Thursday, March 17, 2011

This explains so much...

Not a diagnosis, but it would answer many questions, and help heal years of teasing.

I may or may not have many symptoms...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dysgraphia is a deficiency in the ability to write, primarily in terms of handwriting, but perhaps also in terms of coherence.It occurs regardless of the ability to read and is not due to intellectual impairment. Acquired dysgraphia is known as agraphia.

People with dysgraphia usually can write on some level, and often lack other fine motor skills and may be cross dominant, finding tasks such as tying shoes difficult. It often does not affect all fine motor skills. They can also lack basic grammar and spelling skills (for example, having difficulties with the letters p, q, b, and d), and often will write the wrong word when trying to formulate thoughts (on paper). In childhood, the disorder generally emerges when the child is first introduced to writing. The child may make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities, but they usually have no social or other academic problems. Cases of dysgraphia in adults generally occur after some neurological trauma. Dysgraphia may also be diagnosed in a person with Tourette syndrome, ADHD or an autism spectrum disorder such as Asperger syndrome. The DSM IV identifies dysgraphia as a "Disorder of Written Expression" as "wr-iting skills (that) ...are substantially below those expected given the person's ...age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education."

Types of dysgraphia
Three principal subtypes of dysgraphia are recognized. Some children may have a combination of two or all three of these, and individual symptoms may vary in presentation from what is described here.

Dyslexic dysgraphia
With dyslexic dysgraphia, spontaneously written work is illegible, copied work is fairly good, and spelling is bad. Finger tapping speed (a method for identifying fine motor problems) is normal, indicating the deficit does not likely stem from cerebellar  damage. A dyslexic dysgraphic does not necessarily have dyslexia. (Dyslexia and dysgraphia appear to be unrelated but are often found together.)

Motor dysgraphia

Motor dysgraphia is due to deficient fine motor skills, poor dexterity, poor muscle tone, or unspecified motor clumsiness. Motor dysgraphia may be part of the larger problem of motor apraxia. Generally, written work is poor to illegible, even if copied by sight from another document. Letter formation may be acceptable in very short samples of writing, but this requires extreme effort and an unreasonable amount of time to accomplish, and cannot be sustained for a significant length of time. Writing long passages is extremely painful and cannot be sustained. Letter shape and size becomes increasingly inconsistent and illegible. Writing is often slanted due to holding a pen or pencil incorrectly. Spelling skills are not impaired. Finger tapping speed results are below normal.

Spatial dysgraphia
A person with dysgraphia due to a defect in the understanding of space has illegible spontaneously written work, illegible copied work, but normal spelling and normal tapping speed.

Symptoms of dysgraphia
A mixture of upper/lower case letters, irregular letter sizes and shapes, unfinished letters, struggle to use writing as a communications tool, odd writing grip, many spelling mistakes (sometimes), pain when writing, decreased or increased speed of writing and copying, talks to self while writing, muscle spasms in the arm and shoulder (sometimes in the rest of the body), inability to flex (sometimes move) the arm (creating an L-like shape), and general illegibility.
Many people who are dysgraphic experience pain while writing. The pain usually starts in the center of the forearm and then spreads along the nervous system to the entire body. This pain can get worse or even appear when a dysgraphic is stressed. Few people who do not have dysgraphia know about this, because many with dysgraphia will not mention it to anyone. There are a few reasons why pain while writing is rarely mentioned:
§  Sufferers do not know that it is unusual to experience this type of pain with writing.
§  If they know that it is different from how others experience writing, they feel that few will believe them.
§  Those who do not believe that the pain while writing is real will often not understand it. It will usually be attributed to muscle ache or cramping, and it will often be considered only a minor inconvenience.
§  For some people with dysgraphia, they no longer write, and just type everything, so they no longer feel this pain.
Dysgraphics who experience this pain may exhibit reluctance or refusal to complete writing tasks.

Common problems that are often associated with dysgraphia

There are some common problems not related to dysgraphia but often associated with dysgraphia, the most common of which is stress. Often children (and adults) with dysgraphia will become extremely frustrated with the task of writing (and spelling); younger children may cry, pout, or refuse to complete written assignments. This frustration can cause the child (or adult) a great deal of stress and can lead to stress-related illnesses. This can be a result of any symptom of dysgraphia.

