A person, who has acquired a disability at birth or later in life, is often considered at a disadvantage right from the get-go. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When it comes to the future of a person with a disability, doctors have a tendency of painting horror stories for families and individuals – to protect themselves, and to protect against false hope.
When I was born, the doctor told my parents that I had been born with very severe complications. As far as I am concerned, this statement is not true. I was born exactly the way I was supposed to have been born: missing most of the arms and legs, that others have.
The doctors didn’t know what I would be able to do, so they guessed that my road ahead would be a very difficult one; that my life would likely turn out to be a tragedy. Since then I have graduated university, been on six of the seven continents, competed at the Paralympic Games and around the world, spoken to audiences of over 2500, and have a fantastic partner and family. Of course all of these things were difficult. That’s what makes me smile when I remember them.
When disability happens at birth, many questions get asked: “Will my child be able to look after himself or herself?” “Will my child have friends?” “Will my child be able to have a job?” “Will my child have the support he or she needs?”
When a disability happens later in life, similar questions get asked. “Will I be able to get a girlfriend even though I am in a wheelchair?” “Will my boyfriend leave me now that I have a disability?” “Can I still work?” “Is my life over?”
The answer to all of these questions is: It depends – on you.
Having a disability is not what holds someone back. Other things do a great job of this though: negative attitudes, giving up, not taking chances, or not working hard.
It is up to adults with disabilities to build positive attitudes about themselves and other people with disabilities by doing ordinary things in creative and amazing ways. Giving up is the easy way out. Not giving up, risking your ego and working hard at accomplishing a tough goal is being alive. Success will follow.
It is up to parents of children with disabilities to let their son or daughter know they love them the way they are, every single day – to foster positive attitudes. It is up to parents to support their child when the going gets tough and they want to throw in the towel – this is tricky, as no parent wants to see their child get hurt; often though, failure is the best way to learn, and almost any failure can be turned into a learning experience.
Parents of kids with disabilities are frequently, and understandably, very protective of their children. This can be especially damaging. Kids without disabilities are allowed to take chances and do risky things – don’t forget to give that opportunity to your child with a disability as well. Most of all, kids with disabilities need to learn the value of hard work, because they will be working hard for the rest of their lives. This means assigning them meaningful chores, and encouraging them to take challenging courses at school.
There are many negative things in the world. Disability is not one of them; it is neutral – like being left-handed. Most left-handed people I have met are extremely proud of this trait. They brag that world leaders and famous scientists are disproportionately left-handed. They might even show off an adapted left-handed mouse, or pen, or hockey stick they use.
I am extremely proud of having been born without arms and legs. I like to show off my wheelchair, do cartwheels and impress people with my penmanship by holding a pen between my arm and cheek.
My left arm.
Disabilities are not terrible. They just are. Be proud of the ones that enter your life.