Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

A Place for Parents: Autistics and Allies

Sticker of two people holding hands.

By Larkin Taylor-Parker

Disagreements between stakeholders of various kinds are fairly common in the disability community, but conflict plagues autism discourse. The place of parents is particularly contentious. As I prepared for this post, I glanced around the Internet for what had already been said. There are too many existing attempts to fix this with a blog post, or, worse, one that oversimplifies the conflict or makes a straw man of one side. I decided this would not be another iteration of an endemic, useless thing. As I read others’ thoughts on the subject, I happened on a year-old article called Who Should Lead the Autism Rights Movement? Instantly, I knew how to articulate the problem and solution.

The answer to that question is obvious: people whose lives are most shaped by society’s decisions on what to do with autistic people deserve the final say. Social change that undermines oppression has never been ally-led. Agency as charitable donation is a contradiction in terms. We must take it for ourselves, not wait until others deign to bestow it. The thrust of every argument I have seen against our leadership is that we are too disabled to have a say in our future. I see this sentiment often. It comes couched in sympathy, recommended for convenience’s sake, and presented in the tired terminology of a moldy eugenics textbook in my vintage and antiquarian collection. I have never seen these claims hold up to scrutiny. The arguments are full of transparent fallacies. Besides, Autistics and other people with disabilities are challenging notions of our incapacity in numbers hard to dismiss as anecdotal evidence. Given a measure of control over our lives, we usually improve them. We will always know more about how to do that than allistic* people. We know our priorities, experiences, needs.

Parents may not be able to set the agenda, but they have a natural role in neurodiversity and disability rights efforts. It is partly restraint. They can be quiet in our safe spaces and encourage others to do likewise. They can stop calling anyone capable of typing insufficiently disabled to have valid opinions. They can stop speaking for and talking over us. However, not everything we need from them is passivity. There are active roles no one could better fulfill.

The media asks them about autism before it does us. Parents have the opportunity to amplify our voices where they would otherwise be ignored, redirect questions, challenge purely negative perceptions. Parents can raise money for worthy causes and organizations. The silver lining of the Autism Speaks problem is that many learned fundraising. Parents can raise assertive autistic children with a healthy sense of self-worth. They can bring up kids who carve a place for themselves in the world and understand their right to be here. Parents can stand with autistic children and adults as we demand a fair chance at rich, full, dignified lives.

As parents work to ensure they are on our side, autistics should help. We must find a healthy middle ground between the extremes of ignoring ableism and writing decent people off for one ignorant word. This is more than being humane. It is pragmatism. We need allies more than most groups. At just over one percent of the population, we will never have the numbers to go it alone.

*non-autistic

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new author bio as well as a new featured image. 

Larkin Taylor-Parker is a second-year law student at the University of Georgia. She is interested in disability rights, the experiences of young professionals from historically marginalized groups, and fixing internet culture. She is also an avid recreational tuba player.

Mix Applesauce with Medicine to Create Inclusive Classroom Communities

jars of homemade applesauce

By Alex Dunn

Inclusion is not a place, but rather a philosophy that all students deserve to experience successful academic and social participation side-by-side with peers. 

What does successful inclusion look like?  Recently Nicole Eredics on her Inclusive Class Blog asked this question and found this wonderful visual from The Parent Leadership Support Group of Georgia, which was posted on their Facebook page, as a response.

From our four year Smart Inclusion research project, I would like to propose some small changes to this great image in order to recognize that in order to create inclusive classroom communities, we need to acknowledge that no two students are alike and that changes need to be made to existing learning environments to reach and teach every student; “barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods.  (CAST Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, Preface p. iv).

For those like me in the trenches, in schools every day, it is important to ask the question: How can we make a difference to the students and educators we serve and really achieve inclusive classroom communities?  A recent Twitter exchange with Jeannette Van Houten (@jvanhoutensped) and Tim Villegas (@think_inclusive) made me reflect on what we tried to do in our schools at Upper Canada District School Board in Ontario Canada over the past four years.

