In the whole sleep-deprived fog of this achy, hot-flash of a week, Disability Blog Carnival #23 slipped right by me.  Don’t let that happen to you!  Go check out all the fun posts on the theme of, “Simply The Best”, gathered by Pedestrian Hostile.  Where else can you find delightfully chewy lines like, We are an aggressive people inhabiting impossibly fragile bodies …”?

New page

My latest post is actually a “page”, one of those postings that stands independently from the usual time sequence.  It’s titled, “Distinctions”.  I think you’ll enjoy it, and hopefully it’ll spark all sorts of useful thoughts.

Power surges and outtages

“Power surges” is the common joke phrase referring to having menopausal hot flashes.

Oh, yes. Because what’s life without something new to deal with? And naturally, it’s something inter-twined with everything else. Generally when women experience menopause, it’s because their hormones are going from the usual monthly oscillation to a damped oscillation, where the ups and downs get smaller and smaller. Mine aren’t — this is the thrill of quitting my HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that I’d been on after surgery five years ago. In a mere day’s time, I went from a low dose HRT to nothing. Klud.

First I had what my OB/GYN described as an ovarian cyst the size of an orange, which cyst+ovary she somehow managed to remove from a mere 1″ (2.5 cm) incision. (I suppose that pulling out large objects from narrow passages is the specialty of OB/GYNs.) Having been relieved of that painful annoyance, things went well for about a year, and then I started having the periods from hell again. They turned into the periods from hell with interperiods that were nearly as bad — now I had endometriosis.

That was bad enough, but the worse part wasn’t the surgical solution — Read the rest of this entry »

A very painful problem

When you are looking at a particular problem behaviour in a child (student), the big question is, “Is it really a problem?” “Problem” does not mean it’s unusual, or that some people are uncomfortable because it’s a “stereotypical autistic thing”. “Problem” means someone is getting hurt, or in danger, or poses a considerable social issue. Rocking is not a problem, head-banging is. Lining toys up is not a problem, biting people is.

A great many of people’s responses can be categorised as trying to get something or to get away from something. If you’re trying to get rid of a problem behaviour, then you need to figure out what’s going on. If you can figure out what the stressor is, then you can avoid or reduce it. If you can figure out what the behaviour provides to the person, then you can figure out a more suitable replacement behavior that will provide a benefit, without the problematic issues also associated with it.

Let’s say you have a student (client, child) who is hurting themself. Read the rest of this entry »

How and Why

ABFH composed a new blogging meme, which unlike many that are transmitted by assigned infection, is open for anyone to self-select. I thought her questions to be rather interesting, as the overall topic of “how and why one blogs” is something that I myself have contemplated upon occasion.

1. Is there a regular time of day when you compose your posts? Read the rest of this entry »

But it’s NOT the same

Dave Hingsburger recently had a very nice column about the pros and cons of labelling. He made some very fine points, including the key idea that, “the issue is how we value the difference that is labeled.” This reminded me of something similarly related, which is how we value the accommodations. With many sorts of disabilities, we have ways of getting around the internal disabling factors, and the environmental handicapping factors. Some of those ways involve assistive devices (ADs), also known as assistive technology (AT).

One of the problems we run into, sometimes unexpectedly so, is that our ADs do not “fix” the problem and make it go away. This is discouraging for the person who is newly diagnosed or newly treated for an issue, and who hoped that simply by getting some snazzy piece of equipment, everything would “be back to normal”. Well, no. Being disabled is the “new normal”. Arguing for, with, and at one’s assorted pieces of equipment is yet another layer added to our lives. Read the rest of this entry »

The Making of a Geek

Well, I’ve spent the past couple days crashed abed. After dragging myself to work today, I’m still not in top form. Basically, my brain-pan is full of snot, so I’m certainly not up to a great deal of psychoeducational analysis about much of anything. But until the green elixir kicks in (so I can get some sleep), I’ll natter away about how I got to be such a geek.

The original outlook wasn’t promising. In fact, I was quite the disappointment to my father for not being a chess whiz, and to my mother for getting poor marks in nearly all my subjects. The maths particularly eluded me — I was 13 before I had a firm grip on my multiplication tables — which for reasons that still escape me, led people to decide that in secondary school I should take a year of Bookkeeping as preparation for future employment.

