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The Early Years And Beyond

In 1973 a push began, as a result of Section 502 of the Rehabilitation Acts, to incorporated physically disabled children as well as non-disabled children into the school system, and by late 1973 this had a huge impact on my life. I had a tutor from grades one through six, but by seventh the school administration had made the decision that I should be the first physically disabled child in this school system to attend public school. I had always been a straight "A" student, and I was thrilled to have this opportunity!

I was (as I word it) the school system's "guinea pig ," but someone had to do it. The elementary school had flights of stairs, so the grade levels were terribly divided. There were teachers for 6th grade students on the first floor as well as the second floor, and the same was true for 7th grade teachers. The remedy to give me wheelchair access was to move all 7th grade teachers to the first floor. However, there were still steps to get onto the first floor and no wheelchair accessible bathroom. In order to fix these problems a crudely built two-part ramp was installed at a side door and the bathroom situation was solved by having me use the one located in the teacher's lounge. Yay...off to school I go!

Oops...no bus! Being the only child in a wheelchair in the school system the idea of a bus to ride was a bit out of the question, so from the 7th through most of the 8th grade my grandfather drove me to school and picked me up. I think it was toward the end of my 8th grade year that a bus with a lift in it was finally purchased. I had succeeded at showing them that a physically disabled child could do just as well as a non-disabled child. This was not to say that the adjustment wasn't a difficult one for me personally...and emotionally. In fact, this was the beginning of making a few mistakes and learning things about myself that would shape the person I am now.

Or you may send donations to:

National Bank Of Commerce

115 West Main Street

Bedford, VA 24523

Please note that it is for the Lynn Orange Handicapped Van Fund when sending donation!

I had always had a rather protected environment to live in with my grandparents. If any of the neighborhood kids bullied or picked on me, my grandmother was quick to stop it and tell the other children's parents, which (of course) lead to their parents punishing them. This lead to me not having a lot of friends...not because they didn't like me...it was because they were afraid of getting in trouble by my grandmother! She had a way of always listening and snooping when I had friends around, and needless to say, anything that she didn't like was promptly reported and she would tell them to leave and not come back to see me. This was a pattern she developed that would go on for years, but it became less effective as I got older and had friendships with more mature people that weren't afraid of her. Finally being able to leave the house and go to school gave me the time to develop relationships with my peers that I felt I needed.

Starting to attend public school in the 7th grade gives you no real history with your peers, so I can only say I knew about two people in my entire grade level. The first day I felt like an alien from mars...the stares and the whispers, which later turned to contempt without me ever knowing why. I had no powered wheelchair back then, so I had a handful of people to help me from class to class, before I even knew what was happening there was a group of class bullies threatening to beat anyone up that helped me, so it came down to one person that wasn't scared away by their threats. It took months before I found out that this started because the bullies thought I was being given special treatment and better grades because I was in a wheelchair. I guess to them a physical disability was the same as a mental one. They called me names, cursed at me, spit at me and occasionally took a swing at me (I remember two swings that made contact). I made many trips to the principal's office, but nothing was ever done to make it stop. I was told by the vice-principal that I needed to learn to handle this on my own. I said "Okay, but if I do...don't call me in here for any disciplinary action, because you've let them get away with this all year." He didn't like my comment and wouldn't agree to what I said, but I never got called into the office when I finally defended myself with a detachable footrest from my wheelchair! I am in no way condoning violence, but that's all you have when the officials won't step in to stop the bullying. Haven't we seen that issue on the news enough in the last few years?

It was also during this time that I developed an interest in boys...maybe I should say one boy in particular since our "on again, off again" relationship started that same year and lasted until I was almost nineteen. This is not to say I didn't have crushes on other guys during my teen years, this guy was just the one I couldn't let go of then. He always had the right things to say at the right time, and I fell for it. In looking back now, I honestly don't see what I EVER saw in him. Although I think he fueled my next major crush which ended up giving me the knowledge to know that I could accomplish anything I wanted with solid, sincere perserverance and God's help.

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Or you may send donations to:

National Bank Of Commerce

115 West Main Street

Bedford, VA 24523

Please note that it is for the Lynn Orange Handicapped Van Fund when sending your donation!