Bailey Hogsed, in his 8th grade year at The Learning Center, was in his element in this picture: an interesting display was in front of him; he was surrounded by some of the classmates dubbed "his support group", and, although I have no proof of this, I am certain he was expounding on some fascinating detail.
Bailey attended The Learning Center his 7th and 8th-grade years, 2010-2012, a timeframe that would deliver some challenging news to this eager learner, his family and our school community.
When I reached out to Bailey for this interview, I soon realized his memories and words held a much-needed message for any school culture that is intended to support and find creative ways to serve students with physical disabilities:
"My strongest memory during this time was visiting what was often referred to as "The Woods." This is an outdoor environment surrounded by forest, and dense greenery with places to Socratically learn. I grew up in a traditional public school where being stuffed in a classroom all day was typical. At TLC, this wasn't the case. As long as the weather permitted it and correlated with the curriculum, we could learn outdoors and just – be kids. Emily was my science teacher at TLC. She took full advantage of the benefits of outdoor learning and being immersed in the environment we were learning so much about. I think this is where my interest in nature and the hard sciences began.
Around the time I transferred to TLC, I found out that I had muscular dystrophy. Generally speaking, this is a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle atrophy, among other things. It usually presents itself in the early teens and is progressive through life. It's frustrating as a kid to want to go and "be normal," but your body tells you no. I found it becoming increasingly challenging to trek back and forth to the Woods with my Peers. Often I would trip numerous times due to an early symptom known as "foot drop." Luckily, I was surrounded by empathic and innovative people. Our group assembled a primitive triage carrier out of some high-quality fabric and thick timber. If this didn't already show their support and dedication to helping others, they would then carry me to the Woods! "
Bailey continues with wisdom learned from his school experience as he also shares some of his more mature wisdom with dealing with a disability. "New challenges pop up fairly often for me. One of the biggest challenges is accessibility. Most able-bodied people don't realize just how inaccessible the world is. For example, if I want to go out with friends to a restaurant I usually have to call the restaurant to make sure it's wheelchair accessible and go on Google Street view to make sure that I can get to the restaurant. It becomes so incredibly nuanced when you add the spectrum of disabilities. Braille on all signage, adjustable lighting, sound dampening, just to name a few. However, I've found that despite the obstacle, as long as you have a supportive group around you and you can think critically about the situation, nothing is too big nor challenge too impossible."
It takes a strong person to openly talk about the challenges that come with a disability along with the ability to keep moving forward with the belief that, despite major challenges, he can achieve his goals. There is so much more to be learned from Bailey's high school years into college. Please look for a continuation of his story next Tuesday, November 2, 2021.