to get to the next class, whether it be up the flight of stairs or down a long hall, things can be adjusted so the disabled child or adult can get there with the necessary books and paraphernalia needed for class.

Along also with the outside physical influences, the outside student influence is also a factor. Many times the students can be very gracious. They take it upon themselves to help and suggest. In recent times, with the disabled student at the forefront of everyone's eye, this objectivity can be natural. However, from the times of most of the teachers have grown up and lived in, it is not natural. Many of these adults have grown up when these kids were hidden from society. A few years ago, these kids were considered untrainable and ineducable: Not much was tried.

Consequently, these students are not high on the list to choose for special committees and privileges. The teacher probably does not call on the disabled students for much discussion. If they are able to communicate readily, they probably are not able to speak loudly enough to compete with the rest of the class. They also would not be selected to take part in any non-competitive sports, even if their intelligence shows them really able to do these sports. Many times also the disabled student would not be the first choice to do some peer teaching.

My son has a disability. He cannot walk very well without his braces on. His intelligence, however, is very high. He carries a 3.5 GPA most of the times and has had a 4.0. His strongest classes are math, science and history. Yet, he probably would not be the choice to be used in peer teaching. I can see him in a teaching role. I can also see him in a very influential role.

My topic also fits into the intrapersonal intelligence role. Out of necessity the disabled student is in a self-paced environment. If the school system will not aid the advancement of these students, then they must proceed on their own.

In order for the disabled student to participate in any extracurricular activities, the activity must be individualized for that particular student. Sometimes even the instruction for any subject is individualized, in order to have an idea of where the student stands academically. Solo games and sports are invented to keep the students occupied.

Along this line, however, is the big problem of self-esteem. In an effort to keep the student separate with their own projects, we may have created some of the same problems of segregation as before. In order to make the disabled feel a part of the system, the student has to be brought into the system. A plan needs to be made to bring that student into the activities that he is interested in. If he is interested in reading then create a reading club. If he is interested in sports, but just cannot participate in them actively, then try him or her on as a captain or score keeper. If the student likes to write, get him in as a reporter of the events that he is most interested in.

Maybe chess, checkers, or any board or card games have clubs in your school. Make every effort to establish what this student is interested in. My son is very interested in sports, but he can't play them. He is an avid baseball card collector, and could tell you the stats of any of the players of the major leagues. He could very easily be a scorekeeper.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of self-esteem. This is important to any student, but is imperative to the disabled students. The student has to believe in himself before he can want to accomplish anything. He has to feel that the other people see something other than his disability when they meet him. He needs to be able to convey his thoughts to others in such a way that everyone is put at ease. First and foremost, the disabled student is a person, then he is a student, then he is a student who happens to be disabled.

I have always wanted to be remembered as an individual with talents, and willing to share my talents with anyone, and I just happened to have a disability. I hope that I was hired for my job not because of my disability, whether to fill a quota or what; but in spite of it. I expect to meet a lot of people in my lifetime, I hope that I can influence some of them, in one way or another.

Connie, April 16, 1994

Viewpoint on Mainstreaming

This is a short introduction to Mom's project on mainstreaming of disabled children. It lays out the aim of her 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence.

The photo is from Mom's photo album, a man holding the door for Mom in the 1960s.


My viewpoint on the topic of handicapped kids in schools is that as long as the kids can keep up with the other children, they should be "mainstreamed" when available. Each child should be able to learn and work to their fullest potential, whether they are disabled or not. A child in a wheelchair should not, for example, be prevented from attending the school that will challenge him or her most, because of something so basic as elevators or railings.

Educating the public is an entirely different matter. When the young men came back from Vietnam, the public got a strong dose of visibility. These disabled young adults were not to stand for being shut away "invisible." They proceeded to further their education and get high-paying jobs. Many of the legislation came from this group of disabled young people. 

Connie, Feb. 6, 1994

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Paper Research: Interesting Conversation

This is the ninth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, Mom recounts the interview she had with the mother of one of her religion students. Mom also talks about a speech she was to give at the church.

The photos are of Mom from the 1950s at the family farm from a photo album of Mom's.

Thank you very much for your help with my paper. I have been working on revisions. I'm not sure if I will get all of them fixed. I had a very interesting conversation with the mother of the little boy in my class. I guess I have really changed my mind on mainstreaming all kids. The only exception are the kids that may be disruptive and destructive. This kind of exposure for the other kids can be very damaging.

I had some interesting questions to ask her. This is far too much information to put in this paper, but I found it very interesting. She asked if I had ever read the book Under the Eye of the Clock, by Christopher Nolan. I had not, so she is going to get me her copy. Apparently Christopher Nolan was and is like her son. I guess it is real soul searching.

I asked her what her goals were for her son. The first and most important goal is being able to communicate with people. She says that she knows what he wants usually, but that is because she lives with him all the time. The psychologists were able to do an IQ test on him, by using a very patient and adaptive process. It was shown that he has a good IQ. Now to be able to tap that knowledge. I asked her if she was able to see improvements in her son in the last few years. She said there was quite a bit of difference. He is able to recognize pictures of things.

I was also curious on how the experts decided when he passes to the next grade. Obviously the usual methods won't work. She said that the teachers and parents get together and do an IEP (Individual Evaluation Profile). Here everyone gets to evaluate the child's progress.

Grant Wood Area Education Agency (AEA) Used early childhood intervention with regular visits to her son since he was 2 months old. He has gone to all day preschool very early. It was essential for him to begin a regime early as he can't soak in as much from other sources as normal kids can.

There are many programs used in the schools for the severely disabled. One is called a circle of friends. Here, there is a group of kids volunteered to be a friend. They call on the child and just visit. Much of this comes very natural to kids, especially kids who have been brought up in this atmosphere. Kids are very flexible, if you let them be. The kids are not put off by the chair, or even by the fact that this child cannot talk back. It is kind of like when you put two kids together that don't speak the same language, somehow they manage to communicate.

