The accessible digital media project turning it’s attention to audio books

I’m not sure if I’ve posted about this. But I work with Robert Kingett also known as Robbie, on a very important advocacy project.

The accessible digital media project!

As you can see on this site we’ve done a lot of work with netflicks, and other online video streaming services in terms of getting through the importance of audio description! I’ve been mostly behind the scenes although I do take credit for helping with the huge effort of getting the show partially in ASL, switched at Birth audio described on netflicks soon!

I’d like to add to our efforts by working on a topic that is already growing very fast which is audio books!

Especially with amazon working with audible, the majority of books coming out work with audio publishers and so have audio formats. You can get special deals I guess if you get the kindle and audio formats or something! Don’t quite understand it but it’s good news for people who need this format!

As blind and visually impaired people we have several ways to access books. We can use a service like bookshare, where books are scanned by volunteers and put into formats that can be read on various Braille and other devices. With voice over, books on Kindle are accessible to blind/ VI users which I think is awesome! However after like a year of using it I realized how much I hated stuff being read in the robotic voice of voice over and how much I valued an actual narrator. So I now use a system where I hook my ipod up to a Braille display device and I can read books that way as I would with the bookshare site.

There is also a free library service called NLS. So many many books are available in audio from there. However it’s actually really hard to get a book into NLS. I’m not even sure how it’s done. Robbie got his book in there and I guess it was a huge deal and he’s not even sure how LOL!

It seems to me like there’s more of the type of books I and my friends like to read, available on audible than NLS.

Having books in audio format doesn’t just benefit the blind. There are likely many people with learning disabilities who can not easily work with printed material who understand things much better read out loud. The audio book industry has grown to the point where it’s pretty clear to the general public why audio books work.

Which will work in our favor within this advocacy project as we don’t have to explain to authors or publishers what audio books are and why they need to be out there.

What we need right now are contacts. Especially I know like nothing about how someone gets a book out there into audio format. I guess when you sign your book with a publisher you sign over all your rights on it which I think is crazy but hey I’m not an author except on this blog so yeah. So there’s this whole maze of agents and publishing companies and everything that I don’t understand.

I have two authors I really like that work with the same agent. One got almost all her books out into audio within a year. The ones she didn’t put out were ones not in the usual category of what she writes. I just wrote her today to ask about it and I’m sure those will get done too.

This other author, same agent, started putting out her books in audio a couple years ago. She now has four or five books out which is great. She has nine books she wrote before she started having audio format. So anything before the first book that came out in audio isn’t in audio. And I’ve bugged her, I mean gave a friendly check in, for the past two years. And she has no idea what is going on.

Another favorite author different agent just published a new book and didn’t even know that it had been put in audio which is very strange!

So I’m lost on all this but do really need to learn so I can connect with the right people to get this accomplished.

I feel like I said before, that so many people love audio books that we could probably get a good amount of passionate, non visually impaired people on board that might have connections.

I’d love for every book that is in paperback or e-book to also be available in audio format. Assuming people are interested of course.

And of course I’m working on my favorites first!

But the team really needs your help. If you’re an author, publisher, agent, or passionate audio book listener/ reader please join our team!

Here is the link to join.

Of course, it’s a fully accessible form including accessible captia yay!

Looking forward to making new connections on this awesome project!


Sammy’s Signing time: Signing time with Sammy and Judi!

Hey everyone,

So I believe I posted a little while ago about how I’ve really been taken with Rachel Coleman and Signing Time.

I will post about this amazing presentation she gave which is on youtube that explains everything as does her site and blog. But she really broke a lot of ground in teaching ASL to babies children and adults, basically anyone. All due to her daughter being deaf and also having another disabled daughter who uses sign and speech to communicate.

She’s also an amazing singer and song writer. Her videos are extremely fun and helpful and she explains things patiently.

Anyway so I made a video.

Here it is

I’m signing the stuff I know how to sign. (sign, time, nice to meet you and today) are words I learned off her videos recently. Other stuff I knew before from working with Edith Robert and Jess

I love Judi from Judi Harrison and she’ll be a part of all my Sammy signing time videos.

As well as Isa, Freya, Lexie, and Alie. It’s a wonder I get anything done with all these kids to take care of.

I also love this facebook group I found called American Sign language. They’re totally one hundred percent accepting of a hearing blind person doing this which is huge.

Here’s the link. It’s a very welcoming place

book Review: The Saddest Girl in the World by Cathy Glass

I just finished rereading an amazing memoir by Foster carer Cathy Glass. I think this was actually the first book of hers that I read. Back when I had to sit and run a book through the scanner page by page. Not doing that anymore ever LOL!

This book centers on ten year old Donna. She is brought into care due to severe neglect of her and her siblings, Warren and Jason, and an older sister Chelsey. Social services had been trying to work with the family for three years. No matter what they did the mother Rita could never keep the place clean or have any food. She drank and did drugs. Donna’s father was a kind manand the one person who Donna felt connected to, but he had schizophrenia and it was not well managed. At times Rita would purposely hide his medicine. But more often than not he just forgot to take it.

