"Every Child Is Gifted.
The first song in our background music selection is "Open the Eyes of My Heart" sung by then 10 year old blind and autistic Christopher Duffley. You can view his YouTube video HERE and his Facebook page HERE.
Christopher is a 11 year old blind and Autistic singer and multi-instrumentalist. Born prematurely, Christopher weighed only 1 lb 12 oz at birth and was rendered blind due to Retinopathy of Prematurity.
Stephen and Christine Duffley, Christopher's adopted parents, shared their love for music with their son at an early age. Much to their surprise, Christopher began singing before he could hold a conversation.
His first instrument was piano. He also loves to experiment with a variety of instruments including trumpet, guitar, and drums. Experts have determined that Christopher has perfect pitch and he has great musical potential. (From Christopher Duffley's website)
An excellent article from Sea Change Ripples...
My world has been rocked. I have worked in the special education arena for eight years and a series of revelations have disheartened me to the point where I’m taking career quizzes online. “Helping kids” has always been the clichéd ultimate goal for me and my peers but the social injustices toward our students and the adults they become has halted me. In the last two weeks I have raged, cried, ranted and come up with maybe one decent idea.
Over the last few months conversations with parents, special educators and individuals with disabilities have been altering my perception of education and acceptance in the field. The straw that broke me was a speech by Robert Rummel-Hudson, parent, advocate and author. When faced with the question, “what is wrong with your daughter?” he internally replies, “the thing that is wrong with Schuyler most of all is that she lives in an unfair world, one that isn’t ready for a kid like her… What’s wrong with Schuyler is us. What’s wrong with her is the world.”
Rob nailed it. The biggest problem for children and adults with special needs is how the world treats them. How many IEP goals must be written and mastered; how many therapy sessions, social skills classes, team meetings and field trips must be attended; how many therapists, paraprofessionals, psychologists, behaviorists, teachers and doctors have to be involved before the world is ready for individuals with disabilities? How much does an individual’s brain and body have to function like our own before we are ready to have a meaningful relationship with them? The greatest deficit is hardly being recognized, let alone treated.
One of my best friends and colleagues has autism and recently described to me the mask he wears everyday at work to conceal his true nature. He knows that even his friends and co-workers who share the common goal of improving the lives of children with autism won’t understand his true face. I was honored to have dinner out with him recently and he chose to not wear the mask. The behaviors he demonstrated in the restaurant: vocalizing, rocking, hand-flapping (the outward expressions of his emotions) aren’t the problem; the discomfort displayed by the staff and other patrons is the problem.
The lowered expectations are gut-wrenching and the uncomfortable stares are exasperating but even worse is the patronization. My friend, the talented writer, artist and self-advocate has been pinched on the cheeks by co-workers and I have been called “so nice” for being friends with him. The condescension towards him because of his diagnosis and the elevation of me because I enjoy socializing with him would nearly be excusable if it were coming from the uneducated public, but this attitude from special educators enrages and disheartens me. They have no sight of his worth or humanity.
A sea change is in order and I’m pleading for the first ripples to spread. My ideas and reach are feeble, but here is one thought: Peer modeling is a special education concept in which a peer shows a diagnosed student how to perform a task. I’m feeling compelled to flip this around. The patients, clients and students are now the neurotypical, able-bodied population. Advocates, allies and friends are the models. Let’s create more moments in which we are trusted by our friends to take their masks off, to be themselves, to make a mess when they eat, to use a picture menu, to hold up the line while using a slower communication method or make noise in a movie theater and in which we do not apologize for them or feel embarrassed or worse, feel like we are heroes for doing it.
Rob called his audience to arms, saying “the fight for equality for children and adults with disabilities will be the next great civil rights battle in this country.” Join the fight. Be enraged that individuals with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens and not given opportunities to have meaningful relationships. Call out your peers for making assumptions based on abilities and disabilities. And most of all, be open to deep and meaningful relationships with people with disabilities. Give yourself the opportunity to have friendships that transcend social norms and do it for yourself and the world, not out of pity or saintliness.
© 2013 SEA CHANGE RIPPLES
More info on "CIP" here on Precious Memories:
An article posted by Sarah Palin about her sister...
I love inspirational people like my sister Heather! For her 50th birthday she just decided she'd up and run a marathon thousands of miles away in New Orleans after such limited time and even more limited training opportunities in freezing cold snow-covered Alaska all this long, long winter. Heather works full-time with children with special needs in the Anchorage School District, plus she works weekends in a dental office and conducts tours for Alaska Wildberry Tours, in addition to helping at the family-owned business, Bruce's Muldoon Chevron gas station. And she and her husband raise three busy kids! Heather helps out with all the nieces and nephews (thank you for stepping in so often for Todd and me, Heather!), too. She helps answer my mail and fends off pesky reporters who unfortunately bug her to try to get to me to do more of their bugging.
So, Heather decided to fly to New Orleans by herself. She hasn't traveled like that since college. She went to the race with no support. I was ticked at her that she was missing the birthday party we were throwing for her that weekend (well, it was a combined party to include the annual after-Iron Dog celebration for Todd, plus her birthday... we're always killing a few birds with one stone), but I forgave her because when she texted me her plan she was already on her way to the airport, so there was no backing out. She's the one who bakes the magical homemade chocolate cakes for our parties, but we forgave her for the missing magic at the party anyway.
We all texted her after the race.
"I did ok," she humbly offered. "Hurt like heck, naturally, died a thousand deaths, but it was decent, I guess. Glad I did it."
We congratulated her and left it at that. Then my sister Molly went over to Heather’s house today and sees Heather’s plaque from the New Orleans Rock 'n Roll marathon for her OUTSTANDING 26.2 mile performance! She ran a 3:42:27 and placed second in her age group! (She'd forgotten to mention all that!) Heather's always been a great athlete, and we all share a love of running, hiking, streaming sweat through Bikram, and anything active outdoors, but none of us can keep up with her! (She can do three sets of push ups, 70 at a time, and finish with an additional 30; BOY push ups! I crumble at the thought.) She's truly an inspiration. And so humble...
But the coolest thing about all this today, besides finally finding out her kick-butt race time, was re-reading her most recent group text to the family. It wasn't about her fitness prowess, or how busy she is, or her overcoming obstacles that others use as excuses to avoid getting outside and enjoying all that our beautiful states have to offer. It wasn't about her being able to qualify for the Boston Marathon (which we hope she'll run someday, just like our dad did back in the 80's!) Instead, Heather texted a proud mom's moment.
Her son, our nephew, has autism. Karcher will always add another dimension and perspective to the family's life. The road has not been easy and may never get any easier. But we've all said Karcher is our red-headed angel that God knew to place with Kurt and Heather because they're gifted enough to handle all He allows. The Bruces are amazing. (And Heather will want to wring my neck for bragging about her. Or she'll arm wrestle me into oblivion to teach me a lesson.)
Heather's text today explained that she doesn't have the typical Facebook page to brag about her kids like so many do, but she wanted to share a recent wonderful accomplishment -- not her own, but her son's.
Karcher will be graduated from East High School next month in the Top 10% of all students! He was given a University of Alaska Scholars Award, and he also won an "Excellence at East" award for his amazing progress through such challenging high school years, especially through the relentlessly and sometimes inexplicable difficult social situations a child with obvious challenges must endure. His teacher and the principal signed the award certificate. It encouraged Karcher to reach for the stars and always be proud to be an East High Thunderbird! Native tradition tells us that the thunderbird represents an indomitable spirit. That describes Karch.
Add to that spiritual description: inspiration, example, athlete, heroine... and you've got his mom, our sister Heather!
- Sarah Palin