Tag Archives: School

The Five Most Significant Events

Oh my, why can’t I seem to write when I truly want to? I mean, I feel uninspired, but then again I have a lot of collections of writing prompts. I have at least three eBooks full of writing prompts, a few collections downloaded from the Internet and even an app on my phone. From this app, Paperblanks, comes the prompt I’m going to journal on today. The prompt asks me to name the five most significant events of the first 25 years of my life.

This is going to be really hard, as I’m supposed to name just five. The last nearly seven years do not count, so I cannot mention the day I finally left the psychiatric institution or even the day I got married. I am however more tempted to write on more recent events, whereas my childhood was important too. I just don’t remember it that well.

1. The day I came home from the NICU, September 29, 1986. The first one, hence, is going to be one I have zero memory of but that shaped me for the rest of my life. After all, if I’d not made it home from the hospital at three months of age, I may not have been alive or able to share my story today. I came home on my due date.

2. The day I started in special education, May 11, 1992. I had to leave Kindergarten at a mainstream school before the year was over. Till this day, I don’t know why. My parents claim that the reason I had to transfer to the school for the visually impaired is my need to learn Braille, which I didn’t get to learn until more than a year later. They also say my Kindergarten teacher wouldn’t be able to move to first grade with me and no other teacher could teach me. However, then why did I have to leave so suddenly? In my memory, I was ill shortly before leaving the mainstream school, but I don’t know what that has to do with it, if anything.

3. The day I started back in mainstream secondary education, August 25, 1999. This day is significant because it shows my ability to be determined. A lot of people say I’m not determined at all and give up way too easily, but I did complete the full six years of my level of secondary education even though I hated it. I don’t think my parents deserve all the credits for this.

4. The day I started in rehabilitation for my blindness, August 22, 2005. This day is significant because it symbolizes my self-direction. It was the first time I decided I wanted to work on my own goals rather than those set forth for me by my parents.

5. The day of my admission to the mental hospital, November 3, 2007. Do I really need to explain? This day symbolizes my ultimate break-away from my parents’ power over me. Even though those 9 1/2 years in the institution weren’t too productive, I don’t regret having agreed to be admitted at all.

DIY Daddy

Classes #FridayReflections

It’s still Thursday in my part of the world, but the #FridayReflections linky has already opened. This week, one of the prompts asks us to decide which class from school or college we’d like to take again if we could.

There were many subjects in high school that I liked. I was big on politics at the time and had a particularly clueless social studies teacher. He once made three big factual mistakes in a five-minute lecture on the elections. In my memory, I corrected him. I couldn’t do that now, as I barely know who’s on the government now. So maybe I’d do social studies again, but hopefully with a more knowledgeable teacher.

I would also love to go back to English class with Mr. E, who had worked a year in the United States while an American teacher came to our school in the Netherlands. This was when I was in eighth grade and could barely understand the American teacher. I wasn’t particularly good at English in seventh and eighth grade. In ninth grade, I was angry with Mr. E for telling me he had to specially type his tests for me instead of handwriting them so I’d better study for them. You can bet that as a fifteen-year-old adolescent, I didn’t bother. From tenth grade on, I loved English though. I had become an avid Internet user over the summer break and had discovered that most valuable information I wanted to read was in English. I became quite proficient at it as I started an online diary (which later morphed into a blog) in the fall of 2002. I loved Mr. E’s stories of his time in the United States, so maybe I’d take his class again.

The first class that came to mind though when I read this prompt, was not a high school class. It was my college psychology class. The teacher was thought of as boring by most students. Because his class was at the end of the day, many students would rather catch an earlier train home than go to his class. You see, we were part-time students, taking our classes on Mondays in the afternoon and evening, and this professor’s class took place from 7:30 till 9:00 PM. Many students, including myself, also didn’t live in the college city, hence the need to take the train home.

This professor though was one rookie lefty and I seemed to be the only one who liked this. He threw Socialist Party merchandise into the auditorium in the days leading up to the 2006 parliamentary election. I was a Socialist Party member, so I didn’t sign the complaint he got for this. Not that I would have signed it had he shown a conservative affiliation either. I did sign a complaint about the first test we got in this class. I still don’t remember why I signed it, but most likely it was largely due to peer pressure. This was obviously before results were in, but I ended up scoring a B.

