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November 09, 2009  |   Comments (1)   |   Post a comment

NAPT speaker gives insight on working with special-needs students


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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Teena Fitzroy addressed attendees at the National Association for Pupil Transportation Summit here last Monday, telling her life story with the aim of helping the audience understand the perspective of students with special needs.

Her presentation, titled "Junk in My Trunk," focused on the assumptions people make about those with disabilities, the struggles she has faced and overcome, and her career path. Although she spoke at times about troubling issues, Fitzroy included a great deal of humor in her talk, prompting laughter and applause from attendees throughout.

A family information specialist for Monroe #1 BOCES in Fairport, N.Y., Fitzroy grew up with cerebral palsy and was the first child with a disability to attend her local elementary school. Her cerebral palsy is a result of brain damage she suffered at birth due to oxygen deprivation.

One of the first props she pulled out of her trunk during the presentation was a beer bottle, which she said represents the assumption some people make upon meeting her that she is either very drunk or mentally retarded because her speech and physical coordination are impacted by the cerebral palsy. "What I want you to remember when working with kids with disabilities is they didn't have a choice," she noted. "The cerebral palsy is really a tiny part of who I am."

Fitzroy described her mother as her hero, as she fought for Teena to leave an institution for children with disabilities at age six and enter the public school system. "She saw my abilities, not my disabilities," Fitzroy said.

"Tell kids with disabilities to learn to live successfully with [them]," she said. She urged attendees to be friends and heroes to students with special needs, removing obstacles to their path to education.

Fitzroy went on to describe her unsuccessful marriage and a series of odd jobs as a normal part of becoming an adult. She eventually found a position with a nonprofit organization benefitting those with cerebral palsy, which led to her current job. She also showed photos of her family, noting that her children have an enlightened awareness of people with disabilities and also champion their mother's abilities. "Society's attitude is the No. 1 problem for people with disabilities," Fitzroy remarked.

One attendee during the question and answer period at the end of the talk made the comment that if audience members did not come away from Fitzroy's presentation having learned something, they shouldn't be in the business of transporting students with special needs.


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I am a school bus driver trainer who specializes in the special needs area of this profession and have done so for the past 13 years. My own child has cerybal palsy, he's 22 years old and he is only limited by those who are not educated enough to understand his true abilities. I have taught him to focus on his strengths and his abilities. I am always excited to hear the stories of others and bring them to him to encourage him in his day to day challenges that he may face, and to encourage others to become educated to avoid misconceptions of others. He is ambulatory but has orthopedic difficulties, yet there are other difficulties that he has been able to find different ways to work through these issues. He is mostly non-verbal, but through hard work and focus he has been able to skillfully learn sign language along with determination he has been able to include some speech to make his thoughts and feeling understood. He is not disabled, he is just differently abled. I told anyone who was curious that when anyone would listen, to educate and share the differences between us all. He spent 3 semesters at a local community college and is now in Bible College. Thank you for your encouraging story.

Carol Bixler    |    Nov 12, 2009 09:48 AM

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