Georgia Bell was born with Cerebral Palsy and Systolic Body Movement Disorder. Her muscles go against what she wants to do.
She also has Vision and Hard of Hearing Impairments. She has always been an active, fun loving child and now – young woman. She will be 16 soon and I just can’t believe it!
In the early years, we were concerned about “what could she do safely?” We always told her she could try whatever she wanted to; then our job became figuring out a way she could be included and be successful doing it. Since she does not understand the relationship of where her body is in space, a simple game of ball required a lot of thinking. We did not hear about First Steps during her early years, and there wasn’t a home-based service available. Visually Impaired Preschool (VIPS) was wonderful when she was 3-4 years old. Georgia Bell was in first or second grade of public school when we heard about Kentucky Deaf Blind Project (KYDBP). After that, she started KY School for the Deaf (KSD).
Georgia Bell loves everything about the KSD community. It is her second family (and home). She loves to swim, and even though it is therapy, she has a real freedom in the water not found anywhere else. Add friends to her swimming, and she is in heaven. Some of her favorite activities include watching movies and reading. It has been so wonderful to discover books for low vision and use assessable books online. Give Georgia Bell an accessible comic and she is set for some quality time! Her strengths seem to be math and algebra, which she did not get from me. However, she loves to eat with her favorite food being a baked potato. I guess I could admit “she may have gotten that from me…”
Georgia Bell participated in the Kentucky Deaf Blind Project’s Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) week this summer. She had an opportunity to meet other youth with similar issues and realize she is not alone in what she needs or feels. It was wonderful and she had a ball! The adults involved were so helpful not only to Georgia Bell but to us as a family. We did not expect to have such an awesome week, but we did. It gave us time to talk with other families and share stories. We also learned about many resources that can help us now and down the road.
Each ECC participant received an iPad from the project. It has a bigger screen that helps her immensely. Specific Apps were preloaded for each participating student and were taught how to get essential helps, which they loaded onto their iPad themselves. Students from the UK Graduate Program under the guidance of Gerald Abner were assigned a KYDBP student to work with, assess, and do fun things with. Other specialists also worked with her and became a part of different teams. Georgia Bell’s team had a Mentor who had attended the program last year, and Georgia Bell will become a mentor to a new student next year. Can you believe that?
Activities were planned for the week. Georgia Bell liked swimming with her new friends, but her favorite activity was the Scavenger Hunt. UK students took each team around the hotel to complete different life skills, like doing laundry. Another day, each KYDBP student determined what they would cook, identified necessary ingredients and made a shopping list. They loaded up and headed for the Kroger on Euclid to do their shopping. Kroger made lunch for them, and even served them. Georgia Bell said she ate too much. Then, cooking on campus at Food Connections turned out to be her inspiration. She is taking a culinary course at school now, and makes cookies with me. She got upset recently when I made her recipe (fixed during ECC week) for No Bake Cookies. The love for cooking goes back to her Grandmother, then me and now – Georgia Bell.
The biggest challenge for us as her family is social media. I know all teenagers are heavily involved in fB, Twitter, and Snapchat and I imagine all parents’ worry about the terrible influence of the Internet. Georgia Bell thinks she knows everything and does not realize the dangers. We have set limits, checking her phone and tablet often to make sure everything is OK. Recently she BLOCKED me – her own mother who was just doing what was best for her! I had to tell her “No, you can’t do that. I need to see what is going on”. But I am not sure exactly how much I know about what I see anyway – the slang word Yolo was gone before I even figured out what it meant.
Georgia Bell is not sure what she wants to do after high school. As bright as she is, I know she could go to college with the right adaptations and resources. I am depending on KYDBP to guide us through that part. She says she wants to work at Walmart, but I heard she did an outstanding job at Kroger working at the check out register.
Maybe she can go to Gallaudet – I keep thinking how far away that is. We’ll have to help her gain knowledge of her environment, have a special computer set up for her, figure out dorm VS transportation, and let go.
Wherever Georgia Bell goes in the day’s ahead – campus environment, job, or something else – if it is handicap accessible, she will be fine. One of the KYDBP staff asked me recently “Has she ever gotten a ticket in her wheelchair?” I had to laugh, she goes about 10 miles per hour everywhere she goes. We try to get her to slow down, especially around her baby sister. Georgia Bell lives life in a big hurry.