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Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities
Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities



I Feel Happy Being Here

Bobby [last name withheld]

Following is a compilation of an interview I held with Bobby when he was fifteen and going to a public high school in a suburb of Boston. I had originally intended to include only written and visual material in this anthology, but I decided to interview Bobby at the suggestion of his special education teacher, Roxanne Goldenstein. Bobby has cognitive disabilities, and Roxanne explained that he, along with most of her other students, did not have the writing skills to put complex thoughts and feelings onto paper. My interview with Bobby inspired me to expand my repertoire and interview a half-dozen other kids for this anthology as well.

I like to almost do everything. I got a lot of interests of mine I like to do. I like using computers — computers is my favorite hobby. I like to play basketball — my favorite sports. I like reading and writing, and I also like learning at high school. I been learning for many years, and I still like learning in schools. I can always get help from a teacher, and, you know, I feel happy being here.

I'm a freshman in high school. What I call the class I'm in is English class, because we're there learning. Sometimes I need help, 'cause I don't understand something. Like, I having problems with math an' reading. So that's why Ms. Goldenstein, she put me into the class, so I can learn with her.

So far I have no problem at all, so far. I just ask the teacher help me. For homework, for example, like, almost every morning I have homework. Mostly I get help is from Austin, the aide teacher. He's here early, and I go to him an' go over homework and maybe do some little correction until the science class starts. An', y'know, my science teacher is not, like, angry or anything. It's just I don't understand. So that's what Austin's up there for, that's why we have a science support class with him, to goin' over what our science teacher tell us — go over tests, like that.

Well, I still like to learn, 'cause I like to learn things, because they're new for me. I don't remember specifically what I learn, but I just like the students. I like learn how to be friends with other students. Y'know, it's like, "Be nice to your friend," like, "Talk to your friend," "Don't fight with your friend." We just learning how friends are all about an' how to be together without any problem. I got a lotta friends. I never hurt them, anything — just talk, chat. Y'know, we just chat most of the time during lunch, and during our break time we just kinda hang out, talking with a friend, something.

I like to help friends. Like, maybe sometimes if they lost something and they told me that, I'd know where to find it. I just go walk with this person to find what they lost. If I see the person hurt or something, like on the ground, just help them go to the nurse's office. It's kinda like a good way to be a friend is to help people. So that's my favorite thing to do is help people.

Sometimes I feel kinda mad at myself 'cause I did something wrong but I'm not sure what I did. And then my friends just come up to me and tell me what happened, like that. It happen sometimes when I get a little angry with people, when all my friends, they just, y'know, talking to me, razzing me. I just, like, go away, ignore them or something, and then my friends ask me what's wrong. So I explain what I was angry about. I don't like to let them fight anybody. I just keep myself in control. I walk out the room, walk back and forth in the hallway. And then when I come back, maybe the person will be settled down. It happens to me all the time in high school and in elementary school, too.

I fight before when I was a little kid or something, when I got angry at them, but now I don't fight anymore. I stopped fighting like around six or five year old. Because five year old I was at elementary school, and I had a couple kids that I hadda learn to play with. They always throw things at me, like a ball o' paper, or something soft things thrown at me. So I was trying to get in a fight with these two, three kids or something. I didn't actually fight. I jus' like push 'em down. The teacher tried to stop the fighting. They were laughing afterwards.

I been in trouble lot of times, so I didn't feel good, 'cause I was, like, out of school couple days 'cause of the fighting. I have a note from the school, so my mother and father were kind of complaining. Y'know, angry about what happened, because they didn't know my son was fighting and principal keep him out of school these two, three days until you behave. Something my mother always says to me over and over, like when I was seven, eight, nine, ten, she said, "Don't fight. Leave them alone. If they bother you again, go tell a teacher. Just tell the principal or something, and it will definitely help to find the person, to tell them to stop." You know, and it works, it really helps a lot.
Now I'm 15, and I understood what was wrong about fighting. It's better to talk to the person, talk to the student, "Why you do this?" Between me an' him, me an' that guy, and the teacher and principal. It's just like a meeting together, talking. So right now I have a lot good friends, an' lot of teachers were saying happy things to me, 'cause I did well. I'm doing well in school, y'know. I've two great principal from elementary school. They talk my mother, say, "Your son is doing great in school. No complaining. No fighting. No bad news about it." That's why my father and mother were happy.