Educators told us that in order to achieve inclusive classroom communities they, with their students, needed to become proficient across three continuums – inclusion, curriculum, and technology.  In a way, I equate the integration of all three continuums to applesauce and medicine.  Although the technology (e.g., iPads, SMART Technology, Nintendo, Laptops etc) and other classroom manipulatives (e.g., Lego, Wikki Stix etc)  have been the all-important applesauce, I think all those involved with Smart Inclusion research would agree the key to the success for both educators and students has been the way the applesauce of technology has been combined with the medicine of bringing research-based pedagogy (e.g., Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction (DI), Aided Language Stimulation, Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools (SETT) and Participation Models) into practice.  In short, educators cast a UDL net attempting to catch all students but sometimes, despite our best efforts, some students fall through the net and sit on the outside of education looking in which is completely unacceptable.  Pat Mirenda and David Beukleman’s Participation Model (PM) (really Differentiated Instruction with a twist) has provided us a way of catching all students that fall through the net.  As Jeannette Van Houten suggests “failure is a way to move to success”.  The Activity Standards Inventory (ASI), from the PM does just that.  Here is a link to a case study of one of our Smart Inclusion students and how we applied the Participation Model to help identify barriers to participation and subsequent intervention, including the use of technology.

A special thank you to the staff, students and parents at UCDSB for giving their nights and weekends and for sharing their work and that of their children, so that children worldwide can experience the same successful academic and social participation.  This groundbreaking research we have undertaken has been replicated in other school Districts in Ontario and Alberta, Canada.  Many other Districts, educators, parents, and students, worldwide have joined us on our journey to ensure that ALL really means ALL and that we are truly welcoming everyone, all the time, everywhere” (Pat Mirenda).

Photo Credit: Andrew Seaman/Flickr

Alex DunnAs Speech-Language Pathologist at the Upper Canada District School Board and president of Inclusioneers, Alex Dunn has presented across the USA, Canada, Germany, England, Spain, exploring technology (SMART Technology, iDevices, Assistive Technology) and theory as part of Universal Design for Learning Toolkit to ensure ALL students, achieve the goal of meaningful educational, social participation.  Recently Alex Dunn was named SMART Exemplary Educator of the Year for Canada for 2012 and appointed as an Officer for Special Education Technology Special Interest Group for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  You can find her on Twitter @SmartInclusion or visit the Smart Inclusion Wikispaces Page

Striving for Community as a God-Loving Aspie

man looking up towards heaven thinking about god

By Timotheus “Pharaoh” Gordon

Being autistic and striving to be a Christian is very rigorous at times, especially if there are little resources or examples for such community.

I’ve been practicing Christianity for about a year and two months. It may have been a difficult year of struggles; heck I still have to work on (e.g., having MY OWN convictions that are based on the Bible, not solely word-of-mouth). But I’m growing more convinced that through the power of the Trinity, even autistic people can change the world as Jesus did.

I love studying the bible, praying for people, helping out people, going to mission trips (to take pictures of those experiences), and hanging out.  Sometimes, I would blog about my faith on my website.

Yet, I don’t really feel like a member of the church at times. I interact with people, but not as well in huge crowds (so many people and too noisy). It seems like some would see this as not wanting to fellowship when it’s only part of my autism. I feel like very few of my peers understand my challenges with fellowshipping. I also struggle with emotional meanings behind certain passages.

I’m scared even more when it appears that I’m alone in the fight to stick with Christianity as an autistic person.  I met two boys in a Birmingham church who are autistic, but I’ve yet to find autistic adults who are Christian. How can I be an autistic Christian if there is lack of adequate examples of such persons out there?

