To Gretchen

A week or so ago I received some sad news. I found out that Gretchen Vare passed away. Gretchen worked at my elementary school Stratford Friends School and was like a family member to the Cahill Family.

I received the news from my Mom when I woke up. Once when she saw the email she ran into my room to tell me. The reason I am writing about this now is because I wanted to try to find the right words to describe what Gretchen meant to me and how much she will be missed.

I started Stratford Friends School (SFS) after having a hard time at my previous school. As a third grader, I had little self-confidence about my reading skill. At this point I was so use to knowing that I sucked at reading and SFS was designed to help struggling readers like me. Gretchen’s position was not a teacher. She was in the administrative section of the school. But she saw something in me and knew I had what it takes to succeed. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I could read chapter books. She also liked me because I reminded of her son. Caring and kind to others and always wanted to do good.

Gretchen had my back at my time at SFS and beyond. She was always there to look out for me and was a cheerleader through my high moments and lowest. After I graduated from SFS and started high school I was looking for a job. I visited her one day and said that I was interested in working at SFS summer program. In the middle of that sentence she was yes you should work here and brought me to see the head of school right away.

And after that I worked at SFS every summer until this summer. As I gained more experience working with students, I knew this was what I wanted to do. And I realized at that moment what Gretchen saw in me. She saw someone who wanted to help people. And I essential have made my career of doing this. Through my education degree, work at Eye to Eye, work with LD/ADHD students during the summer and even this blog, I am helping people.

She did all of this without asking anything in return. I knew Gretchen was sick for a while but despite her own concerns, she was always there to help and support others. I was reading the comments that people were leaving on the SFS facebook page and it was similar to mine. She was always good to people. Always they’re to help.

As I said I did not work at SFS this summer. I got a summer job working with high school students at DVFS. And I was excited about my new experience but sad at leaving SFS. On my facebook, I posted that I was starting my first day at DVFS Summer Program. Gretchen responded by saying “we will sure miss you at SFS Matt!” This is the last time me and her communicated. Gretchen was a big supporter of this blog. She shared it to people and commented on it.

Gretchen was a one of a kind person. She cared about people and put others first even when she was really sick. You just don’t see that everyday. The best that I can try to do is keep here spirit of helping alive. That is why I am dedicating the second year of Temple’s Eye to Eye in her name. The work that we do of mentoring students with LD/ADHD would have been right up her alley. I know that she is looking down on me still. Still having my back and will be there when I continue to see the full pretention that she saw in that scared 10 year old at his first day at SFS.

 

Gretchen thank you for everything and the world will not be the same without you.

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At my last year at SFS as a student, we dedicated this song to Gretchen.

 

 

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Communality: What I learned from Shibe Park

We are about to start the second year of the Eye to Eye chapter at Temple University! We have big shoes to fill from the work we did the first year. But I think it is possible. I mean we are expanding to two mentee schools. With expanding to two schools that means we will have more mentors (we are projecting about 20-25). In addition, we are growing the LD community on Temple’s campus. To do so, we added a community organizer to the team. We are have not 2 student coordinators but 4 this year! It is amazing how fast an idea I had in the winter of 2013 can grow when people support it!

In preparation for this big year, I thought I would do my homework. Homework during summer? Not really “homework” I wanted to learn more about the area that we are mentoring. And as a history major, I thought the best way to do so was look in the past. So I found a book called To Every Thing A Season by Bruce Kuklick. The book explores the rise and fall of Shibe Park, the home of the baseball teams Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies. It also looks at how North Philadelphia, and the neighbors that we mentor, changed over time. My goal with this book was to see if we can learn anything from the past neighbors of North Philly and apply it to the work we were doing at Eye to Eye.

So I started reading this book and I could not put it down! One thing you should know about me was that I am a sucker for  the history of Philadelphia and baseball so this was the bees knees. I forgot sometimes I was reading because it was that enjoyable! I read all about Connie Mack and the Athletic Dynasties of the 1910’s and 1930’s, the diverse neighborhood of North Philly, how bad the Phillies were in the early 20th century etc. One of the most interesting things about the book was something that is not political correct at all. The Philadelphia Athletics had not one but two hunchback mascots on the team. These two hunchbacks were just normal guys however the players would rub their back for good luck. As I said it is not a PC story but if you are familiar with baseball history these “sideshow attractions“ were common in the early half of the 20th century. And is nice to know that they stopped it as well.

