1) Quotes

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.
(Thomas Merton)

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.
(Ingrid Bergman)

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.
(Rodney Dangerfield)

2) Some amazing, up close and personal, photos of different life forms from the Wellcome Image Awards 2011. These come from a Guardian slide show – http://tinyurl.com/5retw5k

Rows of suckers on the foreleg of a male great diving beetle – the largest freshwater beetle in the UK. Great diving beetles mate underwater and the male has evolved plate-like joints on his front legs that are covered in suckers, allowing him to hold onto the female. This polarised photomicrograph (created by Spike Walker) shows a portion of the joint, revealing part of one of the two larger suckers and five rows of small ones.

Ruby-tailed wasp (Spike Walker). To photograph the wasp, Walker first had to calm it down by putting it in his freezer for a few seconds, causing it to curl into this protective posture.

Photomicrograph of the base of a silkworm caterpillar’s proleg (Spike Walker). Prolegs are short, stubby structures that grow from the underside of the caterpillar’s abdomen. Each has a circle of hooks (yellow and orange), which enable the caterpillar to climb up vertical surfaces. Caterpillars can have up to five pairs of prolegs and three pairs of true, jointed legs that remain in the adult moth. The prolegs disappear.

3) The Henry Viscardi School, Albertson, New York, is demonstrating that the term “severely disabled” refers to the body, not the mind. Seventy per cent of Viscardi’s students continued their education in college and vocational schools.

What do you think is the greatest handicap you have had to overcome?

From an article in the New York Times, by Sarah Maslin Nir – http://tinyurl.com/4svhpvs

“Viscardi is one of several private schools in New York that enroll severely disabled children, using technology and on-site medical care to keep its students, some of whom are incapable of speech or even movement, in the classroom.

Its 185 students, in prekindergarten through 12th grade, come from all over the New York region, some arriving daily by ambulance. The nurse’s office is not just a place for students to escape a pop quiz, but also an in-house triage unit that handles 100 or more visits a day to administer medications and provide services like suctioning clean students’ airways. Almost every year, a few medically frail students die.

“We have the same expectations for our students to achieve academically and for them to fully participate in the whole educational experience,” said the school’s executive director, Patricia Kuntzler. “Whether it’s a field trip for the kindergarten to the pumpkin farm or whether it’s being part of a school paper.”

“Before coming to Viscardi two years ago, Dayna Stropkay, who previously attended public schools in Garden City, in Nassau County, was under the constant supervision of an aide. She is unable to speak, walk or care for herself, and the arrangement in school seemed to be increasing her dependency, said her mother, Denise Stropkay. In public school, Dayna repeatedly failed her Regents examinations, but nevertheless dreamed of attending college.

“There can be great isolation,” Ms. Kuntzler said, “with one student and one aide rather than a group of kids and independent mobility and a social situation that says, ‘No, you’re expected to follow the schedule, you’re expected to complete the assignments.’ ”

At Viscardi, Dayna, who is 20 (students can stay until they turn 21) has no dedicated aide. But things like bathroom attendants and a class size of nine have allowed her a degree of autonomy she never knew before, her mother said. She received a hearing aid after a specialist working for the school discovered she was nearly deaf. She recently passed four Regents exams.

“You have to get through all these layers before you get the person,” Ms. Stropkay said. “At Viscardi, you’re right at the person.”

“They study the same curriculum used in New York City public schools, but it is adapted through technology for children who may not be able to see, hear, speak or turn a textbook’s pages. Art class, for instance, features baseball caps mounted with drawing implements for children who cannot move their hands.

Along with math and history, students’ therapies may incorporate academics. In speech therapy, Dylan Cuevas, a second grader who is fed by a tube and breathes with the help of a ventilator, reads his course work aloud, said his mother, Debbie Cuevas; in occupational therapy he learns the motor skills to manipulate a computer mouse. “They are trying to strengthen his hands,” Ms. Cuevas said, “and also are giving him independence.”

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