I asked her if with this child in the classroom it is more work for the teacher. The little kids are constantly begging for turns to take care of him. They fight over who is going to do things for him today, much in the same way we used to fight over who got to help the teacher erase the board. I do know that with myself and my class they always want to help me, too. Last year, I had three kids fighting over who will carry my books, who will open the door, etc. It brought back memories when I was younger that my nieces and nephews wanted to help me with my braces. They loved all those buckles.

The mother also said that the city is advanced far in helping kids like her son. She lived in California for a year and couldn't find an agency to help her. I personally feel that this city is more accessible than most cities its size. There are few stores or businesses where I cannot go. The grocery and variety discount stores like Wal-Mart and Kmart, go out of their way to accommodate with wheelchair shopping carts. I wonder how often they get used. All of the schools are pretty much accessible. The university, however, needs a lot of help. There are many buildings here that cannot be gotten into, or the accessible doors are rather obscure back doors. There is a lot of work that has to be done here.

I asked Julie in the class if in her research there were many mothers doing home schooling if they had a disabled child. I was a little surprised by her answer. I guess it is not recommended for the disabled child as the child becomes much too dependent on the mother. If this is all the child knows, he cannot expand his knowledge. I would think this would be a worry with a very withdrawn child. It is easy to feel comfortable at and at home only. That is one reason why I don't think that I could do home schooling. I would be afraid that I would be making them too dependent on me.

I'm having trouble keeping my mind focused today, but I know that I have to get this log done. I have to give a speech tonight at church and the closer it gets the more nervous I get. Sometimes this Mass is very crowded, anyway, it is very big. I want to do a good job. I always feel that anything I do is not only for me, but for all of us. Maybe there will be someone in the church that will think "If she can do it with her busy schedule, then why can't I?" Guess I will never know if that happens. I would love to be asked to speak at classes or businesses on this topic. Enough of that, it will be over soon and I will either fall on my face or do a good job. I will let you know next week.

I really want to write. I have a sewing class going on now, also. I would love to write a sewing column for the newspaper. I think it could be very helpful. I approached the local paper on this. They said that they didn't have room. I want to get some articles made up when I get time.

Connie, April 9, 1994

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Paper Research: Reached a Point

This is the eighth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, Mom talks about trying to set up some more interviews for her paper. More interestingly, though, she talks about some more of her own experiences, surgeries and why she wants to write.

The photo is of Mom and sisters in the 1950s. Mom is sitting in the middle back, a cast on her leg can be seen.


I still have some interviews to do, but for some reason I am kind of at a stale mate. I have had a number of people read my paper, so I have a number of corrections to add. I am still not real happy with my coverage of the special education in the classroom mainstreaming and inclusion. I feel like I need to talk with another parent and also talk with someone at Grantwood AEA. I have had some dealings with them in the past and I feel they can be very helpful. Like I said I seem to be at a dry spell. Maybe this week I will feel more like continuing.

It seems like once I wrote the paper and finally got it together that I'm done. I'm glad you gave us a little bit of breathing room between the next draft. I will be very interested in what you have to say about the paper. I feel it is a masterpiece, of course.

I also have obtained the address of my first and second grade teacher, Sister Mary Pius, and have written to her. I hope to receive an answer before the final draft. What if she doesn't even remember me? That would be funny. A year ago, I wrote a fictionalized story (Connie's World) in a fiction writing class here at Kirkwood. The story was of me in the second grade. I described my efforts and struggles in the second grade. This teacher was a central figure in that story also. It will be exciting to see if she remembers, but I would clearly understand if she does not. I'm hoping she can offer some thoughts on how it was from her standpoint so long ago.

I also had a call into the mother of the little boy in my religion classroom. The dad sounded real enthusiastic, but she has not returned my call. I hope to see her this week, so maybe I can talk to her. I would be real interested to hear her thoughts on mainstreaming and how she feels that it can or will improve the status of her little boy. I would also like to visit with her on how he was before. Has he improved?

It is interesting, but over the years I received so many questions about a variety of things. Everything from, "How do you manage at home?" to real private questions of how can you make love, or even think about getting married and having children?" Some of these questions still amaze me, although of course I answer them as best I can. People automatically presume that when you go to the doctor and he does surgery that will "fix" everything. For instance, when my son had some surgery on his foot two years ago, people assumed that this would make him so he would not need his braces at all. That is not true, it only made things a little easier. I am amazed at most people's confidence in doctors. For them, whatever a doctor says is OK. No wonder there are so many people trying to do everything there is to do to medically to live longer."

Well I have learned a lot in the past few years. That is "living" isn't everything, if you don't or can't do anything with that life. That is why I suddenly have this urge to stop some of the myths that people have with disabilities. It is quality, not quantity, at how we spend our life. I intend to get the most out of life that I can, knowing that this body of mine will not take much abuse. I know that I cannot take being on a respirator or anything heroic like that. That would be part of the extraordinary means that they speak about.

Back to my topic, sorry that I got off onto something different, but it isn't really different. For the most part, I have reached a point in my life when we have to realize that perhaps the only miracle that I will see is that I am still alive, I have a brain and am not afraid to use it. I am able to get around on my own and do many of the things that I want to do. Once I know the things I can and cannot do, life can take on a whole new meaning. Oh, by the way, it has to be my decision to decide what I can and cannot do.

I would love to speak on difficulties for the disabled, except that there are a lot of people that are worse off than I that I feel a little inept in speaking for all disabled. Maybe I am a bit more articulate than some people, though. In other words, I have a big mouth. That is why I started a story about a child who is disabled and of her struggles. There are no miracles here, either, just facts about some wonderful people and some not so wonderful. For those who cannot seem to change their image that disabilities are debilitating, there probably is no answer. But for the individual who has an open mind and believes that everyone has a right to his or her happiness, I would be glad to speak with them and enlighten them further. These people are a delight to visit with as you talk frankly with them. I hope, however, that is not the only reason why people are friends with me. I always said that I never wanted anyone to hire me because of my disability, to fill a quota of sorts, but in spite of it.

It will be real interesting in a few years, when these kids grow up and take over the country. We will see if there are any change of attitudes. These kids who have gone to school with the disabled children and have treated them with friendship. Their attitudes should be a whole lot different than those of their parents, who were separated from anybody like that.