I finished the book rather fast enjoying every moment of it. But once when all the dust settled I thought about my goal prior to reading the book: can we apply anything from the past to what we are doing at Eye to Eye today? And….. I was not sure. I mean it was fun to read about the fun things about Shibe Park and the baseball teams but this book was about the rise and the FALL of them in North Philly. The Fall was filled with racism, white flight, crime etc. Both the Athletics and Phillies were some of the racist teams in baseball. Connie Mack had an Italian player that he advertised as a black player. And the Phillies were one of the last teams to integrate.  In addition, with the white flight of the 1950’s, many of the Jewish  and Irish residences left for the burbs. The Athletics and Phillies joined suit in this flight as they believed the area, which now had a large African American community, was unsafe for people to come to watch a ballgame. The Athletics left town to Kansas City and the Phillies moved down to South Philly to the Vet.  The area that was once the grand connector of everyone in Philadelphia was now left in rubble.

And thinking about all this I thought I wasted my entire time reading this book. The book that I thought can help me in my second year of Eye to Eye was useless, a waste of my time.

And then I read the epilogue. Usually when I read for school, I jump over the intro, prologue and epilogue because it means less pages for me to read. But to make sure I left no stone unturned I read on. And I found the answer I was looking for. The following passage, Kuklick explains what was so magical about Shibe Park:

The unique aspect of Shibe Park baseball was not the failures or successes of management or the feats or defeats on the field. The unique element was that the sport magically taught people about excellence and joined them communally to something not available in day-to-day experience. Shibe Park Was a place where uncommon deeds gave people a sense of commonality.

For this entire time, I was looking for a physical aspect that I can use to apply to the work at Eye to Eye. But that is not why Shibe Park was special. It was not what unified a city. What did, and what Kuklick put so eloquently, was communal connect that people craved that was not available everyday basic. For those 9 innings, fans, neighbors and hell even players were apart of something even bigger than themselves.

 

And by this point I got it. What we can do for the second year of Eye to Eye was what we already started the first year, provide a space for people with LD/ADHD be empowered and know that they are apart of something bigger than themselves. And it works so well that we are doing this in North Philadelphia because it has a history of doing so. Either on the baseball field, in an art room or a bonding event, we are providing a space for people to be apart of a community and know that they have a part to play on the field. What we need to do know is to grow on that and grow this LD community so that more people can know that they have a place where they are accepted and where they can feel empowered. Shibe Park might be no more but in its place we are continuing that sense of communality through the work of Eye to Eye in the schools of North Philadelphia, Temple University and the city of Philadelphia.

So the second season of Temple Eye to Eye is ahead of us the only thing to do now is to play ball!

 

Best,

Matty C

 

Kuklick, Bruce. To Every Thing A Season. Reprint ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. Print.

Photo from: http://writing.upenn.edu/wh/involved/awards/juniorfellow/scrapbook/shibepark_1913.html

A “Magic Cure” for ADD? A Con Man and PBS

I was watching TV and there was nothing on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I was going to turn off the TV and read one of my Summer reading book Moneyball but something caught my eye.

It was on public television and the caption on the guide was Healing ADD. Knowing me I was like I have to check this out. And it did not disappoint.

I was in shock what these people were saying. With their books, CDS, lectures you can solve your child’s or your own ADD. One of the books they selling was a cook book. A cook book? Yes a cook book according to them, following a few recipes a kid will magically be cured of their ADD and have a balanced meal at the same time. You could also see them LIVE talking about how they cured their sons ADD and many other families who are “struggling” with ADD. All of this and more could be uses for the price of $240 dollars of 12 payments of $20.00.

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I had to remind myself and you that this was on Public Television. You know the channel that tends to try provide really solid research or science backing to their programs. But this? This felt like I was at fair in the 1800’s with a guy selling a magic elixir that can solve: the common cold, head ache, foot pain, back pain, blindness, flesh wounds, dying etc. But in reality does nothing. It really is a jar of nothing, playing on one’s fears and emotions for a quick buck.

One of my favorite parts of the whole thing was when the lady told about her ADD story. Now I am use to hearing stories of strength and embracement of one’s LD/ADD/ADHD. But this women’s stories is both sad and doesn’t do anything to help the LD movement. Here is her story in a nutshell.

She had ADD and everyone in her family had ADD. And she remembers that her life was crazy and had a hard time paying attention. And then she starting following this ADD prevention diet and practiced exercises that she was cured of her ADD. And now you can be too.

Ok pardon my French but this is the biggest thing of BS I have heard in a while. It’s funny to me that people think that a diet can cure one’s ADD like it is losing weight or something. Now I know people with ADD who are some of the healthiest people I know and vise versa and one is not more ADD because of it. And the other thing what is wrong with craziness? Craziness brings life and excitement to people and a house. That is what made our lives so….lively. Without that and by “curing” ADD sure you might be able to pay attention more but you lose what makes you you and a connection that you have with others and your family.