Treatment for dysgraphia varies and may include treatment for motor disorders to help control writing movements. Educational therapy, especially neuro-sensory educational therapy, can be effective as it helps to develop proprioception. Other treatments may address impaired memory or other neurological problems. Some physicians recommend that individuals with dysgraphia use computers to avoid the problems of handwriting.
Occupational therapy could be considered to strengthen muscle tone, improve dexterity, and evaluate eye–hand coordination. Dysgraphic children should also be evaluated for ambidexterity, which can delay fine motor skills in early childhood. Diagnosing dysgraphia can be challenging but can be done at facilities specializing in learning disabilities.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our first vacation

As volunteers we get to go on 2 weeks worth of vacations.  Here in Mexico they split that into 3 vacations. Two 4 day weekends and 1 full week plus Saturday and Sunday on each end. This was our first one.  We went to Porto Escondido, saw the largest tree trunk in the world "Tule," Saw crocodiles, went body boarding, went snorkeling Huatulco, saw the ruins Monte Alban and saw a beautiful little mountain town.

On the way there, I, along with a few of my fellow motion-sick-susceptible counterparts got sick.  It was literally the most windy road I have ever been on. When the bus arrived there were 12 seats and 12 of us.  This little thing looked like a clown car when we all piled out. Small and cramped with all of our stuff we made the journey.  

Like I said, I got sick. I had taken a Dramamine but it was a "less-drowsy"  formula and at my level of getting sick that is like saying "Oh don't worry, you will only throw up and want to kill yourself half the time..." Luckily I didn't actually blow chunks but once I started to get sick I let the driver know and we pulled over.  

Knowing that there had to be others that were sick I decided to ask him to pull over sooner than later.  When we pulled over a few others said "thanks Coltan, I am not feeling well either." I gave them a green nod as I stumbled out of the bus.  

After a few hours we pulled over again because more of us were sick...including the driver! He got out and was spewing next to the van.  From that moment on I decided that I would be the Dramamine patrol and make sure we have some on hand and that all that may think they could possibly get sick take it. We made it to our first destination and enjoyed our time there.

On the way back we all bought drugs and for the 12 hour trip, I took 2 FULL DOSE Dramamine every 4 hours. Let's just say that the trip went by very quickly, even though I didn't sleep.  It was a very relaxing return trip...

This is me before we left.  I was changing and one of the girls caught me trying to make a new fashion statement. 

Our oh-so-spacious van. after a short time I sat in the back right of this picture and was in the back row for most of the trip.

That is the outside...doesn't seem to fit 12 passengers and two drivers does it...

This was our first stop.  When we were finished there were a couple of pedlers trying to sell us stuff cause we are white.  You see, because we are white, everyone assumes we are from the states, and if we are from the states, we have lots of money... apparently they haven't seen my bank account...

There was this girl trying to sell Carson (the ONLY OTHER boy in the group) a necklace. He was kinda a sucker the first few trips we went on and spent lots of his money on souvenirs so he was trying not to spend too much.  He also really is into learning Spanish and takes any opportunity he can to speak.  This sometimes gives the wrong impression to the peddlers.  This girl was trying to sell it to him and he was trying to tell her no...but I was encouraging her telling her that she should ask him to give it to his girlfriend. She suggested it.  Then I said, actually no, he can't.  You see, he can't convince any girls to like him, they all run.  This was all while he was trying to say no and talk to her.  I was more or less standing to the side telling her all this and she was trying to pay attention to us both but more on him cause she may get a sale out of him. She was laughing so hard but diligently trying to convince him to buy the necklace...well, after lots of laughs, much confusion, and random words placed into this girls ear by me, he bought the necklace...

This is us at one of the ruins in Monte Albán. They told us to strike a pose...not sure what I chose...

Sara and me! She is awesome! If you are wondering, yes, in this picture I have started to lose weight...

Cut out the girls and zoom in on me...this could be on the cover of Mexican ruins magazine!

In front of the majority of the ruins.

Yet another encounter with people trying to suck a dry cow for milk...not sure if I said that right get the idea.

