My name is Galen Spiegler. I am 18 years old and a senior at Keene High School in New Hampshire. I have cerebral palsy and I would like to share with you my experience at the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) this past summer. I must say I was not excited at first but this adventure changed my life.
I traveled to Grand Rapids, MI with my mother, my friend Zach, who also has CP, and his mother. We traveled in a 26 foot, camper. Going to Michigan for the hottest month of the year and camping so Zach and I could attend the day camp at CLC for the month of July, probably sounds like a challenge, but that was the easiest part of what I did last July. Let me take you through a day in the life of a kid like me at the Conductive Learning Center.
Honestly, I didn’t really like the idea of Conductive Education. This was nothing I had ever done before, it was six hours a day, and did I mention we were living in a camper? Every morning of the July program I rolled into class in my wheelchair. Within five minutes I was transferred to a hard ladder back chair. In the beginning I had thoughts like “OMG! When are they going to put me back in my wheelchair? These seats are hard and my butt is gonna die!” However by the end of the first week I could sit in the ladder back chair all day and I found myself with people that were going to become my best friends. It taught me I could do a lot more than I think I can.
I threw up my tube feeding during one of the exercises and needed a change of clothes. The director offered to help me change. We walked over to the wall bars and I stood holding on. I was left there while she went to grab my clothes. I sort of freaked out inside because no one has ever expected me to stand by myself before. It taught me I could do a lot more than I think I can.
We had two so called breaks each day, one for snack and one for lunch. Lunch was not really a break because we were working on learning to feed ourselves. Everyday I ate with someone holding my hand. I would not say the room was clean at the end of lunch but we fed ourselves and then got ready to go right back to work. Now I can feed myself and hardly make a mess. Let me remind you I am 18 years old and no one has ever expected me to feed myself before. It taught me I could do a lot more than I think I can.
Everyone treated me like family. I had friends who I would eat lunch with. I don’t have this back at Keene High. The friendships at CLC didn’t end at lunch. When the teachers had us working hard we were all a cheering squad for each other. I went back to our camper every night exhausted but happy knowing that tomorrow I’d be back to my friends, hard work and a good time! It taught me I’m not alone in this struggle and we can do a lot more than we think we can.
When the four weeks ended, the last thing I wanted to do was leave CLC and my new friends. Back at Keene High I called a team meeting with my educators and therapists. The goal was to show them the new me and to be permitted to miss four weeks of school to go back to CLC this February. I rolled into the meeting room. I transferred from my wheelchair to the same kind of chair they were sitting in and I sat at the head of the conference table. No one at Keene High had ever seen me out of my wheelchair. I presented my report about my experience with Conductive Education. They agreed that the program at CLC will help emancipate me and prepare me for college. Like any 18 year old I am really looking forward to college and being there without my parents! They are all convinced I can do a lot more than they thought I could.