Look I understand the struggles families have with LD/ADHD. The early elementary years are some of the hardest for a number of reasons. But people need to understand that it is not a sickness that a person on TV can cure for 12 easy payments. It is a great part of a person they just have to embrace it and figure out what they can do to succeed.

But it is so easy to want to follow the pack. If you are not apart of it you seem left out. And these cons know this and try to convince you that they have the one cure that nobody else does. But the real “cure” is embracing your disability. I mean really that is what it is. I know first hand I hated my LD for years but now I am in school to work with kids with LD/ADD. And I am working with/leading Temple’s chapter of Eye-to-Eye. So in reality, my LD is more apart of me then anything thing else.

There is always going to be that person that claims that has a cure. But I wish that stations like Public Radio and other outlets hear and spotlight people who embrace their LD and succeeding because of it. If I was a parent that is what I want to see. The reason being is that I can breathe a sigh of relief that hey things might be difficult now but there is nothing wrong and my child and they can still be successful. When I speak about my LD I am treated like a celebrity sometimes by parents and kids because they see a positive image of LD.

So this goes out to all Public Television and other medias I and others want to work with you and share the real lives of people with LD and show parents that there is nothing wrong with their kids in fact they are pretty bright, and creative. I don’t have any special diets just a story to tell of success and embracement. Free of charge.

 

Until next time,

MC

 

PS I decided not to name the people who are selling a cure of ADHD because the attention should be on a positive image not on a magic, fake, elixir.

Bullied

I was talking to my theorist about an event in my life that I like to ignore. I was bullied. The reason I tend to ignore it because it was a scary point in my life. I lost a lot of self-confidence at the time because of it. And no matter how much I grew when I think about it, I feel like that sacred and week 7 or 8 year old.

I was pretty shy as a kid. On top of that it felt like nothing I did was right. Rather it was reading, writing, talking and evening walking. While others were dancing gracefully through life I felt like I was always walking around broken glass!

I was bullied a lot as a little kid. The first was on my neighborhood. It was a typical suburbia neighborhood where the kids on the street played with one and another. During this summer a new family moved it. The family had two older boys, both in their teens. I was one of the youngest on the neighborhood. The eldest of the boys and his friends picked on me. It was sort of like they saw how much trouble I had walking around the broken glass that they decided to add more around it. They made fun of the way I talked. Constantly. At this point I was talking but I was seeing many speech theorist to help. They also picked on me for the normal reasons that I was younger than them and stuff like that. I felt powerless and unable to advocate for myself. I wanted to tell my parents about what they were doing but I was afraid of what the kids would do to me! I felt weak and unable to ask for help. And instead of fighting back and just took the bullying until the summer was over. Maybe the school year would be better I thought?

And it wasn’t. Instead of being bullied of my lack of social skills and such I was bullied because of my inability to read, write and do math. The moment that sticks out the most for me is during lunch one day in 2nd grade. I was eating with some classmates, who were the lowest in reading and such. And the more popular and smart kids sat down next to us and starting asking us to do math problems. Now I know what you are thinking, Math Problems? But it did not feel like math problems, it felt like I was being interrogated like I was a criminal in Law and Order.

They would ask us one after another. What is 0 x 5 or what is 15-6 etc. And this continued until lunch was over. They knew our weak points on our suit armor and they exposed it one a good laugh for them, while we were left picking up the pieces.

After this Year of Bullying I moved to another school and that older kid on the neighborhood (prob in jail right now) left to do more teenage things.

As a victim of bullying I have a big problem with it. I hate this position that people sometimes take on bullying

Being bullied makes you stronger”

             The reason I hate this position is that the person is supporting bullying! Saying that because of bullying I am a better person? What the hell are they talking about? I became a stronger person for a lot of reason that was not involved with me being bullying. What bullying has done is make it a low moment in my life. That no matter when I think of it, I feel like that scared 8 year old Matt that just was wishing for it to be over. And that it took me over 10 years to start to talk about.

What really made be stronger was having the support of others. From my parents, teachers and nicer classmates and friends, I grew stronger and developed advocacy skills for myself and others. I didn’t grow because I was picked on but when I was accepted and supported by people.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by my elementary school to speak as an Hero to the students. All the students had a LD/ADHD like me. I went and told my LD story and all the cool things I was doing right now. One of the questions I got asked about a lot from the students was about bullying. Some of them shared incidents of being bullied in their other schools or by their friends for being different. I told them that I was bullied as well as a kid but was questioning on why they were bullied at this school:

“I am not sure why people are bullied at, Stratford Friends School. What is the bullying like, you have a problem with reading. Well everyone here has a problem with reading in here so why make “fun” of it.”

