Wednesday, April 30, 2014


We will go to Lindsay's last awards ceremony tonight at the high school. It will, as always, be long and somewhat excruciating, for multiple reasons.

It is a given that it will be long, not because there are many long-winded speakers (just a couple) but because there are more than 400 students in Lindsay's class, and there are a LOT of kids who get decent grades, like 3.5 GPA and up. These are all recognized. A part of me really likes that, because I got pretty good grades (3.75 over four years, before weighted grades) and if we'd had academic letters and certificates and all that, it would have been pretty cool to have been acknowledged for all that hard work. (Snort! Again, if you are reading this, Mom, don't hurt yourself laughing...)

But beyond the number of kids who are highly deserving of praise for their grades, there is a seemingly endless supply of motivated teenage movers and shakers who go out there and grab the high school world by the tail and take it for a real ride. Multiple discipline athletes, devoted musicians, Best Girl, Best Boy, presidents, captains and chairpersons. I truly do admire and love every one of them. They are achingly sincere and good-looking. Teetering on the edge of their lives. So ready.

We get to watch every single one of them march up to the stage, accept awards, accolades and scholarships. It's exciting. And excruciating. Because we know Lindsay will likely not be up there for anything, except the GPA. Which is good, and I'm certainly not complaining. My rational half says that she didn't work for any of that. She didn't run for office, she didn't find her niche and pursue it with a passion, she didn't stand out in any of the traditional ways.

Of course, my parent half surges in indignation at the lack of insight on others' part that they couldn't see what an awesome young lady she is and always has been. Yep. That sounded like every other devoted parent I know. Still, and though I know Lindsay could not possible care any less than she does about recognition, in fact she probably would rather NOT get some of the attention, I want SOMEONE to acknowledge publicly what she has accomplished. And not test scores. 

Not to diminish the test scores. ACT and SAT scores are nothing to sniff at. She has been recognized for that numerous times. But tests are NOT who my astounding young woman is. Other than the fact that she has no fear when being tested, and is, as a matter of fact, kind of excited to take tests (like her mom). But the score is a number, which in no way tells you the story of Lindsay's journey.

In a previous post I let off steam right after her IEP meeting. I needed to say those things. I needed certain people to hear them, for better or for worse. Now I need to say some other things, and some of the same people need to hear this.

I have no doubt that Lindsay could have aced the ACT and SAT tests even if she had never been staffed and given special attention  in school. This is not a story about a child who went from failure to success, academically. Lindsay has always had academic success. This is about an internal and external journey she has navigated over the past four years.

I've outlined the basics in the post "Tears". In 7th grade, we knew there were problems. The usual middle school things, when girls are casually vicious to each other and boys can't figure out how to control all that bulk when their brains aren't keeping up. But also things that didn't have anything to do with prepubescence. The speech disfluency (remember I didn't know it was called that then--just knew I was pulling out my hair trying to follow what she was saying as she stopped in the middle of words and started again..and again and again....). Her seeming inability to work with groups of her peers (they pretty much ignored her, for whatever reason) and her tendency to see about a foot past her nose (unless she had a particularly interesting internal dialogue going, which decreased that distance to, oh....nothing.)

So there we were, her dad and I, knowing something was just not going well, and not getting better. It was actually getting much, much worse. All this time, she was completing school work, for the most part (8th grade science was one long crying jag, not because she didn't like science, quite the opposite. She LOVES science. She just could NOT figure out what the teacher wanted, and he could NOT figure out why) and getting great grades. Teachers pretty much love her, though one teacher called in a snit and said she was "refusing to do her schoolwork". Seriously? Did she even KNOW my child at all? This is a girl who is constitutionally unable to lie or disseminate. I could only think that the teacher somehow called the wrong parent. When I got home and talked to Lindsay, she did not deny that she had told her teacher that she didn't WANT to do the work. But she said "I NEVER said I wouldn't DO the work". Now, from any other kid, this might sound like she was spinning a bad situation. You would not know Lindsay if you thought this about her, though. She sincerely did not realize the teacher would not understand the difference. She was just saying she didn't like the work. All you have to say is "I'm sorry, that's so sad for you, but you still need to do it" and she'll go back to her desk and do it. It also illustrates about Lindsay that her lack of social awareness meant she would have no idea the teacher would perhaps react that way to the criticism.

In 7th grade she had a language teacher who assigned a great project where students got to perform a Chautauqua presentation about whomever they liked. Lindsay picked Louisa May Alcott (which warmed my cockles--talk about great role models!). We attended the performance. Other kids went first, and did admirably. It was all supposed to be extemporaneous, not memorized. Lindsay got up and you could tell she knew her material, but every other word wouldn't come out completely. There were little throat stops, hesitations, restarts, direction changes....over and over. Greg and I were both looking at each other, thinking "What the hell kind of grade will the teacher give her..."). She got a pretty good grade, actually. It seemed weird. Was it just us? Her teacher told us it was "just how Lindsay talks". 

We heard that a lot. "It's just Lindsay. We don't want to change her. It's her quirky manner" or "It's why we love her" I didn't want to change her, either. I did, however, want to see her ideas and incredibly cool take on the world be communicated and understood.

The person who made me see the difference between Lindsay's style and a speech issue that was a barrier to communication was Ruth Ness. This is for her. She knew that helping Lindsay with speech would not change who she was. I should have known, too, being her mom. But how do you really know that telling a bright child she has something "wrong" with her won't be devastating?

Disability can be a lot of things, and you hear this all the time from people with much more obvious physical limitations, but it is not WHO a person is. The effort to meet the challenges of whatever you are facing that limits you from participating fully in your world will certainly have an impact on you as a person, but your inner core of self-knowledge remains whole and unchanged. After four years, I see Lindsay being able to show the world who she is, remarkable and fascinating and smart and proudly geeky, without the "noise" of all the speech disfluency she struggled with at 13 or 14. I see the same startlingly perceptive, seemingly oblivious socially (while completely purposeful in her projection of herself), empathetic, hilarious young girl-woman that I have always known was there, but who now has the tools to let others see her too.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I am sitting beside my teenage daughter while she agonizes over yet another essay for a scholarship. Her struggles have more to do with how difficult it is for her to express to the world what an amazing and unique person she is. She wants to be an engineer. To  build things that make the world better and more beautiful. I think she is eminently qualified to do that, if I may say so as a totally partial and biased observer.
But really, she is.
Quirky, sideways thinkers are so needed in this complicated world. Women who are quirky, sideways thinkers especially. Oh, we need to have people who build regular roads and cars and refrigerators, but we need, we have ALWAYS needed, people who think it would be so COOL to invent wings that would really work. Not a 9-year-old thinking it'd be cool to grow wings, but an almost-adult thinking that she could figure out how to really design something elegant and wonderful and truly usable.
Notice I didn't say "useful". That would imply a judgement. Who knows in what direction her design could take her? Why does she need to limit herself to "useful"? Simply "usable" is a lot to achieve.
She dreams. Sometimes it seems like crazy things.
Everyone tells our kids to dream big. But somewhere along the line, they start telling them in a myriad of small ways to scale that back. To take the classes that would apply to their goals, to put into writing what you want to study and what kind of degree you want, or what kind of job will be waiting for you when you graduate. To have a backup plan.
I know, and she knows, that studying engineering in college, taking the classes like Physics and Chemistry and Calculus and English Composition, is not only necessary, but has its own attraction. It's a process, it's rather plebeian compared to dreaming about wings and energy and inventions, but it's not drudgery for her.
She really GETS that college will be about learning and gaining understanding and physical capabilities that she will spin into marvelous things. 
Crazy possibilities.