Being Part of Something Bigger

People with disabilities of any kind spend much of their life simply trying to survive by taking care of ourselves, and others enough to feed our needs.  Yet, when we work together it creates a dynamic flow.  The synergy derived from people with, and those without learning disabilities can create something bigger than we can imagine.  The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe are a great example of disabled people working together to create synergy and beauty for the people around them.  Please see the video,  Thousand Hand Bodhisattva, and be aware of how you feel watching these dancers.  These ladies unable to hear the music are still able to come together creating an amazing spectacle admired by people throughout the world.  As I watch these ladies teach me how a little gesture like raising your hand can make others feel good, and maybe they do something nice for other people.

Being part of something bigger is an amazing way to minimize the feelings of inadequacy and insignificance in my life.  By sharing the tips and tricks I have learned over the years in this blog makes me feel like I am part of someone else’s journey.  If someone benefits by only using a small part of a suggestion, we both win.  It is energizing to me to think, I may have the ability to add value to someone’s life today.  Like puzzle pieces, people are not effective or completely content alone, yet can create vast value when working together to pay it forward.

Coming Next: The Value of Synergy in the Workplace


The Magic of Work-Study

Work-study is a program designed to employ eligible students in school related departments or programs.  Most of these departments are housed on the school’s campuses, yet a few; such as literacy programs may be housed off-campus. Work-Study programs are typically funded by the state or federal government.  These are based on financial need calculated using your, and in many situations your parent or guardian’s income.  To receive work-study the student must apply for it using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

When applying for Financial Aid, you must provide your tax information, and as mentioned your parent or guardian’s tax return information.  Please warn your family if your are younger than 26 years old, you are applying for Financial Aid and may need their tax information.  If you are lucky enough to receive Work-Study, which is listed in your Financial Aid award letter, please being applying for on-campus jobs immediately before someone else is hired for the job in which you are interested.  These jobs can be found on the school’s website typically under On-Campus Jobs, or contact your Financial Aid representative for more information.

Any on-campus employment position comes with a little magic.  Your supervisor, and other students will know more about the school’s resources than you would think exist.  If you run into any little problem, please ask for assistance.  May schools have financial Aid and scholarships opportunities with the option for an emergency loan programs for cash or books.  The tutoring or writing assistance programs have a vast ability to help students.  For disabled students there is a program to assist with your unique needs.  The Math tutor program may loan calculators.  There may be a generous collection of businesses’ offering student discounts including public transportation. Many school’s also offering clubs, organizations, an honor society, and career services.  Your school can also provide counselling services or a referral for any issue.  Some schools also provide medical care for their students.

As a work-study student I took advantage of the Pell Grant and the calculator loan program. The Disability Resource Center provided the accommodations to making learning more enjoyable. For a long time I purchased student health insurance.  I used to Counseling Center to overcome Math Anxiety. Most important, I maintained a close relationship wit my supervisor, who was able to provide a variety of job duties to build my résumé.  The magic came in when all the resources were at my fingertips allowing me to thrive as a student making good grades, aligning myself with others who want to achieve more, taking more responsibility, and volunteering at events all because my basic needs were being met.

Coming Next: Being Part of Something Bigger 

Community College vs. Four-year College or University

Which Way to My...

In high school many students are making plans for themselves after graduation.  Students may choose; a four-year institutions, community college, a technical school, the military, and many will simply enter the workforce.  This generation of students are very tech savvy, and put more trust into the internet than the people around them offering advise.  Some students may check out a website like MyFuture.Com or another online guidance offering site.  There is a lot to think about when transitioning from high school to higher education or the work force. For people with learning disabilities this can be especially tough as we wean ourselves from our protective parents and caregivers to begin experiencing the world for a bit at a time.

Unlocking Potential

I was given a copy of Barbara Scheiber and Jeanne Talpers‘ book called Unlocking Potential College and Other Choices for Learning Disabled People A Step by Step Guide when I was new at Truckee Meadows Community College.  I have kept it all these years and still refer back to it when I need a little extra direction.  On page 41 they have listed a table of expected positive and negative events any student could experience  when choosing a; “Local Two-Year College, Four-Year College (away from home), Military Service, Full-Time Employment, and a Two-year Vocational Education Program.”  You can buy a copy of this resource online at your favorite retailer.  When I was debating transferring to the university, I referred back to chapter to help me build a list of questions then made an appointment at the Disability Resource Center to talk about transferring.  this process realty eased the stress of taking on something new without my mother at my side.  All I had to do was start, persevere and now I am planning to graduate within the year.

