Vision impaired, hearing impaired, cognitively impaired….handicapped…these are words the professionals use to describe my daughter. The words I would use are: funny, gentle, caring and amazing. She has made me the person I am today and I have her to thank for that. Because of her I don’t take “No” as the final answer and I don’t believe everything someone says just because they are a “professional”. I too am a professional, and that’s in the area of my daughter. I will never accept no from a doctor, teacher or social worker without first doing my homework.
I have learned that people are your best resource. When my daughter was about two years old DB Central (Michigan’s State Deaf-Blind Project) paid me a home visit. We talked about what we were dealing with and what the future would hold, obstacles, struggles and life. DB Central has supported us through the years and encouraged me to take a class on Family Leadership in 2009. Although I don’t think of myself as a leader, I want to lead you in the right direction.
Use the resources you have. My parents were my biggest resource. We talked, laughed and cried together. You need to do that! I also have a best friend whose son has autism. Talking to someone who understands what it’s like to have a child with special needs is like taking a few bricks off your back, someone “gets it”. Together, my husband, my parents, my daughter’s dad and my best friend and I – we support each other. Even though these people can’t fix all our problems they listen and offer suggestions, good, bad and indifferent. That’s what I try to do for others because “I get it”. When I hit a brick wall I go on the internet and research the problem. I call the school, I call DB Central, I call a friend or family. I keep looking and asking questions. I do not take “No” for an answer until I have exhausted all my avenues. Even though I don’t have all the answers I want to help others make “No” their last resort, too.
Together, my daughter and I continue to strive for the best education and quality of life that everyone is entitled to. In our small school district that meant paying constant attention to things like how much learning time was lost because of Madison’s bus schedule to and from two different schools. Lots of phone calls with the special education teacher, principal, Director of Special Education and Transit Bus helped with that. Having a relative on the transit board probably helped, too. I'll take all the help I can get!
This year Madison doesn’t have to go to two different schools for her classes. She is in a regular classroom with other kids for Michigan History, Agri Science Leadership, Shop and her favorite class, Band. She takes Math, English and Living Skills in another classroom. This is all done with support and now Madison has more opportunities in the general education setting to talk with other kids and learn from them. We think it will make a big difference!