Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Integration: Balancing Including the Child with Benefiting the Child

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book, Living with a disability — by Glenda at 7:50 pm on Friday, September 25, 2009

From Special Ed Classroom to University GraduateThe beginning of Grade 4 saw my special ed class at the new school with a new teacher Mrs. Peart. My class, along with a couple of other classes, moved from the annex to the main school a few blocks away.

This move meant we had access to more resources, such as the library. Once a week our class trekked down to the library to learn about the Dewy Decimal System and to check out a book to take home. I felt like a big school kid then.

As I share in my autobiography I’ll Do It Myself:

After a few weeks, the librarian strongly encouraged me to check out the very limited section of books on tape, assuming that usingthe newest technology at the time might be easier for me than holding books and turning pages. Honestly, I felt as though she was more concerned that I might crumple the corners as my cp hands turned the pages.

Being a teacher, Mom knew that listening to stories was not the same as reading books. Limiting her bright child to tapes to avoid crumpled corners was not acceptable. Mom, who firmly believes that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, politely mentioned to the librarian that I had owned books since I was young and was very careful with them. As a young child, Mom gave me old Sears catalogs to look at so that I learned how to turn the pages.

I went onto read the entire Little House on the Prairies series, wishing I was Laura Ingalls living in the log house and experiencing exciting adventures. I also read the very few books available at that time about people with disabilities, including Wren, Ice Castles, The Other Side of the Mountain, and Joni (pronounced Johnny).

Back then, I didn’t know any successful people with disabilities who were much older than me, and I don’t recall any people with disabilities in the public eye. These books, particularly the autobiographies, provided me with much needed role models. They showed me what was possible, despite having a disability. It was one thing to have my parents, teachers and therapists tell me to work hard so that I could accomplish anything I wanted. It was another thing to read about adults in wheelchairs who became teachers or got married. I began to realize what was truly possible. Those books planted the seed, when I was about ten, that I would one day write my own story to help others to see what was possible when living with cerebral palsy.

I'll Do It Myself by Glenda Watson Hyatt That one day came thirty years later when I finally self-published my autobiography. The journey was long, but one that I am glad I followed it through to the end.

Grade 4 was also the beginning of another journey; the one from special education to regular class. My classmate Peter, my best friend Sandy and I were integrated into the regular classroom long before for integration, mainstream and inclusion became buzzwords. The three of us joined the regular class in the afternoon for the non-core subjects Social Studies, Science and Music.

Looking back, there is one thing that puzzles me. Grade 4 Music meant learning to play the recorder, a flute-like instrument. Coordinating the fingering with both hands, the breathing, the lips and tongue, and the swallowing didn’t work for me. I could barely get any noise out of that thing. Yet, I did continue practising dutifully and trying my best. I did, however, learn the basics of reading sheet music: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and Fat Albert Can’t Eat. Like that does me any good now!

What puzzles me is how I was included in Music, which was an exercise in frustration and futility for me, yet, without parent intervention, I would have been excluded from reading library books, which was critical to my academic career. Even though integration was a positive, advancing experience, I wonder if some suitable adaptations or accommodations may have been beneficial. Obviously, listening to books on tapes was not necessary, but playing a more suitable instrument may have made Music class more meaningful and rewarding to me.

With integration, mainstream and inclusion all of the buzz now, hopefully teachers and educators have found the balance between including the child with a disability and making that inclusion meaningful and beneficial to the child.


Previous miniseries post: Excuse Me If I Lay on the Floor When We Meet

Next miniseries post: Coming soon!

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3 Comments »

Comment by Toby

September 26, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

Glenda – You continue to be my hero and an inspiration for so many not just those with disabilities. For your community – if you have not read “I’ll Do It Myself” put it on your reading list and add it to your holiday list for presents to give others. I saw xmas decorations the other day so I guess it’s not too early to begin that list!

Comment by elaine

October 5, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

Your book was amazing. You are amazing and I thank you so much for sharing it. Glenda, I need some advice from others with cp that can tell me what it is like for a 5 year old not to communicate or walk. My grandaughters parents split when she was born & mom has full custody. Dad now wants overnights and I’m really afraid that it will be really confusing and scarey for Ari. She can’t voice her feelings and does not do too well with big changes. The only thing I can think of to take with us other than doctors “Opinions” is experience from others who can describe now what it was like to be that age and not speak or walk. Any help availible will be most gratefully received. Elaine

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