We can only hope that the attitude will improve. From what I have observed so far, I am encouraged by the behavior of the young kids, even with me. My religion students rarely ask questions anymore and are always willing to help.

Connie, April 2, 1994

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paper Research: In the Classroom

This is the seventh of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, Mom talks students of varying disabilities in classes. She also talks about her own methods of getting around having to carry heavy books to classes.
 
The photo is of mom at her college graduation in 1972. The man she is shaking hands with is identified on the back as one of her teachers.

Where to begin is a big problem. There is much to say about mainstreaming and inclusion. Some of which I am a little unsure about myself. A lot of this I was unsure about in the beginning of this project. No one really knows what a small child can learn from just being in a classroom with normal children, watching what normal children are doing. (In my religion class,) One student in particular has watched the progress of the class now through out this year with seemingly little recognition. He can't talk so we don't know exactly what he is even hearing. In the last couple of weeks, however, I have noticed a little bit of excitement. I begin to wonder what is locked in that little brain of his? What is he thinking of us? He obviously can hear us, or he wouldn't get so excited when he sees us.

I was talking to my sister-in-law this morning. We were talking about this topic. She reminded me about this neighbor of ours years ago. They had this little girl who was birth injured or born retarded, I was never sure of which it was as it was never talked about. I only seen this girl once although I knew she existed. At this point in time, no one talked about these things. From what I observed she was unable to get around on her own. Her bed was put on the floor so she would not roll out, I'm sure. When I saw her briefly she looked as though she was in her early teens, which put her a little older than myself. She never, of course, went to school. That would have been unheard of for that day and age. She eventually was institutionalized.

I got to thinking about the little boy in my classroom. This little boy has so many advantages because he was born now and not a few years ago. That little girl from years ago could have been in a classroom soaking up life by osmosis, as you will. It is truly amazing how the other children adapt to these children in the classroom. They become more tolerant of each other and many of them become more helpful. They become used to seeing this little person like themselves in a wheelchair. They talk to this individual and help him as allowed. What a wonderful world this will be if these kids grow up and keep this feeling of tolerance in their adult life.

When these children are in the classroom, the teacher will need a teacher aid. The teacher needs to acknowledge that the students are there and give them that special attention, but the teacher aid will have to do most of the work involved with the student, under the watchful eye of the special education teacher and therapist, who will make regular rounds of the rooms with her students. There possibly should have some special classes with this special education teacher, also.

I have to do some more reading that this friend of mine gave me. There are some statistics on the future of these kids. How far can they go? I'm sure each case is different. One thing that I have learned through this research is that it is OK for us to feel sorry for someone worse off than we are. This is perfectly OK. Even I tend to feel sorry for these kids that seem to be in another world. All I can imagine is all the life that they must miss, communicating with their family and friends, thinking and reading about something that interests them. How can they tell you what interests them? There are many disabled children who do grow up and learn to communicate with others.

Love and discipline can do wonders for seemingly hopeless situations. The thing to remember is that there is always something that can be tried. We have to keep an open mind. There may be some teachers who may have a little trouble with these students in their classroom. Just remember, treat them as children. After all, that is what they are. In some cases they know much more than you are trying to teach them. Too bad they cannot communicate in the usual ways. Their methods will be a little different. After the year is finished you may wonder who has done the teaching, and who has done the learning. This child may have taught you a lot that you had not planned on.

Of course if the child is not that disabled, say the child's disability is only physical, these children try very hard and learn quickly. Maybe the only help they need is in carrying their books to the classroom. Sometimes this is solved by a classmate. When I went to school my school was small, so we never moved from room to room like they do now. We only moved in high school. Here, too, most were in the same classes, so someone could carry my books to class cause they were going to the same class as I was. Now, however, my children are in such large classes that they aren't in any classes with the same people. I'm not sure how to solve this problem. When I went to college, I made a big bag so I could carry my classwork in it. The only problem was the books were so heavy. Even only one book can weigh a lot. I asked the individual teachers to see if it was OK if I didn't bring my books. Of course it was OK then if we used books in class I looked off someone else's book. That is how I have solved the problem. There are so many other ways like keeping two books, one at home and one in class. Most teachers are more than willing to help.

Connie, March 19, 1994

Monday, May 21, 2012

Paper Research: 'Special' School

This is the sixth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, Mom talks about her time in the "special" school, where she was at for a year after a surgery.
 
The photo is of Mom, standing with her crutches toward the left, from her eighth grade graduation from that school.


In this log I would like to work a little on the center of the paper. The "special" school in South Dakota was opened sometime in the early to middle 50s. I, however, was established in my school setting so my parents were not anxious to send me to this school. They would also have to pay my tuition to attend this school as well as transportation to and from this "special" school, as my father had his name on some land and I didn't have polio, so we were not eligible for any aid. It didn't matter that he had all these kids to support.

The summer that I was to turn 13 and enter the eighth grade, I had surgery on both feet to correct the deformity still there as a child. This could not be corrected earlier as any surgery done on any limbs too early in growth development would stop growth in that area. So the doctor wanted to wait. About this same time, the curvature in my spine had become more apparent, so it was casted. This took most of the summer, so when school started, I was still in a wheelchair and was unable to attend my school because of all the steps.

The school was called The Crippled Children Hospital and School (CCHS) for short. I stayed there during the week, coming home on weekends. This was the first time I was away from home with not one of my family with me. There were some kids there from across the state. Some from so far that they could only go home on holidays or long vacations. I met so many interesting people there. I really had to sort out some feelings of my own. Never had I been put into a situation with kids so much worse than myself. Part of me didn't want to be with them because I felt like them and I didn't want to feel like them. I wanted to feel normal, whatever that was.

We did a number of interesting things at this school. Many of which I hadn't done since. We went bowling, at the local bowling ally, we played ball of all sorts. We learned to score all these games. We had a wheelchair square dance group for which I was a substitute, because by this time I was no longer in a wheelchair. We had visits from famous people. One I remember, was a visit from Bob Feller, a famous pitcher, who gave encouragement to everyone there.

