Has this contradiction, that I wrote about this afternoon, always been there, and has it always been to the same extent? The first question can simply be answered affirmatively. Well, no, it can’t, since I can’t remember all of my life, but for so far as I remember, it’s always been this way. That’s exactly what the fights stemmed from between my parents and the schools for the blind. That’s why I was sent to remedial educationalist after remedial educationalist till my parents eventually had the answer they wanted: that I was good enough for regular education. Technically, they didn’t get that answer – they got the answer that I should be using the remainder of the 1998/1999 school year to sit in on regular ed classes to see if I could deal with that setting starting by August, 1999. It got down to five days in May and June after I had already been accepted unconditionally at my regular high school. But that’s not my point. My point is that the fight – the good enough for regular education vs. bad enough for low-level special ed debate, which, in essence, was a debate of whether I was intelligent or behaviourally disturbed – was going on even in 1997 till 1999. I had much less of a voice, in the figurative sense, than I have now, simply cause I was a child, but the same logic happened then: I only used my voice when I was the “good enough” me. I remember a discussion with a high school teacher on its open day in 1999 when I stretched the importance of a small school with only one educational level as a positive point. I meant it, sure. I never say anything I don’t agree with, and, when I’m “good enough”, the small school with one educational level is certainly an advantage. Somewhere, Cal Montgomery differentiates between impairment and disability and considers Bruce the embodiment of impairment while Mary signifies disability. A small school with one educational level was a barrier removed for someone with blindness as a disability, because it meant a smaller building to learn routes around and the possibility that teachers will get to know me quickly cause there simply aren’t so many. It did nothing to lessen my behavioural and social/communicative difficulties and neither did any other accommodations. Well, my tutor eventually, in the higher grades, did some “translating” back and forth between me and teachers and most teachers had significantly lowered their expectations of me by the eleventh grade as compared to the seventh grade, at least as far as behaviour is concerned. I held on in high school, of course. I managed to keep the “good enough” image at least, cause, of course, “good enough” doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. Yet I was still also “bad enough”. That never changed. I’ve always been both and it depends on which “expert” you were to ask which was emphasized and to what extent. My parents often told me I made their lives miserable and so did Sigrid. They’ve had all kinds of paradigms about that that I’m not going to go into now, since I’ve done so many times already. See this entry for an overview.
Has the contradiction always been equally noticeable? I don’t think so. I’m not sure why this is, but there are several factors contributing to it, I think. The first is that it was never acknowledged. In elementary school, I was mostly behaviourally disturbed. My parents knew I was intelligent and stretched this, but everyone knew I had behavioural problems. It was in this context that the only situation in which my parents accepted help for my behaviours happened. It was pretty useless – four completely worthless sessions of play therapy when I could’ve been in biology class in 1996 -, but it was there. I know that my parents were talked into consenting by the school social worker, but I don’t know whether my parents’ self-determination was just less than it was a year later when they resisted the 1997 report to that same social worker, or whether my behaviour was truly so bad that even my parents thought I needed help. Later of course, they never denied that I had problems with behavioural/social functioning. All they said was that it was more important that I’m intelligent. Yet I was the behaviourally disturbed kid and I don’t think I was seen as pretty much anything else. My parents used to treat me as if the intelligent girl was hiding behind the behaviourally disturbed one, cause they never seemed to get it that they were using the same mistakes the school was: to assume that a behaviourally disturbed kid can’t be intelligent, and vise versa.
Then in high school I was the intelligent one. I remember the time, in early 2002, when “I don’t understand” was almost as big a part of my vocabulary as it is now. My father told me I’d have to use my analytical intelligence to think out solutions for those social/behavioural problems and got really pitiful when I told him I couldn’t. I also remember the time in the tenth and eleventh grades, when my tutor was desperately trying to get me to adopt social skills. When I told him that I didn’t understand, he explained the situation that got him or someone else to criticize me and I said I would think better about how I behaved. I did think, and yet I didn’t understand, but I didn’t have to as I still got high marks in school.
What’s my current situation? No-one can deny I’m intelligent. I am, after all. This is not by the grace of some IQ score, but by the fact that I graduated from high school, am now in college and can talk politics on a level most staff don’t understand. And yet I’m behaviourally disturbed. I have major word-finding problems in some situations, if I don’t get completely “locked up inside”. I had these problems in high school, too – well, the complete “locked up inside” stuff, the word-finding problems emerged when the complete “locked up inside” stuff decreased slightly last spring -, but practically, it didn’t cause major problems cause my tutor, father or sister was there to clarify, simplify or solve a situation for me when I failed. I have major temper tantrums where I may get aggressive. These have increased in severity over the year 2006, but have always been there to an extent and have been much more severe than they were in 2006. I think the practical/social demands on me are heavier than they were in let’s say late 2005, which might in part explain the increase. This was a part of my problems that I could never really deal with effectively, but it was still either brushed off or laughed at or screamed at or all of this. Sure I was told I was a retard, autistic, psychotic, abusive, a bitch, and all sorts of other things. It never changed the way I behaved – because simply punishing (or ignoring, which also happened) bad behaviour will not teach someone good behaviour. At least not me. I remember a parenting program on TV a few months ago in which a five-year-old boy was constantly screaming and whining whenever he wanted his mother to do something. The psychologist advised the mother to ignore the behaviour and suddenly the kid began to ask questions, which was of course reinforced. All great, but I still wonder how that kid learnt to ask the right questions. I’m still having trouble with that at age twenty and that’s anxiety aside.
Sometimes, I think I’ve gotten a lot worse in this past year, and sometimes, I think I’ve not really gotten worse at all. The contradiction in my functioning is more pronounced than it used to be, but that doesn’t make it any more or less real. I, personally, have a lot of difficulty answering that question from last week: if all my problems had been going on for years, why was I now in mental health? My answer is really that I would’ve been there three years ago if I’d had the skills and knowledge to take the initiative. My behaviour may’ve gotten some worse in 2006, but I’ve also needed to meet higher practical/social demands as well as academic ones and I still notice that I’m sort of in the position that started by late 2004 when I feel I can’t hold on anymore. I thought this should be over after two years, but probably it still is not.