A whole bunch of people came passing by trying to sell us stuff.  Some of the girls gave into the persistence, which only made things worse.  One older lady came over and was trying to get us to buy her dumb little fruit picks.  I got tired of it and finally told her that we all either college or high school students with no money, here as volunteers teaching.  "We have no money!" I told her.  This was her reply: "No, I know that you are lying. You are from the United States right?" I replied "Yes." "That means you have lots of money, come on now, don't be cheap.  Share with us that are less fortunate than you.  I know you have money." I laughed and said "oh really?" "Yes." she said. I told her that she would probably have more success with other mexicans because we weren't going to give her anything.  she didn't like that, and she left.

Well, the story goes on. A little girl was trying to swindle us for a good hour. By the end we were just having fun with her as she tried and tried to get us to buy more and more. At one point, there were 2 other white people that came and sat across from us. I told her "Hey, listen.  We are pretty much out of money, but look over there! There are 2 more white people.  I bet they have money!" She left and tried to get them to buy, but then they didn't and she came back and bothered us for another 20 or so min. 

During that time, she started asking us for our cookies that were brought to eat with our lunch.  one of the girls offered her one, she said "No, the whole package!" I said "Come now, that is our lunch." She said something along the lines of I don't care. I then offered to take her to get some food.  She asked for ice cream.  Then I stared to think and I said "Hey! you just took a whole bunch of our money over the course of about 2 hours. Why can't you go buy your own food? And better yet, where is your mom?" she just laughed and then left with her little brother.  She was about 8. 

White people -300 pesos
Little Mexican girl=mission accomplished.

This is Tule.  He has the biggest trunk in the world. It has a circumference of 119 feet. It's big, real big.

This was outside of the area where the tree is.  I thought it was nice...?

Our first night we stayed in the van and "slept." This was the site we saw when we arrived at Porto Escondido.

The few that were awake when we arrived. 

Were were Boogie boarding all day, it was so much fun!
Oh don't worry.  EVERYONE got burned here. Let's just say that for the next trip we will be sure to bring lots of sun block.

Oaxaca is known for its chocolate and Mole.  It was divine!

We also ate Tlayudas.  It is like a giant tostada...for those of you that know what a tostada is...

These were our waitresses.  The one in green was my favorite...and her name is Sophie!

I can't remember where this cathedral was but I remember it was really pretty. 

Some of the stained glass we saw inside.  Can you find Peter??

On our way back to the van in Oaxaca we saw these guys! I always wanted to see a real luchador!

We got to this little place on our way to Huatulco.  It was one of the main highlights of this trip for me.  They took us out on little boats and we got to see birds and crocodiles!

Adri and I getting ready for our visit to the crocs. I bought this hat because my face was burned...
Chasin' crocodiles

If you look hard you can see the Croc!

"Okay, this ends the tour.  If you would like to get back on the boat, you need to pay me again..." Our tour guide was the best we have had so far.  He was crackin' jokes all over the place.  The best part about it was how a few of us would laugh, translate the joke, then the rest would laugh..."don't be left behind, ATT, the nations fastest global network is getting faster with 4G..."
After the boat ride with our tour guide in the middle. We gave him a pretty good tip.

Katie and I on the way back to the van.

All in all, this trip was a blast! We had some good laughs and had some funny experiences. I can't wait for the next vacation we have as a group!!

Teotihuacán and Ruins

We were able to take a weekend trip to a place in puebla called Teotihuacán. The ruins here are of the Sun and Moon and one where Quetzalquoatl came and visited his people, fulfilling the legend.

This is what we saw when we first arrived.  I never found where from where they took off or where they went...

This is the temple dedicated to Quetzalquoatl

These are some of the girls I work with. They are great! You can see the Temple of the Sun in the background.                                                               

These are some of the Puebla peeps.  They asked us to go with them to see the ruins.  We have two schools here in Mexico. One in Puebla city and one in Tehuacán.

Oh Aldo and Ruben! Ruben is our private driver when ever we go on trips.  This is the majority of our group.  I don't thin we have a picture with the entire group...

This is Kailyn, another one of my co-teachers.  She is awesome. We really were having fun...the sun makes us squint a little bit...

Not sure why but I don't look happy in some of these pictures...but that temple is pretty sweet eh?