Looking back, I would’ve loved to attend all of his lectures rather than catching an early train. He had a great sense of humor. Just this morning, I recalled the tale he told us about getting a referral to a psychiatrist for wondering whether the fact that he acquired a spinal cord injury early in life and had to be in rehabilitation a lot changed his personality. The psychiatrist barely listened before writing him a script for an antidepressant. I remembered this tale because, after yesterday’s post, I was wondering what my motor difficulties could be diagnosed as, if anything. If I ever ask my GP to refer me for diagnosis for this, I hope I won’t run into a physiatrist or neurologist with the same attitude as this professor’s shrink.

I got an A for the second test in this class and a B for my research project. I would love to do the research project again, but would choose a different topic. I had many topics in mind that were disorders I later ended up being diagnosed with, like borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder and autsm. I finally settled on the subject of mild intellectual disability though. Maybe I’ll do a similar project one day on one of the topics I had in mind then.

Living my Imperfect Life

Adaptations I’ve Used for My Disabilities

A few months ago, I wrote a post in which I described my limitations in as much detail as I could. I had just agreed to settle on a brain injury diagnosis rather than autism, so had to figure myself out all over again. Since then, that diagnosis was revised several more times and I finally decided to want a second opinion. I want answers to what’s going on with me.

The good point of that post I wrote, however, is that I felt free to describe my limitations in a non-judgmental way. As a follow-up, I am going to write a post today on the adaptations I’ve used throughout my life for dealing with these limitations.

The first adaptations I remember using, when I was about four, were not for what most people think of as my primary disability, ie. blindness. When I was four or five, I had to have my left foot in a cast to prevent my heel cord from becoming too short. This problem is common in children wth motor difficulties like cerebral palsy, though it occasionally happens to children with other neurological conditions too. I also had limited strength in my hands, so I got to use scissors which bounce back automatically. When I finally got to use a Braille typewriter, it had lengthened keys which were easier to press, too.

When I went to the school for the visually impaired at the end of Kindergarten, I was introduced to large print adn later Braille. I started learning Braille when I was seven-years-old. Because I was a print reader before I became a Braille reader, I had an advantage and a disadvantage. I could already read and knew my letters, but Braille wasn’t my first written language. I didn’t become truly proficient at Braille till I was around twelve and still can’t read it as fast as some blind people.

Apparently, around age seven, I had enough vision to ride a bike. I didn’t have the balance though. I still don’t know whether it was my parents being pushy or I truly had enough vision to safely ride a bike, but in any case I got a large trike paid for through the city department of disability services. My parents transported it to our new city when we moved when I was nine, even though this required approval from the authorities. I used the tricycle for about five years, until I became too blind to safely ride it even for purely leisurely purposes in my quiet neighborhood.

By the time I transferred to the school for the blind at age nine, I no longer needed most adaptations for my motor difficulties. I could use a regular Braille typewriter and in fourth grade, we weren’t crafting anymore anyway, so no scissors. I had also by this time become a full-time Braille user, though particularly in fifth and sixth grade I still peeked at the large print atlas every now and again. I got a handheld magnifier for my birthday or St. Nicholas around that time, because without it I couldn’t use the atlas. I had a large collection of tactile maps too, which I also loved.

When I was eleven, I got my first laptop with Braille display. I had occasionally used my parents’ computer before then, but had by this time long been too blind to even see very large letters on the screen. I tried for a bit to use a screen magnifier on the school computer, but I quickly learned to use Braille and syntehtic speech on my own computer.

I also had a white cane, of course. I started cane travel lessons when I was around seven, but rarely used my cane until I was fourteen. Then, when I had entered eighth grade in mainstream education, I had realized I was going to look blind compared to all fully sighted fellow students anyway so I’d better use a cane.

I went through school using mostly my computer for learning. We had a number of tactile educational materials, but I rarely used these. I hated tactile drawings, because I had an extremely hard time figuring them out.

In college and university, I used my computer with Braille display only. I also had gotten a scanner, so that I could scan books that weren’t available in accessible formats. A few years ago, I bought myself an OpticBook scanner that is especially good for scanning books. I rarely used it though, because eBooks became accessible to screen reader users in like 2013. I also rediscovered the library for the blind and last summer, like I’ve said, became Bookshare member.