I believe that first step in seeing more autistic Christians (especially those who are living independently and are verbal) is to provide resources that could help them grow in the faith. The catch is that resources have to come from someone or an entity who fully understands autistic Christians’ hardships in the world. Resources could even come from a person in the autistic spectrum who been the faith for a long time (e.g., at least 2 years). Providing spiritual guidance from the verbal, independent autistic’s point of view is more beneficial than turning to a place or someone with limited/stereotypical knowledge of the condition.

Meanwhile, more Christians that are autistic should network with each other and share their testimonies to non-autistic Christians. That will inspire many people and convince of how God could work through anyone.

With those, I would hope to see news of more autistic Christians making a difference in people’s lives and less of parent’s woes with raising an autistic child in a Christian household.

(sidebar) Links related to Autistic Christians:

Autism Society (Religion and Autism): http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/family-issues/religion-and-autism.html

Books and Resources on Religion, Spirituality, and Moral Development: http://www.neurodiversity.com/religion.html

Christianity and Autism Forum: http://www.aspiesforfreedom.com/showthread.php?tid=21631

James Tuttle (autism advocate, political advocate, and commentator on spiritual issues): https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Tuttle/23053891623

Spectrum Ministries: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spectrum-Ministires

Photo Credit: Carlos Solares/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been edited for clarity, has a new author bio and has as a new featured image.

Timotheus GordonBorn and raised on the south side of Chicago, Timotheus “Pharaoh” Gordon has loved the power of writing since 3rd grade when he copied love poems and read history literature in his free time. He got married to poetry in 2003 after turning in a humorous poem on his daily routine for a homework assignment. Writing, especially poetry, also helped him develop a voice as an African-American male with autism.
He is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in autism acceptance, social commentary, sports, cosplay, and comic/anime conventions. He is published in online publications such as Football.com, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Yahoo Contributor Network. In addition, he takes event pictures at anime/comic conventions, rallies, college events, class reunions, 5K races, and church functions. Along with those two professions,  am currently an independent marketing representative, where I utilize social media and word-of-mouth to provide essential productions and show people how they can gain financial independence. Connect with him on Twitter @TimotheusGordon or his other social media outlets.

Five of Our Best Posts on Autism Acceptance

AutismAcceptance

While autism acceptance or at the very least autism awareness receives the spotlight in April, we at Think Inclusive promote autism acceptance year round. Over the past few years we proudly published pieces geared to help our readers better understand autism. For a limited time we open the Think Inclusive archives to the general public so everyone can read or reread our best autism content. Enjoy!

Why Autism Speaks Hurts Us” by Amy Sequenzia (Guest Blogger)

Leaders in a movement essentially shape attitudes towards the given issue, an occurrence guest blogger Amy Sequenzia puts into context regarding Autism Speaks and autism advocacy. Autism Speaks’ negative view on the disability influenced Amy to see her autism negatively. However, through life experiences she eventually abandoned those notions to recognize autism as an important part to her personality. In “Why Autism Speaks Hurts Us” Amy highlights the dangers Autism Speaks casts.

My Decision to Homeschool My Son with Autism” by Allison Trotter (Guest Blogger)

In her Think Inclusive guest post Allison Trotter addresses autism and education. Specifically, Allison discusses why she decided to homeschool her autistic son Jackson. Using an analogy she demonstrates a student with autism can learn in the large school setting but successful placement requires one critical element, an element Jackson’s school unfortunately lacked.

The Best Argument Against Autism Speaks: A Special Educator’s Perspective” by Tim Villegas

If guest blogger Amy Sequenzia’s previously highlighted post didn’t remedy your curiosity about why so many call foul on Autism Speaks, Think Inclusive founder Tim Villegas will. Tim shares his passionate, thorough, and compelling argument against Autism Speaks, even using the organization’s own words to identify their missteps. As Tim’s title suggests he offers a special educator’s perspective on the situation.

