How do you, live with a disability? I think we live as any regular person lives, though a little differently.
I advanced my education after my car wreck. Instead of walking, I rolled to my classes. Later, I was hired as a speech and language pathologist in a school for special children. Due to the diversity of speech and language disorders, I scheduled much of my caseload in individual sessions, or as one-on-ones.
On a particular day, this seven year old, who didn’t want to be in school, decided his session was over. I saw it coming; he had previously used me as target practice with a metal toy truck (one of several vehicles) I was using to teach vocabulary for modes of transportation.
Seated across the table in front of me, he rose from his chair—wearing the face I knew so well—and backed across the room until he reached the wall, never once breaking eye contact with me or even acknowledging my request to return to his seat. Challenging me, he stood firm.
I backed from under the table and wheeled left toward its end. Before I could round the table to guide him back to his seat, he ran to the table’s right end. I backed up and headed toward the right end. He scurried back to the left, never taking his eyes off me.
I knew I could not win this stand-off. I rolled over to the intercom, buzzed the principal’s office, and requested his audience, by name. Instantaneously, David had a change of heart, breaking the sound barrier to get into his chair. After that incident, I was assigned an aide for a couple of my unruly students.
With this one exception, children have always shown a compassionate understanding of my disability. I never had children, but I sat for everyone else’s.
When I requested that they not go upstairs, outside, or anywhere that I couldn’t be with them, they complied. Since I couldn’t pick them up, I taught them the two-step-climb up into my lap. This was a multi-purpose skill, not only for reading stories, or to love on them, but also to assist them onto my dining room table to change a dirty diaper. Yes, it’s a little unorthodox (I always sterilized the table surface afterward.), but the joy was the same, and the job was accomplished.
With children, here are two perks of having a parent, sibling, or friend, living with a disability. The first is: They can develop early language skills because we talk them through most developmental tasks, i.e., learning to dress, and give directions for performance abilities (keeping their rooms straight and floors clear of toys; if not, we can’t step over things to put them to bed.).
The second is: Their confidence and independence—doing things for themselves, and us—set them up for success, as well as nourishing a sensitivity and consideration for all others.
I think we do rather well living with a disability, thank you very much.