The siblings had been placed together a month before Donna came to Cathy’s. Cathy was contacted by Jill her link worker, saying that Donna might need to be moved due to sibling rivalrybut that their social worker, Edna, would try to mediate things.

Later that same day Edna called and said she needed to move Donna right away. Donna appeared at Cathy’s door walking hunched over, made no eye contact and looked like the saddest child Cathy had ever seen. For her first weekend at Cathy’s she was completely mute. This was very unsettling especially for Adrian and Paula, who were six and ten. Cathy was extremely concerned about this as it hadn’t been mentioned, her silence, but she was going to seek guidance if things didn’t improve by that Monday. Thankfully on the third night Donna did haltingly start to speak. The first thing she said was she blamed herself for she and her siblings being brought into care. That her mother had said this would happen if she didn’t keep the house clean. Cathy tried to reassure her but knew that the emotional damage for feeling so responsible at just ten would take a long time to undo. She had no idea what Donna was really keeping inside.

It turns out that Donna was emotionally abused and degraded at every turn. She was made to do all the housework and looking after her younger brothers. They were given permission by her mother to hit donna if she didn’t clean properly. And they did. Her mom and sister also hit her.

Cathy couldn’t believe a mother would do that to her child so she could then go drink and just not care about her children at all. The previous carers had noticed Donna washing her hands a lot and wondered if it was maybe OCD. Cathy discovered that it wasn’t that at all. It was her mother telling her to scrub off her skin color, as she’s mixed race. Which gave Donna horrible self-esteem issues around her race/ culture though she loved her father and grandmother who was from Barbados.

The most worrying issue with Donna was her bullying of Adrian and Paula. She’d order them around siverily and hit Paula during her first week or so there for not brushing her teeth the way she wanted. She also somehow found a way to be in charge of them in their play. Cathy knew that this was coming from her own experience of being bullied, and being in a completely aggressive family, where all communication seemed to be through emotional and physical violence. Cathy had to be constantly watching Donna and at times having everyone play separately.

There was little Cathy could do to work on these issues besides her own instincts and talking with Edna who was an amazing social worker. Donna couldn’t get therapy until after the court hearing which would determine whether she was able to go home to her parents, go to long term foster care, or adoption.

Having contact with her mother and siblings three times a week also did not help matters. At first Donna seemed so depressed and down on herself it was hard for her to appreciate new experiences or see anything good about herself. As time went on Donna became more relaxed. Was involved in healthy family life, and eventually as in a vacation they took months in to Moroco really had a good time.

She also started to do really well in school. Cathy and her teachers felt that many of Donna’s learning problems were due to her horrible home environment. Cathy helped her constantly particularly in math, which Donna was able to really master it just took awhile.

The more Donna was in a healthy home the more she reflected on her life before coming to care. And the more themean comments and looks from her mother hurt.

At one point Donna went to contact and her father was there in a schizophrenic episode. He was taken out by ambulance which was very traumatic for everyone. She came home and exploded in a rage venting her anger on her room, throwing anything that could be thrown tearing down curtains and ripping apart her bed sheets. Cathy was shocked but also not that surprised when you consider everything Donna kept inside. She reflected that had Donna directed her anger towards another person she could have done real damage.

It was that night that Donna was able to be vulnerable and talk about more of the things that had gone on at home. Including her mom telling her she didn’t want her and basically that she’d tried to end the pregnancy.

This was crushing to hear and it made Cathy want to turn back time and Give Donna her whole childhood back.

The anger episodes continued however much Cathy tried to prevent them. Again there was no therapy option which is really bad if you think about it. Things ended in an incident where Donna was very physically aggressive to Paula. Cathy almost thought about ending the placement. But Donna gave an extremely heart felt apology and realized, in her 11 year old wisdom, that she needed to stop expecting her mother to love her. Many adults with poor childhoods and family situations can’t come to that conclusion!

After that the bullying and anger episodes stopped. The court hearing came and went. Donna was placed in long term foster care. With a single carer with grown up children, who was also mixed race. She could be in a position to help Donna integrate her cultural and racial identity and also continue the work Cathy and her family had been doing. Cathy and her kids were really sad to see Donna go but they knew it was on the best of terms and were so proud of how Donna was able to build a new life for herself.

This story highlights the damage siblings can do to one another when placed together. Though it would seem ideal for siblings to be placed together, care needs to be taken around how they might trigger one another or stop one another’s healing. Donna could not have done any of the emotional work she was able to do if she was with her brothers. It also highlights the importance of watching out for younger children in the home as they can become targets of the child’s misplaced feelings of rage. Not only did Cathy and her family, as always, do amazing work but Donna really was able to take it in and turn her life around. Rising above the person her family tried to make her be, basically a big nothing and being able to be who she wanted to be express herself and have her own dreams and family.

When professionals think they know better than clients what the client needs

I will always say that therapy and case management are very important to people with chronic mental illness. I feel we need someone outside ourselves and friends to be an objective supporter especially long term. Good case managers can cut through all the paperwork and arbitrary hoops to get someone services they need like medical doctors, medication for free, getting into a residential facility working with other agencies ETC.