We had our regular classes in the morning. Here I feel that the school let down. I do not feel that I was challenged academically. The pace was very slow. Maybe it was just me as I was used to the fast pace of the regular kids. I was glad that I only went one year so that I didn't fall too far behind my old classmates. Looking back I did benefit with the new exposure. Like I said, it was the first time that I was really exposed to these kind of kids that were far worse off physically than myself. Over the years, I have kept in touch with some of these kids and I still feel fortunate.

I remember many of these kids being very homesick. The rigorous exercise programs each student was involved in took its toll on the desire and the will to learn. Many of them came from households where they were waited on hand and foot by well-meaning family and not encouraged to do these things on their own. The result of this was the child comes back from a vacation at home and all needs to be relearned.

The emphasis then focused in keeping the child at home. Here the child is mainstreamed into the regular classroom. He can then pick up as much as possible from the other kids. Instead of learning down to the rest of the students, he will then learn up as much as possible. When extra help is needed, he gets it from another source, the special teachers, who make regular rounds of the classrooms where his students are. They would also be responsible for getting the students to their classroom. There are regular physical therapy sessions many of which include the parents. With this whole family approach most students do quite well.

Here is where I need to talk to someone from Grantwood Area Education Association. I want to hear the general rules and see just how well these kids with severe disabilities adapt to the classroom setting. How do the kids react to having this child in their classroom. This learning can go both ways. The disabled child is there to learn from the school; but the teachers and the other children are there to learn from the child. There are so many who can benefit from this arrangement.

With the accessibility problem a thing of the past in many new schools, because of the new environmental barriers laws, the children will not be barred from doing anything to expand their horizon. The only problems now is the attitude of the people. Educational and opportunity is the key to anyone's success.

Most of this is personal opinion. I have an interview set up on Monday, which will help me find what the mainstreaming and inclusion does for the children. Does it harm or benefit? I wonder if there are studies yet available on what happens to the children, long range. Are they able to improve physically and mentally? Are they able to pursue a college career and then a work career? Are they able to go as far as they can go intellectually? Are we doing the right thing this time? How can we be sure?

Connie, March 12, 1994

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Paper Research: Followed Through

This is the sixth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, Mom gives a possible opening for her paper, about getting around in school and getting her first set of braces. Near the end, she also talks about why she wanted to write.
 
The photo is of Mom with her braces in front of her house about 1950.
 
 
The film text on the Indians was very powerful. Wish mine could be that powerful. It is very interesting when you think of the documentary as being an essay or composition first. I never thought of it in those terms. It has lots of good ideas for putting something like that together.

It is amazing to me how we as a nation can treat individuals in such a manner. It doesn't matter if they are black, white, red, poor or just look different: We need to be treated with respect. The same thing goes for the disabled individual. We are all different and all deserve a break. Now that I'm getting down to business and trying to pull all of this together so that it makes some kind of sense. I'm not quite sure how to begin. I know the beginning is the most important, as that is what keeps you reading.

Maybe a little story or anecdote to get the interest. Now should it be a personal story or not. I could dream up a number of personal stories of when I was young to break the ice. Maybe the story could be when I first went to school, something like this.

When I was a little girl, I was unable to walk. I got around the house by crawling or in a small walker. Many times my brothers or sisters would carry me. Now I was old enough to go to school. I couldn't crawl in school. Yet, I wanted to go to school. The year was 1949. No one thought much about teaching kids like me. I was already bright as we played "school" a lot and my sisters showed me the letters. My mother just decided to send me to school. My brother carried me every day to the first grade. Boy, did I feel important. I got along fine in school.

In the middle of the first year, however, mom heard of this new young doctor in the nearby town that was doing some wonderful things with these disabled kids. We were in the middle of the polio epidemic. This was a dreaded disease that struck many children and adults also. Many died and many more were crippled for life. Mine was a birth defect, but everyone assumed that I had polio, as there were so many. The new young doctor was responding to the need, I guess, that was really created by this epidemic. He also cared very deeply for his patients, many of them quite small. Because of casts put on both legs and bracing I had to miss a good deal of school the first year. I still managed to keep up and by the beginning of second grade, I was able to walk with the aid of full-length braces and crutches. They were ugly, but they worked. Oh how I longed to wear pretty shoes. But I was happy with at least some shoes and I was able to walk.

The biggest problem though was that the building was so difficult to get into. There was no way that I could handle the stairs on my own. Many times the stairs were really frightening to me. I would have loved to have some of the schools here in Iowa City. Near as I can find out, my hometown school still has all the steps.

Getting back to my mother, who never had any doubt that I could learn, assumed all along that I would go to school. I give her a lot of credit for that. She could have sheltered me from the difficult world. Not that it would have done any good as you can't be sheltered. The world is there and we must learn to live in it, and let others live in it too, and as easily as possible.

My brothers and sisters too had a large role in this. They never treated me different and took me along with them so I could really see how the world was. They made me feel important. The teachers, too, made me feel good. Since this was a small school, the class was very close. We only had about 18 kids in our grade. This number increased a little in high school. There were always two grades in our rooms. For example, first and second grade was in the same room. So every other year my sister was in my room with me. It always gave me a little confidence knowing that she was there.

This is too long for an intro. Guess I will have to shorten it somehow. Once I get started, I know that I can make it sound better. I must get my thoughts organized. I had an appointment with this fellow at the vets office Friday, but it had to be postponed because of the blizzard. We had a bad one this past week. I don't like those either. They always inhibit me from getting around. Walking is difficult, even in-building as everyone has wet feet, and makes the hard tile floors very difficult to talk on. Maybe I'm just getting old.

I wish I would have started these classes years ago. I thought about it but just never followed through. Seems like I lacked some self-confidence for myself. It has taken a long time, but I think I gained a lot of self-confidence. I seem to have the respect of the people at work. I would like to improve my present station in life by doing something good. I want to write about many of the things I mentioned above. Maybe essays or compositions, or even some short true stories about myself and how a handicapped child gets along in the world, Maybe it would help someone.

