Name: Nanette Buchanan
Title: Hidden Barriers – Handicapped
She was a beautiful eight year old and at the time of her birth there was no indication that her life was changing drastically. In her eight years of living, her mother had done just like every other diligent parent. There was no negligence in her care, supervision or guidance; her appearance was no different than any other eight year old; she was well kept; a joy to her parents, grandparents and other family members; there was no need to suspect she was handicapped.
This story is true. I decided to write it particularly for this magazine to inform others of the barriers that become permanent obstacles for both the handicapped and the family. Due to the sensitivity and nature of this story, both the young woman’s mother and I decided we would change the names as not to offend her. She is now an adult.
It was a few months into the new school year for Cheryl, a healthy 2nd grader who loved reading and reciting dates and facts. Terri Davis, her mother and a single parent, was not prepared for the call she received from her child’s school. The call was from her teacher who was concerned that Cheryl was a daydreamer and often stared for long periods of time while in class. She kept to herself or with one or two other children but avoided groups and group activity. Terri was called into the school to discuss what the school could do to help her daughter “cope.” There had been no reason for Terri to assume her child was not developing normally. Her pediatrician had not made any diagnosis that would alert her. Physically and emotionally, Cheryl was no different than any other eight year old.
The conditions Terri heard gave her chills. The connotations were all negative as far as she was concerned and when she heard Attention Deficit Disorder, the suggestion of medication such as Ritalin, and the implication that her child may have been mildly retarded devastated her. She refused to allow the school to label Cheryl without the proper evaluations. After several tests, sessions with psychologists and child study teams revealed eight year old Cheryl Davis was Perceptually Impaired.
According to Vision Help - One of the common labels is "Perceptually Impaired" or P.I., and the other is "Neurologically Impaired" or N.I. What is the purpose of these labels?
On the surface, labels enable the school to provide special support services. This might consist of resource room help through an I.E.P. for special education programs. It might allow the school to pressure a parent to place a child on Ritalin. Most interestingly, it rarely provides support to help the child develop better skills. In other words, perceptual impairment is treated as a physical disability much like the absence of a hand or deafness in one ear. The goal is to help the child learn to compensate. http://www.visionhelp.com/vh_learning3_01.html#ixzz28BPW3siG
The thought of any impairment was enough but through further evaluation the definition didn’t touch the surface of what was to come over the years. Cheryl and her mother sat with the school officials and prepared an I.E.P. for her education. The child was placed in a self-contained class where her learning could be closely monitored. Terri monitored her daughter searching for outward signs of the condition. She began to ask herself how she missed noticing her child’s reactions and abilities to process directions, understand what was going on around her, and any changes in her overall behavior.
Terri began to recognize Cheryl’s inability to process the outcome of her actions. Terri remembers the day she waited for her to get off the school bus. Cheryl rode beyond her stop wanting to visit a friend who was on the bus and decided that it was okay to get off the bus with her friend. Although she knew her mother waited for her every day, she didn’t give it a second thought to go home with her friend. There was a time when her mother gave her lunch money only to find Cheryl never waited for change. Her inability to understand that not everyone was fair, kind, or would watch out for her has haunted her mother. Terri became Cheryl’s advocate.
No one prepared this mother for this task. They didn’t tell her that this disability would never change; there was no medication or support group and as Cheryl got older, her dependency would become evident.
Cheryl works well in repetitive conditions, but change is confusing. She was a pleasant teen and since P.I. is not a total disability she enjoyed her high school years. It was during these years that her mother believes she began to notice she was “different.” Cheryl stated, “Children can be cruel. Some mean it and others just say what they see with no thought to how they can hurt ones feelings.” Cheryl often questioned why other children asked, was she slow or retarded, if she had Downs Syndrome and other challenges. These questions sometimes were blurted out as taunts or teasing but Cheryl had very few occasions where she labeled herself. She remained in a self-contained class with an I.E.P., and with little help from resources Terri researched what would be next for her daughter who was quickly approaching adulthood.
The lack of resources for parents is Terri’s ongoing complaint. “There is little to no help other than the development of the I.E.P. in the schools. There are groups for all the other disabilities. Being diagnosed P.I. is not a condition that alerts the government agencies or advocate groups. It seems that it just doesn’t meet the qualifications. What most people don’t understand is that these children become adults that are dependent. They depend on someone to make the judgment calls that most learn early in life. My daughter can’t make good decisions because her perception of what you’re saying or what someone is showing her is misconstrued”
Cheryl graduated with her class, no different than any senior and she went to the prom. She has the normal social life which includes dating and the social media. Terri has the fears of a mother plus some. “I often wonder will she be taken advantage of. I don’t want to be overbearing but I have to. She’s not like everyone else although no one can tell she has a disability. She socializes with friends who have disabilities and those who don’t. Whoever she dates will have to understand her personality. So far, there have been no real issues but, I still have my fears. I don’t think I’ll ever be anything but afraid for her.”
Terri learned recently that Cheryl could have stayed in school longer. This may have helped her possibilities to obtain employment. “She’s on a waiting list. Her disability limits where she can work.” The fears associated with her as a young adult are now beginning. Cheryl’s inability to process directions or her perception of things limits her. Transportation to and from work, work assignments, work relationships, independent living, and managing finances must be done and monitored for her. P.I. is not classified as a disability and without other associated disorders Cheryl does not qualify for aid from the government financially. Obtaining food stamps, welfare or other financial aid would include her mother and her brother as they are a part of her household. Terri, a mother who works, makes more than the qualifications allow. Cheryl will not be able to provide for herself.
Terri seeks information for adults with disabilities. “Disabilities such as P.I. are not readily discovered and unless you have a child with this disorder you have no idea what they need. There should be support groups for myself, my daughter and her brother. We all need support from others who have this going on in our lives. Cheryl is blessed we have a supportive family. She is not looked at as having a disorder. I often think of those who don’t have the love and support that we have.”
When asked does she have a vision, or a dream for Cheryl, Terri replied, “I do and so does she. Terri sees herself having a wedding, children, a dog, a home and a beautiful future. I see her happy. I want for her, like any other mother wants for their child. Whoever she marries will have to understand this disorder and understand that I will always be there for her. I have to be, there is no one other than myself and those who have understood and supported her.” The little girl who was all smiles, beautiful and excited about life has become a beautiful young woman who works in the community helping others. She’s living the best life……with the handicapped barrier.