God has an interesting way of doing things. Our plans are not always His plans and every once in a while, He reminds us of that fact. God also prepares us for the challenges we will face in life. Lisa Fox, the 2016 HLA Teacher of the Year, knows first-hand about how God works. “Her plan” was actually God’s plan as He prepared her to be the very special mother of Carina Miller.
Lisa, a physical therapist by profession, was established in her career and the owner of a successful therapy clinic. Carina, who was already a student in a local preschool, was looking forward to graduating to a new school with her peers.
“Carina was born with multiple allergies and when she went to transition into public school, it didn’t work out too well,” said Lisa. “We ended up having to move into the homeschooling world.”
The move to homeschooling was tremendous for the family and greatly impacted their lives, as well as Lisa’s career. Despite having to move in a different direction, Lisa knew Carina was her priority, so she made the adjustment in their lives.
“All I could think was ‘what am I going to do? How am I going to homeschool her’,” said Lisa. “I didn’t know where to start.”
Determined to make homeschooling work for Carina, Lisa began home educating her and Carina progressed well through third grade. In December 2013, their lives shifted again when Carina was diagnosed with mononucleosis.
“I literally couldn’t get up from my bed or actually physically do much,” said Carina. “Later on, Mom helped me phase back into trying to get my muscles up and being able to learn for longer periods of time. My hearing had also worsened with the mono and we realized I had a new eye problem. I already had a slight hearing problem, but it increased dramatically after the mono. I was really bummed, because I had already gone through one year and a half of mono and it had been miserable already. Now, I realize I have other problems that may last my whole life.”
Lisa went on to describe Carina, before her illness, as a voracious learner.
“Carina loves to write. She was reading college level science books and all of a sudden she couldn’t read her books. Reading was her love,” said Lisa. “It was difficult seeing my child going through this difficult experience. I felt isolated. We were stuck at home for a long period of time and that was hard. I saw her lose contact with friends.”
With Carina’s new health issues, Lisa had to make more adjustments in their lives. Along with her instincts as a mother and her trained skills in physical therapy, Lisa worked with Carina to assist her in regaining some sense of the life she enjoyed before her diagnosis. Carina was able to slowly begin her involvement in some of the activities she previously did. She returned to karate for her vestibular therapy helping her with balance, and swimming, which she really enjoys.
“When I was finally able to stand up after a swim workout, it was great for me,” said Carina who also shared she would feel miserable afterwards, but the joy of swimming was so immense. “I have not had a mono flare in many months, but am still stuck with the central vestibular disorder – experiencing oscillopscia, which is a rocking boat sensation. I am just now able to stand on a diving block and try to dive.”
Carina also started attending some outside classes, but with her additional hearing loss, was unable to hear what people were saying. Her inability to hear caused her to miss out on a lot during that time. Although Carina was making gains in her recovery, they were small and not timely enough for a young nine year old little girl who was eager to return to a “normal” life.
“As a mom, I can get ‘stuck in the mud’ for a tiny bit of the time, but then I am fine. You can wallow or find a way to work with the situation,” said Lisa. “That is the thing we’ve taught, everything in balance for life. You have to live life in moderation. When you have significant illness, it doesn’t mean stop. You figure a way around it is what we’ve tried to teach her. I’m thankful for the Internet. Gosh, if this would have happened when I was a kid, resources would have been limited.”
Homeschooling continued with some changes in their school.
“My mom teaches my other private and co-operative teachers how to cope with my hearing and visual disabilities to allow me to feel more comfortable. She has spent hours transcribing my words that I wish I could write myself. Looking up and down from screen to keyboard to type makes me nauseous and dizzy. The way she listens and does not interject when she thinks my writing is off track, a sentence is too long, a paragraph too short is freeing. I could not write novels unless mom was typing. She spends time with me reading the books aloud that I would be reading. Mom has also found Learning Ally and Overdrive for audiobooks so I don’t have to use my eyes, and has searched for enlarged print books, so I can read longer,” said Carina, who uses an experimental aid from Able Kids for those with auditory processing disorders. “My mom has helped me find ways of coping without taking any of the joy of learning away. I think for a student to be able to explore, test their limits and be unburdened, this opens up new opportunities to learn. I am very glad that she can do this and has supported me in this endeavor. I would not have been able to enjoy homeschool in the last few years with my challenges without my mom’s perseverance and skills.”
Carina went on to share that it helps her having her mother there everyday teaching her and being a mom. Lisa comforts Carina and makes her feel more secure. Lisa agreed those are the reasons they homeschool.
Carina, who wants to be a historical tour guide when she grows up, has been able to thrive over the last two years. Lisa has made it possible for Carina to pursue studies in art, musical theater, history and participate on a swim team. Carina was recently cast in a local production of The Wizard of Oz. She is performing in the same roles in which she was originally cast before getting ill.
“I am proud of my daughter and am inspired by her perseverance. I hope other parents with children who have disabilities are able to the find tools, village of supporters from professionals to friends, and educational resources to promote the possibilities in their child,” said Lisa. “I know having only one child and that I only work part-time gives me more time and room to modify Carina’s school, but sometimes it is the little things. Audio books, taking the time to type for your child or write for your child can open up learning opportunities for them and help them feel empowered. I know at times it can be overwhelming, but try not to let that stop you from helping your child succeed. Every little step we make during the easy or hard times, as parents and educators, can provide a large positive step for them in their health and happiness.”
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©2016 HomeLife Academy. Article by Jennifer Smeltser. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the publisher http://www.homelifeacademy.com/.