And I think that got to some of the students and teachers because there was a laugher of realization. The reason I know this is that some of the teachers afterward thanking me for giving the students that perspective because bullying has been a big problem lately. And sometimes the students don’t realize that everyone is working on their reading, math and/or social skills.

There is no real solution to bullying. But I have some thoughts on what we can do it to lower it. The first this that I think we need to be more supportive and aware when people are bullied. I know when I was bullied I felt alone and without any help from people to stop it. If we see it we should help the people being bullied and hey that might mean we lose some “friends” in the process but they are not worth worrying about. Because if they live for making others miserable, then they will slowly lose more people than they will realize. Another thought is that we should change what it means to be different. For the longest time, different is a bad connotation. Something out of he realm of normalcy. I have said this several times on this blog but different and different thinkers are good. They have expand how we see and interact with the world. We should embrace them because frankly they make our world a better place. And I know that might be asking a lot of little kids to do but we should be models of how they can be done so they can do on neighborhoods, playgrounds and classrooms across the world.

Until next time,

Matt

 

The Conformity of normalcy makes the Mosaic art piece pretty boring: Mosaic 2 Project

It’s the time in the semester that student cram in everything that the professor has talked about in the class. I like to think of it as a way to see what I really learned this year. Some times it is just information that is nice to know. Other times it is real ideas that I ponder and try to answer for years to come. That was the case for me in Mosaics II. Most of the time in Gen-Ed classes I don’t really take away with something that I really enjoyed/learned. Instead I feel like I am just checking off something I am required to do. As a result it seems like classes are like to-do list like to take out the trash and such!

But I did learn something in Mosaics II (and I am not just saying that because my professor is reading this). I really did. So why talk about it on Melonaid? Well the reason being is that I think I can take the ideas from the course and apply them in the world of being dyslexic and disability rights. And if I could have two take aways in the course its this.

  1. There is a tread of “unity”, or I like to call it, conformity of normalcy
  2. “Extremist” who are using their outside of the box thinking to show the diversity of the world.

 

We spent some time in the class talking about Nature and forming it to meet our interest. For example in Bontany of Desire by Pollan he talks about the tale of Johnny Appleseed and the cultivation of apples in the Midwest. Appleseed was a real guy (a little crazy but real). The apples that Appleseed planted were used to make a popular drink of his time cider. However we have taken this one person and fruit and changed it to meet a specific standard. For example, farmers altered their trees in order to make their apples unified in taste/quality and production yield. As a result, people have created Natural® fruit to order to fit their standards of success and of “survival”.

But this is not only limited to some Apples, we still do this today with students with LD. Schools try their best to teach students in order to meet a specific model of education. Sure the model works for some but it is not best for many people esp. students with LD. And like Apples, schools and society take this “bad apples” and place them within special education classes and other stuff like that. I remember being placed in these smaller rooms “special” rooms to learn how to read and write. I was and still am a smart student however since I was unable to learn reading in the standard classroom, I was seen as a bad fruit. And as they say one bad apple ruins a bunch!

But even though I did not fit the standard student, I was able to go to college and display my intelligence and critical thinking skills. Sure I suck at reading but I am not deemed a failure or a bad apple because of it! But that is what society does. Since I do not fit a specific model students like me have to go through more hoops in order to show our value. (and may I say what is wrong with a little bit of variety)

For years I wished that life was similar to the book Utopia. For example the idea that the houses, “door have all two leaves every men walk freely in and out of them” (More). The idea that there is no closed doors to people I think that is what we really want. (Think about it walking in and nobody doing a double take.) But that is why the idea of a Utopia is impossible. People put doors around others for sense of safety. I don’t think it is physical safety but the idea of change and a shift in their life. The reason being that is that they might not be as powerful than they thought. Some of the most innovative people have an LD/ADHD like Richard Branson. Put the amount of known LD innovates is a small sampling of what is really out there. You would be amazed out of all the people I meet people with LD are some of the most creative and outside the box thinkers I have met. But what is preventing them to be the next Branson? The reason is that they lost their confidence to do so. And the blame is on society aka “normal” people because they have put so many walls up on LD and told them they don’t fit the norm that people believe it to be true. As a result they don’t publicly share their genius because their LD has such a bad stigma attach to it.

But like me do what the Founding Fathers did in the Declaration of Independence and fire some graveness. “But Matt what does the Founding Fathers have to do with disability rights? The Founding Fathers were fighting about taxes and such.” I guess in some way but it is also about having representation. That is what the people with LD want. They want to be represented in the world around us. The reason being is that we should have a say in how we learn and how to make life accessible to all. (I mean people with LD are different thinkers lets embrace them!)

