Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To Be Seen Without

Welcome to the Wednesday Disability Blog Hop, which was started by Meriah at With A Little Moxie. I stumbled upon this hop via my friend Becca's blog, The Bates Motel, and if you haven't had the privilege of reading her work, you should stop by sometime.

Any hoo, Captain Kirk has posed this week's prompt for the Blog Hop...

...and here's what I have to say about that.

I have lived an extremely unusual life.  I can honestly say that in my 36 years of existence, I have never-- nope, not even once-- met a completely "abled" person.  Every single person I have ever met on this great planet we call Earth, has had some sort of disability or special need.  Yes, even you.

I see you getting your knickers all in a bunch, but you just need to stop!  Do you hear my mommy voice ringing in that?  You should.  Let me explain before you decide to be offended.

From the time I was very young up until I was a young adult, my Grandma Pat worked with Special Needs children in North Carolina public schools.  One young man in particular, Daniel, will always be intertwined with my memory of Grandma because she was his personal aide in school.   From the time Daniel entered elementary school until he rolled across the stage to graduate from high school thirteen years later, she was by his side.  Daniel had muscular dystrophy, which required that he be in a wheelchair and necessitated personal assistance for a lot of tasks that able-bodied folks tend to take for granted.  Even with his limitations, my overall impression of Daniel was one of optimism and happiness.  I am sure Grandma Pat could take credit for a good portion of this positive attitude, because that's just who she was.  :)  

I don't recall exactly how old I was the first time I encountered Daniel in person, but I do vividly remember the event.  I was at my Grandma Pat's house one summer afternoon when Daniel and his mom, Mrs. Nancy, came to visit.  I saw Daniel in his wheelchair, with his impossibly skinny legs and the unusual tilt of his head, and I instantly asked my Grandma what was wrong with him.

What my grandmother said to me next changed my heart and my life-- forever, even at such a young age.  She said (and forgive me if I paraphrase a little after nearly 30 years),  "Daniel has Muscular Dystrophy, which is a physical disability, but nothing is "wrong" with him.  This is just how God saw fit to put him together.  I have noticed that we all have some sort of disability if we are honest with ourselves.  We all have something we just cannot do, no matter how hard we try or how much we wish we could.  Most of us are just lucky enough to be able to keep our disabilities a secret from the world.  Daniel doesn't get to keep his disability a secret, but he still deserves a chance to be seen without it."

I did not feel scolded by these words, yet I remember crying after she said this.  From that moment on, Daniel was just Daniel, whom I envied more than a little, because he got to spend every day at school with my grandma and he had a really cool chair.

Later, when I went to college, I found that my grandmother's words, combined with my brother's struggles in school, inspired me to get my degree in education.  I began to substitute while on spring and summer break, and I loved every minute of it.  One of my subbing assignments had me spending a few days in a Head Start pre-school for autistic children.  I was 20 years old and it was one of the hardest things I had ever done.  Little did I know that, in a few short years, I would have two children very much like these very kids-- these kids that were dying to be seen without their disability.

I now spend every day doing my best to make sure that everyone else tries to see my Princess and Birdie without their disability as well.

And I believe that answers your question, Captain Kirk.


  1. So glad you joined the hop!!!! I really enjoyed this post, and your perspective. I love hearing how we've all been "shaped" by our experiences with people with "disabilities" in our past.

  2. Spending time at our high school, you definitely got to see that everyone had some sort of disability! Actually, my take on it is that every behavior that you see and every diagnosis made is just a more extreme version of what everyone does everyday. For example, every kid with you see tensing their body, rubbing their hands or contorting their body is doing the same as the person who stretches, laughs outloud, twirls their hair when nervous, or taps a foot. It's all about the venue that y

    1. I couldn't agree more! It is the extent to which these "mannerisms" interfere with our day-to-day that defines whether or not it disables or enables you. We all have a tic or two-- or ten. :)

  3. "deserves a chance to be seen without it" - I really love that. That's so awesome that your Grandma showed the way so well and so early for you. Wow.

    It's wonderful to meet you! Becca loves you and I love Becca so I know I'll love you as well.