Passing: How to Play Normal” by Larkin Taylor-Parker (Guest Blogger)

After reading guest blogger Larkin Taylor-Parker’s post you may become more self-conscious over what you say and around whom. Larkin’s Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis lands her on the autism spectrum. Yet due to Larkin’s parents heavily criticizing her social behavior as a child she learned to “play normal,” faking behaviors to gain acceptance from us neurotypical people. Judging by Larkin’s last paragraph that acceptance appears not the Holy Grail we on the outside might envision.

Autistic: On the Outside Looking In” by Steve Summers (Guest Blogger)

Autistic people who don’t adapt to our neurotypical way will probably experience social exclusion, the topic guest blogger Steve Summers addresses in his post. Steve expresses the hurt and confusion he feels encountering exclusion. These instances range from someone hiding a “Happy Birthday” Facebook post he gave to not getting invited to parties. All in all Steve’s insights stands a great conversation starter about autism and socializing.

Photo Credit: Philippa Willitts

12 Myths About Autism

12 Myths About Autism

This information was originally published in a factsheet by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) during Autism Acceptance Month in 2014. It is used with permission.

Do you find it hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to information about autism? Check out these 12 Myths about Autism from ASAN that will help clear up any confusion.

1. Autism is contagious.

Nope! You can’t catch autism. Autism is something some people are born with, like blue eyes or red hair or a brain that is very good at some things and has more trouble with others.

2. Autism is caused by vaccines.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Please make sure your kids get their shots.

3. Autism is a disease.

Nope! Autism is a developmental disability some people are born with, like dyslexia or Down Syndrome. It is not a disease. It is a difference, and a disability.

4. Autism is a tragedy.

Nope! With the right support, autistic people can go to school, communicate, work, live in the community, have friends, get married, start families, vote, pursue
their interests, and anything else they might want to do.

5. Autistic people are eternal children.

Nope! Autistic people grow up. An autistic 20 year old is not a toddler in a 20 year old’s body–they are an autistic 20 year old.

6. You can grow out of autism.

Nope! Autism is a life-long developmental disability. Autistic children grow up into autistic adults. The same percentage of adults and children are autistic.

7. Autism means not being able to speak.

Communication disability is a part of diagnostic criteria for autism, but most autistic people do develop the ability to talk. About 15-20% of autistic people do
not develop oral speech. They can use Augmentative and Alternative Communication to speak for themselves.

8. Autism means intellectual disability.

About 15-25% of autistic people also have an intellectual disability. Most autistic people are not intellectually disabled. Intellectual disability is not a part of autism,
but some people have both.

9. Autistic people lack empathy.

Nope! Autistic people feel empathy for other people. Autistic people are people, not robots.

10. All autistic people are savants.

About 10% of autistic people have savant skills like perfect pitch, photographic memory, or calendar calculation. Most autistic people are not savants.

11. Autistic people suffer from autism.

Autistic people suffer from prejudice and discrimination. Autistic people suffer when they do not get the support and accommodation they need, when they receive substandard or segregated education or living environments, when they are kept out of the community or kept unemployed, when their civil and human rights are violated, or when their access to communication and the right to make decisions about their lives, bodies, and futures are denied. Autistic people do not suffer from autism.

12. Only boys are autistic.

An autistic woman wrote this factsheet.

Do you have anything to add to this factsheet? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

8 Steps to Accepting Your Disability

8 steps to accepting your disability

A version of this post was originally published at livinglifeoncrutches.com.

Hi, my name is Darryl Partridge, and I am disabled. There, I said it, but what does it mean? Disabled is a generalization. Does it mean I am incapable of doing anything? I don’t think so. I feel that am very capable, I just have a part of my body that doesn’t work correctly. My lower left leg from the knee down no longer moves and works the way that it should. I no longer have ankle joints (Yes, we actually have two joints that make up our ankles.), and the rest of my foot is frozen in place and somewhat twisted. I have a hockey stick for a leg starting at the knee. My lower leg is the shaft of the hockey stick, and my foot is the blade. The angle is very close to the hockey stick, as my foot doesn’t make a right angle to my leg. I cannot place my heel flat to the floor, and I basically no longer have foot or toe function. While all this certainly makes walking and doing many activities difficult, my real disability is the debilitating pain that walking and standing cause. I don’t remember what it is like not to have my ankle and foot as a constant preoccupation. It is the last thing I am aware of before falling asleep and the first thing that I am aware of when I wake up. I am always aware of it due to the debilitating pain. Walking is an excruciating chore and makes my evenings and nights unbearable.