However, I did better with a variety of hands-on pursuits, Read the rest of this entry »

Swamped in studies

I met with a tutee last week, a fellow who is studying Human Anatomy. Of all the courses one can take, anatomy is a particular humdinger, if for no other reason than one must memorise such a load of new terms and be able to identify and name parts. It’s an especially difficult class for students who are slow to memorise things, who have trouble with spelling (so many words are orthographically similar), and/or who have trouble with recall upon demand.

He’s an extremely determined student, one who wants to very conscientiously get everything down pat before moving onto the next thing. Unfortunately, at the standard 1-semester pace of this class, he’s not going to be able to do that, unless he figures out a way of hammering things into his memory at a much faster rate. Because of his earnest desire to do well, he has been poring himself through his materials, including reading the text and studying the lab models and reviewing the quizzes from the textbook’s Web page, and doing the review worksheets, and making flashcards, and …

It’s all very exhaustive, and exhausting. Read the rest of this entry »

How hard can it be?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of providing the annual Inservice training session for a university’s tutoring department. One of the themes I explored in brief was how tutees, especially those with various learning disabilities, may have processing difficulties. We have to take information in, make sense of it, retrieve information, and then be able to relay information back. Various kinds of learning disabilities interfere with steps in this process, and the interference can happen at more than one step, especially when a person has more than one kind of difficulty. (Learning disabilities and other physiological issues are often co-occurring, technically known by the dreadful-sounding term of “comorbid”.)

The upshot of all this is that any “speed-bumps” or “road-blocks” in the processing will result in slow processing (it takes longer to do things), or uneven processing (some days it’s more difficult to do things, not always for apparent reasons), or intermittent or chronic inabilities to do things (being able to do things on some days or in some hours, but not others, can be more frustrating than never being able to do them).

There are a variety of disabilities out there, but instead of describing how each one can affect a person’s ability to respond in educational efforts, I’m going to describe how processing works in general, and at which steps some disabilities become apparent.

Whenever we interact with the world, there is a whole series of steps that has to happen. Let’s take the subject of, “Answering a question asked of you”. Most people assume that this is really simple, and thus, easy. Hah! Read the rest of this entry »

A Most Dangerous Question

Once Upon A Time…

I had a great counsellor. That sort that gives you unconditional positive regard, and listens to what you’re actually saying (instead of what they’re expecting), and who also asked especially good questions. Some of the questions were of the Zen-master category of counselling, the sort that jog you from your everyday running, smacking palm to forehead and saying, “OH!” or else stopped you short because you had been doing something totally irrational and then had it pointed out to you when you were at a point to heed such. Other questions were more like planting little seeds, things that seemed innocuous at first but that later proved to be much greater things.

This is the story of the little seed question. It was a very dangerous question, not in the hazardous sense, but in the transformational sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Recess: “We’re here to shred Time for you…”

Recess means we take a break and play; it’s important to do that once in a while.

“Ooh, won’t the Temporal Investigations Department have a fit about this!”  (… I bet that’s where part of last Thursday went …)


Go up to BATT

It’s BATT – Blogging Against The Telethon day over at Kara’s Place, and like any other self-respecting bee, I’m swarming with the other bloggers. Go check it out!

(while I sit here and try to figure out why my toolbar is in Russian…)

Animal Farm

Yes, that “Animal Farm”, the book by George Orwell. That’s what I was reminded of, or rather, I was reminded of the famous quote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Painting walls certainly gives one time to think, and I was stuck on the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Jerry Lewis is the comic who for years has been the host of the annual MD Telethon broadcast on US television. The program itself is designed to be a real tear-jerker, prompting people to send in money out of pity and guilt and good intentions. Lots of people hate the program. We hate the paternalistic attitudes that perpetuate the whole medical model of disability, and reinforce the warped picture the equates disabled people as helpless, hopeless victims needing cures and charity, rather than accommodation and equal social standing and social rights.

In the negatively stereotypical telethon world, the disabled person can only be brave by quietly clinging to others and not advocating for themselves, by staying hidden out the way and not asking for equal access, and by cultivating “hope” that someday they can be “cured” to become normal, thus regaining their status as a full member of society and become a real person.

Well, medical cures and preventions are well and good, but are nowhere near soon, and what people really need are more practical things, the equipment and accommodations and acceptance into general society that will let them live their lives. No one wants to put their life on “hold” waiting for some possibly non-existent, or distant future mythical-magical cure. No one wants to be stuck at home, much less in an institution, and thought of as a horrible burden, a non-functioning person who has nothing to contribute to their family, a non-working person who has nothing to contribute to their workplace, a non-sexual person who has nothing to contribute to their spouse, or a non-adult person who has nothing to contribute to their children.