Me on top of a ruin...they believed their gods would visit them in rays of light...
res, res.  I am a ninja...
She didn't think I could carry her. I guess she never heard about me carrying Calvin, Skyler, and Keith across a river in the middle of winter.
I think I was asking her to be my girlfriend and she said no...

Could have been cooler but still good...My friend Carson got a sweet picture like this!

Is this a postcard...? Nope! just me! haha

Beautiful cathedral in the downtown of Puebla.

The Facade of the same cathedral
A little church close to downtown. I liked the colors.  Inside was amazing! (also in Puebla)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poopy Paper and Flip-flops: The Cultural Differences I Learn to Embrace

Toilette paper:
Everyone uses different ways to go to the bathroom.  In Morocco I have heard, they shake with their right hand. If you use your left you are offending the other person.  This is because they wipe with the left.  In china, you have to learn how to squat over a whole and not miss.  I have many female friends that have shared experiences where they have missed and… well, let’s just say they kept a change of clothes close by for a reason.  The names don’t need to be mentioned, you know who you are…

Here in Mexico, you do your biness, and if you need to use paper, one must clean, and then put it in a trash bag/can next to the toilette.  I personally like to do my business then double wrap the used paper before I put it in the trash.  The people here are accustomed to having poor sewage systems and the paper has clogged up the toilettes in the past.

If there is one thing I have learned is this: Always be open when in a different culture. You may do things that are considered rude or weird without even knowing it. Is what you do right or wrong? Probably not, just different.  Many misunderstandings can be avoided with open communication.
Here is how my conversation went my 2nd day here “So, I know this may sound weird but, that little trashcan next to the toilette is for the toilette paper after I am done doing my business in the toilette right?” The kids had an awkward look on their faces and my mom laughed a little and said “Yes it is, and I am glad you are open enough to be able to talk about it.” I have had no problems with cultural habits because I let them know in the beginning that I want to learn and am open to be told how to change.

Brushing teeth:
Here in Mexico the people brush their teeth after every meal. Or at least my family does (that could be because she used to be a dentist…). One day, I was eating lunch and was running late (I have an hour and a half break in which I eat and then go to the ILP school to prepare for my evening classes that start at 5:30). I grabbed my bag and was heading out the door.  My little brother was in the kitchen with me and as I was leaving said “Coltan, aren’t you going to brush your teeth?” I said “No, why?” He gave me this gross look as if I were telling him that I like to lick toilettes and said “you are supposed to brush your teeth every time you eat.” I was not aware of this, and thinking that he may be trying to pull a fast one on me, I asked the grandma who was also in the kitchen with us. As I turned my head toward her I saw an awestricken and confused face.  I hesitantly asked her if that was true.  No words were said, only a solemn and slow nod of the head accompanied with a slight giggle.  I walked back to my room and brushed my teeth.
For a good 3 weeks after my little brother would yell out to me every time I left the house asking me if I had brushed my teeth. Isn’t it wonderful when we have people who care for us so much as to remind us of the little things that sometimes pass us by? I now do a preemptive strike and as I leave I say “don’t worry! I brushed ‘em!”

Flip-flops and shoes:
I have had many different experiences with shoes and homes through my years. In Alaska, one always takes his shoes off when entering in a house, no matter the time of year.  If the family is used to something else, they have to let you know when you first come in saying something like “you can leave them on, don’t worry.” When I went to the lower 48 (that is the contiguous U.S. for those of you illiterate in the Alaskan Lingo) I found out that most houses in Utah and Idaho are designed for shoes to be worn in the house.  The owners of the house have to tell you other wise or put some kind of welcome sign that says “this is a Japanese home, please take your shoes off.”

Here in Mexico there is no carpet.  As a matter of fact, some of my fellow teachers have decided that the carpet in our school—that has no padding under it—is the only carpet in Mexico. Tile, wood, and marble are what the floors here floss. On the first morning with my family I walked out in my socks.  The mom said “I am fine if you don’t wear shoes but just know that your socks are going to get really dirty.” This opened the door to a perfect opportunity for cultural learning. I asked her about flip flops and shoes.  She informed me that flipflops are used mostly for the bathroom and beach. If you are seen wearing flipflops outside you are looked at like you are wearing shoes that you are naked in outside. Who knows what kind of dirty thoughts people think about all of the gueros (white folk) that wear their shoes with their normal, everyday clothing.

