Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving: Simply Thankful

I'm thankful for God blessing me
with such wonderful friends and family.

What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Doors and Windows

My horrible cold relapsed, so I stayed home this week. But Miss Betsy and I ordered the HBO movie Temple Grandin (see my last blog) from Netflix and watched it the other night. We were left literally speechless and awestruck. It is, by far, one of the very best movies I have ever seen! Claire Danes plays autistic Temple Grandin to absolute perfection. Judge for yourself; See the movie trailer at:

Temple Grandin’s mother never gave up – and neither did Temple. The movie made me think about how important it is to never give up on children who appear to be low performers.

To Temple, being autistic was like being trapped between two windows – it was almost impossible to communicate through the glass. And she had tremendous difficulty with change. In transitioning from high school to college to Doctor of Animal Science, she would act out each phase of her life by walking through an actual door, window, or gate. And her mother was always there for her.

In her book Thinking in Pictures, Temple says that when she reads, she translates written words into color movies, complete with sound, or simply stores a photo of the written page to be read later. When she retrieves the material, she sees a photocopy of the page in her imagination. She can then read it like a Teleprompter. She pictured – then developed – a deep touch pressure device ("squeeze machine") that helped her overcome problems of oversensitivity to touch, and reduce her nervousness. Today, livestock handling facilities she has designed – based on the same principles – are found worldwide.

Perhaps at Frankie Lemmon, a dream is born in the mind of a child. Who’s to say this dream will never come true? Do we “close the door” and tell the child to give up his or her dream? Or do we encourage the child to keep trying?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Special Teachers: Making a Difference

(Author Unknown)

Ms. Forbis:
With a special gift for learning
And with a heart that deeply cares,

You add a lot of love
To everything you share,

Ms. White:
And even though
You mean a lot,
You'll never know how much,
For your help
To change the world
Through every life you touch.

Ms. Paula:
You sparked the creativity
In the students whom you taught,
And helped them strive for goals
That could not be bought,

The teachers at Frankie Lemmon:
...You are all such special teachers
That no words can truly tell
However much you're valued
For the work you do so well.
- Author Unknown

Temple Grandin didn’t talk until she was three. Instead, she communicated by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. But she somehow struggled through school until a high school teacher found a way to use her strengths to help her reach great heights. The rest is history. Today Dr. Grandin is a Colorado State professor, best-selling author and one of Time Magazine's 2010 "100 Most Influential People in the World"! She is also the subject of the 2010 HBO movie Temple Grandin.

Do teachers make a difference?
Ask Temple Grandin.

"I am different, not less." — Temple Grandin

Friday, November 5, 2010

No Shame in Trying!

I didn’t want to infect my friends at the Frankie Lemmon school with my horrible cold. When I stayed home, I opened the N&O and read about “Ms. Pearce”. The lead sentence read: “In 50 years working at Hilltop Home, Etherlene Pearce missed so few days of work, her employees swear she never took a sick day.”

“For sham
e, Mr. Pat!” said the voice in my head.

The article went on. "She came rain, snow, sleet or hail… It didn't make a difference if there was two feet of snow…”

“Hang your head, Mr. Pat!” said the voice.

But I read on… I learned that Ms. Pearce spent 50 years caring for developmentally challenged at Hilltop Home (, a private, nonprofit residential center that serves children with severe developmental and medical disabilities. Ms. Pearce retired only last year as the home's director at age 89. But she’s still going!

“For shame! Look away! Don't look at Mr. Pat!”

Raleigh is just full of inspiring people like Ms. Pearce.

...For example, Dorothea Dix.

While teaching Sunday School to a group of women in prison, young Dorothea found her calling. The prisoners, a mix of criminals and the mentally challenged, were kept in dark, damp cells with no blankets or furniture. She was horrified! Dorothea spent the rest of her life lobbying for better conditions for the mentally challenged. She never gave up and in 1856, largely through her work, Raleigh's Dorothea Dix Hospital opened for the care of mentally ill patients. By the 1930s there were over 2,000 patients on a site that at one time included 2,354 acres.
Even though she was weak and suffered from tuberculosis, Dorothy never gave up.

“Oh me! Oh my!” said the voice. “You can never be like Dorothy!”

And then there’s Frankie Lemmon himself.

The son of Frank and Georgia Lemmon, a Presbyterian minister and his wife, young Frankie was born with Down Syndrome. In 1965, the Lemmons were appalled to learn there was no kindergarten in Wake County that would enroll a child like Frankie. So, with help from members of Raleigh’s Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church, they opened a kindergarten class for children with mental retardation. Today there are classes for three-, four-, and five-year-olds at Raleigh’s Hayes Barton Baptist Church.

The Lemmons knew that Frankie would never get better, but they never gave up.

And neither will I. There is no shame in failure. The shame is in the not trying…sometimes again and again.

Be still, stupid voice.