Boy did I get off track here. Hope this all makes sense. Then I hope I can make it make sense in the research paper. I have got to work on the outline. That will make sense to me.


Connie, Feb. 26, 1994

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Paper Research: By Just Living

This is the fifth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, she talks more about trying to contact veterans groups for her paper, and about other things, including educating people about the disabled by just being there. She also references her Devil's Advocate paper.

The photo is of Mom on Mother's Day 2005 with a clock we gave her.


There is so much information running around in my head. I have called and talked to many people. Some of them I wasn't able to reach, while some people I had not thought of came out of nowhere and proved very interesting. The Devil's Advocate paper has been very difficult to write, without getting my personal opinion in it. Some of the arguments that I have found are arguments that I agree with - or until now I agreed with them. Then I talked with this friend of mine at Hospital School, who has a Down's child now 5 years old. I will talk to her fully later on. She did give me much literature and a new perspective. I don't know why I didn't think of her earlier.

On the other end of the spectrum I also have an appointment with a gentleman with the Vietnam vets group in Cedar Rapids. This may prove a very interesting meeting. I got his name from the director of Community Relations at the Veterans Hospital, Annie Turtle. She seemed also a very interesting person. She also gave me names and numbers of a group in Des Moines, but I've had a hard time getting through to them as I'm not home usually during the day and I can't call from work. I think I'll see what I get from Cedar Rapids. None of these people have disagreed with me on this theory on my timeline. Ms. Tuttle did say, however, that maybe I should be careful and not speak specifically about Vietnam vets, but generalize it to relate to all veterans.

It is clear that I am speaking from two different arenas here. On the one hand we have the born disabled or early childhood disabled, and on the other hand, there are the young accident victim or the war victim. These young people have already proven their intelligence earlier before the accident or war injury. It is just a matter of furthering that education in whatever manner can be done; as opposed to the early childhood disabled who is often looked to as retarded or uneducateable.

Many times these children are not only expected to keep up their school; but they are also expected to keep up a regimen of exercise perhaps and a strong desire to fit into this strange world of the "normal" children. Many children can be so cruel, especially those children never exposed to this kind of child. Maybe their parents have never been exposed either. Consequently, these children are labeled as not expected to perform.

Now back to our vets or young adults. They, too, can have a very grueling exercise schedule in addition to their learning schedule. The difference is that they have already proven what they can accomplish. They probably can already read and comprehend everything that is given to them to do. These people are the ones with voices. They are still unable to get into the buildings, because of the physical obstacle. Some of these young men may be engineers, who could say, "Look, it doesn't have to be this way. We can easily replace these steps with ramps or elevators." Many times with the backing of the government, as most of these young problem are veterans, remember, they can build the new innovation that makes life more bearable. Even the hand control used for us to drive a car was invented by someone in the government. These things are so sophisticated that you can barely have movement to use one. Yet these fellows can operate automobiles very safely. It is inventions like these that have given disabled the independence that is needed.

Unfortunately, there are some disabled children and adults that will never be this good. These are the ones that will take delight from just watching what is happening. They cannot even speak or react to what is going on. It is difficult to be in contact with them as there doesn't seem to be much encouragement. Education for them may just be a visual experience. I know such an individual. I happen to have him in my second grade religion class. I, who should know how to act, did not. I am used to a reaction from my kids or anyone that am speaking with. Here there is none, save for an occasional grunty noise and a reflex movement of an arm or leg. I may need to talk to this mother further to see what benefits she has seen with him in the classroom and how far mainstreamed he is. I may talk to her this week. I hope she doesn't feel that I am prying.

I have so much to sort through. I will have to take time to sit down and work out my plan as to which direction to go with it. Once this assignment of the Devil's Advocate paper is done I will be able to concentrate better on the things coming up.

It was real interesting to hear all the other topics. It would be fun to read their papers. It will also be fun to see their art objects. I love to watch people and what they come up with. I teach a sewing class for adults. Everyone comes up with new ideas there too. There are lots of times when they teach me. That is with the little kids too. They are a fountain of knowledge waiting to happen; and oh, the excitement of watching it happen.

I will love it when I have my basic rough draft done. At least then I will have some of the idea where I'm going. I'm anxious to do a good job as this subject has always interested me and all the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years. I think things have improved, but of course life is not perfect and isn't going to be. So we do the best we can and educate all those people as we go along by just living.

Connie, Feb. 19, 1994

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Paper Research: Equal Rights


This is the fourth of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own. 

In this one, she talks equal rights issues, and how they relate to both the disabled and people of color.

The photo is of Mom at the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, in 2010.


After listening to your account of the campaign of the Equal Rights in this country and the way in which this was all set up and planned for is really something to think about. There is a right way and a wrong way to set up a research project if you want it to state what you want it to state and what kind of an impact that you want it to make on everyone. If you want people to sit up and take notice then the whole project has to set in that manner. Indeed even to a punch line.

In putting that film together you could set up the timeline. Therefore if you have put together a good timeline it could serve as a guide to the paper itself or an outline of sorts. Of course none of our projects will have this much punch because they are not life or death matters. However, with a project like mine, I could conceivably carry a punch.

We have a lot of equal rights issues to address. Most of our equal rights stem from the fact that basically people are ignorant. If you have not dealt with a disabled person it is real hard to relate. By the same token, I'm from South Dakota and there are a lot of small towns that have no black people. I figured that discriminating against the black people was wrong, I had no basis for saying anything as I had never met any. Not until I went to college in my mid-20s did I meet any blacks. To be truthful at first, I was a little frightened, but soon I saw them as people. I eventually met some very good ones and some I don't care for, just like white people. There are a lot of them that I don't care for.

This is not a battle, however, between the able-bodied and the disabled. Even though sometimes it may seem like it. All we want is to be treated like any other person, with respect. We need to get the equal chances and opportunities, within reason, of course, as anyone else.

Along my way of thinking, trying to prove my case for my paper, I called the lady that heads community relations at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. She was most helpful and gave me some numbers of Veterans organizations to call. I have not been able to make the calls as they are both long distance and I can't make them from work. So I have to wait until I have a day off. This Wednesday I have off so I hope to make some calls then.