Kissing on the cheek:
This is something that is very strange and hard for me to get used to.  Growing up with 5 boys has formed me into showing no physical or verbal affection. I can remember the first time I told my parents that I loved them over the phone. It was strange.

The rules as I know them are as follows:
Kiss good friends, especially the girls.  Boys, only if you are really good friends with the woman.
Kiss family, women and small children only
Men don’t kiss other men.

All of us in the group have had a few experiences “molesting” our families or people we have just met…

The shower:
My family here has a solar powered hot water heater. I have had many days of cold showers because it was malfunctioning or it was “cloudy.” If you know me well you know how much I love cold water.

Don’t worry; the master bathroom water is warmed by gas…

Being clean:
The people here are very clean.  Apparently the girls that come with ILP have a tendency to not take care of themselves in the realm of hygiene.  The girl that stayed with my family before me did not take showers and frequently wore flipflops. She had nasty feet is what I am told.  I have spoken to many families here and they always have a story about how the Americans are dirty people. If you ever come to Mexico, make sure you bath daily.  They do.  And men, find a good cologne and wear it on a normal basis.

A maid:
“I raise my kids to leave the house.” I am pampered here.  My dad always likes to tell people how his boys are capable of living out of the house because my parents have taught us to do so.  We don’t go through the normal growing pains that others do when we go to college, or leave the house. When I was 19, fresh out of high school and ready to conquer the world, I drove a 3000 mile trip through a foreign country with 3 girls and two vehicles. When I got to school, I didn’t call home except to say that I had arrived.  I didn’t have a cell phone, facebook and myspace did not exist and the only way for me to communicate was via e-mail and phone card. It was 3 months before I really called home and spoke to my parents after I had arrived.

Here, we have a maid that cleans, cooks, and does laundry.  I do my own laundry, but everything else she does for us.  This is normal. Any house that has an average income has a maid that does everything for them.  It has been nice but I am afraid I have forgotten to clean and cook…

Dirty shoes:
Like I mentioned before, Mexicans are very clean.  In Tehuacán, the city is covered in dust and dirt.  You can’t walk through the city without getting dust on your shoes. My family cleans their shoes on a regular basis.  It is not uncommon to see people sweeping the sidewalk or road in front of their house or business.
This is one cultural aspect that I have not done so well in keeping up with. I let my shoes get very dirty.  My little brother one day said “Coltan, do you ever wash your shoes?” mom got made at him and said “why don’t you offer him the shoe cleaning kit instead!?” haha, she thinks I need to keep them clean too.

Hello goodbye (greeting everyone):
Every time you enter a room, you have to say hello to everyone that is there (see Kissing the on the cheek). When you leave, you have to say goodbye to everyone.
One of the teachers here was having issues with the host family.  I asked if every time they entered the room if he was greeting them to which he said: “well, most of the time.” Nope, it needs to be every time.  Every time they enter or leave a room you acknowledge their existence.

Poop on the sidewalk:
There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE! Well, there are dogs everywhere.  I think they don’t like gringos because I have arrived at the school multiple times to wonderful presents of what was eaten by a dog in the form of movement of the bowl, sitting in front of the door. being one of the only men around, I take care of the mess. It is really gross.  Also, you have to watch everywhere you walk on the sidewalk because the dogs like to poo on the sidewalk.  I think it is a more tranquil place for them, because on the road cars may come and interrupt them in their time of vulnerability…or they just like to watch us try and dodge their gifts, hoping to see the disgusted look when we actually do trod on their well planted mine of squishy poo.

Spandex bike ride:
Mexican people have a very strong self-image.  They call each other fatty or skinny as a name of affection. They worry about their outward appearance but mostly about what they wear for what it is rather than how it makes you look. They wear nice clothes all the time.

One day, my dad asked me to go on a bike ride with him and my little bro. I said that I would love to. Now, I was thinking a little Sunday stroll around a park or something.
At 7 AM my little brother knocked on the door and he had in his hands, a helmet, gloves, a biker’s shirt, biker’s coat, and spandex. I felt a little uncomfortable but I wanted to “embrace” the experience so I took the clothes and squeezed into them.  I was happy to see that both my dad and brother were wearing similar clothing; I didn’t feel so awkward.

