Raise Hell and Flip a Table

Panic was not the first feeling this time. After one of our company leaders said, “Open up the handbook and you have five minutes to hunt through the first five questions. Do not talk to you table mates. This needs to be on your own. We want you to get used to the handbook and what is inside.”

This time I was able to take a deep breath and look around. I saw everyone get to work. I saw them all open their handbooks, look through the questions, and understand what they were reading. I saw them all just start. I saw the leader pace around the room like the teachers did when I was a kid in school.

I tried to comply with her instructions. I looked at the colored photo paper questionnaire and knew they had tried to make it accessible for me. Colored paper makes it easier for me to read the questions. But the handbook is all on white paper and it’s beyond my reach, like everything else that everyone else reads so easily.

I felt myself growing resentful of the woman who is deaf and has an interpreter. I feel sometimes like I’ve book a trip on a cruise ship, but I’m in a row boat being dragged behind by a long rope.

Next I thought, you can do this….. Then I felt the time ticking down. I looked up at the digital clock on the wall. Only three more hours and I can go home. Then the narrative started in my mind, the panic narrative that freezes my thoughts, makes me unable to read, makes my pulse skyrocket. I couldn’t breath, so I left the room, tears welling up in my eyes.

I made it to the bathroom. Crying in the stall, I repeated the prayer of what I can control. But thoughts about running away, thoughts about barging into the HR office, thoughts about heading down to the superintendent’s office, thoughts about calling a lawyer……..thoughts racing out of control.

I take control of my rampant thoughts. If don’t do the job I’m doing as a special education teacher, children with “special needs” like me will not be heard. Who better to fight for them than me?

As my best friend would say, “pull up your big girl pants and deal!” My husband would say the same thing. So how do I deal? How do I plan to change this for next year?

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with. Here’s what you could do in the moment that you realize you have been discriminated against, again, for the fifth year in a row:

  1. Raise Hell and flip a table. (Hey, Jesus did it. Why can’t I?)
  2. Not do anything. (I’ve tried that and it’s not working.)
  3. Call a meeting to solve the problem. (I work for a special education company, and I have to ask, “Why can’t we do this? What is the problem?”)
  4. Educate your fellow employees.
  5. Problem solve and suggest solutions.
  6. Advocate for yourself and others.
  7. Pave a road that needs paved.
  8. Believe the truth that you have some awesome killer skills.
  9. Re-teach. Do it all again. My dyslexia is not going anywhere. Disabilities aren’t going away. We need to do this every time we see discrimination, whether it’s of ourselves or others.

Peace out. I’ll let you know what I decide to do.


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5 Hints: Autism and a New School Year

It’s coming. Oregon schools will start in the next few weeks.  Beyond the school supply list you get from your child’s teacher, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Write out a social story of how to talk to the other kids on the first day of school. Go over it with your child several times before that first day of school so they feel more prepared.
  2. Does your child want hot lunch or cold? Ask your child to choose ahead of time so they’ll know what to expect.
  3. Go to the open house and get the teacher’s email address. Then ask for a tour of the classroom without other students there. Explain to the teacher that this will help lessen your child’s social anxiety on the first day, and make her first day easier, too.
  4. Start the visual schedule change-over at least two weeks prior to school so that your child will be prepared for any changes in their showering and bed time routines.
  5. Take photos of the school and the new teacher now. Post them in your child’s room or on your refrigerator so your child can get used to seeing them.

The key thread running through these tips is preparing and familiarizing your child with what they can expect on their first day of school. I hope these tips help make your child’s first day a success.

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Don’t Give Up

The signs started popping up around town. First there was one just in one yard, but before long they could be spotted in random yards all over town. The first one I saw was “DON’T GIVE UP.” Then a few days later “YOU MATTER” and “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” Immediately I thought of the teens that have killed themselves in our town recently. But I didn’t know what these signs were about. I did a little research, mostly asking random strangers if they knew what the signs were about. They knew. The signs are one woman’s mission to help. What a great idea. The best part? She put her idea into action. She started putting up the signs after she read the book Love Does.

The book Love Does changed this woman’s perspective. And the influence has grown. Now people from other towns around our small town want the signs, too. Small reminders: “Don’t give up,” “you matter,” and “someone loves you.” This is a love action. We need more people to take action instead of just complain.