College Bound

For me I chose the local community college, and eventually transferred to the university.  My journey has an amazing adventure exceeding my wildest dreams of enjoyment and achievement.  I thought about he military and a getting a vocational automobile mechanic certification program, I tried my hand at being a machinist and financial services.  It was not until I was active in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, I realized I loved people, business management, and wanted to pursue a higher degree to share my passion as a teacher.

Coming Next:The Magic of Work Study

Reading and Colored Overlays

Colored Overlays

Colored overlays

For people with Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome, and other visual impairments causing the text to vibrate or move on the page or screen, colored overlays can help box the words, lines, and paragraphs. These tools promote more efficient reading leading to a higher degree of comprehension. I was first introduced to covered overlays by Brenda Lebendoff in the Adult Basic Education program at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Colored overlays look like tinted transparencies. Each person is unique, so one color will not work for everyone. I prefer the amber color on glossy paper and an aqua overlay on matte paper. Some people especially those with Irlen Syndrome, use the colored overlays as a sheet laid over the text being read, or in the hands-free versions of glasses or contacts may be used as a miracle cure.  I purchased mine at the Parent Teacher Aids store located at the Smithridge Shopping center in Reno, Nevada.

For people like me, these overlays are an excellent tool dramatically reducing the red, watery eyes which lead to headaches and irritability. I must take care to when choosing where I will do my reading. I prefer artificial lighting between 2800 and 3800 Kelvin Light Scale of the full-spectrum lighting chart. Because my eyes do not track at the same speed or binocular evenly, I must use a line marker for continuous flow through the paragraphs. To compensate in situations where reading is necessary and immediate, I close my left eye and only read with the right one. This works temporarily as it wears me out quickly leading to narcoleptic behaviors. If I have had to read a lot without assistive technology throughout the day it not uncommon to find me leaned up against a wall with my eyes open asleep.

Coming Next: Community College vs. Four-year College or University

Productive Studying Techniques

Photo Credit

Study Music

Once I have settled down it is time to study productively.  I like to start of with my favorite study music.  According to Finerminds Team, “Alpha brain waves are present in deep relaxation and usually when the eyes are closed, when you’re slipping into a lovely daydream or during light meditation. Sound between 7.5 and 14Hz aid in “imagination, visualization, memory, learning and concentration.”

With my music playing softly in my headphones, I begin to doodle with both hands, sometimes at the same time, and other times I may only doodle on hand at a time.  I have not noticed a difference in my grades based on using two hands simultaneously verses one at  a time..  I was taught  to doodle with the opposite hand as the  need to concentrate arises.  For me doodling with my right hand allows me concentrate on linear concepts while, doodling with my left opens my right-brain.

Next, I will organize my efforts by chronological due dates.  I prefer using color-coded binder dividers, an beginning each assignment with my name, class, assignment title, and the due date.  I find this helps me stay on task as deadlines approach.  By organizing my thoughts and materials, i am able to plan an implement my study time requirements more quickly.

When I am studying, I find I must encounter the material three times to really get a grasp of the concepts. I read the chapter before going to class for the lecture, read it again after the lecture as I am completing the assignments and read it again as I study for the exam. Many times the material is really tough to understand, so I use the book more as a reference tool as I complete the homework assignments.

I love to use flashcards as study tools!  The act of making a flash card and physical flipping through them stimulates my kinesthetic needs.  The visual aspects of my learning styles are met by looking and studying the characters, words and symbols written on the cards.  I like to read them aloud, which completes my learning system needs.  To save time when I am studying and completing  assignments, I write little notes to myself for exam preparation.  I will also write down or circle any problem I was unable to solve withing a timely manner then I return to it when I can.  I would rather earn full points an the majority of an assignment then to rush through it making avoidable mistakes.