A good therapist can move alongside the client being a compassionate and steady support through the ups and downs, especially downs of living with mental illness. Ideally this person is someone open minded, flexible, and who is humble enough to admit that they just have never experienced whatever the client is going through which would make genuine empathy more well genuine as you know that it’s coming from a place of honestly not knowing but truly wanting to be there rather than something put on as some therapy technique.

And I realize people can’t progress at times without being encouraged out of their comfort zone. I believe a good professional will get to know the person before doing this, and exactly how much pushing they can handle and how much is too much and therefore will shut the person down.

I’m a stubborn person for example. If you don’t push at all I’m likely to not do much changing. Or I will but it will take like a million years. If you push too much I totally do shut down and say I hate you and refuse to talk at all. It’s just me. To me it’s not worth having someone supposedly there to help me who’s totally not on the same page, not respecting my boundaries, life experience, triggers and just where I’m at at a certain moment. And then doesn’t respond when called on it.

I think particularly with case management but also therapy, particularly with young in the field professionals there’s a huge rush to put down concrete goals and accomplish them quickly. This could work for some people, their personalities just fit that goal directed let’s just get this done one thing after another approach. For many, including myself, the process of building a relationship first is the main goal over anything else. Because I don’t trust someone to help me work on my life who doesn’t know me.

Sadly there are some professionals who plain don’t care or it seems that way. They have a way of doing things and that’s it. They’re gonna put down whatever goals that they see fit, in the clinical language they have to use (which I hate) and then basically attempt to force the person to do this talking of nothing else or plain insisting on their way doing things if necessary to basically make their way happen.

At this one IOP program I went to of course they put goals down like right away. Somehow the main therapist got into her head that I “have poor boundaries.” This is because I have a close friend who I love more than anything, and she was going through something that really stressed me out. I had to God forbid, miss a day of their precious program. They talked about this constantly as proof that my unhealthy attachment interfered with my life I.E attendance.

They also cited my relationships to staff as poor boundaries, that I grew attached to them and then got upset if I couldn’t work with them/ they left/ ETC.

So they put this down against my wishes and totally not matching up with anything I felt was really true about me. The program was soo CBT I don’t know how I got through the couple weeks I stayed at it so I left. But these people really do believe they’re above the clients obviously. They really think they know better than the person what the person’s problems are, and what they need to do to fix it. And some people sadly are so used to people treating them this way they just allow it. They don’t know any other way. Good thing I’m not like that at all!

Another example is the whole Stephanie thing. I mean I did not need like hour lectures about why I don’t use my cane in this building. I know exactly why I don’t use the cane in this building. I’ve explained a million times why. I say I admit I’m not the best mobility girl and given the chance would do sighted guide over anything else. Even mobility teachers have said this is fine that people have a right to do what works for them and shouldn’t be hassled about it. Yes I could improve. With Edith I was walking with the cane with her with me. Unfortunately she left and then there was the whole craziness getting to Anna and now well it’s freezing cold out so no walking for me (in hot or cold weather so yeah). But I don’t need hour lectures on it.

And something else. I*will not* do something I don’t feel I need to do, either long term or in the moment no matter how much a professional wants me to do it. Because they then put me in a position of feeling like I have to do this thing just so they can check off I did it and call it progress. And that’s totally insane! That’s not helping people. It’s just boosting the professionals ego. It’s not authentic or honest and it has nothing to do with actually improving a person’s life. Unless they have something I needthat I need them around for, I.E working with blind services (shutter) to get free training/ paratransit tickets, I will not do it. And even then it would so drain me to do it.

Have a situation with a friend that really brings this home. She has physical as well as psych disabilities. She struggles with self-harm, and generally keeps herself to herself, to the point at times she doesn’t know what’s happening in her own head. So she’s been struggling along. Really not a talk therapy girl, mostly meds have been the main treatment. Well events happened where she basically has no choice but to go to therapy. She signs up for therapy yay!!

She’s working on signing up for paratransit, which I’m sure she’ll get based on her disabilities (arthritis, blood pressure/ heart concerns, in general a complex medical history where she has what I call a sensitive body). There is insurance provided transportation that takes you to appointments like programs therapy ETC.

Well instead of just being happy that she’s going to therapy, her case worker in her so called wisdom decided she would force her to use public transportation to get there. She is disabled. She has a complete right and need for paratransit. To me there’s just no question. Yes walking will greatly improve her physical health and perhaps long term improve the physical stuff going on. But it needs to be done slowly, and to me her body is so much a puzzle that you just never know. She could just bend over and somehow twist something in her back, we don’t even know what and be in pain for weeks. Then you have a medical doctor who has no idea about pain management and like basically does nothing of any use.

So anyway. Caseworker basically put her in a position where she can’t use this medical transportation anymore. And must take the bus. Which is a block away going about a ten minute distance. Still she has to do all that, plus the stress of the new experience of therapy, and then come back home by herself. Like I said she has high blood pressure, diabeties, weird joint things going on. It’s all huge unknowns about what will happen with her body. Never mind her emotions.

