by Rob Targos. Originally posted Feb 6, 2018
I left off last time talking about different ordeals. I talked about some of the physical emotional and social cards that I had been dealt. They were for blows to my psyche. I used what I learned from the police officers mentioned in the last installment I knew that freezing or stopping was the last resort option. Sure my body could stop moving or I can lose control and in a moment. But I decided, either consciously or unconsciously I'm not sure, to reshuffle my thoughts when I could not move or decide where to go. I'm not sure if it was in elementary school science class that I got the idea, but I remember a teacher once talking about the law of inertia. An object in motion, stays in motion, unless stopped an external force.
Instinctually, I looked up. How could I succeed even when I don't get the win or the desired outcome? I looked for a higher purpose. Not in a religious sense, but more along the lines of how could I leave the situation better than I found it. At a certain point, arguing or getting frustrated with the misunderstanding becomes counterproductive. One of the things I learned from Jackie Robinson was that it takes more to walk away calmly than to fight back. It was not easy, but being in the minority, physical or otherwise, sometimes meant grin and bearing injustice. In the short term, it was sometimes maddening, but I also realized that I had to give up my needs for the greater good. I think if one plain stops you, move to higher one. Maybe I was looking skyward after all. :-)
When I was stopped outside of myself, I sometimes turned inward. When it was stopped physically, that doesn't mean that I lost that energy. That energy moved to become more creative. I began to pay closer attention to thoughts and words and how I can even move worked around like a grammatical gymnast. My mind already had an exposure to remembering notes as opposed to writing them. But the best example of sometimes operating on a deeper was when I gave a presentation on John Marshall. Not only did the teacher want us to do a historical report, but she also made it an oral presentation. After the first few times practicing the oral report from the kitchen table, I realized I started remembering things even before I got to that sentence or paragraph. The more I practiced, the more triggered the thoughts became. For example, Chief Justice John Marshall had a famous cousin named Thomas Jefferson. Marshall, and also got tangled up in the XYZ Affair. I even remember the only mistake I made which tangled my parents 'AYZ' license plate with the XYZ Affair. I not only got an extra 10 points on my grade but more importantly, I got the best applause I could remember as a kid. I even remember that it sounded better than the Liberty Bell that cracked during John Marshall's funeral. Maybe there is a higher purpose for that too.
As a person with a disability, I know sometimes it can be difficult to think straight. Sometimes, it's easy to think logically. Other times it's better to think visually. Sometimes it's better to think creatively. It wasn't until I got to high school and got challenged about appreciating the opportunity for a mainstream education, that I replied to an administrator, "you should be thankful for my special education, to you." As René Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." My general advice for a parent or educator is to expose and empower kids with disabilities, by teaching them to think and act for themselves. Support their thoughts and expressions as much as you would their arms and legs. Expose them to different experiences and options. But more importantly, support their decision-making process. People with disabilities are strong. Their feelings are important. They deserve to feel safe. And they deserve respect. Starting with those basic beliefs and helping to foster those values helps everyone ramp-up their higher education goals at their own pace.
Parent Tip Tuesdays are authored by Rob Targos, self advocate in the special needs community with a focus on Cerebral Palsy. Opinions and ideas expressed are his own. To contribute to Project: Just Like You, please contact us!