Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Excuse Me If I Lay on the Floor When We Meet

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book, Living with a disability — by Glenda at 5:08 pm on Sunday, September 20, 2009

From Special Ed Classroom to University GraduateSchool mornings began early at 6am to allow enough time for me to feed myself breakfast, typically either oatmeal porridge or two pieces of peanut butter toast, each folded in half to allow for easy grasping; and, for Mom to help me to get dressed, including those long-legged braces that were cold on winter days and sticky hot on summer days. It wasn’t that I couldn’t dress myself; it simply took longer than we had on school mornings. Mom’s help on weekdays was one of those instances when practicality overrode independence.

On weekends, when morning routines weren’t precisely timed, I was left to dress myself and, for the most part, went braceless. The freedom of weekends!

A young Glenda wearing her bracesAmidst learning to read, print and do math in class, I also had physio, occupational and speech therapy several times per week. The grandfatherly bus driver Mr. B spent all day shuttling us back and forth to the treatments centre, later called the Child Development Centre, for our therapy sessions.

A young Glenda bouncing on a trampolineWith cerebral palsy, intensive therapy is necessary at a young age to maximize potential physical development. However, that fact didn’t make therapy any more enjoyable to a young child. Tasks like repeatedly grasping beanbags and putting them in muffin tins, climbing up a few stairs to simply reach a brick wall, and being rolled around on a large, inflated ball or tube were monotonous, boring and seemed pointless to this young redhead, but I was a cheerful, cooperative patient and I complied. Trampoline time was the only fun time.

Speech therapy was the most puzzling. As I share in my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself:

Speech therapy seemed rather bizarre to me. The therapist sat on a floor mat with me lying on my back between her outstretched legs. My legs wrapped around her waist, and her stinky toes were in close proximity to my nose. She then proceeded to stick her fingers in my mouth to wiggle my lips, supposedly to loosen them. She alternated between using her fingers and ice cubes. When the speaking segment of the therapy began, she pushed on my chest in attempts to improve my breathing capacity. After years of this hefty woman pushing down on my chest, I am convinced that was why I was such a late bloomer.

As I laid on my back staring at the ceiling tiles, I was puzzled. What was I supposed to do when I met people in the real world? Lay down on my back, on the floor, before speaking to them? I envisioned myself sprawled out on the ground when meeting a friend at the shopping mall or grocery store. This was not a dignified thought. Not surprisingly, pillow talk is some of my clearest speech!

Glenda reaching for a ring during a physio session
Photo credit: On Top of the World, National Film Board of Canada

All of this therapy meant much time away from the classroom. One year my physio sessions happened to be scheduled right after recess and I missed most math periods, putting me a grade level behind. I eventually skipped a grade in math, which caught me up with my peers in regular class. In high school, I ended up taking Algebra Honours; obviously, missing a year of math wasn’t detrimental to my learning. I have often wondered what that says about the school curriculum: how much of it is repetitive and, perhaps even, unnecessary?

Once I was integrated into regular class, my therapy sessions were shifted to after school. I then was able to spend my school days completely on academics.

The special ed classroom was where I needed to be during my early school years in order to have the flexibility in my education to maximize my physical development potential.


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11 Comments »

Comment by Meike

September 20, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

Glenda-
I have never seen these photos before. What a little cutey patooty. I love the pig tails.

Comment by Glenda

September 20, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

Thanks Meike,

I’m savouring the handful of photos that Mom gave to me for my fortieth birthday. I have a few more to share, once I figure out a post to wrap around them.

Comment by S. Grossman

September 21, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

Great post. I still don’t get the ice-cube bit though. Wouldn’t it just numb your tongue?

My brother had a large leg brace growing up, very similar to yours. I remember it in detail, since he used to whack me with it – I wasn’t the nicest big sister and he was incredibly spoiled.

I wonder if much has changed in the way they deal in public schools?

Comment by Glenda

September 21, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

S. Grossman, I’m not sure what the ice cubes were meant to do. Perhaps I should be sucking a popsicle while laying on the floor when we meet! ;)

Comment by Karen Putz

September 21, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

Ooooo, the hubby must love all that pillow talk!

I sure hope we’ve come a long way with speech therapy today.

(Wonder if it’s too late to sue the gal for your flat chest? LOL)

Comment by Glenda

September 21, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

Karen, let’s just say I made up for it on that front. ;)

It may be interesting to see modern day speech therapy…

Comment by Karen Putz

September 22, 2009 @ 5:18 am

My kids have enjoyed their speech therapy sessions for the most part when they were younger. The therapists incorporated a lot of play compared to what I had when I was younger (drills, drills, drills).

Comment by Glenda

September 22, 2009 @ 11:32 am

Play in therapy? What a concept, Karen!

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