I've always known I was different, since before I can remember I knew that there were things that my sister could that I had a really hard time doing or couldn't do at all. One of those things happened to be the ability to speak. I had a way of communicating with my parents and sister but I didn't actually learn how to speak until I was enrolled in Head Start. It's a government program that offers low income children to chance to preschool, and at least at the time it included a selection of therapies for special needs kids. They helped a lot with multiple therapies but the one that I remember improving the most in was speech therapy. I went from communicating with my hands alone, to stopping the habit and being close to speaking in full sentences in about nine months. I continued to get speech therapy until I was given the option rather I wanted to continue with it my freshmen year of high school, because it became more of a problem to leave class for it then it had been before. Anyone who has known me since at least elementary school knew that I improved a lot. Those who I've spent time a lot of time around me in the last couple years can probably tell that I've started to have more problems with it again, but it's just one of many things that has been affecting me more and more the last four years. Some of it is Hydrocephalus related but some of it might not, but it's not something that I'm comfortable talking about on a public site where I can't limit who can see it or not. If you know me you can feel free to ask, preferably via social media.
While I'm off topic, I might as well add that I took adaptive physical education for a few years. I started in the Fifth Grade and finished the program two years later. The first year it was one on one, and then in Junior High it was me, the instructor and another functioning disabled kid until he transferred to another school at some point. Like speech therapy it was something I was taken out of one of my classes for so that it was less noticeable than other ways they could have done it. I also still took regular physical education at the same time, so that made it even less noticeable. It helped me a lot of dealing the lack of depth perception and motor skills. Along with what was being asked to teach me, he helped finally catch out on how to tie my shoes just in time for middle school. Something that I wouldn't really appreciate for until years later are the way he treated me and talked to me. He did it in a way, where it was obvious that he considered me with someone with challenges, instead of disabled. It was clear to me that the other kid's disability was more severe than mine, and he seemed to make it a point to make sure I knew that and felt that way. He is defiantly one of a handful that has made that kind of a positive impact on my when it comes to self-image. I don't remember his name or how to find that out. What I do know is that he worked for the Amphitheater School District in Tucson, Arizona around sixteen years ago. He worked with me at Nash Elementary School and La Cima Middle School. He probably worked with other schools in the district as well. If by chance he sees this, I want to thank you because I didn't know how much of a impact you were making in my life at the time. I really do appreciate everything you did for me, and the way you treated me.
Going back to my original subject, In Preschool I still knew I was different but not in the same that I was before and after. There was many other kids who were disabled so and I don't remember being treated much different than those who were. In Kindergarten I was close to speak in full sentences, but it was nearly impossible to understand what I was saying and it would stay that way until I was about ten. I wasn't potty trained all the way yet and wouldn't be until the end of the school year. I knew going in that it wasn't normal, I just didn't know how much I was going to get picked on it for. I don't remember how noticeable my motor skills were but the first two things was enough to be physically bullied for the next five years, until someone who caught them actually did something.
I don't want to imply that the bullying stopped altogether, just the physically bullying. I dealt with it thinking that people would grow up and find other ways to deal with their problems other than taking it out on weaker people. But it hasn't I'll always have to deal with people taking out their lack of confidence on me to make themselves feel better.
What was harder on me than that was that in Elementary school the friends I had to few and far between, and even fewer of them would spend time with me during lunch. I don't have anything against anyone and I've been able to find almost all of them on Facebook except for two. It’s just that whatever circumstances there were ended up with me not being able to spend time with them at that point of the day. I expected the same in Middle School so I made it a point to try to change who I was so I would be a lot less of a loner. In a way it worked but I the next time I got a blow of reality in high school about what people think of me, it really made me doubt who was really my friends were and who wasn't. It also made me question what everyone, friends or not thought of me. I regret trying to change myself, because I've never been able to get close to the way I raised but then again, maybe it was just me starting to really lose my innocence and it would have happened regardless of whatever I decided to do. In reality the group I would spend the next seven years eating lunch with would have accepted me no matter what.
Considering the way I acted or at least tried to, it makes it obvious (to me at least) that the self-image and self-confidence was always a problem, but for a while it was something I didn't think a lot about. A lot of what I did have a hard time dealing with was always stuff that I was able to keep to myself, or to just family and close friends. I don't know what made me realize it, but around Sophomore year I started to realize what people thought of me in a way that I never had before. I had always been clear that people saw me differently because of small difference but I managed to never had realized until then how much different as a whole. Also that because of that, people had always treated me differently because of that and always will. I definitely took that time harder than any other times. One of those reasons is probably because of puberty. Of course all the emotional problems that go along with it are normal, but Hydrocephalus or any other disorder that affects the brain just makes it all worse.
It was only getting harder, and it wouldn't have gotten easier until I would have caused some kind of harm to myself. So my senior year I made a decision to reach out to my Youth Pastor at the time and a Teacher. I reached out to my Youth Pastor first because of what he had been preaching on the summer, and I could that God was trying to lead me to talk to him because how personal his messages was to me. I'm not completely sure why I picked the particular teacher, but she did make sure that I would get the counseling I needed. I ended up not being very open because I was minor and there were certain things that I didn't want them to pass on to others. What they did do was help me test out of attention deficit disorder, so it wouldn't be something that had to be brought up after high school.
What really helped me get through that period of time is the time I spent with my Youth pastor. Rather it was what he was preaching, group sessions or the occasional one on one session. There are feelings that I have been able to get over, but it's something I could deal with and it would be another several years before I started having a really hard time again.
I don't know for sure how it got started again in the last few years ago, but a specific manager from when I was making the transition to Courtesy Clerk to Produce Clerk a couple years did and said everything he could to discourage me and ignorant things he said to thing that had to do with my "disability" were really hurtful, and we started to make me think. I'm not going to mention any names, but he knows who he is and others if they read this probably know who I'm talking about. I think it's caused me to think more about how people talk to me, or some specific words that people call me.
I've been getting the random person who calls me "retarded" from a moving car, and it's usually something I remember. It hurts me, but it's nothing something that I take to heart as much because in that situation I don't know the person. Besides when someone does that, it also means that the person wouldn't have the balls to call me that to my face. There's also the occasional customer who clearly treats me like I'm a lot "worse off" than I am or even feels the need to mention it to someone I'm standing right next to. A couple of examples is a guy that had the nerve to ask the Cashier that I was begging for if I'm "special”, or another customer who walked up to me with a big grin on her face and asked me if I knew if "Santa Claus" was here. Still these are people that don't know me, and I would have hoped that people who know me at all realize who I really am. But unfortunately that's not always the case. I've have had people during the last few years that actually know me either mock my speech, and even a coworker while several feet of me refer to me as "retarded" while talking to a customer. I misattribute things or hear things the wrong way, but it was a situation where it was pretty hard to do that.
I think that's all I have to say about this subject, or at least but at this time, but I want to end this post with a personal opinion on something. It's not just the word "retarded" but someone's choice of words altogether. I don't intend to tell people what they can or cannot say, because nobody but that person should have control over that. But I ask you to consider people like me who have to deal with being called these words on a somewhat regular basis, and not in a playful way before you use it again.