Interview with Dad

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Brazil, J. (2017, July 14). Interview with Dad [Personal interview].

When I found out that I would need to find an in-person experiential resource for my blog, I was a bit dumbfounded as to what experience I could provide myself that would give me more insight into self-advocacy and/or self-confidence. Part of my research included finding some famous individuals in modern day history that have coped with disabilities. When I showed this to my instructor, she asked me if I personally knew any thriving adults with disabilities. This person does not have to be famous—just someone who has built a life to be proud of. She suggested that I interview one of these people for my experiential resource. The first person to come to my mind was my dad.

My dad, Jim Brazil, was born on December 4, 1965 and grew up in Castro Valley, California (where I was born). Around 2nd or 3rd grade, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He remembers getting explanations from both his parents and his new special education teacher that he “sees letters and numbers backwards” such as the lowercase letters “d” and “b.” Other than that initial discussion, he does not remember having many meetings about his disability and special education services afterwards. My dad spent most of his time in school utilizing resource services.

I asked my dad what his confidence was like as a young child growing up with a learning disability. He said that back when he was in elementary school, things were much different. All kids in special education were kind of lumped together and “kids were cruel.” They saw him go into a different classroom for part of the day everyday and he remembers being teased a lot for this. He remembers feeling down on himself a lot and not feeling confident enough to do a lot of things. He says that things would have been a lot tougher had it not been for his parents’ support and their telling him that he can do things that he didn’t think he could do. Another thing that helped with his self-confidence was his participation in wrestling, which he started in about 2nd grade and continued all the way through high school. For one thing, he was never afraid of being physically bullied because he always knew he could defend himself in that way. Also, he learned a lot from wrestling that he feels could not have been taught to him in a classroom setting. The social skills involved with being on a team coupled with the personal accountability gained from being the only person with your opponent on a wrestling mat, he believes, helped him to become more self-confident.

As for self-advocacy, he remembers having to tell certain teachers that he needed more time on testing or that he needed questions read to him. Usually, they were willing to accommodate him, but every once in a while he got some “push-back.” When that happened, his special education teacher would take care of things for him. He remembers always feeling embarrassed about having to ask his teachers for these accommodations.

Today, my dad is a Tree Trimmer for the City of San Leandro and also a volunteer wrestling coach at one of our local middle schools. He has many hobbies that include hunting and fishing among other outdoor activities. He is an amazing father and a family-man all around. I had heard a lot of the information about his childhood with dyslexia, but never really thought to ask him how his adult life has been impacted by his learning disability. He reports that he still struggles a lot with reading and writing, though he feels that he excels at expressing himself in conversation. He does feel that his confidence wavers at times and admits to avoiding the things that he knows he will struggle with. Something I learned in this interview was a result of asking him whether he had experienced any barriers in his job due to his dyslexia. He said that up to this point, since a majority of his work is physical labor, he had not experienced any barriers. However, he expressed anxiousness over the possibility of going up for a promotion. The job that he would be advancing into involves a lot of paperwork. He says that this is a factor that could impact his decision to take the job. This experience has probably been the most beneficial to me in creating my Content Resource Collection. I feel lucky to have this built-in resource who can help me gain insight into the lives of individuals with learning disabilities and who can provide firsthand information about self-confidence and self-advocacy experiences.

 

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Interview with Sharon O’Neil

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O’Neil, S. (2017, July 9). Interview with Sharon O’Neil [Personal interview].

Sharon O’Neil is an Education Specialist who has worked primarily with the moderate/severe population. I was introduced to Sharon about five years ago during which time I was a TA in the special day class at my high school. At that time, Sharon was one of the teachers in the transitional program in Castro Valley. Although Sharon has since left the district, she was the perfect person to talk to as she has recently completed her doctoral program and she wrote her dissertation precisely about this topic! We met at Starbucks and she was very willing to give her insight. Sharon told me about how self-esteem can be increased through natural opportunities to make decisions. When an individual has the autonomy to make choices and indicate their desires, they feel that their dignity is being honored which leads to higher self-esteem.

A notion that I had that was reinforced in my conversation with Sharon is that self-confidence is very closely linked with self-advocacy. In order to advocate for yourself, you must be confident in your knowledge of yourself, your situation, and your rights while simultaneously having the means to express your message. From Sharon I learned that the latter (having the means to express your message) is usually the most difficult part for students with disabilities. Some students have an inability to communicate effectively (or at all). Furthermore, many students struggle with understanding social norms and how to express frustrations appropriately. This experience greatly contributed to my content inquiry in providing me with alternative insights about the two constructs from the perspective of a veteran teacher and of students with varyious levels of disabilities. Through this experience, I also feel as if I gained another mentor and form of support as a new teacher going into the field.

Camp High Rocks

Take a look at this awesome Camp High Rocks video!

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A North Carolina Boys Summer Camp. (n.d.). Retrieved July 01, 2017, from http://www.highrocks.com/

Camp High Rocks is a camp for young boys located in the mountains of North Carolina. They pride themselves on providing opportunities for campers to create friendships and become independent in a supportive community setting. Campers allowed to choose which activities they participate in and are assisted with setting their own personal goals for the summer. There are endless opportunities for fun at Camp High Rocks including hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, tennis, and soccer. None of these activities emphasize competition, but rather the learning experience, skills development, and fun. Testimonials of campers show that they feel a sense of accomplishment that is fostered by being involved in fun activities and being away from home.

One thing I learned from this research experience is that by giving kids more choices, they are more likely to explore their options and embrace whatever decisions they make. Another piece of knowledge that was reinforced for me through my research of Camp High Rocks is that physical activity and independence can really enhance a child’s self-confidence. I am particularly interested in self-confidence and how it applies to students with special needs. As we know, males are largely overrepresented in special education. Therefore, I believe that having camps like this that specifically focus on males can be beneficial to those who struggle with disabilities.