And diversity is good. Look at the Greeks in the Iliad. They had a polytheistic religion system. For example they had Gods like Zeus and God of Thunder and Hestic Goddess of hearth/family. As a result there is not one idea/figure that makes the universe/thought but many. We are in a diverse world with different people/ideas that are needed to make society function.

About anyone who tries to fight for this diversity is seen as an extremist. Figures like Martin Luther King Jr. among others. And for the longest time I assumed that an extremist was something bad to be. I think the reason being is that “normal” people me so. However when I read Life from Birmingham Jail, King had a great comeback to these “normal” people, “What kind of extremist will you be?” (King). He also talked about that you cannot wait for things to happen. As a result someone who wants to change the stigma of having LD they will be seen as an extremist because they are not following in social norms but they are making the change they want to see.

But how can this be done? I think we have to show people the true face of people with LD. I have done so thus far by talking through this blog, guest speaking and just being a reprehensive of people with LD. I tell my story, I explain to people how I learn and what I need to do to be successful and lastly what needs to be done to change the stigma. This is a group effort as well. I see it at Temple. Through programs like Eye to Eye, Temple is building a supportive LD community at Temple, North Philadelphia and the entire city. Through this support and community, people can see that their disability is not a stigma but a gift to have. As a result, we have show people that this idea of “normal” sucks. Normal is nothing new if we want to grow as a society we NEED to embrace people with LD and everyone because diversity is good.

And maybe that is why the course is called Mosaics. A mosaic is composed of different shapes and kinds of tiles that when put together makes a masterpiece. If we embrace life like a mosaic then we can see that we all play a role in the world. If the world was composed of one normal kind of tile than it is boring. Diversity brings life!

 

Will you be an extremist with me? Think of the masterpieces we can create!

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail , (June 12, 1963)

 

More, Thomas. Utopia. The Project Gutenberg eBook, 2005. eBook.

<https://blackboard.temple.edu/courses/1/692009112749/content/_1668342_1/Ut

opia.txt>.

 

Thought The Stigma of Disability Was Going Away Then I Met Some University Big Wigs

Dear readers,

I am sorry for my hiatus. I have been busy writing lesson plans for my education class. But I am back with tales to tell!

In this post, I want to talk about two different experiences I had over the hiatus.

A few weeks ago, I was asked about the Temple Disability Resource and Service (DRS) office to be apart of a student panel for the Disability and Change conference. Each member of the panel had a disability of some sort and we were asked to share our college experience. We met before the panel to discuss some talking points that would be covered. While we were waiting, the four of us just started talking and sharing our own experiences with disability. This just happened on the spot with no warm up oh get to know you activates. No it was my name is Matt and I have an LD. And I don’t know what it is but people with disabilities are just so comfortable chatting with others about their disability.

I guess the reason for this was that this was the first time that they informally met someone with a disability.  It is always nice to see these interactions happen because you can tell that people see that they are not alone in the world of disabilities. The meeting went great and we just continued to share our experiences and we wanted the audience to get out of the panel.

On the day of the panel, I got all dressed up looking very scholarly and took my seat at the panel. The audience was filled with educators, teachers, psychologist and, students in the College of Education. I was among my own kind. So the panel went off with a bang. Each of us shared our own experiences and talked about what it was like to have a disability. I can tell that the others was a little nervous about talking their disability for the first time. Since I have been talking about my disability openly through this blog and other mediums, I was cool and relaxed.

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(guy with his hands by his face)

 Here of some of the talking points I talked about:

–       I focused on changing the stigma of disabilities.

o   For example, I mentioned that the term learning disability is a little off because I learn fine. I have trouble with reading and writing but I learn fine.

o   Also a audience member asked what is college experience like for a student with disability? I mentioned that there is no such thing as a “typical” college experience. But people with a disability have an advantage because they go into college knowing exactly how they learn and what they need to succeed.

–       I told the audience how disability rights/acceptance is the 21st century civil rights issue. As educators we have to see student potential and provide them the assistance/support to succeed.

–       I talked about Eye to Eye and how we are using it as a way to establish and grow the disability community at Temple University.

–       Also I sprinkled in some funny stories that I wrote in this blog like how tough it is breaking up a relationship with a computer voice.

The audience had a lot of questions (a lot directed to me) about my experience and programs like Eye to Eye. It was a lot of fun responding to their questions and providing them some insight about disabilities. I felt like a disability celebrity in some ways! (if my 7 year old self heard that he would laugh). But I considered the panel as a success because it was the first time educators was hearing from people with disabilities. A lot of these people work on disability studies and are “professionals” in the field but I could tell they see a new face of the disability community! A strong face that is fighting to change the stigma of it!

So leaving the disability conference, I felt that Temple was beginning to change their perception of people with disabilities.

