Meg Casey
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"Most Able Disabled"

Meg Casey's handicapped issues column

Meg Casey
Gone Fishin by Casey
photo courtesy of the Casey family

A World Of Social Creatures

Snob Or Shy?

May 30 1984

Dear Meg,

How does a truly shy person cope with the battle of fitting into a world of social creatures?

Behind that blush may stand a person suffering through the pain of high anxiety brought on by the simple thought of meeting people. Simple for the rest of us but for someone who is shy the act of meeting people and trying to socialize is pure hell. A friend wrote, "I never had any friends in school. They all mistook my shyness for snobbery and I was branded as being "stuck up."

"I never had any girlfriends. I was always unable to open my mouth to speak intelligently I’d panic so. If any of them were interested in me I guess they’d give up thinking perhaps that everybody else was right about me." I’d have to get up my nerve first, to go and find that special person.

"I still have the reputation of being a loner, and for all of my shyness I guess I’m bound to be but if I could change - I’d like to try."

To my friend,

You might like to consider having a Peer Counselor for yourself whom you could talk to on a one on one basis since you are the most comfortable in that situation.

A Peer Counselor would be someone you could relate to and share your experiences with, and learn from theirs. As perhaps they have been able to successfully cross troubled waters similar to the ones you are attempting to ford in your own life.

Everyone goes through some degree of shyness at some time in their existence. The embarrassment of being tongue tied and utterly awkward certainly sticks within your memory banks forever. To suffer such extremes of shyness must be truly upsetting. The subsequent teasing which inevitably goes along with the bashfulness must make the noticeable squirming under the public glare positively agonizing.

Opening the lines for communication to at least one other source is a start toward correcting your image - both your image of yourself and your public image.

The most important person needed to like you is yourself. Once you believe that you are a decent and likable person your confidence shown will be natural and you shouldn’t have a problem having other people notice and appreciate it. Keep smiling! Generally you’ll be given one back.

Solitary Is Mentally Corrosive

March 23 1983

A prioritized system is not adequate I realize, but in this era of the two car family, Milford only has one van to service the city’s disabled and conflicting demands are constantly vying for its use. It is unfair for a person to be made to feel guilty for needing to get about to escape loneliness because a medical shuttle might be needed to take someone else in to treatments. Both are very important needs, especially to the people concerned. Loneliness is no light matter. Solitary confinement can be as corrosive to the physical and mental health as any terminal disease. - (Besides the fact that everything not medically related falls under the benign umbrellas of a "social trip." - work, food shopping, classes, seeing your lawyer, etc.)

Disabled Do In Free Time

December 5 1984

Dear Readers,

Today I thought I’d concentrate on leisure time activities and poke about in an observing way to see just what people do in their off hours – and how they go about doing it. It's been very interesting! Of course there were times when I found things going from the sublime to the ridiculous, one extreme to the other but I just shook my head with a silent grin and thought "Well, it takes all kinds to make life interesting for the rest of us!" and watched them more closely. ( – And you can take that however you like!)

The initial question is always the same. What do you like to do in your free time? The next is Do you need any extra help or adaptive devices in order to do it yourself – "by yourself?"

One set of answers I could really relate to was "Spend money shopping" and "Yeah, a charge card!" Then there were a few who actually said "Nothin’" "Nada, … I don't do nothin" or "O-Kay if you pay me".

Some of the more diversified answers were jogging, cooking, picking up girls, modern dancing and oil painting. One M.I.D.P. member likes to play basketball as a member on the Connecticut Independents Team – which is the only wheelchair basketball team in the state, by the way. That team players use specially modified chairs made for speed and sharp turns. A fast sport for a fast sport!

Attorney Ellen Telker enjoys reading and knitting. Being visually impaired all of her life, Ellen has grown up discovering and using each new service set up to assist the blind in fulfilling normal everyday activities and she has been most willing to share her trade secrets with me so that other people can take part in those things too.

Fashion For The Blind

January 6 1983

Dear Meg:

How does a blind person at coordinate his or her clothing when he or she is unable to see the different prints on the materials?

Linda P.

Dear Linda,

I’m sure many people would be interested in finding out what they've always been afraid ask!

I called the Board of Education Services for the blind in Hartford in order find someone qualified to explain the latest techniques taught. A rehabilitation teacher there that is blind explained to me that there isn't one set method used universally for color coding or identifying one's own clothing but that is still pretty much left to the individual to develop a system that works for them.