As I said she usually keeps herself to herself, she’s not like me usually. Ya know if I’m upset the whole world knows it and I’m pretty demanding. People either figure it out like Mr. J, or they’re not in my life too long because I don’t like them and they don’t like me. And in the mental health world, they should know how to deal with all types of people. I’m not their friend I should be able to express myself, even if it’s not the best way because at least I did rather then cutting or keeping it in and then we can work on it. That’s Jonathan’s attitude anyway.

So she writes the caseworker a furious e-mail. Mine would have been worse. Well not only does the woman dig her heels in and not move one inch on the transportation issue she calls her out for her attitude. This really got to her my friend, and she was even crying which is huge for her! For her to be that open and let her feelings out like that was amazing. Let’s Celibrate that! Apparently caseworker doesn’t agree.

I just wish everyone had Jonathan’s mindset. No matter what someone here does, I mean they could try to knock him over, or break a computer or something. He always finds some positive or something to learn from, usually something both he and the person can do differently or know about each other from having the experience. If I were him I’d say awesome we just broke new ground! But no.

Again if this person now has to do this, which it sadly looks like she indeed has no choice, it’s just a stupid exercise. She’s doing this she’s not ready. She’s already taking a huge emotional risk with therapy and it’s just not the time, or the right way to go about it. There’s a difference between a walk a couple of times a week or once a week and having to be some place that’s new and hard, having to go and come both ways. When there’s alternatives perfectly available for that situation. Not saying they can’t get there. But I’m sorry, it has to be at least mostly on her terms. She’s the client not the caseworker. The caseworker is not the client.

So those are my thoughts. And suggestions. If you’re a new caseworker or therapist I understand the strain in balanceing what you’re trying to do with just being new, and likely trying to please a supervisor. But at least listen to the person, really listening. Genuinely listening and giving a response like I totally understand you don’t want to do this right now. This is really hard I know I’m asking a lot. But we have to work on this, how can we compromise? If you have more flexibility, as in are not necessarily in a time limet/ bound to a supervisors wishes, I’d say bring the openness and listening further. Go through it step by step. And again compromise. Don’t lecture, or try to dominate the person over to your way. Don’t make it about reaching the goal for the sake of saying you reached the goal.

Clients understand this is where many are coming from. The whole supervisor/ being trained that they need to do this. I’ve been on their side of things it’s harder than you think. That said don’t be pushed around. Try to fight back, stand your ground, calmly state your position. If calmly doesn’t work, furiously state your position. These people aren’t your friends. You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around them, so what if you give a little attitude. My first psychiatrist who was a great therapist said that when a person hasn’t spoke up for a long time and is learning to others are going to hear things they’re not gonna like. And the person will likely just explode the first few times. I’m biased, and maybe Jonathan is a little crazy himself. But his thing is you need to feel like you can say absolutely anything and they won’t shut you down or leave you. That could be due to my particular trauma that this is what I need to heal otherwise nothing will happen. But I happen to agree with him in general. If you can’t go off on your therapist or case manager what do they want you to do. I mean it’s a lot different going off on your family or friends. And maybe if you go off on your therapist a few times you can eventually learn how to talk to your friends without either keeping things in or going off. That’s the hope. But that can take a long time. I’m a proponent of stuff taking a long time as long as you’re moving forward. And for many, especially self-harm/ trauma survivors, they’re used to keeping everything in. And taking it out through cutting. So having “an attitude” can be the healthiest start they can have.

I think I’ve made my point sorry for the long post. I know many will disagree with me but that’s cool.

Why I sign

This is the story of why I, as a totally blind hearing person am learning to sign. The title is based off a group of videos people make called why I sign, about the place of signing in their lives. Hopefully one day I can sign this story.

My name is Sam. I have been totally blind since birth. I don’t remember having met any Deaf or Deafblind people up until a couple years ago. I’m surprised that I didn’t meet even one deafblind person as I had gone to many programs at a school for the blind where people had multiple disabilities. I went to a mainstream school in a suburb of Boston. There were no other blind people in my town, or really many others with disabilities.

In 2013 I moved to a residential facility for people with mental illness. I’m the first blind resident they have had. There have been several Deaf residents, and the director is fluent in ASL and very open minded about disabled people living here. I met a woman named Kat. (Sign name Cat). It struck me that no one seemed to take the time to learn ASL, especially staff at the facility. They said that written communication was “good enough.” And signing would take too long to learn. It’s sometimes hard to make friends at my facility. People are at different stages in their mental illness and ability to connect with others or want to make friends. I have one good friend I met early on, but wanted more.

No one expected that I’d want to be friends with Kat. People thought there was no way we could possibly communicate. But we did. My first friend, who became Kat’s friend as well, would have to interpret for us. She also didn’t know ASL but learned some basics and used other nonverbal communication and writing. Actually teaching me to sign has been quite tricky. So many people whether they know sign or not automatically would say a blind person can’t sign. It’s a good thing for technology as Kat and I could message on facebook and text while the debate by others on whether I could even do this unfolded.

I persisted in asking until I annoyed people enough that they started to try. The problem was, and continues to be that I don’t know any native signers. The director here who as I said is fluent in ASL, was someone who for awhile couldn’t believe I could do it. He does now but is very busy. I have another good friend who went to a school for the Deaf and blind who is blind with CP. Having CP and taking a sign language class probably doesn’t sound like something that’s usually done but that’s his story to tell. He has fully been on the side of me learning to sign, since he did. But we didn’t have time to really sit down consistently and have him teach me.

