Graduation and now what? (Independent Living Skills Series 29)

I know the months have flown by and I left the Independent Living Skills series after we had the Christmas party. I meant to update the series as soon as I graduated, however life got in the way.

Let’s go back to December-Christmas break was a fun time and it was a time to get some rest. I got new glasses that has improved my vision somewhat. The issue is I am having problems with the glasses. My glasses need to be adjusted quite often because the lenses are so heavy that they fall down my nose. I know next time I get glasses I need to get metal frames instead of plastic ones. I know that I need to get rectangular frames because I can see further out. Currently I keep getting my glasses adjusted and I am doing the best I can with the vision I have.

When I went back to the training center my focus was on improving my cooking skills instead of my Orientation and Mobility Skills. My teacher, a few of my classmates and I enjoyed our cooking lessons. I learned how to cook and bake things such as baked vegetables, chocolate chip cookies, and banana pudding, etc. My cooking skills improved and I began cooking more meals on my own.

Since my time at the training center was limited by my Individualized Employment Plan. Which is a plan that outlines the skills to live independently which could rang anything from being able to cook a simple meal to finding employment. My main concern was learning how to use the local bus system rather than the disability bus. In fact, before I was accepted into the school, I had to write to the head of the department stating why I needed to appeal my caseworker’s denial for training. One of the reasons I wrote in the letter was the need to learn the local bus system so I could be independent while out in the community because our local disability bus is not reliable. On the last day of classes I asked the head teacher and my orientation and mobility teachers about teaching me the bus system. They said they couldn’t teach me because we had already learned some basics about the bus system and because that I am able to take the disability bus. Lastly, we were just out of time.

I did have one lesson on how to read the bus schedule and the layout of the bus station, however I wanted to learn how to actually take the bus for added security in case the disability bus failed to show, etc. I know that many of you probably are shocked that I did not fight for more training.  The day this all happened I tried to stand up for myself. I explained why I wanted to learn the bus. I ran out of time, and it was not worth fighting for.

The last class was a sad one because I felt like my teachers were disappointed in the fact that my Vocational Rehabilitation caseworker and I were going to focus our energy on self-employment rather than community placement. I know that there is a lot of fears when it comes to self-employment.

I was going to miss my friends from school. Despite all this my grandpa and I enjoyed the smores I made in class that day.

The next week I received a letter from my caseworker that read:

“Dear Amanda:

I am writing to inform you that your case will be closed in the next 30 days for the following reason:

As we discussed on 3/15/2019, you agreed that you have received the services requested and have been unable to yet attain an employment outcome.

If you would like to discuss this issue or you would like your case to remain open so that you may pursue employment-based activities, please contact me prior to 4/15/2019. If I do not hear from you by that time, I will assume you are in agreement and will processed with closure.

I wish you good luck and continued success.

The next week I received a letter from the training center signed by the head teacher that read:

“Ms. Nelson,

I am writing to inform you that your case is now closed at (name of blind training center). We are pleased that you have completed your goals. You were a good student, and it was a pleasure working with you. We are very proud of your accomplishments. We wish you lot of luck in your career development. Enclosed you will find your certificates of your completion.

Take Care.

I know that many of you are probably feeling shocked that I did not fight for more time to keep my case open with my caseworker. I knew it was time to move on from the services that the organization provides. I have worked with many job coaches, including the employment coach that worked with my caseworker. These job coaches have yet to find me any solid leads because of my lack of a driver’s license and reliable public transportation. I have looked for employment for five and a half years.

Despite the organization closing my case I am still receiving support from another organization called Vocational Rehabilitation. This is due to my vision and other disabilities that I have. Vocational Rehabilitation can provide the same set of services that my other caseworker was doing. Right now, I am working with a caseworker to help me launch a successful business. I am currently working on a Nystagmus related product that I believe will benefit parents who have children with Nystagmus.

I am thankful for the support that my caseworker and school have provided me. I will continue to work with my Vocational Rehabilitation caseworker to achieve my goals and dreams of travel and self-employment because I believe in more movement, patience and positivity!