good xray 300x289 8 Steps to Accepting Your Disability

In the past five years, I have lived from surgery to surgery hoping that with each surgery my pain would end, that I could rid myself of crutches, pick the pieces of my life up, and move on. After six surgeries, the hope of ending the pain has diminished. The only solution that I can even consider at this point is amputation. I will discuss amputation in later blogs. For now, I will quickly make my point and move on. The process to get a doctor on board with amputation alone could take a year or more. Then, you must add the recovery and rehabilitation time. I could easily be looking at two additional years before getting my life back on track. I already lost five years and lost a career that I worked hard for and loved. At 47 years old, I needed to get on with my life and figure out what I would do for work, how I could provide for my family, and feel good about myself. I knew it was going to be a long and difficult road to travel, but it was time to accept my fate and find a way to live with this instead of trying to fix it. Just for the record, amputation is not off the table. Once I have my life back on track, established in a job where crutches don’t interfere, I will take the necessary steps and have this painful appendage removed from my body.

However, I didn’t know where to begin. My anger had taken control of me, I was fighting depression daily, and my only hope of living with this was to use crutches all the time. I also spent many days trying to figure out what horrible things I must have done that required this punishment. The world outside my house continued to spin, but I felt lost and alone. The following are the things I did to reclaim my life.

1. Accept that you are disabled and find a good listener.

Facing the reality that you have a lifelong disability is daunting. Like an alcoholic, until you accept that you have a problem, you will never take control of the problem. Only when you accept that you have a disability can you look to the future. If you hold on to the past, you will never move forward. To do this, you will need to seek out a good listener. Everyone will have all kinds of suggestions for you. They start emailing you stories of people who have much worse conditions then you. I had people diagnosing me, giving me treatment plans, and prescribing medications. I had seen excellent surgeons and completed so much research that I could have done a dissertation on ankles. By the time I concluded that I had to accept my fate and learn to live with this as a permanent disability, I could have stood in the O.R. and talked surgeons through their ankle surgeries. I didn’t need diagnosing, I didn’t need medication, and I didn’t need to be constantly reminded that there were people worst off then I was. The problem was that these were the only conversations I could get anyone to have. What I needed was someone to listen to me on my terms. I needed to talk everything through: how I would manage the pain, how I would be a good father, how I would be a useful husband, how I would hold down a job, how I would remain active, and how I would find ways to feel good about myself. These were the questions in my head that needed to be answered. I was done diagnosing and discussing what went wrong to cause me to get into this place. The conversations I needed were ones that were not going to be pleasant and would force the listener to accept the harsh reality that I had to face. Mostly, I needed to hear, “This really sucks, I can’t imagine going through this”.

I found a psychologist. On my first visit, he asked me what I thought I need in therapy. I responded, “I need someone to listen to me, I need a place I can talk this out, I need to bitch about life, and I need a place where it will be ok to be sad”. Having this place and this person to listen to me, I got clarity of my situation and life. I not only accepted my disability, but I realize I could still accomplish amazing things.

I suggest getting a therapist. They are professionals, and it is their job to listen and help. It is a non-biased person, and nothing you say will be taken personally.

Accepting you are disabled doesn’t mean you are not capable. It is an understanding and acceptance that you have to make changes in the way that you do things. Without the acceptance of the reality of your situation, you won’t achieve the attitude necessary to move forward. Find someone to talk to that will listen to you on your terms.