Then I was invited by the President of the University for a Student Leaders reception. So I was weighing if I should attend because the home opener of the Phillies was at the same time (they lost horribly by the way). But I decided to attend the reception thinking I should talk about disabilities, Eye to Eye and get some free food out of it. So I got dressed up again, wearing the same scholarly clothes that I wore at panel and went to the reception.

When I got it was like something out of the Omega Theta Pi house in Animal House. Everyone was dressed nicely, listening to classical music, and eating some nice finger food. They were talking about the fraternities, their community service work and their golf and tennis scores. No kidding several conversations I was in several conversations about rather golf or tennis was a better sport or how they lowered their score. I was their because I co-lead Eye to Eye and I talked about all the cool things we are doing. But it would have been weird talking about how we have a problem kids taking to many gushers in-between the golf conversations and their Yachats around the world.

And like my ADD self, I got bored and looked at the stain glass all around the room. During the reception, I was thinking that there must be some ADD people in this room as well. And I did fine ONE out of FORTY people. And we chatted about life with LD/ADHD and such. I also chatted about Eye to Eye and disability with a few big wigs at the University as well. But you can tell that they were not interest in the students but instead of the finger food. I did have one conversation about disability with someone but he talked about how it is a not well paying job. In addition he mentioned that he knew someone who welded (like with metal) with people with disabilities. But that is all he had to talk about the subject.

Not well paying! What the hell does that mean! First off I am not doing this for a pay check but because the conversation needs to change. We cannot keep seeing people with disabilities as a novelty but leaders in our community. It was concerning that out of the room of 40 people, only two had a disability. And no one saw this as an alarm for concern!

I left the reception seeing that we are no closer to changing the stigma of disabilities. Sure in education circles yes the change is happening. But when I mentioned to the big wigs that there is not really a disability community at Temple, they had no comment or interest in the subject. They all had a huge ego about themselves thinking that they are better than others. They still saw things as black and white. They still saw people with disabilities as a novelty instead of leaders and members of a community.

So if you are reading this Temple big wigs or Temple President hear is some advise. Open the door for events like this with people with disabilities. Sure they might not kiss your butt but they will give you a real, honest view of disability rights on Temple and in our world. That is who are the future leaders of the community not these ego people who play golf.

That is what I try to do this blog but I have seen that I have to do more to change the stigma that is connected with disabilities. But I know this, my community of Eye to Eye and the entire disability community at Temple will stop this stigma and these big wigs will need notice us because sure we might have a tough time paying attention but we are a force to reckon with.

Until Next Time,

MC

A Garden Of Different Thinkers

Two weeks ago, my Pop Pop lost his battle to cancer and passed away. He was a great family man who helped inspire my love of history from hearing family stories. For example, my ancestors created a patent for a cigar cutting. The origin of the Cahill could only go back to people going on a wagon west. Where West we are never sure (California, or the other side of town).  The last time I saw him was in January when I visited them in Arizona. It was a peaceful day. We sat in a Gazebo and enjoyed the warm weather and put family photos in a photo book for them. He and my Grandmother had/have memory problems and I wanted to provide them with a book of all their memories to help remember. It was just a great day.

During the funeral, my family all ventured to Bohemia NY on Long Island. My grandparents lived there for 50 years before their health got bad. My Aunt and co. from Arizona and Uncle and co. San Diego came as well. It was nice to see all the family again.

One night at dinner, we were catching up and talking about my grandfather. One of the subjections that came up was LD/ADHD. This might be a weird topic to bring up at a family event. But considering that I write this blog and am a student coordinator at Eye to Eye, my sister is ADHD and my Mom teaches LD/ADHD students the topic is as common as talking about the weather. The reason the topic was brought up because my dad and Uncle talked about having ADHD. They where never dialogued, but they have the traits of it.

This happened I kid you not. My uncle was talking and he said, “look a squirrel.”

At the table, my Uncle discussed how he has difficulty with comprehension. He explained that he can read a book but if he was asked to explain what he read it is difficult for him. Something about transferring his thoughts to words. He also explained that he is a tactical learner. For example, he can build anything just by looking at it or by the thought he drew up in his head. Also he has good street smarts which helps him in his job of Law Enforcement.

My Dad shared that writing is not his strong suit. The irony is he writes reports most of the day at work! His trouble is paying attention. For example his thoughts drift during the day. He also cannot sit down. He always has to be doing something. In our living room, my mom clears the side tables because he would play with anything on them. Scissors, pencils, lacer pointers if it is on the side table he will play with it. Despite this, he can solve problems be it a Nuclear emergency or a leaky sink. He is always thinking of solutions to problems!