I never used adaptations for cognitive impairments even after my autism diagnosis. I wanted to learn to use some and I still badly want to get a weighted blanket someday. I also am currently exploring adaptations for my fine motor issues. Because I felt more secure this way, I did for a while use a mobility cane. However, it was too long, then when someone had sawn off a piece it was too short. Also, it isn’t safe to use a mobility cane for me without also using my white cane and because of limited use of my left hand, I can’t use both. The adaptive equipment store does sell mobility canes with the white cane look, but these only have the advantage of making one recognizable as blind. They can’t be used for feeling around for obstacles. I could of course use a mobility cane with the white cane look in place of my white cane when walking sighted guide. However, I have learned to use my white cane for some support. The main reason I choose to use my white cane rather than a mobility cane with white cane look, however, is that I feel too self-conscious. I feel that I’m not mobility-impaired enough for this. I do wonder whether I’d feel more confident walking if I had a mobility cane, but I fear people will judge me for exaggerating my disability.

Still Afraid

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about something you were afraid of as a child and to share whether you’re still afraid of it. Immediately, an interaction I had with my husband a few weeks ago came to mind that brought back my extreme fear of denatured alcohol.

My husband offered me a sip of vodka because I had a bad cold and he’d heard that strong drinks help with this. They don’t, but I wanted to try a sip anyway just to have an idea of its taste. Then we got talking about the time my ninth grade science teacher distilled alcohol and let us drink some. This would’ve been a totally stupid idea if he were any good at distilling, but well. I had it in mind that we had drank pure alcohol, which my husband said would’ve led to our esophaguses burning up in smoke. Turned out my teacher was really bad at distilling alcohol, because the vodka my husband gave me tasted stronger than I remembered the distilled alcohol tasting.

Then we got talking about mehtanol, a poisonous kind of alcohol, which surfaces at the first distilling round. I remember my father, who worked at my school back then, talking about how some students the year before me were either allowed to taste the first distilling round or almost did so despite not being allowed. I assume it was the latter even though memory tells me otherwise, as I’m pretty sure that teacher would’ve been fired and prosecuted for allowing students to taste something even remotely resembling methanol. My husband joked that if his teacher had allowed him to taste distilled alcohol, even if it was safe, he’d be tempted to fake methanol poisoning just to get the teacher fired.

I was by this time quite scared already. The evening of the alcohol tasting experience in ninth grade, I discovered my vision had worsened. This was due to a cataract, which is a known complication of my eye condition. However, I had the irrational thought for years that if I hadn’t tasted distilled alcohol, it wouldn’t have happened.

You see, I had and still have no clue about the signs of methanol poisoning other than blindness. Even though I ran a much higher risk of going blind from my own eye condition than from methanol poisoning, as soon as I learned about this, I was deathly afraid of methanol poisoning. Since denatured alcohol usually contains methanol, I was scared of that too. I would never touch any surface cleaned with denatured alcohol, afraid that I’d get methanol on my hands and lick it off. Worse yet, in my magical thinking, denatured alcohol could somehow replace tap water. Each time I was about to have a drink of water, I looked at the running tap water to see whether it was blue. After all, in the Netherlands, denatured alcohol is dyed blue.

I still have a pretty bad fear of denatured alcohol. For soap making, I use alcohol spray to make soap bubbles go away, but I somehow never made the connection. As soon as I did, I wanted to discard my denatured alcohol spray. After all, what if some leaked out of the bottle and somehow dripped onto my coconut oil, which I use for lip balm making? Both the spray alcohol bottle and the coconut oil can are tightly shut, but you never know.

I was also somehow scared that I’d accidentally drink denatured alcohol at home. My husband went looking for it to see whether he even had it in the house and he had. He joked that the bottle of denatured alcohol was next to the vodka, which of course made me freak out.