So a few people tried using online videos. I know from talking to people in the Deaf community that this isn’t the best way to learn. But it’s all we have as I can’t afford classes and don’t feel I’d do well in a class for different reasons.

Over the past six months between a few people I’ve learned: The alphabet, yes, no, maybe, what’s your name? My name is Sam. Good, bad, mom, dad, sister, happy, funny, please, thank you, sorry, friend, nice to meet you, today.”

They’ve gone through other signs but the above signs are the ones that have stuck. It’s not much but this has happened very eratically, and as I said no one has ever worked with the blind that I’ve learned from.

My Deaf friend has been touched that I’m trying. And believes that I can learn too. For other reasons, it’s hard for her to sit and teach me. But she knows I am learning because I love her so much. I am furious and shocked at times at others treating ASL like it’s nothing. When they certainly wouldn’t allow anyone to brush English aside if they were in the same situation. In a way, I started to learn to prove a point. If I can learn, try so hard at it, and I’m at somewhat of a disadvantage, then others can certainly learn if they want to having their sight to aid the process.

This process has connected me with some really good people. I now have a friend who is a blind interpreter. ASL as well as a few other languages. They’ve really helped boost my confidence in my ability to do this. Unfortunately, I live in an area that doesn’t have a terribly large or welcoming Deaf community. And a very small Deafblind community as far as I know. My interpreter friend and others have said that if you, as in a person in general, really want to do this and are in an area with few resources you might want to move! I don’t think I’d move just for that reason. But eventually I’d like to get out of the state I’m in so perhaps one day I will be in a more Deafblind/ Deaf friendly state. I really want to work with others with special needs/ disabilities. And show others that signing has many uses, even if you aren’t Deaf. People who have autism, Down’s Syndrome, CP, speech disorders, and even some psychiatric disabilities could benefit from another way to communicate.

Most recently, in the past week I’ve come across Rachel Colman’s signing time. Rachel is an energetic, passionate, creative, and all around amazing person! Her DVDS/ and other teaching systems have become well known. She started this project to help her deaf daughter Lea have more people to communicate with. Further along, her daughter with physical disabilities also was able to sign. Things took off for her as so many parents of hearing kids caught on to her program. Which is holistic musical and just all around fun. I wonder if she’s worked with a blind person before and want to try to contact her.

I’m hoping at some point, probably many years from now, I can do an “this is why I sign” video and tell this story. By the way, there are some Deafblind people who have made such videos too and will be thrilled to add my unique voice to the group.

Signing time and Judi and me


So I really like this ASL facebook group. It’s just called American sign language. It’s not perfect. The people in IL live in the west suburbs. But the best thing about it is that they’re open to having a blind hearing person there.

They recommended signing time videos. I briefly looked at them months ago. But then somehow we just didn’t continue with it as Jess and I at the time were using so many different sites.

But I appreciate the recommendation. And there are clips off youtube. It’s very musical and fun!

What I was so impressed by was that this whole now very popular learning system was started by Rachel Colman who had a deaf daughter, in an attempt to get more people to interact with Leah. And it just gotmore and more popular and now so many parents are using it. So she really connected a whole huge community of deaf and hearing people children and adults through her fun and simple teaching style. I love how it has been inspired and is always driven by her family’s own story

Here is an article about it.

There are clips on youtube. Will show one here

I plan to look more into this, and maybe even personally write Rachel/ others who have produced this amazing system for all ages.

Judi the bunny is doing good. Jess and I practiced the alphabet and a few other signs. Mom, Dad, sister, Cat, stop, good, bad, yes, no.

I love how flexible Judi’s fingers are. As we continue to work with her I will write Judi the person, to give helpful feedback.

Am loving this. It might seem like much but I am very limited with resources I can use to learn so anything helps.

feeling bad for my parents work related

I’m feeling very bad for my parents. My mom has worked at a consignment shop for several years. Recently like in the past couple weeks or something she’s been told since the store isn’t doing well they’re cutting everyone’s hours. So my mom will be working half the time she usually does. Which is good for her physically but really terrible for the money which is always a hard subject.

I feel even worse asking for money for snacks/ ordering out. Will have to really deal with the bad food just be weak and lay down I guess it does really suck that we give them all our SSI checks practically and they give us so crappy food.

But anyway I just hope they can adjust to this budget cut. I never thought the economy cuts would affect my family and I’m just sad and anxious for them.

Book Review: The Boy they Tried to Hide by Shane Dunphy

Book link:

I just finished reading Shane Dunphy’s latest memoir about his work with social services. The really exciting thing about this book is that he’s reading it. There are musical interludes between different sections of the book and he’s playing that too I think on a mandolin.

This book actually doesn’t take place in a social services setting. He’s taking a break from social work having gotten very burnt out by it by the end of the last social work focused book. Actually to be honest by the end of all his social work books he honestly states/ we can sense he’s feeling very burnt out and feeling really bad about the decisions he feels he made that were wrong. And just very drained.

