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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Going To The Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

 Hi everyone! I haven't had a lot of time to blog or read other blogs lately, because my online classes are a little more time-consuming than I thought they'd be. Some part are fun, but some parts are really tedious... there is a lot of writing, not the interesting kind of writing I enjoy, but being given very specific questions and being required to answer in five paragraph or more. Ugh!

Work, on the other hand, is going pretty well. (In case you are a new reader, I posted about my newest job here.) Today all of the special education classes at the school went on a field trip to the zoo! The aides in my classroom rotate responsibilities... one person will be a classroom aide, one will be in charge of Finch, Phoebe and Noddy, and both Grebe and Wren have an aide assigned just to them since they need help with things like getting in and out of their wheelchairs and standers and bathrooming and stuff. 

Today I was in charge of Grebe. He's the kid with cerebral palsy who reminds me of Animal from the Muppets, not because I think he needs to be chained to a drumset, but because he's just wild and happy and usually banging on things, throwing things, and trying to either hug you or bite you. 

Although I have never spent much time with children with cerebral palsy, I felt really comfortable with both Grebe nd Wren as soon as I met them. Yesterday I spent the day in charge of Wren, and today was my first day being in charge of Grebe. I love Grebe because he's usually so happy and wants to just keep moving and moving and moving. If he is allowed to get out of his wheelchair and sit on the floor, he crawls and bounces around and just about tries to climb the walls!

I know that cerebral palsy can be caused by any number of things. The other day I learned what caused Grebe's cerebral palsy. He was born with exencephaly, which means that his brain was on the outside of his skull. This is an extremely rare medical condition, and most babies who have it are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. Grebe was born alive but was fully expected not to live. However, the doctors did surgery on him, and he lived. And he's awesome. He is probably, intellectually, the lowest functioning kid in the class. But he's a happy guy!

So anyway we went to the zoo, and my job was pretty easy because I just had to push Grebe around in his wheelchair. 

We didn't even get to the zoo until about an hour after we were supposed to, because one of the kids was supposed to be using a harness on the bus. For those of you who don't know or have kids with special needs, some kids wear these four point harnesses that are zipped onto them like jackets and then clipped onto the seat of the bus. They were probably invented for kids who can't sit up on their own, but they are also used a lot for kids with autism and other special needs who might get up and run around on the bus if they weren't held down by four super strength clips. The kid who needed it had the jacket part of the harness, but the bus didn't have the clips, and we couldn't leave until someone from the bus company drove to the school and brought us the apparatus that attache to the bus seat and clips to the jacket harness thingy. Finally, we were able to leave, knowing that little boy would be safe. Nevermind that he spent the entire ride there, and the entire ride back, unclipping his own harness. He un-safetyfied himself about ten times, total. Which, to me, sort of defeats the purpose of requiring him to have a harness! 
But I digress...

I did realize one important thing that I wanted to share. The zoo, by all account, is "handicap accessible." And it is true that a person using a wheelchair can get all around the zoo, including into the buildings. But a person sitting in a wheelchair cannot see many of the exhibits. I don't know how many times I rolled Grebe up to an exhibit and told him to look at an animal, only to realize, when I squatted down at his eye level, that he could not see over the fence or wall blocking the exhibit. Ambulatory children may be short, but they can walk right up to the fence and stand on the curb to peer over, or they can be lifted up, but Grebe couldn't. (Well, I suppose I could have lifted him, but by the time I had unstrapped all the buckles holding him into his wheelchair, the rest of the class would have been long gone!) Some animals are behind glass windows, and when I rolled Grebe up to these, all he could see was his own reflection. (An ambulatory kid could put their face close enough to the window to block out the reflecting light.) And in some of the underwater viewing areas, although I was able to get Grebe into the building, there were stairs leading down to the actual windows, and Grebe couldn't go down them. I could see the dolphins and seals from where we stood, but Grebe's vision isn't too great, so all he saw was a blue blur. 

Grebe probably didn't mind this as much as I did, truth be told. He knew we were there to see animals, but he was much more interested in yelling "hello" to everyone, and demanding that I wheel him over as many hills and bumpy surfaces as possible. We ate lunch at the picnic ground, which is in an area with a ground covered in wood chips. When I had to drag Grebe's wheelchair over the curb onto the wood chips, and basically go off-roading with him to get him over to the picnic tables, he was waving his arm and yelling in delight. (However, he had no interest in actually eating lunch, and while I ate my entire sandwich, chips and cookies, he ate three Cheetos.) He especially loves it when I turn his wheelchair into a rollercoaster and spin him around or run around in circles. If there was an Evel Kneivel in a wheelchair, that would be Grebe! 

So that was my work day. Even though I definitely still wish to be a teacher, it is kind of nice to have a job where I can relax and have fun with kids. If I was a classroom teacher, I would not have had the chance to spend the whole day hanging out with Grebe, because I would have also had to worry about the other nine kids in the class. 

Also, now I really want to go to the zoo, but by myself or with other adults, so I can slow down and do all the stuff I wanted to do but couldn't because there were ten little kids with us!

In other news... I have a surprise that I am going to reveal in a few days or so. Don't get too excited... it is not a huge surprise, and in fact one reader of this blog already knows. (Don't give it away, Auntie M!) 

1 comment :

  1. Sounds like a fun day! Grebe is lucky to have been paired with such a patient person, AND someone who would roll him over bumps like he likes. I fractured my leg and went to our zoo in a wheelchair one year, it was quite a feat and yes, things are very difficult to see at that level. You're very sensitive to realize that. You will be a fantastic teacher!

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