It’s not like I never handle any other poisonous products. I mean, soap colorants and fragrance oils are probably not the healthiest thing either. I also have a few shower products, which I use daily, which state clearly to keep them away from children. I reckon this is for good reason. However, it never crossed my mind to drink shower gel. Not that I would purposefully drink denatured alcohol, but if that can replace tap water, what substance can’t?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Success

One of last year’s NaBlPoMo prompts for January challenges us to write about a time we were particularly successful at achieving your goals. Since I always made long lists of new yer’s and birthday goals each year, far too long to keep up with, I never succeeded at keeping my resolutions. That doesn’t mean I’ve never been successful. Today, I’m sharing some ways in which I’ve been successful in life.

1. Education. It may’ve been over ten years ago, but I am still proud of the fact that I earned a hig level high school diploma from a mainstream school. I am prouder now that I know most people don’t attach expectations of my current functioning to it. I mean, when I had just fallen apart in 2007, at every phone call to my family, if I wasn’t moaning about my crisis state, or even if I was, I’d be asked when I was going to find myself a job. Now that it’s pretty much known that I won’t find myself a job anytime soon, or most likely anytime, I can celebrate my successful education as the achievement it was. It shows that, deep down, I have some perseverance. Sometimes I credit my parents for this, but it was I who wrote in my journal, a month into high school, that I hated it but regardless I wanted to complete this level of education.

2. Blogging. I still have a blog post in the works about why blindness sucks sometimes, and one of the reasons is I can’t seem to compete on equal footing with sighted people in the visually-driven world of social media. The thing is, I am still a pretty successful blogger, because I’ve been able to keep up a blog for nearly 2 1/2 years now (and four years with my old one). I also get a fair bit of interaction from my blog. Most of all, I do what I love and I love what I do with regards to blogging. I don’t get more joy (or traffic) from posts that have pictures in them than from those that don’t. I think, in a sense, of course I am not a great blogger in the bigger scheme of things, but I’m much more successful now than I was with my old blog.

3. Relationships. I often credit my husband for our successful marriage, but of course, it comes from both direcitons. I can say that one of only a few borderline personality disorder traits I don’t have is disloyalty in relationships. It feels a bit narcissistic to chalk this up as a success, because ideally no-one is unfaithful. I could go on to chalk up the whole fact of my marriage as a success, but that sounds even worse. Then again, this whole post could be seen as a bit self-centered. Let me just say my husband is hugely successful at keeping me as his wife, too. Oh crap, that sounds horrible.

4. Little things in life. I remember once getting an assignment for reading comprehension in like fourth grade about a kid who was in regular education and his brother, a special ed kid with intellectual disabilities. It was said that this brother was successful if he tore a piece of paper. This is of course ahuge stereotype of people with intellectual disabilities, but I mean it to illustrate that success can be found in little things. Like my blogging success, my success in many other areas is relative. I can make coffee with some help. I can put my dry laundry into the closet. I can clean my desk if reminded of it. These could be seen as just as useless to a non-disabled person as tearing a piece of paper. So what?

In this category also fall the daily successes that people without disabilities should also be celebrating. For example, I spent fifteen minutes on the elliptical today and have been exercising four out of six days this year so far. Celebrating this daily success can help us stay focused on the positive and reach our long-term goals. What have you been successful at today?

Test Scores Don’t Determine Ability to Get By in Life

On a Dutch blog by the mother of a child with autism, I read about the impact of IQ on school choice. The child in question is intellectually disabled. I am not. However, I can totally relate to measured IQ impacting the choices made for me regarding my education.

I have a verbal IQ that was at one point measured at 154. I have had many IQ tests other than this one. I didn’t score as high on all. On one, I didn’t even score within the gifted range. Nonetheless, my IQ score of 154 is mentioned in every diagnostic report about me.

This is a verbal IQ. IQ is composed of two components: verbal and performance. My perfomrmance, or non-verbal IQ cannot be measured because I’m blind. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact me. Professionals involved with autism have consistently suspected that my performance IQ is significantly lower than my verbal IQ and this could be one reason my abilities are constantly overestimated. It cannot be measured, however, so let’s just continue expecting excellent, or at least good performance out of me. Or not.

The mother writing the blog I mentioned above desperately wanted her child to have an IQ above 70 so that he could go to a school for children with behavioral disturbance rather than a school for children with an intellectual disability. In my own case, my parents desperately wanted me to score high so that they could convince the special school for the blind to recommend me to regular education. Finally, they needed not just to prove that I am intellectually capable, but that I excel academically, because they had decided I should go to grammar school. I had to have a standardized test score above a certain number and thankfully I scored within the expected range. The special school principal called my parents in total shock, because she didn’t have a clue that I was this capable.