In this book he’s finally seeing a therapist Dr. Brown. He’s telling the unfolding story of the past year or so and the strange and traumatic things that have taken place. Dr. Brown’s transcript frames the chapters of telling the past events. I often feel she’s quite forward in her interpretations and conclusions. Kind of pushy especially for a first session. Though of course not many people tell about their whole past year in a first session or maybe some do I don’t know. She seemed to be saying things that we as readers kind of already have known about Shane from previous books. As in, has a hero complex I.E feels like he has to or must rescue everyone. Feels like he’s the cause of any problems that go on in situations he gets into. He kind of knows this too I think, and is resistant to changing/ doesn’t know how to be any other way. She does have a lot of compassion for Shane. Even asking if he wants a break during a particularly emotional part of his telling. I’ve never heard a therapist ask that, and I’m not sure what she had in mind him stepping out for a coffie LOL!

In any case he felt comfortable enough with her to open up and tell this story, fueled I feel by a deep need to know in the end whether he’s crazy. To which she does a brilliant job of handling that fear and encouraging further work on himself. I wonder if he continued therapy after the end of the book or not and I really hope he did. Because it seemed that he and Dr. Brown were actually a good match for one another. She says things quite bluntly and he’s also just as straight talking a person so I think they connected in a weird kind of way.

Anyway what took place over the past year can only be described as traumatic on many many levels. He was basically just trying to be settled somewhere. He’d been working as a journalist for a small newspaper for a year or so as well as teaching in a school for children with special needs. At the beginning of the book, one of the teachers Mora approaches him about a former student. Tim fox was a student of hers with intellectual disability. It was reported that he really had no one but her that even cared one bit about him and was neglected and possibly abused at home. It was said he went to prison for unpaid parking tickets which he calimed he didn’t understand as he couldn’t read/ froze in court. It is revealed later that there was quite another side to Tim Fox. But regardless this is who Mora thought he was.

She found out a few weeks ago that he killed himself. She just didn’t think that could have happened, that he wasn’t someone, for all the pain he’d suffered who would do that. She asked Shane if he would investigate this. As she knew he did similar work/ had friends who knew the prison system.

At the same time someone who worked at the newspaper with him told Shane that a man who Shane had helped to put in prison a couple years back, Rex Gidford had attacked his daughter. Shane knew Rex well as a serial sexual offender with absolutely no empathy for others, someone who could probably charm anyone using any means necessary to get his needs met. And so also would and could do anything necessary to get back at a person as Shane so devastatingly found out. Again Shane was asked to look into this.

The third situation he gets into has to do with a boy’s family at the school he works at. This little boy is running away at night into the woods and claiming he’s playing with a little boy Thomas. Though no one can find any records of such a boy. A tragic and merky story from the 80s involving a very mentally ill mother who might have killed her infant son emerges. And this becomes somewhat of a ghost story. But with all involved having seen/ heard the same things. Shamans and people who have access to sensory information outside the usual range of human experience would actually connect with this story and believe that he was a ghost, and what was done to resolve the situation was the right thing to do.

With all this going on at once I’m really surprised that Shane didn’t end up inpatient instead of just going to a therapist. Both the stories about prison were the hardest to hear. They were extremely graphic involving sexual and physical abuse as well as talk of drugs and drug addiction. What happens to Shane in these stories is extremely scary and traumatic. As through Shane’s quest to run Rex off he ends up harming his friend, Mora very deeply. I think Rex might have done that anyway but I could see why Shane felt that it was done because of him specifically.

I honestly liked some of his other books better as they dealt directly with social work cases. But in other ways this story had more of a raw personal edge as it was simply going over the events that happened to him in a year, not a part of his current actual jobs, and showed how he attracts/ gets himself into these tough emotionally draining and sometimes physically dangerous situations. I feel that more therapy would be wise for Shane before he would go back to social work. I wonder what his family life was like, or other experiences. Shane is very stubborn but so is Dr. Brown, in an extremely caring way. I feel they could engage in very hard but hopefully fulfilling work to see if Shane maybe could adopt some new ways of relating to others, around setting boundaries and not always feeling responsible for everyone’s pain, as well as truly taking care of himself emotionally. I’d love to see this thread about his continued therapy and personal growth continue in future books. See him maybe go back into social work with a new way of relating to the job and to how herelates to others. I loved the audio book itself, the music personally written by him and him reading his own work.

Results of changing psychiatrist friday plus quiet weekend

Hi everyone,

Sorry I didn’t write since Thursday. Figured as I had such a quiet weekend I’d just wait til today to write about everything.

So Friday was productive. I did get to see Mr. J. He was getting what I think is a pretty bad cold but he says he’s fine. But towards the end of the session said he felt like he had a fever/ was light headed. I was like oh no go home!

I think he did in the afternoon.

So he was kinda zoned out but I just talked his ear off like always and I think he was like half listening LOL! We did figure out a new psychiatrist. I’m still very hung up/ obsessed/ anxious over losing Masonic as a unit. First of all really wish I had gotten to go there! I’m tellin you it sounded more and more like the spa every day someone I knew was in. Plus wanted to hug my deaf friend’s social worker for everything he did.