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Be My Cane and Wheel Chair

Please stop trying to teach me. At 41 I have had a life of trying to fit into the box others have created. Honestly I’m tired of it. I don’t fit in your box and I would really like it if you would stop bringing up the box and just let me, be me.

What is this box? Well, it has to do with the way I process my writing and reading. I can’t tell you how many times people say, “Let me just teach you how to write and read.” I look at them with surprise, like they have any idea what they are talking about. Don’t you think I’ve tried? Grammar, sentence structure, and spelling are foreign to me. I’m sorry but it’s not going to work. I hate to be so bold, but please stop. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I try to learn the way you do, it will not work. I’m not trying to be a bummer, and trust me I’m not a quitter, it’s just….. you’re being rude. Yes, rude. Continue reading

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Look Me in the Eye

GetAttachmentThumbnail.jpgOne of the first things you will notice about a child with Autism is that they will not look at you in the eyes. They look away. I was fortunate  a few years ago to work with some older children with Autism who could talk. I asked a young man why he and other children with Autism do not look people in the eyes. He said “I don’t look people in the eye as I can see the darkness in people.” Continue reading

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Faith Like a Hot Air Balloon

Washing dishes by hand when I am alone is relaxing. I think it’s due to the warm water running and the sound of the water. I get lost in my thoughts. It’s my way of transitioning to other activities. I can look out the window and think about my day.

As the water ran over my hands and the soap moved in waves of  bubble mounds, I tilted the pan just enough to have the mound of bubbles drip over the muffin pan. The flat tin bottom longed to be clean. Then I saw it. A bubble heart! Then in the same moment that I recognized it I pushed the pan toward the running water and it was gone. I was disappointed that I did not get a photo of this lovely moment between me and God that showed His love for me. Then my faith became great, growing from a mustard seed to a hot air balloon. “He can just do it again!” Excited to see it I began asking and then rocking the pan back and forth over the water, waiting and watching for it, swish, swish, swish.

Not long after I saw it again: a soapy heart to me. From the God of everything. I set it down carefully and took a photo of it. Floating on His love. I was not surprised at all that He did it. Yet this is incredible! Did it really happen? Yes indeed, the love that He shows me is so gentle and just for me. He always finds a way to reach each one of us in the way we need. Through a sun rise, a random lady bug, or a soapy heart made of bubbles. He is love.

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See You Later Clairol!

I have dyed my hair for over 10 years, first for fun and then out of perceived necessity. As the gray started slipping in around my face I tried hard to hide it. I would get irritated when I would look in the rear view mirror at the scalp grays peaking through.

Last summer when I went back home to Montana I visited my best friend from high school. The first thing out of her mouth was “YOU have more gray hair then me,” almost with a neener neener neener tone in her voice. She was making fun of me. What did I do? Continue reading

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Set Free

Forgiveness can only truly happen through God. What I have learned is that hatred eats at you. It makes being around the person that you hate impossible. It’s impossible to wish them good tidings and happiness or to encourage them in the happy moments of their life.

I have spent a good portion of my life hating one person who hurt me. Continue reading

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Step Parenting Not for the Faint of Heart

Being a step mom is the best and hardest job you will ever do.

It was February 2008. I got off the plane to meet Keith for the first time and to spend Thursday through Monday with him and his daughter. I knew that he had a daughter, and since I knew and understood children’s behavior I figured it would be a piece of cake.

I asked some of my students with split homes what can I do better then your step parents did. One girl told me to give Cassie time with her Dad alone and not make either of them feel bad about it.

I had worked with young kids forever in a school setting, but this was different. Cassie was ten years old and we weren’t in school. We picked her up to head to our church’s family camp. I had gotten off that plane with a bag of goodies for her. I was prepared. Continue reading

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Pure of Heart

img_1450“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8.

They shall see God. What does that mean? When I’m alone, I look for Him. Sometimes we need to just look at the clover He made.

Over the weekend I went away to the mountains and I was surrounded by many people who do not believe. Honestly, I did not see it when I pulled up and unloaded my car. There was too much commotion and I was distracted.

I only see His fingerprints when I’m calm. To see a love note from God I have to be calm. Continue reading

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