I am the kind of person that doesn’t like to look out of the norm, except to look good.  I love to dress nice and be clean.  The people here will where with pride what ever they are doing and don’t seem to worry too much what others think of them.  I recently was sick from all the dust.  My mom asked if I would wear a mask to keep the dust form coming in my lungs and throat.  I bashfully said no.  I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.  I see others wearing masks all the time here.  It is a frequently occurring event.

My nicknames:
So, every time I go to a Spanish country I get a new nickname. When I went to Spain, one of the girls called me melocotón. Which is a peach. When I told my host mom this she said that here in mexico you are called that if you are a very attractive man because you are juicy like the fruit. Here, on the other hand, I am refered to as “torta” or “hamburguesa.” This came about because I went to meet one of my uncles at his bar.  When we were introduced, he wasn’t able to pronounce my name (I am not sure why, it is really very simple.  I think they try to think too American and mess it up).  He said “torta?” to which I replied “no, C-oltan” him: “Torta?” me: “no, C- sure, torta…” then, when I told the local boys from the church that my name was coltan but they could call me torta if they wanted because they couldn’t pronounce my name either, they said, “na, hamburger is better!” They were calling me a fatty cause I was from the states…kinda says something about what they think about Americans…oh, just so you know, a torta is a really delicious sandwhich…all my nicknames revolve around food…

“It’s February and we are raking leaves from an orange tree…”

Every day, one of my co-teachers and I arrive at Discovery (the school we teach at in the afternoon). Approaching the door to enter, we have to ring the bell so they will let us in.  Sometimes we have to wait a few minutes for the lady that has the key to come open the door, we walk in and say hello to fellow teachers waiting for their kids, then walk through the school, passing other classrooms full of teachers and students.  We usually leave our teaching materials in the classroom (or in Kim’s case, the kitchen) in which we will be teaching.  They have us in the very back to begin the day.  It is a small grassy area with an orange tree that is right against the outer wall and next to two of the classrooms. It works well for what we do for our starting activities.

We usually start each day with snack time, in which the students (most of them) bring food to munch on before we actually start class.  Next, we sing some songs and then end up playing freeze tag (they are obsessed with this game, I am not sure why) or cops and robbers. Sometimes we need to clean the area a little bit because it collects garbage and random cleaning materials (I assume because it is at the back of the school).

Every day either Kimberlie or myself wind up the hose and then we get the trashcan and prepare the area for the students to arrive.  A few days ago Kimberlie and I were chatting while cleaning.  She was picking up leaves and raking them aside because our students are in love with twigs, leaves, and grass when she all of a sudden stopped and said: “I can’t believe it’s February and we are raking leaves from an orange tree!” We both stopped and thought about it for a while.

A week prior to this epiphany my mother informed me that it was -20 in Alaska.

This post is dedicated to all of you suffering in the cold. You want me to bring you an orange?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I trust people, I just don't trust the devil inside them

Our students are unbelievable. Sometimes in a good way, most times in a “what the heck is going on” kind a way.
Some of my students are obsessed with this one boy. Every time he comes in they scream his name and they all run to him. I can’t figure it out.
They fight, a lot. I have to separate them every 2 seconds. I feel like we are more of a “lucha libre” ref than teachers sometimes…

He is really smart and he knows a lot of English. He usually knows all the answers and has a good sense of humor. 
 He does make the creepiest faces, and sometimes I think he is possessed. He sometimes runs around hitting his head with his hands, or banging his head on the wall…
 She has a crush on me and hugs me every chance she gets…

 We tried to get them to spell “ILP” but the space prevented a good picture.

These are two girls that came in about a week and a half ago (beginning SPE). When they came they could barley say hello. Now they can speak small sentences and answer questions with short answers. It is incredible how fast they have progressed. They are also the two that laughed at me with the crying baby…

My biggest class. We are up to 11 in this class now. 9 boys and 2 girls. As you can tell we have our hands full. They are the Basic Readers. This night only ¾ of them were here.

My advanced SPE class.  They are pretty crazy most of the time too.

All the teachers are in love with this kid. Personally, he drives me nuts because he doesn't listen. Cuteness can only get you so far space cadet!