But apparently the psychiatrists there only work out of the hospital and so don’t work with people in nursing homes. So that stopped my endless questions and trying to figure out how to get someone over there. Mr. J said that if it’s between a bad doctor and a bad hospital you always want a good doctor. If you have a really good doctor your chances of ending up in their bad hospital, he says, are slim to none.

I don’t agree with this primarily because I saw it in Jess and I’m sure others. Where we bothhad an e excellent doctor who managed meds wonderfully, didn’t like to hospitalize yet Jess had several hospitalizations in the three years we’ve lived together. And often around here, just for safety’s sake huge med changes are done in the hospital. Which I do agree with and it makes sense to me why they would. Which is why I think it’s critical that all units are decent. As I’ve outlined meaning friendly/ compassionate staff, actual groups, and people who don’t treat you terribly. Oh and no rats! We had a pet rat at thoreck. Showed up every night at around snack time. All the staff tried to keep his appearance on the down low and brush off people’s concerns but still ahhh!

So I’m not convinced that somewhere down the line Jess won’t need a hospitalization for med adjustment if nothing else, and will be sent to what I consider to be very bad units. St. Mary’s and Lakeshore. Though Mr. J said that Lakeshore is hated by staff for their slowness with paperwork, but residents seemed to like it. Have heard otherwise from different people. But St. Mary’s I’ve heard only bad things about, bad or neutral. Mr. J even said that it’s a placew where people don’t mind it if they’re like drugged up but if you want like actual groups or anything then no. He basically was trying to say I’m too observant for them. That a lot of the things I noticed and hated, like total lack of activity, others wouldn’t notice.

So anyway we went back and forth about that. I swear his cold is why he ever said St. Mary’s isn’t that bad. So we agreed on a woman named Dr. Shephali A. Patel He and other staff say she listens, she’s older kinda like Fyazz in nature. That the transition from Fyazz to her won’t be that difficult. I didn’t really bond with Fyazz. The most engaged she got over anything to do with me was hearing about me taking Jess on paratransit. She assumed we were doing some kinda fraud because the trips weren’t technically mine. Other than that she was neutral which is fine. Understood about the cutting enough to be ok with our care plan I.E when to not hospitalize.

She goes to Norwegian, Methodist and St. Mary’s. I was like ok we’ll just pretend she doesn’t go to that last place! Anna told me Friday night that in all the time she’s hospitalized with her she has never had them send to St. Mary’s. It’s usually been Methodist. That and Norwegian she says are such small hospitals she didn’t even know they were hospitals. She thought Norwegian was a garden because it’s so close to one. But anyway. I’m ok with this. I did go to Methodist for the gyno did not like the area if you remember. They also have a unit for developmental disabilities and I kinda wonder if I’d be stuck on that one because I’m blind. Or like Norwegian I think has an elderly person’s unit and I’ve heard once of a blind friend being put there because they thought it was “safer” But it’s better than St. Mary’s.

For all my talk of the Masonic spa, I know my chances of being hospitalized are probably very small. I am concerned about Jess who I strongly feel does actually very much benefit from her hospitalizations. Not only for the med adjustments but it seems like the staff are welcoming and really good to her plus the groups and just being in a calmer environment. So I don’t think it’s just something to be ignored or just hope she doesn’t get hospitalized. I realize there aren’t a lot of choices at all. She is going to be going to St. Frances to their psychiatrist intake thing. Jonathan isn’t sure where they admit to, as sadly they don’t have a unit at their hospital. If it’s St. Jos that would be amazing that’s where I was first ever hospitalized. If it’s St. Mary’s then we’ve just gone in a big frustrating circle so it doesn’t matter which one she picks from she’d still have the bad hospital to contend with. Which I feel is wrong. I feel all units especially a place like St. Mary’s with several units and a common place to send people, should be empowering truly compassionate places like Masonic and St. Jos.

So anyway I’m happy enough with my choice still very concerned about how Jess will do. I think it’s just way too much change for her. She’ll be seeing Maggie her therapist for a second intake/ first actual therapy session. Anyway got to say goodbye to Fyazz. I said good luck and she actually said she could use it. I think she’s sad about scaling everything back, no more hospital or nursing homes just a very small clinic.

Saw Anna Friday night. It was another good session. She wasn’t able to look up cat shelter stuff because her water heater broke and then she had a day off. She loved Judi the signing doll. It was over all a nice chat. I’m glad she’s less high speed.

This weekend has felt like one big nap. I’ve taken two naps a day the past couple days something Jess gets on me about usually. But she knows when I do really need it and she thinks and I agree, that I’m still catching up sleep wise from that creative high plus the stress of this past week. So didn’t do a whole lot. Mostly facebook. Finished another audio book which I’ll review shortly. Basically that’s about it. Have to catch up even on some volunteer stuff. I still love the volunteering I’ve just either forgotten about when I need to start or have slept through it. So yeah. Well that’s about it. Not much else to say about the weekend. Or coming week. I don’t think we need to go out anywhere but I will take Jess to therapy if she needs it. Hopefully transportation will be set up soon.

