I was 18 months old. My grandmother was a nurse. When my family would try to stand me on the table I could not stand up. I could not hold my head up. Grandma knew something was up.
The doctor’s diagnosed me as having cerebral palsy. At my birth, the doctor was out of the room. He did not think I would be coming out for a while. When I started coming out, the umbilical cord was around my neck. The midwife did not know what to do.People told my parents that there were “places” for kids like me. I’m glad my parents did not listen to them.When I was 3 I began attending Holladay Center, a school in Portland, Oregon, that was for physically disabled children. It is now a preschool, but back in the 60’s and 70’s it was preschool through 4th grade.Holladay Center was much more than just a special school for special kids. It was boot camp. We had physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and school. Each of us learned at our own pace. At Holladay Center I learned how to walk, how to do stairs, how to pick myself off the floor when I fall down, how to write, how to type (I was 7 when I learned). I learned how to tie my shoe and how to dress myself.
At the end of my third grade year I was ready to be mainstreamed. My step dad took a job in California. Down there, when the school administrators saw the leg braces that I was wearing at the time and they said I would never be mainstreamed down there. The school I went to down there was for physically and mentally disabled kids. It was different for me, but it was a good experience.
Early in my fifth grade year my family returned to Oregon. I was mainstreamed into public school. I attended Fir Grove Elementary School in Beaverton, Oregon.
I had two major accommodations. First, Holladay Center sent over an electric typewriter that followed me through high school. My handwriting is very affected by my cerebral palsy. I have trouble reading my own handwriting; my teachers would never have been able to read it. Secondly, in PE class I had different activities from the other kids — reading books about sport figures, using weight machines, riding my three-wheeled bike, swimming.
Through junior high and high school I participated in the Spanish club, the chess club, and I wrote for the school paper. During the summers in high school, Beaverton High administrators helped me find summer programs to attend. My sophomore year I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps in Eastern Oregon for eight weeks. Most of the time I was on kp duty, but I made great friends and had a lot of fun. My junior year I attended a marine science program for the disabled in Wallops Island, Virginia, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. In my senior year I went to the University of Iowa for two weeks to explore possible career fields for the disabled, again, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
After high school, I attended Oregon State University. I majored in a variety of things before settling on technical journalism. I wrote a weekly humor column for the school paper; the column was called “Witticisms”. I was also a copy editor for the school paper (the Barometer). I rode my three-wheeled bike to get from class to class.
My first job after college was as an assistant editor for World Christian magazine. It was a mission, meaning that I had to raise my own funds from churches and friends in order to be there. Until I got there, I did not know that the magazine was not doing well financially. The magazine was in Pasadena, California. I made lots of friends and saw lots of sites. I would not trade the experience.
Time came for me to return home and look for a “real” job.
It took a year of taking career search courses, working with my vocational rehabilitation counselor, sending resumes and filling out applications. I was not getting any interviews. It was frustrating, but I kept plugging away.
In August of 1989 I decided to try to volunteer. I went to a state volunteer office in Hillsboro, Oregon. I met the director of the one-man office, Don Bougher. He had a computer sitting on the floor of his office. He did not know what to do with it. He wanted to track the hours of his volunteers so that he could report the stats to his superiors in Salem. I used the Lotus 123 program to do just that.
A couple months later I was planning to move in with a buddy from college down in San Jose, CA, to test the job market down there. Right before I was going to leave, Don ask the branch manager, Gary, of the Child Welfare office where Don’s office was located, if he might be able to hire me. The next day, Gary offered me a job with the support staff.
My first assignment was to transcribe notes from cassette tape onto the computer. Gary use to tease me about my 20 words/minute “flying fingers”.
That was many years ago. I am now an eligibility specialist for the Title IV-E program. “Title IV-E” refers to the portion of the Social Security Act that administers money from the federal government to reimburse some of the costs of kids in foster care.