 

Cooking Pizzas and an informal luncheon (Independent living series 27)

It was a busy day at my school; we all met in the technology lab for a class meeting. Our cooking teacher told us that members of the public would be taking a tour of the school and then having an informational luncheon. Pizza was on the menu. Our teacher divided us into two groups: those that would be helping prepare the pizzas and those that would be staying in the technology lab. I was asked to help cook.

Once we were in the kitchen my teacher went through the ingredients. He then organized how the 16 pizzas were going to be cooked in a timely manner.

It was time to start preparing the pizzas. The first pizza was made by our teacher. First, he added a little bit of olive oil to the crust, then he added about a teaspoon of pizza sauce, then he added a little bit of oregano and pepper. The final step was to add the cheese.

The students then got their own pizzas. I made a pepperoni pizza. The olive oil was slippery as I spread it on the crust. Then I added the sauce, oregano and pepper. I must admit I felt like I added too much oregano. Then came the cheese. Once I finished adding the cheese, I asked my teacher if my pizza looked okay; he felt that I missed a spot and I needed to add a little bit more cheese. I did. Once that was finished, I added the pepperoni. I felt like my pizza looked good. Once the rest of the students finished their first pizzas the teachers took our finished ones and put it to the side. Then we all started our second pizzas. This time we had a rhythm to getting the pizzas ready. It was more like an assembly line as we passed the ingredients around and helped one another as needed. We really do have a great group of people in our class. The last pizza I did I needed help pouring the sauce, so my teacher helped me. Preparing the rest of the pizzas was easy. Once the pizzas were finished the teachers were able to put them into the oven to cook. The students were then able to sit and chat quietly about the class party and other topics of interest.

Soon it was time to eat. During the luncheon, the public got to experience what it is like to eat while totally blind because they were wearing blind folds. One of the members of the public asked, “How do I pour my drink?” As I watched, I wanted to go up to him, introduce myself and show him how it was done. However, I let him figure it out on his own. While we were eating our director talked about the five programs and how they had an impact on the community.

I wanted to stand up towards the end and talk a little bit about what the program has meant to me. As a student, I can honestly say that these classes have helped me grow as a person. I can cook, use technology such as my Alexa, and ZoomText, and I can travel independently. With the help of the dedicated staff and teachers, I am no longer relying on my grandfather as much as I used too.

The director emphasized the fact that most of our funding that runs the school comes from donations from the public.

Once lunch was finished all of the staff and students cleaned up. I have to admit I enjoyed the pepperoni pizza better than the cheese pizza.

Then we went back to our lessons. I had Orientation and Mobility. Three of us worked on sighted guide and how to shoreline when we were doing routes. It was a great day.

 

 

 

 

Making Pimento Cheese (independent living skills series 25)

I was excited to get back into the kitchen at school. My teacher, classmate and I went into the kitchen and she told me all about the Pimento Cheese ingredients and where to find them when you are at the grocery store. After this, my teacher helped my classmate open a package of cream cheese. We left it on the counter. We got out our cutting boards and cheese graters. I chose the black cutting board and silver grater because the contrast of these two items are easier for me to see better. My teacher went over the different sizes of panels; we used the largest and medium-sized ones.  She showed us how to grate the cheese. I found that grating is simple.

Once half of our block of cheese was grated, we went to the medium-sized panel. I had problems with my panel because of the way my cheese was ending up. Instead of getting grated my cheese was getting smashed into the holes and getting stuck. I had to switch to a handheld grater. Once all of our cheese was grated, we put in all it one giant bowl.  The next step in our lesson was to practice using a measuring spoon to measure our miracle whip and softened cream cheese. Once it was all measured out, we added these ingredients to the bowl. We mixed all three of the ingredients together.

In the morning, our principle ordered pizza for lunch  for all the students and staff. Our pizza was delivered right on time.  The pizza was delicious and all the students and staff enjoyed this treat. Once we cleaned up from lunch, including some of our dishes from our lesson, we got back to it.

We added the Pimentos to the bowl. Then we stirred the cheese. It was time to clean the carrots that we were going to use to dip our cheese with. Cleaning the carrots was easier. My classmate peeled and cut half of the carrots. Then it was my turn. I had never cut carrots into slices before so my teacher had to teach me how to do it. What made this easier to remember was how I rocked my knife back and forth to cut our homemade pizzas. This was the same kind of process.

