I was able to attend a mainstream school in first grade. I went to Kreutz Creek Elementary School in Hellam. I had to go to the elementary school in the next town because I couldn’t walk up and down steps by myself during my childhood. Kreutz Creek was a single level school and Wrightsville was a two story school. I also needed a personal assistant to help me throughout the school day. My personal assistant’s name was Mrs. Bailey. I also needed to have a bigger desk because I needed to use a typewriter. A normal size school desk wasn’t big enough to sit a typewriter on. This was very difficult for me because I felt like everyone knew I was disabled and different from the first day of school. I was in all mainstream classes for first grade. I struggled a lot academically during first grade. My most difficult class was math. I couldn’t understand the basic addiction and subtraction problems. After the first marking period I was placed in a learning support classroom for math. This helped me understand math better because my teacher was able to break math problems down. There were only five students in the classroom so the teacher was able to work on me one on one with my math. This really helped me understand how solve the problems.
I was also in a learning support class for reading and English. I needed to be in a learning support classroom for these two classes because my reading comprehension was a little behind the rest of my classmates and I needed extra time to complete my writing assignments because of how slow I typed. My learning support teacher had us read a book at our grade level as a class. The only difference between the way we read our books was we read them out loud as a group and the mainstream class read to themselves. I had the same learning support teacher for first through third grades. Her name was Mrs. Salomon. Mrs. Salomon had us read many books as a class during these three grades. My favorite book series that we read was the Boxcar Children. This series was about three siblings that became orphans and had no where to live at a period of time in their life. They found an old box car in the woods and made that their home. At the end of the first book the children were reunited with their grandfather and he adopted them. He let them take the box car and put it in the back yard because he understood why it had so much meaning to them. The rest of the series talked about how they were able to have a normal childhood after being adopted by there grandfather. This really interested me to see how much their life improved when they were in the custody of their grandfather. I guess looking back now that was a sign that I was going to end up in the field of Social Services. Mrs. Salomon would have us read one chapter a day and discuss the chapter as a class. After a 15 minute discussion on the chapter we would do a worksheet that had us answer questions about the chapter. At the end of the book we wrote a book report summarizing the main point of the book. I always did well on written reports and was able to express myself and thoughts in writing. I had to put in a little more time than the rest of my classmates because of using the typewriter.
I was in mainstream classes for science and social studies. These two classes were my favorite classes throughout elementary school because I enjoyed the assignments we did. A lot of the assignments were research papers and projects which was my strength in school. That always saved my grades because I was not a good test taker. I loved the social studies projects I had to do throughout elementary school. I found learning about the wars that America fought in interesting. My favorite thing I learned about in social studies was when we learned about how America was settled and the immigrants came from Europe to Elise Island for religious freedom.
I also enjoyed my science classes in elementary school. We did a lot of experiments, which caused me to do well because I am a hands on learner. My favorite science project was creating a food chain poster. I always had a love for animals so anytime we had a unit involving learning about animals I enjoyed. The most challenging part of science for me was all of the tests. Like I said I wasn’t the best test taker. Luckily my teachers were willing to come up with ways to help improve my test scores. They sat down with me to ask me why I felt I was having so much trouble with tests when my other assignments were showing I was understanding the material especially my homework. I told them when I do my homework at home I am able to read the questions out loud and I understand it better, but I can’t do that with tests because we aren’t allowed to talk. My teacher allowed me to take my exams in a separate classroom so I could read the questions out loud. I was also given extra time to take my exams. These two accommodations improved my test scores tremendously. This made me feel that I was proving that I was understanding the material I was learning. This also made me feel like a good student. I was seeing that other students that were receiving failing grades were labeled as the “bad students” and the “trouble makers” and I was fearing that my teachers were placing me in that category. This shown my teachers did see that I wanted to succeed academically. After my grades improved my social life also improved. My classmates saw that I wasn’t one of trouble makers and wanted to hang out with me.
Gaining friends at school encouraged me to get involved in Girl Scouts. I was in Girl Scouts all throughout Elementary School. My Girl Scout troupe met at a church in Hellam. Every meeting would begin with us reciting the Girl Scout honor. We did many service projects in our community. One of the service projects that I remember the most was going around Hellam and cleaning up trash. We did this twice a year. We did many activities and went on many trips. The first activity I did with the Girl Scouts was going to a Roller Skating Rink. This was a challenge for me, but I saw it as an opportunity to prove that my disability didn’t stop me. Two of the other girls spent the evening spotting me so I was able to skate. We started out by skating around the carpeted area in case I fell. It took me two hours to get my balance and to get the hang of skating. After I was completely comfortable skating around the carpeted area I was ready to try to skate inside the skating rink. I started out skating in the rink with two of the girls holding onto me. It was much harder for to keep my balance inside the rink than it was on the carpet because the skates went faster on the hard floor. I wasn’t able to skate inside the rink by myself but I was grateful that my friends helped me keep my balance so I could skate with them.