 Coming Next: Reading and Colored Overlays

Getting Ready to Study

When it comes to studying, I have a ritual to calm my body, so I can settle down and open my mind.  I typically begin by doing a load of dishes and stating a load of laundry.  My particular washing machine has a extra rinse feature, which buzzes when it has finished. This provides me  22 and 45 minutes between loads to focus my energy on my studies.  Some days it takes a few loads of laundry, dusting the furniture, petting my cat,  and lot of pacing before I am ready to study.

My brain is more alert and wants to learn from about 9:00 pm to 2:00 am. My study quality has a lot to do with the time of day I choose to study.  For some they are more fresh in the morning, thus are more productive earlier in the day, where as there are other night owls like myself.  Sometimes, I ju8st cannot wind down enough to be a productive  student.  In this case, if I can put off my studying or homework for until the next day, I will set and easily obtainable goal then allow myself time to watch TV or go tinker in the garage.

If I am unable to allow myself time off then I draw a bath of with Eucalyptus and Spearmint Epson Salt.  The aroma makes it easier to breather deeply.  I place a large acrylic board across the facet side of the tub, and proceed with my hands-on-learning assignments.  Any digital learning will simply have to wait until and I am finished.    The smell aroma of the salt coupled with the warmth and support of the bath water helps me to relaxed enough to study.

You Tube

Image from YouTube-Meditation Music

I also love to drown out the worries and distractions around me by listening to meditation music with sound canceling headphone.  I find deep breathing also helps me prepare to study.  For people like me, who experience hyperactivity settling down to watch a movie, make arts and crafts or study is a big task.  The ability to calm myself makes a world of difference in my life everyday.  These skills allow me to blend into public activities with minimal anxiety, and lower my frustrations making me a nicer person to be around.

Coming Next: Productive Studying Techniques

Study Strategies for Memorization

Memorization feels like an insurmountable task, yet with a few a tricks I learned my attitude was the biggest hurdle. Especially in my Adult Basic Education classes, I was taught several skills to make memorization easier by deciding what I needed to remember and focus on those items. My instructors had emphasized particular items during the lecture, or the homework assignments had a few extra questions on certain concepts.

Once I knew what to focus on, and then I would use several strategies to etch the material on my brain, and provide a reliable vehicle to retrieve it when needed. By grouping items and imagining a real situation I was able to recall them more easily. For example, if I were memorizing a shopping list: 1. Bananas, blueberries, and apples-I would eating imaging eating fruit on a platter, 2. Avocados, tomatoes, and lettuce-I see myself tossing a salad, 3. Onions, celery, and garlic-I see myself sauteing them in a pan.

When I need to memorize written information, I like to read it aloud several times then look away and say as much as I can about the material. Index cards used as flash cards allows me to write the information and hold the cards in my hands fulfilling my kinesthetic learning needs. The words and symbols on the card especially when written or drawn with colored pencils spurs my visual learning skills. I can read the material aloud into a recording device then listen to it while driving, sleeping, or exercising to maximize my auditory side.Mnemonics are a fun way to remember things by making a word using the first letter of each item I need to remember. I had a terrible time remembering how to punctuate with conjunctions. I could remember the song from School House Rock “Conjunction Junction what‘s your function? Hooking up words,and phrases, and clauses, and complex sentences.” Our FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So) making up our conjunctions.

Mnemonics are a fun way to remember things by making a word using the first letter of each item I need to remember.  I had a terrible time remembering how to punctuate with conjunctions.  I could remember the song from School House Rock “Conjunction, conjunction what’s your function hooking up words,and  phrases, and clauses, and complex sentences.” Our FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So) making up our conjunctions.

II also like to use music to help make memorization easier. The Beta waves of certain sounds help calm my brain and open the path for knowledge to be stored and retrieved. The Finerminds Team describes Beta waves (14-40Hz) as being associated with normal waking consciousness and a heightened state of alertness, logic, and critical reasoning.” I also makeup songs using mnemonics or simply telling a story about the material then sing it in my head when I need to recall information. I still silently sing the Alphabet Song when filing documents at home or in the workplace. The only effect it has on others is the ease of finding the files Where they are expected to be located.

Coming Next: Getting Ready to Study