I recently had the opportunity to attend an educational conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My sister, who is going to school to be a special education teacher, had told her professor about me. She told her how I love to educate people about my disorder and about what it feels like to be in special education classes.
“Dr. B.” submitted a request for me to speak and my genetic disorder and also to tell education students what it feels like to be a student with learning disabilities. The professor contacted us at the beginning of the summer and told us about this conference and said we should hear back by early September. When we didn’t hear back my mom told me to forget about it and that we were probably not accepted. I forgot about it.
In October the professor called. We had been accepted to speak in Florida! We only had about 2 1/2 weeks to prepare and it was understood that my work would be going to Florida but not me. Dr. B. would present my power point for me. My parents could not take me and Nicole, my sister was busy with student teaching. No absences allowed. Well, somehow Nicole got her education department and cooperating teachers to allow her to take the 2 days off that she would need. They thought it would be an amazing opportunity for the two of us to be able to attend. Boy was Dr. B. surprised when we called her and told her that we were coming to Florida with her!
It was very short notice but we booked the flights, only staying for as long as it would take for me to present. The whole trip was crazy, fast paced and hectic. Not too great for a person with my anxiety. I am so proud of myself, not only for speaking, but for traveling without my parents. I know I was with my sister who is a very experienced traveler but for me that is a huge step. I felt so bad-ass being with her. At times I got angry because she really made me act independent, but I appreciate it and would love to travel with her for fun sometime.
At the conference, I got to explain, in detail how it feels to be part of a regular education class when the teacher clearly doesn’t want to deal with a student who needs more help. I got to explain what worked for me in class, what didn’t work for me as far as teaching strategies. I explained the social difficulties someone in special education might experience. It felt great to be able to contribute information to teachers of teachers. I also got to share where I am in my life right now.
To be able to say that I have graduated high school and have a job made me feel awesome. That’s good because a lot of times I have not felt like I mattered. I hope that I can be an example to kids that are in special education now and may be wondering what they are going to do when school is over for them. Students and parents need to know what kind of services are out there for them. If you surround yourself with people who can help you the opportunities are endless. There is life after high school.