An' when I came to high school, it's same old thing. I didn't fight at all. I follow direction when the teacher is saying. So that's why I got a good grade. Roxanne really happy about me. If I keep doing this, everything be all right. I got a lot of friendly teachers and students. They like to laugh. They like to have fun or something. That's why they can be happy, because they all feel happy. So I just became happy.


My mother is from China. She came here — I don't have any years — but she came a long time ago. My father came from Hong Kong. But my father already — already passed away. I lived in Hong Kong also. Because I got a grandmother there and a couple other sister, daughters there. So that's why we visited the family. I was born in United States. I was, like, two or three year old I went to Hong Kong. 'Cause at that time my father wasn't here in United States. My father still in Hong Kong, because my grandmother has a son — my father. So that's why they were all living there. I came to the United States five year old. And I lived in an apartment for a long time with my mother and my sister. My sister also born in the United States. She's younger. She's ten year old — in elementary school. She's a fifth grader.

We have a big family to come together. I got an aunt an' uncle, live kind of far away. They used to live in apartment, but now they already moved out. My aunt is my mother's sister, and my uncle is my mother's brother. They both live in China, and they all came here to United States for long time now. All my family used to live in apartment, like my aunt an' uncle, all together. My grandmother and my two cousins lived in apartment, too. They all living here, and now they all moved out. So, they were moving, and we only three are home. Sometimes it'd be a free time, we'd just go over their house. 'Cause it kinda feel lonely at our house, 'cause, y'know, my father passed away. I got best aunt. They always let us go over their house when we have the free time, talk over something. Y'know, I got a good family, a very good family.

With my family, I just go out shopping, do the groceries, go downtown, walk around there. I always help my mother to shop. She likes it. Sometimes we go out to Chinatown, which I like to go to, to hang out there. I like the Chinese food. I'm kinda related to Chinatown, because I'm Chinese. So we mostly hang out there — buy vegetables, meats for supper, like that. We have lunch there sometime, maybe some restaurants in Chinatown.

My mother doesn't work. She's like a housekeeper. She used to work, but she doesn't work anymore since my father was working at day and my mother worked to take care of us because we were kinda little still. Since my father already passed away, my mother couldn't work anyhow, because we're still alone in our house. He passed away since October — October 25. So, we kind of quiet in our house. I have to take care of myself and my mother and sister. I got a new therapist this year to talk over about my father, about what happened to him.

I got best family. I got best father, too. 'Cause he used to, like, every Monday he had day off and every other days he's busy, he has to work. But on Monday, he goes out shopping at Watertown, because he knows where the big malls are. Sometimes he goes out Chinatown, too, with us. Do same things: eat supper there, buy vegetables or something for supper the next day. And sometime he take us out to his friend's house. Sometime he takes us to the movies. You know, he takes us everywhere he feel likes it.

My father only a good person — help us to learn things. I don't know, because I don't understand anything. My mother and father know more. So I just ask him a problem. If I had any problems, I just go right to him. Since he already passed away, it's kinda difficult for me, 'cause he's not in house anymore. I get help from my aunt, 'cause she's taking care of us. My whole family and my father's family all came here in November from Hong Kong an' some from Canada. Both came here to visit. This is the first time I see them, since before now, his family never came here to United States before. They were here over one week or so. He was sick a long time, long time. That's why they came here for a week — to help the father. An' also, they noticed my father already passed away. So, y'know, we got a lot of people, a lot of family.

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spacerLinda Hillyer, compiler and editor of Listen to Our Stories
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