Looking back on my educational career as a student, the subject I had the most difficulty navigating through was math. Often times, I would get frustrated because I knew the answer, but I couldn’t fully explain how I got there. And in math class, the correct “how” is equally as (or sometimes more important) than the correct answer. I have problems with my vision and I am very much an auditory learner. Fun fact: Half the time I could not see what was on the whiteboard. I was following the mathematical equations in my head. I had to remember where everything was. Not an easy task.
My teachers didn’t realize that this would be a problem. And I understood that it wasn’t the math teacher’s responsibility to change the entire curriculum just because I had problems with my vision. The next step was to go to the special education department and speak with my caseworker. It was there that I ran into an all-too-often roadblock. My caseworker did not understand what the problem was. She couldn’t grasp that my issue was my vision problems and that I had to “solve for X” in my head, so to speak. When I would take a test, I would only get half credit because I was unable to verbalize work I was doing in my head.
I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t able to show the work and my caseworker did not understand the problem. They also thought I was being stubborn and not wanting to do the work. I swallowed my apprehension and went straight to my math teacher. I explained my situation as best I could, she was more than happy to help. She didn’t know what to do at first, but because I was able to show my dedication, willingness to learn, and explain my limitations, she was able to craft assignments in such a way, that I would still learn the exact same lesson, still participate in class, and most importantly not have to worry about what I couldn’t do and focus on what I could do.
This interaction had a profound effect on me. It made me feel like I was advocating for myself. I didn’t need people to talk for me. I didn’t need so much assistance. All I needed to do was understand that I have the ability to take control of my situation and become a better and more engaged person for it.
We know firsthand the power of being an advocate can have. This story is an example of being a self-advocate, and our stage show references many examples of being an advocate, inclusion, and anti-bullying. When students and teachers experience these examples, something inside them changes. They are more accepting, more understanding, more forward thinking. We have been traveling the country for more than 5 years, sharing our story with as many schools as we can. This past year we came up with an even better idea that would make our show more readily available for any middle school or high school. We have created a digital version of our show! Now schools can access our show via the internet! Your school will have access to our show for the entire school year (ending June 30, 2016) There is even a way to bring us into your classroom for a live chat with a Google Hangout or Skype session.