Lastly, my teacher placed the cheese on a plate and added some of the carrots. We then had a small discussion on how to plate cheese, vegetables, and crackers for a party.

My classmates, teachers and I all enjoyed our snack. It was a lot of fun making this simple snack.

Next week I will be learning how to make chicken salad and chocolate dump cake.

Mid-term reflection: pondering thoughts (independent living skills series 21)

Since it is October and I only have four more months until my scheduled graduation I decided to write a mid-term reflection.

I like my classmates and staff at school. I feel like the school lacks organization when it comes to getting students organized for their assigned lessons.  I wish the teachers would provide class syllabuses to help students keep track on what they are learning.

When I first started school, back in May, I was hesitant to cook and to travel on my own. I had limited knowledge about the Alexa Echo.

I now have a new sense of freedom. I now know how to look up recipes, check spelling of words, do math, get times and keep my shopping and To-Do lists up to date. I use my Alexa daily.

In the kitchen, I am able to cook simple meals and desserts. As well as, use my adaptive equipment to chop fruits and vegetables, check temperatures on a wide variety of meats, and how to confidently place and remove pans from a hot oven. I cook for myself more often, and enjoy new dishes. (Yum, baked eggplant 😊)

When it comes to my travel skills I am no longer afraid to cross streets with heavy traffic, use escalators and elevators and use alternative transportation. I feel like I can travel anywhere I want including traveling abroad. Over these past few months I have learned to have high expectations for myself; all this despite having Nystagmus.  I have positive friends who believe I can achieve my goals and dreams rather than to say I cannot achieve.  On top of all this, I have decided not to listen to the people who say, “No, you cannot you have a cane; or you are visually impaired,” I say to those people, I have confidence and independence now that I have all this training. Getting this confidence and independence did not just happen over night and it came with a lot of work on my part, however I am happy with who I am today.  I know what goals I want to achieve in the future.

Thank you everyone for your support; without you I would have never made it this far. I am looking forward to my graduation.

 

 

A toothache, Orientation and Mobility lesson, and pizza (independent living skills series 18)

I woke up an hour after missing a call from a friend from overseas, and I was tired. The past weekend I had a toothache. I was ready for school even though I really did not want to go. When I got to school, I talked with my classmates and I helped clean up the student meeting room. Soon we all had our assignments for the day. I had another Orientation and Mobility lesson. I forgot my sunglasses at home. Because of that fact, and because I wanted to work on working in a crowded area, my teacher and I went to the mall.

First, I had to find a landmark and I had to use a map to find the first store I wanted to go to, Ross. I started off heading in that direction, mind mapping along the way. The store was easy to find. I had a fun time looking at all the clothes. I even thought about buying some thin ankle socks, but in the end I decided not to buy anything.  I backtracked my route to find Old Navy. I enjoyed seeing what that store had to offer and I even found some clothes I could wear for a job interview.

From there my teacher had me go to the food court. I had to look up and follow the signs. I used my environmental clues. Just had to follow my nose 😊

Then we went to Belk. While I was mind mapping to find a variety of departments my teacher told me how to find percentages off for when something is on sale. Believe me, the store had a lot of items on sale that day. Soon I felt comfortable doing the math and learning how much I would save on any of the great sales that were going on.

Our last stop was Dillard’s. We went around the store, having me learn the routes and how to mind map along the way. I have to admit I was getting tired because of the soreness I had in my mouth. We went up and down the escalators a few times. On my first attempt I was fearful; after a few rounds I felt confident. My teacher challenged me to go up and down two times on my own. I felt so confident when I did it on my own. I feel like I am no longer afraid. By now my tooth was really hurting and I was tired and hungry.

We went back to the center. When I got there, I was able to join in a daily living activity of making pizza. My teacher, one of our assistant daily living skills teachers, and I made the last pizza. My pizza had sauce, cheese and pepperoni on it. We cooked it for a while and when the cheese wasn’t melted my teacher broiled it for a few minutes. I had never cut a pizza with a chef knife before so I was taught to cut it by pressing hard and rocking my knife back and forth, then moving my pizza to the next section. I did not feel that comfortable doing it the first couple of times, so our main cooking teacher had to step in to help me. I love learning new things. 😊 While we were cooking our pizzas the director of Division of Blind Services stopped by. I was able to tell her about how things were going and what I felt like I needed. I felt listened too.