The conversation shifted to how we think my Pop Pop had LD as well. They mentioned that he rarely ever read and if he did it was a manual. Despite his trouble reading, he was able to create luscious gardens in his backyard. He was also forced as a kid to write with his right hand despite being lefty. I am trying to get more information about my Pop’s LD but since he was in grade school during the 1930’s-40’s, the idea of LD/ADHD was not even constructed. At the time, my grandfather might have been seen as a bad student since he does not learn the same way as others.

I come out of the family table conservation amazed at the line of Cahill’s with LD/ADHD. I think it is so cool! I can’t trace the wagon doing West but I can trace my families LD/ADHD roots!

What amazed me was the idea of Different Thinkers. It is a word that is throw around in Eye to Eye and other organizations. Different Thinkers are people that see and tackle school, work etc. in other ways than the norm. Different thinkers help communities because their outside the box thinking helps with innovate and problem solving. My Pop Pop, Uncle, Dad, my sister and Me are all different thinkers. I think that in my life time, there is a greater acceptance of people with LD as Different Thinkers. For example, many students are provided with accommodations that allow them to read by listening instead of looking. The students are smart they just find it more efficient to listen to books. Nothing wrong with that!

In my grandfather’s childhood, Different Thinkers would go outside the norm and be seen as a problem than a new perspective.  For my uncle and dad, the idea of people with LD as Different Thinkers was being created with section 504 and other disability rights. But even though now there is a greater acceptance of Different Thinkers, I don’t think it is not big enough. At the funeral we had a slideshow of my Pop Pop. One of the photos was of his garden. He would give vegetables to the church if he had to many. Now the cucumber might be the size of your face but he was able to grow it! Everyone was amazed at the size of it and heard about it. I was as well. I remember as a little kid but it has been a while before he seen it.

He was able to make this garden without really reading or writing about gardening. He figured out from others and own experience to grow plants and make them blossom. Most people would read everything they could because that is how they learned to do it but not my grandfather. I think sometimes we as a society has these “rules” or “rights of passage” before people can aspire something. I think this is dumb. We should embrace ruler breakers and differentness because they rewrite and change on what society thinks is just. My grandfather might of had trouble with reading, but he was able to make gardens that impressed people. That is what we should embrace. Be it a garden or something else, at the end of the day, we are remember for how we make a change on others and society. Why do we have to wait until we pass? Lets admire and embrace differentness now! By doing so we can once and for all dismiss the idea that Different Thinkers are problems to schools and society.

 They are instead the answers and solutions we have been looking for.

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Victoria and Jill: My Computer Voice Relationships

Hey Melons!

It’s been a while. Lets get started!

I use audiobooks to read (or listen) to my books. Ideally I think audiobooks that has an actor read them. But with my dense history books, it is rare to find a nice audiobook. For most of the time, I use the computer voice on my computer. I get an PDF of the book and convert it from text to MP3 and listen at my own pace.

I like the system. It is what I have been using for years. Many people don’t like having the computer read for them. They think the computer voice is to robotic for them. I have been using computer voices since middle school and over the years they have got more and more human.

I realized that the computer voices are like being in a relationship. Think I spent most of my time with this computer voice reading and writing. And sometimes I get sick of the voices because they keep talking and talking while I just wanted the book finished. But I need the computer voices because without them I cannot read or write at a good pace. Which makes what happens so hard.

Every time I see Apple is updating my software, I know that there will be a new, better voice waiting for me. Let me tell you about one of the times this happened. Throughout high school I used this voice called Victoria. Victoria and I were close. She helped me in the tough years in 11th and 12th grade and helped me get into college. But when I got a new computer, I noticed a new voice her name was Jill. Jill had the voice of a angel and the kindness in her voice inviting me to have her read for me. I was reluctant because I promised Victoria that we were going to continue working together in college. But once I heard Jill’s voice, it has hard to go back to Victoria. Victoria was sweet but become stiff when she was reading. Sort of like she lost the joy in the books. Like the years took its toll.

So I had to end things with Victoria, a computer voice. It was hard but I think she understood. Jill and I still work together but I fear the day that Apple updates the software and introduce me with a new computer voice. But for right now I am happy with Jill.

Ok…. some of this narrative of this “break up” I made up. But the relationships that people with computer voices is real. People sometimes forget that reading is still a big struggle for others and I. And having a sweet voice read it for you makes reading less of a strain. Sometimes, it makes reading enjoyable. I know that computer voices with get better and better in the future and I am thankful for that. But without the voices of Victoria and Jill I would not be where I am today.

