Saturday, September 26, 2009

Are you different?

I think one reason why I love working with my little friends with special needs is that in some ways I was a special needs child too! In a way, a lot of us were probably special needs children when we were young. The diagnostic systems were not what they are today, and at that time there were lots of developmental challenges that were ignored or overlooked in the regular school system.

I love the way I grew up. I love that I have been able to overcome my challenges. I love that my parents and all the other wonderful people around me were not worried, but just accepted that I might need some more time in different areas... It helped me to design a worldview in which I see opportunities and possibilities for everyone. And, I learned that challenges are nothing more than challenges!

So, as a kid I had some speech challenges. My mom could understand me very well, but no one else could! When I was around five years old, people started to talk about getting me into speech therapy. I think my mom decided it was not necessary and I would grow out of it! In lots of ways, I did. The only challenges that have stayed with me for most of my life are that I cannot pronounce the rolling-R like we do in Dutch, and I seem to make the same sounds for the Dutch S and the Dutch Z.  These are other little nuances that most people don't notice.

At that age I LOVED singing. I would sing any time of the day (yep, for sure an ism!) The songs taught to me in kindergarten were sung over and over and over... I specially loved the songs that integrated the lyrics with movements of the body. You could see me singing and dancing everywhere.

When my parents and their friends would hang out, I would be invited to sing for them. In the beginning I did this with great enthusiasm. I would sing and they would laugh.  They would ask me to sing again and, when I did, they would laugh harder and harder. It turns out that they were laughing at my pronunciation;  I sounded "funny".

I would start to get uncomfortable with the laughing because I didn't understand why they were laughing.  Meanwhile, the adults would have great fun asking me to sing more and more. Over time, I would try to avoid these parties and I started to only sing when I was by myself.

I also had dyslexia. For years I was not able to copy a sentence from a book without missing letters or mixing them up or writing in mirror writing. I remember one of the last times my mom tried to help me with it. I was around nine years old.

My mom, my brother and I were sitting at the kitchen table with a schoolbook. She asked me to copy a sentence. I did and she pointed out what I missed or had to correct and asked me to do it again.

I wrote the same sentence again. She pointed out that I made mistakes again.  We continued this process until my mom lost her patience and irritatedly told me, "the only thing you have to do is look and copy that sentence!"

My sweet mom. I just needed more time. Around the time I went to middle school, something seemed to spontaneously change and I started to be able to retain how to write words and language with much greater accuracy. (Read more about dyslexia here Types of Dyslexia)

At different times my parents were told it might be better to hold me back a year and repeat the same class instead of moving forward with my group. For me, my friends were very important and I am still grateful that my parents always chose to keep me with  them, even if that meant I would be behind in certain areas. I built friends that made every challenge worth to overcoming.

In my late twenties, I started to play guitar with a wonderful teacher in the Netherlands. He had a small group of singers that would play and sing together and I joined them. Twelve singers in four main categories (tenor, bass, alto and soprano). We would sing harmonies accompanied by guitar. This was the place where I learned to be more comfortable singing with others and how much fun it is to share something like this together.

Then last year, while visiting the Netherlands, I decided that I wanted to make a music CD. I was not playing or singing with anyone and I didn’t know how to do it, but I decided that by the end of 2009 there would be a CD. If you have read earlier blogs, you know I have been working on my singing and drumming and that I am now part of the band “No Room For Jello”.  You can find some snippets of me singing last night by clicking here. One of the amazing things about this is that my singing exercises have helped me to be able to roll my R's properly. A miracle!

Why am I writing this all? When Sree commented the other day on Mark's article saying that it helped him and that he has new inspiration to look differently at his kids, I realized that a lot of us have amazing stories about growing up that do not fit in the general view of how we kids should develop and by what time. I decided that those stories might help others see things in a different light. The diversity of our experiences creates a wonderful mix of perspectives and strengths that we can use to help each other.

Do you have a story about your life that you want to share with others because it might inspire them? If so, write it down and email it to me and I will make sure it gets posted on this site.

Have a great inspiring Saturday!

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