Physical Handicaps to Overcome

The following excerpt is my personal philosophy based on my own life experiences.  As I point out, this is a highly charged subject and I will not solve the world’s problems in regards to education and development of handicapped children.

Few things are as emotionally charged as bringing forth a child that has a physical handicap.  Almost the entire list of negative emotions can be found in these situations.   This also occurs when one, later in life, becomes handicapped in any way. 

In my limited experience, I have seen two major reactions by parents of a handicapped child.  Unfortunately, once the parents have made a choice they rarely change their minds.  As pointed out to me by a professional in the field, it increases the divorce rate multiple times over.

First choice parents often make is taking on the role of a martyr.  They look out to others in the world and say “have pity on me, as I have this child.” Though this is very understandable, it unfortunately detracts away from the needs of the child.

The education system has swung to this side by categorizing and sorting children by their physical, emotional, and mental characteristics.   This is paradoxically thought to benefit the child by separating him or her from the rest of society.  That separate special education will help integrate them into society (the one they were separated from) and grow and prosper without the help from fellow “normal” peers.  How does it feel to be surrounded by others that remind you constantly, that you are different, not normal, or a burden to society?  Where is the Love?

The second choice is one I call the ‘harder one.’  This is the parent that says “OK, now we go to work.” This child we will help develop to his or her maximum potential.  They will be a productive, tax paying citizen, and part of society.   It’s called ‘tough love.’

I am so thankful that my parents chose the latter. 

Dad: “cookie”

Me: “gooka” 

Dad: “cookie” 

Me: “Gokee”

Dad: “cookie”

Me: “goga”

Dad: “cookie”

Me: “koka”

Dad: “cookie”

Me: *with tears running down my cheek* “cookah”

My Mother: *goes to another room and sobs*

Dad: “cookie”

Me, several times later: “cookie” or good enough for my Dad. 

For multiple hours I sat on my Dad’s lap facing him as he attempted speech therapy without the benefits of education in that field.  Unlike today, where the diagnosis of hearing loss is made before the newborn baby goes home, I was definitively diagnosed, at age five with severe hearing loss.  It was at that time I received my first hearing aid. 

My Mother always knew.   She would clap her hands loudly to get my attention.   Toward the end of my Mother’s life she told me that she had gone to all my grade school teachers and begged them to accept me as a student. 

My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Govette verbally and physically dissented.  But that is another story.

How does one know a child’s potential?  The experts of the day, told my parents that I would never speak or graduate from high school and that my source of income would be selling pencils out of a tin cup.  

When I was 12 years of age, My Father read a story in Readers Digest about a deaf Dentist.  Since our family dentist was a very quiet man, My Father said “hey Bill, you ought to become a dentist, let the staff do the talking and you do the drilling.”  So I began my journey studying science and math in preparation for Dental School.

While still in college I had the opportunity to visit a deaf Dentist, Dr. James Marsters in Pasadena. Yes, the same said dentist my Dad read about years before.  When I told him that it was hard getting accepted into dental school due to affirmative action, he raised his fist and in deaf speak said, “Kepth Trriiing, Kepth Trriiing”. 

It is interesting to note that Dr. Marsters worked with a bell engineer to send letters across the phone lines.  So texting was invented for deaf people to talk on the phone!

As a child my grandmother gave me a harmonica,, then came the melodica, then the native American flute,  when my daughter got married I played the wedding song on a 12 string guitar. Then at age 57, I decided to learn a classical piece on the piano.  Twelve years of practice later, a recording was made and video produced using my landscape photography as a back drop. 

Again, what is a child’s potential?

I would love to be able to have my parents listen to me play a classical piece of music on the piano!

William M. Netzley DDS, BS, BA, Secondary Credential

Son of Myrle W., machinist and Carolyn E., teacher  Music and poetry performed by Dr. Netzley