In real life, unfortunately, it takes more than academic excellence to excel, or even to get by. It takes more even than a high verbal IQ. More than a high IQ in general, in fact.

Why do people rely so heavily on test scores to determine what they can expect out of someone? Because my abilities are consistently overesitmated, the autism consultant recommended further testing to determine why I function at a much lower level than my (verbal) IQ would suggest. My psychologist dismissed this idea. I understand, because it takes a lot to be able to assess someone who is blind. Besides, I’m not so sure I’d be able to take yet another exam, as that’s what it feels like.

Why don’t we just understand that people are different? People have different abilities and difficulties and they shouldn’t all have to be Einsteins or prove why they’re not. Yes, I know Einstein is sometimes suspcted of having had practically every neurodiverse codnition under the sun. I don’t care. My point is that, if someone doesn’t get by, they need help and it doesn’t matter whether a test score says they should be able to get by.

How Mental Illness Has Impacted My Life #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 20 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. Today, after sharing a number of informational posts, it’s time for a personal one again. I’ve decided to pick another question from the 30-day mental illness awareness challenge. This one is about the effects your mental illness has had on your life.

In 2005, I graduated from high school with good grades. The principal held a brief talk about each student before they’d receive their diploma. About me, he said I was going to study English in Nijmegen. This was my original plan for after high school, before I’d decided I wasn’t ready for college yet and wanted to go to a rehabilitation center for the blind first.

Until I graduated from high school, I was the only person who noticed something was off with me. That is, my parents and teachers did notice, but felt I was or should be capable of solving my problems with my intellectual abilities. By 2005, I was at my highest point in terms of believing I was “just blind”. You might think I had the highest self-confidence, but I didn’t. I was fiercely independent, but also terribly isolated.

By early 2006, I entered a training home for the disabled. I was adamant that I only needed a little daily living skills training and would be off to univeristy and independent living by September. It didn’t work out that way.

Mental illness has impacted many areas of my life. Of course, you could say that it was my blindness. You could say that the people at university in Nijmegen should’ve been more accommodating of my blindness. They weren’t particularly accommodating, but they reasoned all blind students who had previously attended, had been able to succeed with the accommodations they did provide. You might also reason that I should’ve gotten more orientation and mobility training whilst living independently, but twice a week is the absolute most you could get back then and it hasn’t gotten any better. In other words, of course my blindness did contribute to my eventual failure at independent living and at university, but apparently all “just blind” individuals are able to cope. I clearly wasn’t.

It was a common misconception at the acute ward that I was falling apart because of some problem relating to my blindness. I replied to this that, if my blindness was causing me to be suicidal, there’d be much better care for blind people with mental illness, because then each week there’d be a suicidal blind person somewhere. The truth is, I am multiply-disabled, including mentally ill, and it’s not just one of my disabilities that’s causing me to be unable to function independently.

Because I’ve been mentally unstable all my life, I can also not really compare my situation before and after the onset of my mental illness. I can only compare my situation to the ideal I had in mind for myself. Doing so, I realize that mental illness has affected my education. I can no longer go to regular college and can only do distance learning courses one at a time. This means I will most likely never earn a certificate that’s worth anything.

Mental illness has also impacted my work life. That is, due to mental illness, I have none. Of course, I did get disability benefits without a problem when I was eighteen and “just blind”, but, as my parents reasoned, this would be a temporary situation. It’s now more than likely that I’ll be on disability for life.

Mental illness has made independent living essentially impossible. I pretty much need to be able to reach someone for support 24/7. It doesn’t have to be a professional carer per se. At least I hope that in time, my husband will be able to fulfill this role to an extent. This in turn obviously impacts my relationship. However, since my husband was my first boyfriend and I met him when already on the edge of mental breakdown, I have nothing to compare our relationship to. I think in this area I’m pretty well off however, in that at least I am in a long-term, loving relationship.

Life Events and My Mental Illness #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 8 in the 31 Days of Mental Health. Today, I have yet another post inspired by the 30-day awareneess challenge. This one is a personal post. Two fo the questions in the chalenge are about when your symptoms started vs. when you were diagnosed and what important life events affected your mental health for the better or worse.

