DO-IT Mentor Steve Harper

Picture of Mentor Steve Harper
Mentor Steve Harper

My name is Steve Harper, I'm one of the newest Mentors. I have cerebral palsy. Maybe some of you have it. In case some of you don't know what it is let me explain it to you. Cerebral palsy occurs when the brain doesn't get enough oxygen. It usually affects the body's muscles, although it can cause some learning problems too. I've got my share of it--"gee I'm lucky"--I can't walk or verbally talk. I use a Morse code communicator which is mounted on the front of my wheelchair. I have two switches on each side of my head where I tap out the Morse code. My right side switch is dots, left side is dashes, and I drive my wheelchair using my head, too. I have this thing called "KE:NX," a special adapter that allows me to use my Morse code to use a Macintosh so I can communicate with you.

When I was five I started going to a special school for the disabled called Maplewood. My speech therapist made a communication board so I could communicate somewhat. Then they decided that I was smart enough to mainstream me in regular school. It was about 1976, so it was a few years after that law was passed--you know, the law that says disabled children have the right to be educated equally. So Maplewood put me in the second grade, with a not-so-good communication board.

When I was in the sixth grade, my speech therapist back at Maplewood heard about a project that was going on at the good old UW. It was a Morse code grant for nonverbal children. So they called her and asked her if she knew any children who could benefit from this type of program. She gave out two girls' names and my name. At first, my parents and I didn't like the Morse code idea. Because I could communicate to some extent, we didn't see the point of trying the program. However, my speech therapist harassed us so much that we agreed to set up an appointment with the grant people at the UW. By the end of that appointment I was on that grant. I learned the Morse code in about two weeks. My life was much easier when I got the Morse code communicator , because I could communicate twice as fast as before, and I could communicate all by myself without anyone looking to see what I was saying.

I graduated from Lynnwood High School in 1987. In 1988, I heard about a program at Shoreline Community College called the Community Integration Program. This program provides academic support for people with cerebral Palsy. That's where I've gone ever since. However, I'm FINALLY planning to transfer to the University of Washington next year and major in computers.

My hobbies are computers; all types of sports, especially football; and rock music, especially the Scorpions--hey, I might be old by Scholar standards, but I'm not that old!

All of you should take heart. If I can graduate from high school and eventually end up going to a major university, I know all of you can DO-IT too!