Soon our pizzas were done and everyone who had a piece enjoyed it. There was some left over so I grabbed one to take home to my grandpa.

After our lesson my classmates and I cleaned up the kitchen and the student lounge.

Since I was still hurting I called my grandpa. When I got home I went to the dentist. I am okay, and I have some medicine to help me feel better.

Even though I had a toothache and an added dentist visit I still had a good day.

 

 

 

Shopping and compass directions (independent living skills series 16)

The van was late, but I still made it on time. Once everyone was in the student lounge, our main teacher told us about a focus group meeting that was being held at the main office. I, along with two other students, were chosen to go to the meeting. That meant that my lesson was going to be cut short.

Once again, I was assigned Orientation and Mobility.  My teacher gave me a choice of what I wanted to work on. Because I feel like I was getting stressed with the street crossings I decided to work at the mall. The mall was not as busy as I expected it to be. As we looked around at what the stores had to offer my teacher asked me questions like, “What direction is the water?” The answer was simple; its in the South. Because I was looking for more shorts I had to ask someone for directions for that department. I followed the persons directions and as I was traveling my teacher asked me what direction I was going. Sometimes I would get the direction right and other times I would get it wrong. It is definitely something that I need to work on more. We found the shorts, but I could not find any style that I liked. I still made out pretty well. I got a pair of tan shorts, a pair of gray pants and a camo top. All for $20.00.

Once we were done with our lesson we made a quick stop through a drive through. I got a hamburger and a large coke for $4.00.

We then went to the meeting. I can not tell you what happened at the meeting because it is confidential, however I can tell you about what happened afterwards. I was supposed to close my case in September, however because I advocated for myself that I still was struggling with my travel and cooking skills my caseworker extended my Individual Employment Plan until next March. That is such a big relief off my shoulders.

I am not sure what lesson I will have next week, but I will keep building my confidence one lesson at a time.

 

102 heat index (independent living skills series 14)

I was  an hour early for school. There was only one other student and a few teachers. I talked to my teachers about a few concerns I had. Once that was taken care of, I went back to the conference room. Soon my other classmates filed in and we got our assignments.

I, along with another classmate, were assigned Orientation and Mobility lesson. Since I am getting closer to my graduation date my teachers and I want to be sure I have the confidence to travel independently.

It took quite a long time to find a parking space, and sadly I was a bad journalist and did not get any footage of the downtown Pensacola area. However I did see some interesting sights. I saw a funeral home that looked like a Mexican restaurant, a woman wearing a stylish dress, and of course the Pier, with it’s water fountain.

Once we did found a parking space we headed off. Because I felt like there was not much room to work, I was not working my cane properly. My teacher saw this and she pointed out some more space. I began to work better after a further adjustment.

The first street crossing went great, however when I came to the next one I got nervous. It showed. My teacher had to provide feedback as to my crossing techniques. When were done with the lesson, my teacher, classmate and I went to go get something to drink. My teacher went to Starbucks, and my classmate and I went to get some sodas at a nearby sandwich joint. While we enjoyed the Air Conditioning and our drinks we talked about our eye conditions and how American Politics effects benefits for the disabled.

When we got back to the center we had lunch; and while we were eating, we had a class meeting. We decided to all pitch in and have a class pizza party in the near future. I am looking forward to it.

Once lunch was over, another student and I headed back out. This lesson was going to be much shorter than the first because the heat index was 102. Finding a parking space was quicker than in the morning. As we walked down the sidewalk I saw some interesting things. The tax collector’s building looked neat as it used to be a historic building. I saw a bright orange thing on the sidewalk. We were not sure if it was a large toy or a moving chair. All we knew was the color and that it was in front of a candy shop and that it moved. We continued to walk and cross the streets. I struggled at a four-way stop because I went with the flow of traffic, yet when I saw a car approach I froze. Even though there is a white cane law, I still have a fear of people not stopping. My teacher had to reinforce the white cane law to me. After that we headed back to the center. Just in the nick of time-a rainstorm hit! I can not wait for my next adventure and I am looking forward to graduation day.