She also cautioned me in using the Vietnam Veteran as a group. She said sometimes they are a bit touchy about that. One of the numbers is head of the Vietnam Vets in Cedar Rapids. She thought that I might profit from a visit with them. She agreed that my theory may be good, but she felt that it was WWII also that helped get a lot of the appliance and hardware that goes into assistance for the disabled. I am anxious to make the calls.

I got to the library once, but forgot that it closed at 5 p.m. that day so didn't get much looked up. I still need to spend some time getting the dates for legislation. I did get some things from the vertical file.

You know getting back to class the other night, it would really be an eye-opener to investigate the schools in the South. It is no wonder why the blacks feel inferior. On the other hand, it isn't just the black people here that are not getting educated. All the poor people across America can't seem to keep food on the table, much less worry about an education, even though education is the ticket out of poverty. It is one big vicious circle.

There is also the issue of self worth. Extreme poverty does little to help you feel self worth. You must feel as though you have value in order to break this circle. The story of Roots and Alex Haley is good to read, as his background was the poorest of the poor. Yet because of a determined mother and his own determination, he broke out of that circle of poverty.

I feel the disabled people for a long time have been shut up. We have been put on the shelf to live out the days. This happens in some of our homes for the aged, too. Just because you are old you cannot contribute. There is much thought to this now that is keeping these elderly more agile and attuned to the young people. In a lot of places some of the homes for the aged are teaming up with the schools and helping the children with a variety of tasks. Some help with reading skills of the young, some with math, some maybe just listen. They are able to spend time where the teachers can't spend that kind of time with the individual. This concept would be a wonderful research project.

As many elderly persons were written off as old and of no value, so too have many disabled. The unfortunate part is the disabled have been written off sooner, when the person is younger. There is no confidence builder here. Many times we have to prove to be worthy of an interview, much less the job. Most people look at you as though what are you doing here. For months at work I made sure that I wore my pin to identify me as an employee, rather than a patient. I can't imagine what it would be like to be black and disabled. They would start with two big strikes against them.

I think that I better stick to the schools and educating the disabled, and maybe what has happened to the schools and helping people with jobs, etc. since the legislation of Section 504 in the early 80s and the most recent legislation The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1993. This had a widespread influence on the employment aspect. It can't change people's opinion, only education can do that.

Connie, Feb. 13, 1994

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Paper Research: Newly Energized

This is the third of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, it's more of a mini-paper that is interesting on its own. 

In this one, she talks more about researching her own schooling and the impact of polio and the Vietnam war on public attitudes toward the disabled.

The photo is of Mom reading a birthday card on a 2006 to see us out here.


I was newly energized after our meeting. I know I need to look up the law for accurate dates on my timeline. I still have not been able to get with someone at the school on our district's policy on mainstreaming; and what is expected of each student that is mainstreamed. I feel good in the fact that the majority of the schools here are accessible to most disabilities. My school that I grew up in my hometown is not. It still has all the steps, etc. It has been interesting talking to my family about when I started school. I talked to my oldest sister yesterday. She was already gone away from home when I started school; but I asked her if there were any conversations regarding whether I should go to school or what should be done. She said that there were no objections that she heard of. In fact, she was amazed at how well I fit into the school. Remember I was carried the first year of school. There were times when one of the nuns carried me to recess, etc. I wish that I could talk to that nun, but I'm sure she is no longer with us, or that she would remember me would be most unlikely. I may try to talk to a teacher or two to get a reaction from them on what they could do in a similar situation today.

I'm not sure that I want to dwell on that, however. I think I want to go basically to attitudes now with teachers and students with mainstreaming. Has it been made easier for either of them. What of the attitudes of the students if the teacher is disabled. Is there more to prove here on the part of the teacher. Is she or he taken seriously by the students. Does mainstreaming of all students help this? Sitting along side of a disabled student is one thing; but working along side a disabled worker, better yet, competing with a disabled worker for a position, can be quite another thing.

Imagine for a moment campaigning for president against President Roosevelt, and have his disability made an issue. What if someone on the opposite side said, "He can't be president, he can't even get into the White House without help. He probably can't even take care of his own personal needs. Why he needs help with everything. There is no way he can be president." Yet history has recorded that he not only was elected president, but became one of our nation's greatest presidents. I have done some research on his presidency. I firmly believe that the public did not know that he was disabled, nor how serious. All the campaign pictures were carefully staged. I'm not saying that was wrong, as America was not ready for that kind of revelation. There was so much trouble on the home front with The Great Depression, and all that, what America needed was a strong individual to fill that bill. The people's vision of a strong man was not one in a wheelchair. By the time the average American found out, it didn't matter. They saw what he could do.

President Roosevelt had Infantile Paralysis, another name for polio. The polio epidemic hit the country in the late '20s and lasted quite a while, leaving lasting impressions. Many people died and it left many children with seemingly little future. Franklin Roosevelt was already educated when the disease hit him. He also had monetary resources to help get the proper equipment to conquer the disease. I did see some news clippings from the '20s saying that his political career was over. As his health improved, however, he decided to run for governor of New York. Again, he already had built up the education and confidence of the people. Imagine starting from the beginning. He never would have been president.

Now let's go back to the many small children who also had polio about this same time. There was really nowhere for them to go to school. The few who could get around on their own, probably went to public schools. I'm not sure yet, but my guess is that many stayed home or were put into homes with retarded children. At some point in time, whether it be legislation or what, I'm not sure yet, the idea was brought forward to have Crippled Children Schools. In South Dakota, ours opened in the early '50s. These schools gave the kids the education that was required by law. I'm not sure that they challenged their minds. Some of these kids were capable of much more scholastically.

Don't get me wrong, these schools were certainly better than nothing and since schools were not built for wheelchairs, there had to be a compromise. The main part I do not like, is that it segregated these kids. A whole generation grew up not needing to think of working with, or socializing with disabled people. This is basically the generation that are running things today.

