Thursday, November 06, 2008
My daughter, Beth, has grown up with an older brother and younger sister who struggle with AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues. Any outsider to our family in our younger days would have been able to see immediately that two of the children were not typical in many ways. To Beth, however, she's grown up with them and is used to the way they need to hear directions repeatedly and have tasks broken down into small steps. She's grown up seeing strategies in place to help her siblings keep track of school materials, shoes, and of course the elusive and frequently missing library books. She grew up pairing visual cues with auditory information to maximize retention and knows that without writing information down her siblings will not retain it. Beth has an in-depth understanding of the need her siblings have to be in motion, even while they are doing school work. She can list a dozen safe ways to meet the need for physical activity without it being too distracting to others or dependent on the weather. Beth is adept at redirecting a distractible child and helping them get back on track with their focus. Now a college student majoring in special education, Beth recently joined me at my part-time employer to be a substitute teacher in a preschool classroom. She thoroughly enjoyed her day with the children, and those working with her gave her rave reviews. They said she was a natural, and jumped right in without having to be told what to do with the kids. When I passed the compliments along to Beth, she was pleased but really didn't think what she did was a big deal at all. Beth's whole life has been part of her preparation, and to her she is truly doing what comes naturally. Her response to some of the challenges of special needs kids comes automatically, through years of practice and observation in her own home. Beth feels passionately about helping children who struggle, and her insight and experiences make her a natural in her interactions. Her responses reflect that "normal" doesn't necessarily mean "like everyone else". "Normal" can be whatever you are used to, and will vary from unusual person to person.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Two of my children are now old enough to be voting in their first presidential election this year. I have taught them since they were young that they needed to know their rights, because if they didn't it would be easy for someone to take those rights away. The right to vote is hugely important, and my husband Scott and I both wanted to support Josh and Beth as they learned to exercise their right to vote. We decided the best way was to vote early on a day that Beth didn't have to be at class and Josh didn't have to be at work early. We went to the early voting site and stood in line for two hours waiting to vote. Scott and I tried to explain what to expect, but neither of us had ever voted early before so we described our usual electronic voting booths. Then we found out it was a paper ballot, so we told them to tuck the electronic voting information away in their memories for a future voting time! Since the paper ballot involves filling in the ovals, and Josh and Beth have been students long enough to recall that process from standardized testing, filling out the forms was simple to do. (I had the urge to tell them "Fill in the circle completely and make your mark heavy and dark" just like when I administer the California achievement test.) The actual process of voting didn't take that long, and then we had the opportunity for further education about the process. Josh noticed that his name "Joshua" was printed out as "Joshud", but was assured that it wouldn't affect his vote and his ballot was still valid. Beth discovered that her middle initial was incorrect, as was her address on the pre-printed sticker. When this was brought to the attention of voting officials, we found out that there is another person living in our county with the same first and last name as Beth, but fortunately with a different middle initial. The ballot Beth filled out was voided (the other person had already voted early, too) and Beth got to fill out a new ballot with her correct information. Beth was faster at voting the second time around, and it was a learning experience for us all and a good reminder to pay attention to the small details. If Beth hadn't done so, her vote would not have been counted because her information that she wrote would not have matched that of the other person who shares her name.