[bksvol-discuss] Re: OT: Mainstreaming

  • From: "Sarah Van Oosterwijck" <curiousentity@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2005 11:21:42 -0600

Here is way too much personal information for those of you who enjoy reading people's stories. I don't usually write a lot of personal stuff to lists, but for some reason I thought I'd share today since the list got on the toppic.

We all learn a lot from our experiences and are affected by our environment growing up. It's too bad both the positive and the negative get absorbed. I am a totally worthless gardener. I think I learned how to pick raspberries from doing it in my grandpa's huge garden, but other than that I experienced very little gardening and that was mostly negative. My parents are terrible gardeners, too.

A lot of the same when it came to cooking and other common things people have expected girls to be able to do. It wasn't that my mom didn't think I could do it, it was that she thought it was annoying enough to try to do it all herself and she couldn't deal with teaching me. Good thing I was taught to cook in school, or I'd be starving now. I just wish there had been someone to teach me all kinds of things that people do, but are never tought in school. I had a general absence of capable roll models. I had positive ones, but not necessarily practical and capable ones. :-)

I learned to recreate much more successfully. My family loved hiking, climbing, swimming, and all kinds of other outdoor activities. I also inherited a sense of direction and the ability to map, create, or just visualize almost anything in my head when provided enough information through a discription or experience. Unfortunately it doesn't work for spelling, but the longer I live without spelling ability and the more I read the more I think that is just another disability I have. I'm certain it has not much to do with not really learning braille completely until I was in third grade, or having textbooks in braille sometimes and on tape at other times. I'm not the only person in the world who loves to read, but can't manage to learn to spell halfway decently. So much for phonics. :-)

I always said that I went to more school than most kids because I almost always went to two different schools. In kindergarden I went to the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and my neighborhood school on alternating days. I also went to summer school at MSAB. Then in first and second grade I went to the public school for the whole day with an hour of reading afterwords at MSAB. When I was 9 I lost the sight I had because my retinas detached. Up til then no one really thought I would need the braille I was learning just in case my inherited eye condition really did cause me serious problems.

I finished out the school year in my public school class with a very irritating assistant, who usually had only worked in the lunchroom and at recess supervising all the kids. She was my sworn enemy because she didn't understand anything at all about what being blind ment, so she treated me totally strangely. She was always forgeting to tell me things I needed to be told from the blackboard, but she would frequently repeat what the teacher had said, which of course I already knew. I felt like she treated me like I was stupid. Later we had battles over what I would and would not do on the playground. She lost, unofficially. I just didn't pay any attention to what she told me not to do, because I knew that the school may have made up those stupid rules, but my family would tell them to leave me alone if they dared to try to get me in trouble for what I did. I was only doing what other kids were allowed to do during recess. We also had a few battles over whether I would eat some disgusting slop the school dared to call lunch. I had no problem eating my vegetables but I wouldn't eat rubbery sausages if I had to sit in that lunch room for the entire day. I sat there with an annoying grin until they needed to send me back to class because the room was needed for gym.

I hated my cane when I was first given it, too. I could navigate without it perfectly well at first, so I resented being made to use it all the time. I didn't mind learning to use it at all, but I just didn't like showing off the one they gave me in my classes. It was a heavy metal one with a hook at the top. I didn't like it because it looked like a cane for an old person. Of course I didn't clearly communicate this complaint, so no one understood that I was not just being difficult. Later I was given a cane I liked much more and I stopped resisting. I was extremely mad when it was broken by a stupid running person who wasn't paying the slightest attention to where they were going. I didn't know for many years that the cane I had liked was actually a fiberglass NFB cane. I always had folding ones other than that one and I got used to them. Now I use a fiberglass one again and would never go back to a heavy one.

After that year I went to the Academy most of the time until highschool when I started taking a little more than half my classes at the public school. I took whitch ever classes I thought would work best at each. Braille, O&M, gym, math, and home Ec. at the Academy and the rest at the public school. I thought that was pretty nice. I do wish I had learned more math, though. My class moved too slowly, but I still think having math in the public school would have been a nightmare. I got to have geometry that way, which I was certainly a lot better at than algebra, and I know the way I did it would not have worked in a public school.

I also was possibly the youngest, or maybe the smallest, kid to have shop class, which I absolutely loved. I had to stand on a chair to use the drill press in third grade. That year I was only allowed to use a hand saw. I guess the teacher thought the radial arm saw was too big for me. LOL I did get to use all the power tools later, though. I can't really remember what I tried first at home and what at school, because I was always my dad's helper in all his building projects. I was useful because I was the only person who wouldn't get bord and run away just when he needed someone to hold something. I also would hold things for him while he nailed or stapled which made other people so nervous they flintched. I climbed up or under or in anywhere to hold or get things where they were needed, and a small person was ideal for that purpose.

I'm just happy that behaving in a typpically girl way was no longer important once I started school, because I would not have done well. I'm only very feminine when it comes to clothes and colors, which are important to me.

Sarah Van Oosterwijck
Assistive Technology Trainer

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