While I credit the polio epidemic and drugs like the thalidamide drug with helping the country even think about educating our disabled young people, I also credit the Vietnam veterans for bringing the government backing and research to the programs of higher education and getting the legislation for us to work with. Much of the "hardware" that the disabled use, has been perfected by and for the veterans. Things like bracing, streamlined wheelchairs, and the had controls used to drive the car. The VA has furnished many wheelchair accessible vans for the vets, complete with lifts and hand controls.

Connie, Feb. 6, 1994

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Paper Research: Narrowing It Down

This is the second of these process logs from her folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, it's more of a mini-paper that is interesting on its own. In this one, she briefly references me.

The photo is of Mom at a local overlook here in 2006.


I was talking to a friend regarding my chosen topic and she was very much interested. We were on a committee called ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) passed into law in 1993. According to this law, businesses are obligated to interview and hire individuals with disabilities on an equal level with the able-bodied. This friend is deaf. She wears a hearing aid to enhance speech both on the telephone and in person. She also lip reads but must be in front of you in order for this to work. She has always gone to public schools and is now a nurse.

She was relaying to me about her problems both in school and getting into school. She said that going to college was quite difficult. The college didn't want to let her in. Another case of someone else making your decisions. I would like to interview her further with dates, etc.

I also need to speak to someone in the school district. Someone in authority who makes these kinds of decisions. I would also like to know the district's policy admitting disabled into the schools and when did it start. There is also the question of who is disabled and who benefits. There are so many kinds of disabilities. The physical is the most talked about because it is the most visible. It also evokes the most pity. Most people feel that because you have a physical disability, you are also deaf, dumb and blind and have no brain. It will take years to dispel this myth. That is why 'mainstreaming' in my estimation is the best thing to dispel these kinds of myths. Education of the disabled is the ultimate key. We should be educated to our wants and limits. Following the education, the laws like the ADA can help these kids in the workplace. But they have to have a good basis in the school system. If this experience is too difficult and socially unacceptable, then the work life will not be acceptable.

I'm worried about going into too many directions. There are so many types of disabilities. I think a whole paper can be written of the physical - wheelchair, braces, deaf, blind, etc. But I don't want to leave the developmentally disabled, or the mentally disabled; the drug-induced mental and learning problems. There is also the theory that heavy smoking contributes to learning and social behavioral problems.

I'm thinking I may have to narrow this paper down to the physically challenged, since that is the problem that is near to my heart. There is the thought that I could group all these ideas in the different areas into sections and try to touch on them but centering on the main focus, which would be the physical aspect. This also affects the biggest expense by remodeling the school buildings so all the physical aspects are taken care of. This seems to be the biggest expense but in the long run, is the simplest and the one which will benefit the most people. What if my chosen profession is being a teacher. Most schools would not allow me to do so.

My timeline will include the changes that I have encountered when I started school and the changes that my son has encountered through the public school. He is now in high school and very smart. This campaign is so different from the equal rights campaign in that there were no staunch campaigners. I plan to visit the library and seek magazines that may show me how all this happened. Here is my theory, to be explored later: The polio epidemic brought a huge influx of handicapped children into the world. Polio not only struck the children, but the adults as well. Again, if you were rich, things were done for you and you were able to do many things. President Franklin Roosevelt was struck by polio and yet he was able to campaign for president and win the office four times. I did a speech on him and what the ordinary person knew of his disability. I firmly believe that at that particular time in history, the communications were such that the fact of his disability was not widely known, especially in the first campaigns. I feel we sort of missed the boat on this one. If someone in a wheelchair can be elected to the highest job in the land 60 years ago, then why are we still struggling. My theory was that it was not made an issue, so nothing was done about the physical problems in the schools. Not until the Vietnam War did something start to happen. The government began to look into rehabilitation. The government started to look at the accessibility of buildings. There were so many vets coming home who had a voice. They had access to education and insisted on it. They did not want to sit around at home all day. They had brains and knew. These young men went into the community and paved the way for many disabled children to follow. The exposure of the normal children in the classrooms is both welcomed and needed. If we will expect these children to work side by side with a disabled worker, then they better be exposed to them early.

In talking with some of my brothers and sisters about when I started school, I found out that nothing was said about whether I was to go to school. The choices were limited. Either I go to the regular school or I stay home. The staying home was not an option. So I was enrolled in school like all my brothers and sisters before me. My sister feels since this was a small Catholic school, taught by the Sisters, that they had no objections to the extra work that having a handicapped child in their class. There were not tests done to see if I was able to do the work. The first year of school I was carried to my classroom. This had to have created some extra problems. I would like to have known what the expectations were of me as a student, whether I was expected to keep up.

Like I said, this topic is so broad that I might have to see what kind of research I can get on all of it, then to narrow it down to one aspect.

Connie, spring 1994

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paper Research: VA Meeting

Mom had a few of these process logs in her folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, it's more of a mini-paper that is interesting on its own.

The photo is of Mom and Dad in Bennington, Vermont, on a 2006 trip out to see us here.


Friday, I had a meeting with a Mr. Phil Ross, readjustment counselor at the Vet Center in Cedar Rapids. It was very interesting to speak with him. I showed him my outline that I prepared for class. He fully agreed with everything that I had said. I think that he also was interested in the different perspective of a disabled person.

The difference between the one who was recently disabled and the individual like myself who has come up through the system, so to speak. He did say something interesting about the existing attitudes. With the newly disabled they have a before and after approach. Before, I could do this, I felt this, now after, I feel this. The disabled from birth have no flashback, no delusions. They also have a preconceived attitude put there by well-meaning adults that they have a place in this world and it is not in the leadership role. Many times it isn't even in the following role. Most times, unfortunately, they weren't in the running at all.

Without the original chance to try out intelligence, so to speak, we lost ground in the battle. Now we have some strong individuals in the forefront showing what they can do. Most of them, however, are the newly disabled. These are the ones who have had some formal education. We need more of the strong individuals who have come through the ranks of the educational system. I feel very strongly that I have seen both worlds. Having the good fortune of a strong family education ethic, I was able to get that good basic education. Unfortunately, still, great things were not expected of me. My mother felt that if I passed, or got by, that was good enough. To make a long story short, I wish I would have gone after the better grades, like I am now. I know that I could have done it. Maybe ended up at the top of the class; Wouldn't that have been something. If we knew then what we know now. How many kids have said that?