So thank you,

Until next time,

MC

Pentakosiomedimnoi: Spelling and Pronouncing words

People sometimes wonder what it is like to have trouble spelling and pronouncing words. I might have found a way to show them. So I was reading my Greek History text book and came over this word. This is what words look like sometimes when people ask people who are LD to read, spell or pronounce a word.

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Thankfully we have people like Jim Carrey and others  have strategies to help people spell words like Beautiful, Because and Definitely.

Until next time,

MC

A “Joke”, Some Bad Grammar and Changing the World

At Melonaid I tried to keep my post light and humorous. However, let me get deep for a sec if you guys don’t mind. Don’t worry I am working on my next post and its funny. But I think it is important to tell this story.

I am a History major. As a result, most of the time I am either reading or writing. This is problematic for me a little because I like to do everything but read and write. However I love history so much because I love hearing stories about people who came before me. Plus I get to write interesting papers. For my junior writing seminar, my paper was about the History of Music at Ballparks and how teams needed to use music to keep people focused on the game. Interesting right? I interviewed several people at the Philadelphia Phillies and at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I was writing 10+ pages of baseball and music (all things that I liked) while my friends in other majors were writing business papers. Yuk!

I am an ideals man but sometimes it is hard to get my ideas from my head to paper. For most people it is an easy process (head to paper). But for me its like trying to catch an idea that is swarming in my head, translate it from Matt language to “Proper English Language” and then onto paper. Along the way, there are a lot of grammar issues that come up and sometimes words are missing.

For example,

My name is Matt. are you today?

I am not doing it on purpose! I just never understood the “rules of English writing.”  Or I am so caught up trying to translate my ideas to words that I forget.

It reminds me of a professor I have taken a few classes with. He uses art from the era to discuss how to it represented the place and/or time period. I like this format because I can make a good insight and it tends to be spot on. So when he assigned a short written response one semester I thought great I can just write my really good insights and hand them in

I would hand in a clear paper only to be handed it back with black lines underlined , question marks everywhere ???????. It looked like a modern art piece with all the lines and such.

I went to this professor because if you could not tell black lines are bad. I worked with him on my papers and more black lines would be draw. He was like Matt this needs to be plural and vise versa. And, this sentence cannot be 3 lines long!

He told me that, “Matt your ideas are great but your grammar makes it hard to understand.” I think he saw that I had a grasp of the complexity of the topic but it was overshadowed by my bad grammar.

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However I did not give up. I would go to him before every paper and he would help edit it for me and I would revise it and have my mom and others read it to fix any other mistakes. At the end of the class last spring, he told me that he wished more people cared about the papers as I did. I cared but I worked hard to be understood. For as long as a remember people have had a hard time understanding what I was saying and doing because of my speech impairment and dyslexia. I felt like I had the answer to life but nobody could understand what I was saying. I don’t stop writing or talking until my point gets across. As the class progressed my papers improved and improved.

So this week I am in a class with this professor again and he assigns a paper response. I finished the book a week earlier (I know crazy) so that I could have plenty of time writing and editing my paper. I went to his office hours to ask a few questions about the paper like before and continued to edit. On Wednesday, several students had questions about the paper that was due on Friday. One person asked about using personal insights using I or we. The professor said that wanted us to make sure that the grammar was perfect and that there is no I, we and right tense etc. Then out of nowhere he made a “joke”, “and Matt should know because he has been a victim of this several times.”

A Joke? … it did not feel that way. Because hey I know I am horrible with Grammar that is why I put in all that extra time to work on it. But that does not give my Professor or anyone the right to “make a joke” about it. It felt like I was being used as what not to do. What not to do? What work hard, have several people look at your paper etc.? That tends to be overshadowed by a different verb tense of what have you.

I was beat up by the “joke” during the rest of the day. I was just angry that someone I respected would make a joke like that. I decided that I needed to stand up for myself and to tell my professor how much the “joke” affected me. So on Friday I went to see him during his office hours.

I sat down and said that I was really hurt by the joke you made about my grammar. And he could tell from my eyes how hurt it affected me. And he felt horrible about it. He apologized several times and he should have acted more professional before making comments like that. He also said that he did not mean it to hurt me etc.

I accepted his apology.

As I walked outside I realized that people do not know sometimes the weight of their comments. It takes a lot of guts to stand up for yourself and tell someone that what they said is wrong. But if you don’t do it then they would never know.  You have to advocate for yourself because change only comes when you make the first move.

I know my writing is not up to par. But I keep writing. Writing is like fighting a dragon constantly. I remind myself that it takes a lot of grit and will power to constantly fight this dragon. I think if “normal” people had to go through  it they would just stop writing. But for people with LD, we trudge on because our greatest weakness only makes us stronger. I may never be good with grammar, but I and many others have the ideas to change the world.

Would you like to listen to them?

MC