I have in a way always had mental health problems. That is, I was always a socially and emotionally delayed child, but my parents say I was relatively calm and cheerful until I was about seven or eight years of age. At age seven, I started learning Braille. I hated it with a vengeance. It probably was my increased awarneess of my blindness that set off my mental health problems, but it could also have been my becoming aware of my social deficits.

After all, my problems didn’t start to become severe till I moved schools at age nine, and this was precisely the time my peers stopped being protective and started excluding me. At my old school, I’d always gravitated towards older girls, most with mild learning difficulties, who acted like they were my babysitters while I showed them my academic ability. At my new school, I started in a combined fourth/fifth/sixth grade class and I was a fourth-grader. The other girls were all sixth-graders, so they knew more than did I. I did have a friend in third grade, but even with her my social deficits were becoming more pronounced.

Once I entered secondary school, my problems became even more severe. I was twelve when I experienced my first state of depression. That is, the first I can clearly remember. I do vaguely remember being suicidal (or parasuicidal) for a while when i was around eight or nine, but I’m not too sure of this. When I was twelve, I became acutely aware of my social difficulties. I devised my own interventions, but never quite knew how to follow through and, when people tried to help me, I was resistant.

At age thirteen, I went to a mainstream secondary school. I stayed there for six years and was mildly to moderately depressed all along. In fact, I think I may’ve been diagnosable with dysthymia at the time.

In the summer after my eighth grade year, when I was fifteen, I started experiencing dissociation. I felt as though I was in a movie a lot of the time and my alter parts appeard. I had had imaginary friends before, just like most girls, but this was different. I may or may not have been hearing voices at the time. I think it was more an overactive imagination coupled with some dissoication than something akin to psychosis, but my diary entries of the time make me wonder whether I was slightly out of touch with reality.

I spent the last three years of my secondary school experience functioning on autopilot most of the time. I had meltdowns several times a week and started self-injuring at age sixteen. I had been head-banging from a young age on, but had stopped more or less. At age sixteen, I started cutting.

After I graduated high school at age nineteen, I had a few months of relative calm. I went to the blindness rehabilitation center, where we had a lot of structure and one-on-one therapies. I for a bit thought I must be okay. Then when I moved to a training home for the disabled in early 2006, after a few months, the mask fell off and I crashed. I started dissociating more than I’d done before and experienced severe emotional dysregulation. Finally, in early 2007, I was diagnosed with autism.

I moved into independent living that summer and broke down within months. I was hospitalized on the acute unit in November of 2007.

To be honest, I don’t know what led to me being diagnosed with first DID/PTSD and then BPD. I mean, I know when I was diagnosed but I don’t know what got me to share my experiences of dissociation. In hindsight, however, it surprises me that BPD wasn’t diagnosed on the acute unit, because I displayed many classic signs.

A Reluctant Braille Reader’s Journey

A few days ago, I was contacted by Mary Hill from Mary-andering Creatively, whose blog is mostly on literacy. She asked me to write about autism and literacy, but I have little knowledge of this subject, partly because I wasn’t diagnosed with autism till age 20. I also do not know which of my difficulties learning to read were due to blindness and which were due to autism. I believe, in fact, that most of my difficulties were due to a lack of motivation.

I was a fairly early reader of print. When I was four or five, my mother made little books with large rub-on letters. Each page had one word on it and the books had a theme, such as “house” or “school”. In the Netherlands, at the time, kids didn’t learn to read till age six. I could read first-grade early reader books by the time I entered the special education equivalent of first grade.

By the time I had to learn Braille at age seven, however, I started to hate reading. It wasn’t that I didn’t like books, magazines or anything with letters in it. In fact, I’d listen to children’s books and magazines on tape all the time. I just didn’t like, or rather I hated, learning Braille. It was probably that learning Braille reminded me of the fact that I was rapidly losing my vision. After all, I did read print books till I’d lost so much vision that even giant print didn’t work for me anymore. This meant that, at age nine, I’d still be reading early learner books because of the large print. I had too little vision for low vision aids.

I continued to hate reading Braille till I got a computer at age eleven. Even then, I strained to read from the screen, magnifying the font six to eightfold. When I really needed to use another sense than vision, I rather used my text-to-speech software.