Mr. Ross agreed with me that the Vietnam War created so many disabled young men and women because of the modern medical personnel sent to the front lines and the quick evacuation methods. Men and women lived when they perhaps shouldn't have and wouldn't have in earlier wars. With the government backing and Congressional sympathies in their direction, money was no object when it came to inventiveness in the appliances for these men.

Much of the bracing and the new wheelchairs were invented through the military for the military. Some of these new wheelchairs can fold quickly with ease and stored in the back seat by the person in the chair. Years ago, even when they were folded, they were difficult to handle. They have also become narrower, hence easier to maneuver everywhere. The severe disabled have really advanced with the electronic chairs and chair lifts into the van. A lot of this has also progressed through the military. The new and improved hand controls were perfected by the military. Here again, it was out of necessity, I'm sure, that these were invented in the first place. The vets knew how to drive and knew about cars, hence it wouldn't take long to be very inventive.

The advances in prosthetics alone have improved life of the artificial limb user. Many times they can simulate the actual leg. Sometimes they can get so proficient at walking that it is difficult to tell if you don't know. There are many unseen areas of improvement that we don't know about.

Not the least of which is the exposure. They are really responsible for bringing disabilities to the forefront. We missed the chance with President Roosevelt, as no one knew of the extent of his disability. Even today, it is difficult for me to realize what he must have gone through from his critics. Maybe it was too early in the game for some discussion with him on his disability. Maybe the country wasn't ready for this. They were still viewed as disabled helpless and no brain.

I feel that my visit was very profitable. If for no other reason than the fact that he not only agreed with me, he supported the conclusion that I came to. Now to get to the writing portion of it.

I feel that my introduction will be lengthy. I will try to make it a story and keep it interesting. I believe that it will be quite personal and from my point of view. The conclusion, too, will follow a personal line. I will show what I have done with my life and what I plan to do in the future. It should tie all of this together. Writing the paper isn't really my problem. All the mechanics that go along with it. The collecting the reference materials, then putting them down in proper order on the Works cited lists is what frightens me. I never seem to get it down right. There seems to be something stupid that I leave out, or don't do right. I wish sometimes that I could have someone look at it then I can finish it.

In short, I have all the ideas, it is getting them down on paper in the proper form that is my problem. I also tend to ramble on and lose some of my sentence structure. Then when it is read to me, it sounds OK because that is the way I talk and sound and I knew what I meant.

I may have to have someone else do my final read on it. I'm not sure who that would be because I don't want too many opinions. I guess I'll just keep working on it.

Connie, March 5, 1994

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vocabulary Exercise (Part 2)

More vocabulary words from Mom's spring 1994 writing class. I find these interesting because Mom explains where she hears the words, giving a look into her day.


The photo is of Mom and Dad in 2006 on a boat ride near me on Lake George in Upstate New York.


11. Coalition
The word "coalition" has begun showing up in a lot of news writing. It seems to be in connection with groups of people. It almost seems like it could be groups of groups brought together to share ideas. Webster's says a body formed by coalescing, distinct elements combination, temporary alliance a purpose.

12. Ambivalent
I came across this word in reading an article in the Ligaurian. It was about violence and our prison system; about a sister visiting inmates on death row. It talks about the attitude (I think) of the prison in the ambivalent prison personal victims on both sides of the "chair." The Webster says "simultaneous and contradictory attitude or feelings as attractions and  repulsion towards an object, person, or action."

13. Myopia
I encountered this word in response to a letter to the editor. "Unfortunately the article contains a too-widely-held American Catholic myopia concerning our capitalist system." This sounds to me to be a sort of tunnel vision. The dictionary is the lack of foresight or discernment, a narrow view of something.

14. Condescending
This word has been used a lot here and denotes to me an attitude. When grace and spiritual friendship is absent or unknown, they may deny intimacy needs altogether becoming instead cynical, sarcastic and condescending. Webster: To descend to a less formal or dignified level, unbend, to wave the privilege of rank to assume superiority.

15. Virile
We encounter this word many times when a man is trying to show what a big man he is. I came across it again in an article on man's spirituality. The Latin word for strength in man is a virtue from the work. Vir, which means man and from this we get virile and virility. I wasn't sure if these words do indeed mean strength. Webster says that it means having the nature properties or qualities of an adult male.

26. Lethargy
I encountered this work regarding a patient at the hospital. It referred to a patient in a state of lethargy. I took it to mean that the patient was depressed and not caring much in his condition. In the dictionary, it says that it is a state of apathy or indifference, abnormal drowsiness, sluggish.
His illness left him in a state of lethargy.

27. Stagnant
This word was used in conjunction with the elderly. It referred to the seniors' lives as stagnant. To me this seemed to mean that their lives seemed to be in a state of stillness. Nothing of significance going on in their lives. They are going nowhere. Much like a pond of water that is stagnant because it doesn't flow anywhere.
The dictionary says to vegetate, going nowhere.
The nursing home residents had no recreation program to keep them busy, they just sat stagnant.

28. Plagiarize
This word has been seen many times in instruction with this comp class and with speech class. To me, it means not to use another's ideas and not to give them credit. Trying to claim their ideas as your own.
The dictionary says to appropriate and claim as one's own the literary work of another. Present as new material that has been presented before.
The young writer needed a poem to hand in for an assignment, took a poem out of a book and plagiarized by signing his name on it and handing it to the teacher.

29. Ligament
This word was also used at the hospital when referring to parts of your body. Something to the effect that a ligament holds the knee together. When we cut up a chicken or turkey we can see the ligaments joining the bones. Dictionary rough band of tissue which connect articular extremities of bones or supporting organ in place.
The athlete had a torn ligament in her ankle after she fell during the game.

30. Amazon
I saw this word in a magazine describing a big sexy girl. In some cases, the description may be derogatory or not complimentary.
The dictionary says feminine, alluring, big - a member of a race of female warrior.
The model appeared to be an amazon modeling her swimsuit.