An Interview with Max
I’m Maxwell Rhinehart, and I’m a 16-year-old sophomore at Winston Churchill High School, and my visual disability is albinism. Well, it’s never been a huge problem for me socially, but it has impaired me in some fields. My three favorite subjects in school are definitely history, math, and biology, and I’ve always has three passions in my life: politics, psychology, and history.
What have you done or are doing to look at careers you may be interested in pursuing?
Well, I’ve always followed my three big topics—politics, history, and psychology. And I could probably use a lot of tools to help me, but I think the biggest has been the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, and the History Channel. They’ve all given me great insight into those subjects.
What did your parents and teachers do that made a huge difference in your education, Max?
My parents give me a variety of ways to help myself. When I was a little kid, I unwillingly took advantage of occupational therapy, and it taught me good hand-eye co-ordination and how to play with blocks I guess in a very respectable manner. My parents and teachers have always listened to me when I tell them what font sizes work for me, what technology is best for me, and where I have to sit in a classroom. I always try to make myself loud and clear.
What do you feel you are good at and why? How did you learn these skills?
My best skill has always been listening. Because I can’t always clearly see people’s facial expressions, I have to interpret their voice patterns and word choice to understand how they feel. Over time, I was able to sharpen my listening skills by simply talking to friends, parents, and teachers. I am very good at cognitive activities too. I’ve always been a very logical thinker, but reading copious amounts of books and news articles, I think I’ve intellectually evolved. I think if people listen to what other people have to say instead of just waiting for their turn to speak that you can really learn a lot and pick up on these skills.
How have you advocated for yourself? Give some examples that may help others to know how to respectfully ask for what they want.
Well, I’ve been a giant my whole life. Well, I’m six foot two now, but in seventh grade, I was only six feet. I remember in seventh grade I had this uppity but very tiny English teacher. One day I went and politely asked her for a large-print copy of a quiz which she had forgot to make, and she refused.
I didn’t know this at the time, but I was actually standing just two inches away from her and towering, my six feet to her five feet. I think she probably felt a little bit intimidated and uncomfortable. But after that, I always tried to make sure that I was a good distance away from people, and I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible around me.
I also think it’s very important to be polite. It’s also very important to keep a quiet calm voice. And you always have to take teachers either before class or after class. You can’t yell at them or tell them what your issues are in the middle of class. It’ll probably embarrass them.
You probably also should schedule an IEP meeting with all your teachers before and in the middle of the school year to go over your accommodations and what’s best for you. And if any teacher is… refuses to follow your accommodations then you either have to switch teachers or just simply report it to the school. See if they can do anything to help.
An important goal is to travel independently. What goals are you and your instructor using this year to improve your travel skills and why.
Well, I got my learner’s permit this year, which I’m very proud of, but I have gone to my optometrist and taken some tests, and he’s determined that I have to have a daytime restrictive license, meaning I can only drive between one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. But that’s better than nothing. And I’ve also applied for a summer class at University of Maryland this summer. And I’ve also signed up to live on campus. And I think these skills are going to help me have life experience on living independently and living on my own without having other people guide me around everywhere.
How have your teachers helped you become more aware of current technology? What technology adaptations are the best for you?
Well, actually, we discuss through technology via e-mail and cell phones. Well, I gave my vision teacher my e-mail and cell phone number in the beginning of the year. My vision teacher always notifies me with new gizmos that can help me improve my reading skills and technology skills.
But probably my favorite one, and probably one of the most technologically advanced ones I know, is ZoomText, which is kind of like this magnifier that goes on the screen that can help you read Internet documents and Word documents. It has also been great for taking tests at school. Many of them are online.
Also, I just like using the good old fashioned analog bubble magnifiers. Those are very helpful.
And for leisure reading, I like using the Amazon Kindle, which you can just download books and read them in large print. We don’t download them in large print though. There’s a tool on there that you can use to make it a lot bigger.
What activities do you participate in during physical education and what modifications are made for you specifically?
Well, I stopped doing physical education this year. But I was never… when I did do it, I was never good at baseball or basketball or anything that involved (pauses then sort of laughs) balls, I guess. So I tried to always do weight lifting. I always tried to do things that didn’t require, didn’t require good vision for it. I also participate in running, but now, I don’t do gym any more. I just lift weights and run at home.