Shopping is usually done with a companion that is trusted to know their tastes or in shops where the help is familiar with their likes and can assist in making selections (Money can also be a distinguishing factor.)

Alice usually uses the sense of touch to find an outstanding characteristic of the item - buttons, style, texture which will serve to trigger her memory whenever she feels at it once and she is taking it home.

The color coordination of the outfit can be handled by hanging the whole outfit together in one place. The re-sorting of their laundry and matching of the socks etc. might require the help of a sighted person.

Being such a clothes horse myself I had to rebel against the idea of being limited by the range of my instant recall. I have clothes in my closet that I haven't seen for years! Alice assured me that there was no reason to keep yourself in a uniform.

When dealing with three blouses of the same style and fabric but different colors, Alice will mark the tags in some way. For instance, if the items have two labels in the neckline, she will take both out of the blue, one out of the red and leave two in the yellow. She has a friend who marks his ties on the back with braille written tags.

For those in know braille these tags are an oval-shaped aluminum tag about one-eighth inch wide and the colors written out an abbreviated form. These tags are easily sewn on and can be gotten through the American Foundation for the Blind.

Another suggestion made was to arrange closets and drawers up in the order of the color spectrum. In the drawers (especially for socks) using boxes as dividers can help for locating things both quickly and easily.

Well, It seems pretty clear to me after speaking with the these women that if you are inclined to be a slob with your scrambled dresser drawers and bulging closets the sad proof of it, you better take care of the eyes the Lord gave you.

Clothes Shopping For Little People

August 3 1983

Dear Meg,

Where do you find stylish clothing to fit you?

As my daughter grows up, it becomes increasingly difficult to find things which aren't too babyish, decorated with ducks or choo-choo trains. Being so very tiny the selection of sophisticated designs can't be found.

And the shoes! Please, let me in on where you find the dress up shoes.

Hi Mom,

Flattery will get you everywhere. Anyone who complements my wardrobe wins points for good taste!

How do I do it? I work my tiny "buns" off trying to find clothes that I like the looks of. I am here to tell you "it ain't easy," but is not impossible to buy off of the rack. It entails keeping a constant eye out for any piece of clothing or accessory that might strike your fancy and then doing a great deal of improvisation.

The wardrobe you saw me displaying is the fruit of years of tender cultivation and weeding. The old hunt and pick method is the only way to reap that reward.

I drove my own poor mother insane whining over the awful clothes I was forced to wear due to my small frame. Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh are the bane of my existence. It is impossible to be alluring with a rodent all over your fancy panties and "jammies!" (How embarrassing!)

On my eighth grade class trip "she" made me wear those ruffled ankle socks and rubber-toed sneakers with my sundress. I didn't want want to look cute! I want to look womanly like the other girls. Bare-legged in their culottes and sandals.

It is much easier today to shop for fashionable clothing in small sizes than it was for my mother and her "fusspot" back in 1969. Today the trend is to dress the little tykes in "little grownup styles." Sportswear can be gotten just about anywhere.

The dungaree revolution was a godsend for me while it lasted. However the designers have taken us back to hassling over matched sets. T-shirts and jeans no longer go everywhere.

I recommend going to the better specialty stores dealing in children's apparel for a really fine fit. You'll pay more, but the styles and extended life of quality goods, along with the personal satisfaction and in the end result, make it well worth it. I stick to classic cuts or the peasant look for the timelessness of the two styles that can guarantee me years of wear.

If it can't be found in the girl’s department check the boy’s department. Men’s tailored shirts are great looking and with the right belt and other accessories can look as feminine, grown-up or dressy as desired. That is also the best place to pick up a nice blazer or jacket without any silly appliqués on it.

My entire wardrobe is interchangeable and can be dressed up or down to go with jeans, dress slacks or skirts.

Formalwear is impossible to purchase. For special events requiring a spectacular outfit, I have to have it made up to my specifications. Shoes? Forget it! Search under rocks and bushes. Steal them! I don't know, but whenever you see a pair, grab them and don't be talked out of the it! You’ll regret every time you are.

Brand the words – "Clearance"– "Sale" – "Reduction" into your mind in order to beat the expensive price tags. Scan those racks for the bargains on quality items. If you hit the jackpot, get one in every color available. It doesn't happen very often so get it while it's there! Good luck and happy hunting!

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photographs and other content courtesy of the Casey family unless noted
blog posts and art by Meg Casey
originally published 1982 to 1985 in the Milford Citizen newspaper