Living with a disability can be difficult or at least challenging at times, but I learned during the past few years that you can choose how you respond to it. I choose to live with it and not to let it control me anymore.
My name is Amanda Gene, I am 30 years old, and I am a disability and mental health blogger. The cause of my disability is partly due to me being born premature. I weighed only one pound five ounces and was twelve inches long. Being born 12 weeks early caused me to be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 179 days. My parents were relieved when I was able to come home. In fact, they were so happy that they ordered a limo to take me home in.
The doctors and nurses were not sure what kind of effects my birth would have on me except for a weak immune system. It was not until I was in school that other problems started popping up.
When I was little, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. To help me learn how to deal with the symptoms of the condition I had many years of physical and occupational therapy. This helped me improve my balance, walking and writing. In second grade I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. I was put into The Scottish Rite Dyslexia program and with in school tutoring I was able to improve my reading and spelling. With these programs in place I was doing better in my special education and regular education classes. Yet, there was still something very wrong. From the time I was a baby my mother knew that there was something wrong with my vision. I used to tell her that I had problems seeing things both at school and at home. She took me to many eye doctors who said, at first, that I did not need any accommodations in school. My mother did not believe what the doctors were telling her. She continued to see me struggle. In the forth grade my mother had me tested by teachers of the visually impaired. As I got older the doctors changed their minds about needing accommodations. Test results and a review of my school and medical records showed that I needed accommodations. In the fifth grade I was placed on the register for students with a visual impairment. I have a condition called Nystagmus, which means that my eyes move continuously. There is no cure. In school I had large print textbooks and worksheets along with notes from the teachers. This helped me. My grades improved.
In 2001, my mom, step dad, and I moved from Texas to Florida. I was still in special education and some regular education classes. I was making good grades and I had high hopes of going to college. This dream almost did not become a reality because I was on track for a special rather than a regular diploma. I decided to take control of my future. During my annual review for my Individual Education Plan I read a letter that I had written to the head of the department. I was not alone in this appeal. My mother and several teachers were on board for my plan to be changed. It was agreed upon that I could start my regular education career with the understanding that I would have to meet the many requirements to graduate.
I was excited for next fall to start. The excitement was short lived because my mother died unexpectedly that spring.
My birth father found out that my change in my education plan would have been delayed if I moved to Alabama. He and my grandparents made an agreement that I could stay with them only if he did not have to pay child support and that he would only provide health insurance until my 23rd birthday. He never came to visit me, and he only sends a few emails during the year.
The years of hard work payed off. On May 25, 2008, I graduated with not only my regular diploma, but with honors.
I had always dreamed of graduating from college. My freshmen year I failed one of my classes. Instead of giving up, I retook it and passed.
By my second term, I was feeling a little bit more confident. I still struggled to see small print, so I put in a request for Kurzweil 3000. This software would allow me to access my textbooks and other material with ease. My request was denied. With the help from the independent center for the blind I appealed the request. This time it was approved. Since getting the software my grades improved. In August 2011, I graduated with my AA degree in journalism.
The following autumn I transferred to The University of West Florida. I enjoyed my first two terms once I learned that living in the dorm could be a fun thing. My senior year was challenging. I was struggling to gain access to a particular book for my feature writing class. With the help of the disability center and my instructor to push past this adversity I passed all my classes.
In the winter of 2013, I graduated from The University of West Florida and with honors.
Since that time period I have been looking for a job out in the community. Since this has not happened my caseworker and I have decided to let me start freelancing.
I have also been taking classes at the independent living center for those who are blind or visually impaired.
I have learned a very important lesson over the past few years meeting many people who have the same visual impairment as me. That is choose success not failure.
I would like to thank Anna Adams for allowing me to be a guest blogger.