Another activity I participated in with the Girl Scouts was a sleep over. We were preparing for our first camping trip, and our leaders thought it would be a good idea to have a sleepover before the trip. For many of us the camping trip would be our first night away from home, so our leaders wanted to have a night away closer to home. This also gave us a chance to prepare for our camping trip. I was very excited for this sleepover because this was the first time my parents let me spend the night away from home. This made me feel like a normal kid to be able to be away from home like the rest of my friends. At the sleepover our leaders had us go out into the yard of the church and learn how to put a tent up. We each were assigned a task in order to put the tent up. My job was to push the pools through the holes in the side of the tent. I needed a little bit of help with this so my leader helped guide the pools through the holes. When we put the posts in the ground and all of the pools in the tent we all worked together to put the tent up. After we got the tent up we brought out our sleeping bags and set up camp like we were going to on our camping trip.
After we set up our camp site we went back inside to discuss our camping trip for the following weekend. Our leaders told us what the camp site would be like. She told us we would set up our tent in the middle of the camp ground. We used the same tent we were using that night. She also shown us on the map where the bath house was going to be and where most of our activities would be during the weekend. Our leaders also gave us a list of items we needed to pack for the trip. Than we went over what we needed to do on the trip in order to earn our camping badge. When it was time for bed we all went out to the tent. The tent we were using was a two room tent, which met it had a curtain in the middle that would divide the tent in two. We got in our sleeping bags and laid there and talked until we fell asleep. The next morning we had breakfast and played until our parents picked us up.
The following weekend was our camping trip. We went to a Girl Scout camping site that was an hour away. When we arrived at the camp ground we set up our tents. We had two tents, one for us and one for our leaders. Our leaders showed us where the bath house was, than it was time for all of the troops to meet together to go over the schedule for the weekend. Our first activity was a hike around the camp ground. The camp ground was on a large wooded lot with many hiking trails. We went on a three mile hike. This was very challenging for me. I had a lot of trouble walking long distances in Elementary School a would tire out quickly. The ground was uneven throughout the woods and I had trouble keeping my balance. My leaders had to carry me during most of the hike, but I still was enjoying being away from home for the weekend with my friends. I pushed myself to walk as much as I could because I knew that it would strengthen my legs. At the end of the hike we had lunch back at our camp site and had some downtime. Later that afternoon there was a dance at one of the pavilions. This lasted most of the night. After that we went back to our camp site and sat around the camp fire. Around the camp fire we told ghost stories and made s’mores.
This camping trip was one of the best weekends of my childhood. This was my first full weekend away from home and from my parents. This gave me a sense of independence. It was so nice to do the same thing the rest of my peers. This also shown me how independent I w able to be. That weekend was the first time that I was completely take care of myself. I also learned how to develop my own identity and hobbies away from my parents because I didn’t have them around taking care of me. On this trip I learned how much I enjoyed the outdoors. I loved being outside all weekend. When I was home during my childhood my parents mostly stayed inside and watching tv. I loved the hike and playing outside all weekend. This showed so much at home after this weekend. I started playing out in the backyard more.
Another big trip I remember from my Girl Scout years was a beach trip. We went to the beach for a weekend when I was in 5th grade. This was my favorite trip because I love the beach. We rented a large house in Ocean City, Maryland. The house was a five bedroom house. One group of us shared a bedroom downstairs and the other group shared a bedroom upstairs. We did many fun activities on this trip. In order to earn a badge for this trip we had to do something educational, so we went to a Marine biology museum. This museum had live marine life and information about the animals. It was a small museum and it didn’t take long to walk through. After we went through this museum we spent the rest of the day at the beach. We had so much fun. We played in the waves and in the sand. We had a picnic lunch on the beach. After we were done on the beach we went back to the house where we showered and change. Our leaders made us dinner than we went to the boardwalk. On the boardwalk we did some shopping and got boardwalk fries. The only frustrating part about this trip for me was my leaders made me use my wheelchair chair on the boardwalk and I wanted to walk. After I told them how I felt they did let me walk.
This beach trip changed me in so many ways. After this trip I gained a strong desire to be independent and not rely on my parents for everything. I know if I relied on my parents less at home, they would let me do more with my friends. I also realized I was becoming a young women and I wanted to start wearing bras because my friends were. I started dressing like the rest of my classmates. I started to identify with what my peers liked instead of what my parents liked and what little kids liked. I started wearing makeup. After this I started to fit in more at school because I was relating to my peers more. This helped made my transition from elementary school to middle school a lot easier.