Book Review: The Little Ghost Girl by Maggie Hartley

Book Link:

I just finished reading a heartfelt memoir by Maggie Hartley, a fairly new foster care memoir author. This story is centered around Ruth an eleven year old girl who is an emergency placement. She disclosed physical and sexual abuse by her father at school that day and all afternoon had been at the police station for questioning. Maggie only has ten minutes to prepare which I think is crazy and wonder how often this happens.

Maggie at the time has two other long term foster children. Lily is six and Louisa is thirteen. They’ve both been with her for a couple of years. Used to new arrivals coming and going they aren’t surprised by a new child that night. They find Ruth to be extremely skinny, as if not being fed was the norm. However other than her physical appearanceshe was not the withdrawn child they had expected. She was full of attitude walking around like she owned the place. She broke a plate accidentally at dinner. Simply turned her back and said it could be replaced. This was a telling incident about the front she put up in order to be in control at all times.

The first few weeks of the placement were exceptionally hard with this situation as Maggie could not discuss Ruth’s abuse with her because she was going through intense daily questioning by the police. They felt they could build a court case against her father. Ruth’s social worker, Liz did manage to tell Maggie a bit about Ruth’s circumstances. Her father had an affair with her mom’s friend, her mom left Ruth and her brother David with them. They went on to have a couple of other children, half brothers to Ruth and David. For whatever reason, only Ruth was targeted by her father’s abuse and stepmother’s neglect.

He sexually and physically abused her daily. They both denied her food and would purposely leave Ruth out of just about everything that the family enjoyed. Including that Ruth had no actual bed and had to do all the chores. Maggie’s heart broke for this obviously hurting little girl. But she could find npo way to break through her armor of vravado and attitude.

Her trauma started to show up in many different common ways. First and most striking were issues around bathing, and general cleanliness. For whatever reason, Ruth would refuse to bathe or lie about it. This went for brushing teeth as well. Maggie’s nagging didn’t do anything. Liz tried to talk with her about it. The smell lingered in all the rooms of the house and on the cushioned furniture. The other kids saying something up to the point of being unkind, still didn’t change the situation. She simply denied it.

Maggie took a different approach and put a plastic chair out saying that until Ruth consistently was clean she could not sit on the family furniture. She also closely supervised Ruth during showers and teeth brushing saying that she’d “take care of making sure she did it” if Ruth wouldn’t. Ruth of course hated the constant vigilance about it and eventually realized who was in control.

Maggie and Liz as well as Maggie’s supervising social worker, discussed several times that this likely wasn’t even a conscious act on Ruth’s part. Often traumatized children both have never had access/ anyone caring about how clean they were, and use smelling bad and being dirty as a way to keep abusers away es[ecially in the case of sexual abuse.

Another problem was Ruth’s soiling herself and hiding her underwear. Like with the bathing Maggie took control only giving her clean underwear when she was given the soiled ones. Ruth resisted but eventually gave in.

It seemed that when one issue was settled another came up. She waws terrible with table maners especially burping. Eventually Maggie firmly and matter of factly told her that if she burped as she was doing she’d have to leave the table. She also hoarded food, bullied Lily, lied, and stole. Each behavior Maggie addressed with just the right amount of structure/ firmness and nurture. These are all classic, expected behaviors that traumatized children show.

Eventually the questioning ended. However it took months for the court case to arrive and for Ruth to have to testify. During which time behaviors went up and down depending on her stress level. Maggie made huge efforts to include Ruth in all family activities even if she complained she insisted Ruth g go and never be left home alone. Before the court case they went on vacation to the beach. Ruth was convinced that Maggie was just going to drop her off at another foster carers house which her family had sadly done.

There were now moments of vulnerability showing up. Ruth could manage to at times play nicely with Lily. She let Maggie do her hair and this became a time when Ruth would be more apt to open up and accept comfort/ nurturing.

At one point while the investigation was still happening Liz got in touch with Ruth’s biological mother Sharon. She and Maggie went out to see her. Sharon was completely beside herself and filled with guilt around what happened to her daughter. She had been terribly abused by her husband and thought that once she left and got settled she’d come back for the kids. But her husband and Marie never allowed it and told her her kids were fine. It took many months and counseling for Sharon to shed this guilt. But from the start she was totally committed to reconnecting with Ruth. Once the court case was over social services could focus on this goal.

Ruth also had some contact with her brother David. While they were glad to see each other they were not close. David blamed her for him being put into care as he hadn’t suffered the abuse and actually denied Ruth had gone through it and was quite hurtful to her.

In almost a year Ruth went from what Maggie called “a ghost girl,” (a shell of a child beaten down in all ways, lost emotionally not knowing who she was,) to a 12 year old girl who had friends, interests, pride in herself, and a mom who loved her. Hers was a hard won happy ending.

I feel this book, as all fostering memoirs, is essential reading for anyone wanting to become foster parents. It shows all the challenges and rewards of the work. It’s also important reading for anyone wanting to go into social work, or any other work with emotionally traumatized children. I feel it could also benefit older teens or adults who have been a part of the care system, to see how nurturing and understanding a carer can be and how that relationship can guide even an extremely hurt child to a place of healing.