Jerry Lewis plays up the pity card heavily. I’ve previously discussed the various social problems created by pity, so I won’t go repeating myself on that score. What choked me up (in disgust, not in sadness) was his “half a person” quote. It originates from the September 2, 1990 issue of Parade magazine, from the article titled, “What If I Had Muscular Dystrophy?”:

When I sit back and think a little more rationally, I realize my life is half, so I must learn to do things halfway. I just have to learn to try to be good at being a half a person … and get on with my life.

Ick. That’s when the Animal Farm parallel hit me:

All humans are people, but some humans are more people than others.

Half a person. Not a real person. Not a full citizen in society, but someone second-class. Forever dependent, focused upon all the things they cannot do, always left out. And why are people left out? Not because they’re disabled, but because of the entrenched bigotry against disabled people that permeates our cultures. Simple things that should be ordinary, practical, sensible things, are instead viewed as horrible hardships upon everyone else. Problems are seen in a warped world-view of false dichotomies: either the person cannot do something the normal way, or they get cured and then they’ll be able to do things. There’s no accommodated way of doing things in that unrealistic story.

I can’t stand to watch the program. I can’t stand the crass exploitation, seeing children (and their families) used as tragi-cute pawns for pathos. I can’t stand to hear Jerry Lewis snivelling. I can’t stand to see the whole routine repeated year after year after year, the horribly treacly music, the pleas to “save Jerry’s kids”. The program is a tear-jerker, and Jerry Lewis is a jerk.

“It is an uncomfortable truth, in social work, in government activity, and in charitable endeavors, that actions which are intended to help a certain group of people may actually harm them.”
~Laura Hershey

Seeing Things

So I’m meeting again with one of my science tutees. As usual, I started off by asking what he wanted to work on that day.

He didn’t know. Not because he’s a slacker. But because, he explained in earnest and slightly frustrated confusion, because he wasn’t sure what precisely it was that he was having trouble with.

It took some reassuring on my part that This is okay, and that figuring out where one is having problems is part of the whole learning and tutoring processes. You have to be able to identify where and how things aren’t going well before you can address the issues.

So we sat down with the materials and started going over different ways of reviewing things, as I asked him what had or hadn’t worked well for him before as studying techniques. And not surprisingly, he couldn’t say. Meaning, he wasn’t able to answer that question simply from my verbal enquiry. It was also difficult to pull up random examples just off the top of his head. His experiences had not been encoded into his memory as analyses, so the search came up empty. And I quite understood that. After all, if he already knew what he needed in the way of study methods that worked well for him, he wouldn’t be in such need of tutoring! Sometimes we tutor content, and sometimes (like here) we tutor process. And process is trickier, because people don’t learn things the same way (e.g. flash cards don’t work for everyone).

Further into the session, the stress levels were getting reduced, and we were able to focus on a particular issue. He had to be able to distinguish between pictures of different kinds of human tissues, and in the study lab had run into frustration trying to explain to someone else that he “couldn’t see” what they were talking about.

Ah-ha … now I understood what was going on. Read the rest of this entry »

Booster Pack

Sometimes you just get so run down that you can’t even remember what-for you were trying to find your get-up-and-go. You’ve been so engulfed in the Papierkrieg, so overwhelmed by the endless supplies of idiots that fill the world, and so repeatedly halted by your own internal difficulties that trying to find yet another work-around is too much to ask. On days like that, there isn’t enough chocolate, caffeine or ale to recharge the spirit.

So I like to collect quotes. Although I’ve looked through a few quote books, I’ve found them generally uninspiring. I believe that quotes should have a gritty, piercing quality to them, rather than being merely clever turns of phrase, or blandly “morally uplifting”. I have quite the motley collection on a number of topics, and not surprisingly, they’re not the kinds of categories or quotes that Mr Famous’ Big Book of Quotations is likely to contain.

In the US, Chinese restaurants often bring with your dinner bill some fortune cookies (instead of mints). These are twice-folded crispy cookies with a small paper “fortune” (trite bits of wisdom or predictions) inside. Here’s to hoping that a few of the goodies from my quote box serve you better than those insipid cookies!

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
~Audre Lorde

“You may be a geek, you may have geek written all over you; you should aim to be one geek they’ll never forget. Don’t aim to be civilized. Don’t hope that straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell with them; they put you here. You should fully realize what society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don’t do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it.”
~Bruce Sterling Read the rest of this entry »


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