It was probably the annoying, robotical voice of the text-to-speech software that turned me into a Braille reader. By the time I entered mainstream secondary school at age thirteen, I could read computerized Braille with relative ease. I however still rarely touched Braille books. This may’ve been more a matter of convenience, as Braille books are bulky.

I did for a while read Braille books again through the UK’s national library service for the blind when I was nineteen. Unfortunately, some books were lost while being returned, so I was refused further library services. Now I enjoy a mixture of eBooks, which I read with Adobe Digital Editions and my screen reader, and DAISY digital talking books. I still hope to someday be able to subscribe to BookShare, the U.S.-based accessible book sharing site, but as I said before, my doctor still hasn’t filled out the proof of disability form.

Everyday Gyaan

Also linking up with Literacy Musings.

Ten Reasons I’m Glad I’m Done with School

September 1 marks the official start of the school year in the Netherlands. Though I still take classes through the Open University, I’ve been out of high school for ten years this year and dropped out of full-time univeristy in 2007.

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write a top ten list of reasons you’re glad you’re done with school. Though I was good at academics, I hated most of school. Here are my top ten reasons why I’m glad it’s over with.


  1. No more homework. I do get to do assignments for my Open University classes, but they’re all self-directed.

  2. No more finals weeks. I haven’t taken an OU exam in years, but plan to at the end of this year. Then again, that’s only one exam. I hated finals week, when the weather was usually bright, my birthday was coming up and I had to study for eight+ exams.

  3. No more carrying my heavy backpack everywhere I go. Of course, my computer and Braille display are much lighter now than they were back in the day, but I still don’t like having to carry them. Not being in school anymore means I only carry my backpack when I go to my husband’s – and actually even then it’s most of the time my husband carrying it.

  4. No more student theses. I hated the high school graduationt project, which my father described as similar to his first research in college. My husband took a few weeks or maybe even days doing all the research and writing for his, but my graduation project took me a year full of stress. I did it on a subject my supervising teacher hadn’t even heard of, namely the philosophical movement of British Idealism. The Internet didn’t have much information on this – so little that my project, once it was up, was for a long time second in Google -, and I couldn’t read eBooks yet. My mother did scan some material, but it was hard work overall. I’ve never done student theses in college. Though I’d like to have one finished, I imagine I’d hate the stress leading up tto the finished product.

  5. No more deadlines unless I set them myself. That isn’t entirely true, of course, since my treatment isn’t indefinite. However, the deadlines we get here are a lot less strict than those set forth in school (or in work, I imagine). I did just set a goal of writing a blog post every week day in September, but I set this goal myself.

  6. Less pressure. Sure, we have social media and the competition amongst bloggers, as well as the pressure from peers and staff to recover from our mental illnesses. As I write this, I’m crying my eyes out because I was just told that going at my own pace isn’t possible in this era anymore. However, the pressure to go far beyond my limits was worse in high school.

  7. Less bullying. I was both a bully and a victim in elementary school and a victim again in secondary school. Though I can’t say bullying has been totally over with since I left school, it’s far less. Also, people are much more likely to stand up for the victim now.

  8. More time to unwind. When I was in school, I’d often had a six-hour school day followed by three to four hours of homework, sometimes more. I was slow at doing my homework, so it probably wasn’t meant to be that much. At least, I’ve heard that a normal homework load is ten minutes for each grade (ie. ten minutes in first grade and two hours in your senior year of high school). I do of course not have a job, so this allows me more tiem to myself, but even when I did the intensive blindness rehabilitation program, I had more time to unwind than in school.

  9. I don’t feel as lonely anymore. This may not have had to do with school per se, and may’ve been more due to my age. I have grown to a ppreciate the interaction that I do get and not constantly grieve the fact that I don’t have any friends (other than my husband).

  10. No more graduation ceremonies. I hated my high school graduation ceremony. My father and tutor convinced the principal not to create a whole circus glorigying the school for having helped a blind student graduate. Nonetheless, I just hated the implicit expectations of excellence that come with graduation. The evening I got my foundation in applied psychology certificate was much more laid-back.


What do you appreciate most about not being in school anymore?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Everyday Gyaan