Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

I’ll Do It Myself Now Available on the Kindle

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book — by at 12:39 pm on Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'll Do It Myself by Glenda Watson Hyatt - Kindle Edition

My autobiography I’ll Do It Myself has gone digital and is now available on the Amazon Kindle!

This means my book can now be enjoyed on all of these devices (links take you to the device pages):

For those individuals who prefer holding the real book in your hands, 192 paperbacks and 34 large-print copies are still available from me, complete with autograph too! 😉

Happy reading!

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Life’s Most Important Lessons Aren’t Learned in the Classroom

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Living with a disability — by at 7:09 pm on Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Special Ed Classroom to University GraduateDuring my elementary school years, I was fortunate that I didn’t face name-calling, teasing and bullying like many other kids with disabilities do at school. However, there was one incident that cut me to my core.

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

Mom taught at my elementary school, so she would pick me up from my classroom at the end of the day and carry me out to the van at the front of the school; the school wheelchair stayed at school. One day, Mom had to stop at the office on our way out. She sat me down on the floor in the hall next to the gym doors at the main entrance. She would be only a couple of minutes, and I wasn’t in the way as people were leaving.

One boy, a year or two older than me, walked by and asked, “Are you retarded?” and then kept walking. I didn’t know what to say, and if I had said anything, my speech would have added fuel to the fire and would have confirmed his assumption. I said nothing.

Once Mom put me into the van, I burst into tears. When I managed to stop crying enough to communicate what had happened, Mom was sympathetic. She attempted to make light of it like she usually does, suggesting that next time I reply with something like, “No, are you?” – as if I could get that out clearly enough for it to be effective.

The incident was soon brushed off and forgotten – on the outside; but it wasn’t forgotten on the inside. That question hurt me to my core for a long, long time. Even though I knew I wasn’t retarded, I realized that others did see me as something I’m not. Since that day, I’ve been trying hard to prove to others that I’m not retarded.

Having reflected upon this over the years, I now see two issues here; the first being the word “retarded”. Several kids from the then Woodlands Institution were bussed to our school; many of them had mental retardation, as the disability was called back then. Looking back, I have no doubt that the boy meant no harm or ill-will. He asked a simple question. But, for me, “retarded” was a loaded word; it hurt, it degraded, it stung. Because of the use of the word through history, for many people with disabilities, being called retarded is as hurtful and demeaning as calling an African-American the n-word.

Ideally the word would vanish from our language. But, considering how pervasive the word is (how often do you hear someone utter something like “that is retarded” or “what a retard”?), the word vanishing is not realistic, unfortunately. The next best option is to disempower the word for those who are negatively affected by it. The word has power only if we allow it to. I’m still sorting through how exactly do to that, which might make for a lively discussion in the comments below or a topic for a future post.

The second issue stemming from the incident was that my feelings weren’t acknowledged. A joke was quickly made and then the matter was brushed aside. No doubt that was easiest in that moment. When I’m upset and crying, Glenda-ish becomes even more difficult to understand. Having a deep conversation at that point was pointless. However, it meant my feelings were discounted.

A similar situation happened recently when Darrell was laying on an emergency room stretcher and wearing an oxygen mask because his pneumonia had worsen so much since our first trip to the ER four days earlier. Sitting at the foot of his stretcher, I was feeling guilty for not being able to make him the proverbial chicken soup or to raise him up high enough in bed. Perhaps if I had been able to properly care for my husband, then we may not have needed to call the ambulance to take him to the hospital where he was admitted for two weeks.

Irrational I know, but that was how I was feeling in that moment. While sitting there with Darrell, someone I love and respect, and whose profession is to comfort and counsel people in such situations, came to visit.  Rather than acknowledging my feeling and proceeding from there, he reprimanded me for feeling that way.  That day was the toughest one for me during the two-week hospital ordeal.

We don’t like seeing our loved ones hurt and upset; we’d like them to be happy all of the time. But, life sucks at times! To live a full life sometimes means, unfortunately, getting hurt, being upset, feeling down at times. Acknowledging those times, those feelings is how we can wholly and completely accept our loved ones. Sometimes acknowledging an owie exists is as important and healing as is gently covering it with a band-aid.

Previous miniseries post: Integration: Balancing Including the Child with Benefiting the Child

Next miniseries post: Coming soon!

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Integration: Balancing Including the Child with Benefiting the Child

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book,Living with a disability — by 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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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 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.

Previous miniseries post: Special Ed Class Provides Early Training for the Left Thumb Blogger

Next miniseries post: Integration: Balancing Including the Child with Benefiting the Child

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Taking Time to Savour a Deja Vu Moment

Filed under: I'll Do It Myself: The Book — by at 5:12 pm on Thursday, September 17, 2009

I’m taking a brief pause from regularly scheduled blogging to share this story:

On Monday afternoon, Darrell had an appointment with the hospital doctor to check his pneumonia; he is recovering nicely. The appointment was at the Rapid Access Clinic, now located in the Charles Barham Pavilion, which opened in 1970 on the grounds of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Wheeling up to the main door and entering inside, something felt vaguely familiar; like I had been there before. I heard the nurse mention to another patient that the building had been the extended care facility, which I somehow already knew. But why would I have been in old folks’ home?  When?

Sitting there, waiting to see the doctor, I could feel the history of Surrey within those walls. If only those walls could talk, I bet they would share some amazing stories about the early days of Surrey.

We left that appointment with a new family doctor! One who actually tries to understand me! And, it doesn’t it take half a day on public transit to get there and back. I was ecstatic!

However, I was feeling something more than that, but I couldn’t really explain it. i felt like I was finally putting down roots; like I belong in this corner of Whalley. Whatever it truly was, it felt good and I hung onto the feeling.

Today, I was flipping through a copy of my autobiography, trying to get back into the mindset for writing the next “From Special Ed Classroom to University Graduate” miniseries post, which I began writing on Monday, but then had computer issue for two days; the power supply chose to stop powering!

On the bottom of page 36, I read:

Somehow we joined the choir that practiced during lunch. Considering my speech, it is a funny memory, but it was something David and I could do together during lunch hour. I enjoyed it, although I simply mouthed the words most of the time. The choir performed at the nearby old folks’ home and shopping mall…

That’s it! I had been there before! As a young girl with the school choir. No doubt we performed a Christmas concert for Surrey’s elders. My vague feeling of familiarity now makes sense!

Isn’t it strange how one brief event many, many years ago can still be in one’s memory? I wonder what else is buried my mind’s archives. A whole other book?

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