Friday, August 5, 2016

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Friday, July 1, 2016

"Write By Numbers"

The top photo is the lined paper Jessica used to help me learn to write. See the picture on the bottom left with the purple writing? That's how my writing used to look before I started working with Jessica. I started working on this with Jessica in the middle of February and Traci's birthday is March 31st. The book shows the finished product. Look at the improvement in a month's time! Not Bad Huh? It was well worth it!
I never learned to write my name very well in grade school.  With cerebral palsy, it takes more time for me to learn something than the average person. I know what I want my muscles to do. Often, getting my brain to communicate with my muscles to work together is a challenge. My brain has to figure out how to re-route itself. Repetition is the key.
I did learn to write a little bit but just my name. I couldn’t write well enough for the teacher to read a whole sentence. There were other things to worry about in school. Time wise I had to use a one lined flat screen typewriter.  Recently, I learned how to write thanks to my good friend Jessica.
 It all started when I wanted to write my name in a book, I got my attendant aide Traci, for her birthday. It was one of those small pocket books that says, “To and from” on the inside. I just wanted to learn to write my name well enough and type a short birthday message, then paste it on the inside. However, Jessica had another idea. “Why don’t you learn to write the whole message?”
Jessica always pushes me to go to the next level!
“Are you crazy?” I asked.
“No Really. I think you can do it.”
 Jessica doesn’t take no for an answer easily! We only had a month and at the moment my name was barely readable. How would I ever learn in time for Traci’s birthday? Jessica and I have accomplished other milestones. I knew she wouldn’t suggest it if she didn’t think it was possible. I really wanted to give Traci a nice surprise, so I l hesitantly said, “Okay.”
We got to work right away. One of my biggest challenges was to get the letter c going in the right direction. My c’s we’re always backwards and I was taught to write my name in capital letters. As I was re-learning how to write my name, this time using a capital R and the rest of the letters lowercase, my brain connected well with different shapes.
A lowercase  c looked like a mini size cookie, h was like a chair, my name has to a’s in it so we made two c’s with kite tails,  the letter e is like a c starting with a line going down in the middle. For letters like c a, and e, Jessica said, “Start to the left and go all the way around. “ I learned most of the letters in my name start with the c motion.
One day Jessica brought in some lined paper with numbers and colors. It reminded me of when I was a kid and they have those coloring books where you color by numbers. I looked at the paper and asked,
 “What are we going to do? Write by numbers?” We both laughed. The paper was supposed to help me get the size of my letters right.  I did learn to write in time for her birthday and Traci loved her gift. I learned to write my name and a whole paragraph! What an accomplishment! I can write! I did it! Now, so I don’t forget how, the key is to keep practicing on a regular basis. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.



First Grade Why Can't I?

This is the kind of typewriter I used in Elementary School.
I wrote this when I was in my UCLA Flash Fiction Class. It's a reflection of my thoughts about learning to write back in first grade.
Today my friends in Miss. Wolf’s class are learning how to write their names.
Something doesn’t feel quite right.
While everyone else is learning to write I’m using an electric typewriter.
               Why? Why aren’t my hands taking flight?
                If I trace the letters on a piece of paper dot to dot they come out perfectly.
    But if I try to write the letters myself I can barely read them.
             Everyone else’s letters come out perfectly. So clear, and clean.
              Why can’t I do the same?
             Why can’t I write my name?
             I’m told I was born with cerebral palsy and that due to lack of oxygen to my brain certain
              parts of my brain were damaged.
            Some things can be learned but some things I’ll never be able to do.
           Handwriting seems simple. Why aren’t my hands taking flight?
             I have the letter R for Rachael pictured in mind I know how it’s supposed to look
              Getting it down on paper is a struggle.
               You make a straight line down and then I a loop around and then another line down.
              Maybe I’ll learn to write like my friends someday.
              Until then, I’ll just look down at the tiny rectangle screen and peck slowly at the keyboard
             with one finger. I guess I’ll continue on in physical and occupational therapy and learn what I can learn.Still, I dream of the day when my hands might take flight.
Why? Why can’t I write?