2. Mourn the losses of what you no longer can do.

This is a tough, but also a necessary step. The reality was that there were things I just could not do any more at all and things that I could no longer do the way I once did them. Instead of dwelling on what I could no longer do, I had to mourn the losses and focus on what I could do. I also needed to focus on different ways of doing things. For example, skiing was a huge part of my life. Skiing, as I once knew it, was not possible. So, I researched ways that would make skiing possible and found someone at the Adaptive Sports Foundation who was skiing without full use of his legs. He took me out to ski, and it was a rejuvenating experience. I ended up skiing with my arms. My arms carried my weight through crutches with small skies at the end called outriggers. My arms did all the work, and my legs went for the ride. This was not skiing the way I knew it, but it got me out on the mountain with my kids and improved my disposition tremendously.

IMG 0016 300x225 8 Steps to Accepting Your Disability

Not that I was ever a runner, but running through a parking lot on a rainy day is something we all take for granted. Running to dodge the rain was one of the first things I mourned, and I accepted I was going to get wet. I do have a goal; I would like to get to the point where I could walk a 5K using crutches. I won’t be running, but I will have the satisfaction of doing it. Then, I would like to participate in walks for charities.

Don’t dwell on what you can no longer do; it will prevent you from moving forward. Focus on what you can do and find ways to do new things.

3. Find the proper tools and accept them. Don’t let them define who you are.

If your disability requires a device to enable you to live a fuller life, then use it. For me, the device was crutches. This was not an easy thing to accept. No matter what anyone says or thinks, being in public and using walking devices carries a stigma. This can cause setbacks in how you feel about yourself. It is important to forget about what others think and have confidence to use your devices proudly. Finding the right device can help with this.

Six ankle surgeries in five years kept me on crutches more than off. For five years, someone had a comment about the crutches every place that I went. They were always the white elephant in the room. I got to the point where I didn’t want to use them because I couldn’t feel normal or good about myself with the never-ending comments. People I knew were always in shock that I was still using them. People I didn’t know had to ask why I was using them. My crutches were defining who I was. I was suffering in pain not using my crutches to avoid dealing with all the comments. All I wanted to do was go to my daughter’s soccer game and not have to explain my crutches.

I was also causing myself unnecessary stress. Each time I left the house, I would pounder over what walking tool I needed. Could I get away with a cane, one crutch, forearm crutches that didn’t really work for me, or my comfortable underarm crutches that made my life the easiest. In reality, I needed crutches for any amount of walking. The problem with the underarm crutches was that they created the most unwanted comments. This was because they were very noticeable and screamed leg injury. The result was that I avoided many things because I couldn’t walk and didn’t want the stigma the crutches gave.

When I finally had the epiphany that I needed to use crutches all the time to live a fuller and more active life, I did my due diligence and found superior forearm crutches. For months, I pondered over making the purchase. They were costly, around $1,000. So, I kept asking myself if I really needed them. My answer and the words that completely changed my attitude came from an article about Dave Bexfield, who has MS. He purchased the crutches, and they had improved his life. When asked what advice he had for users of crutches, he said:

“Please, please, check your ego at the door. I’ve discovered that many people with MS are worried about ‘looking disabled’. So, they go through life stubbornly surfing furniture and slowly hobbling with a walking stick. Forearm crutches are a brilliant aid and provide a level of freedom to those with mobility challenges that you simply can’t get with a cane, staff, or trekking poles”.

Between his words and my wife’s persistent pushing, I ordered the crutches, and they truly improved my life. I now, for the most part, leave my ego at the door and use my crutches. The crutches are called Sidestix. I use them exclusively. They are very comfortable, and I absolutely love them. They look like sleek sophisticated walking tools and don’t scream leg injury. For some reason, they remind me of a steering wheel found in a high-end luxury car. A week or so after having them, I was in a large mall waiting for my kids, who were in the restrooms. For the first time while standing with crutches, a man came up to me and started a conversation. At no point did he ask about the crutches or my leg. I felt like a normal human. Before the Sidestix, I would not have been at the mall with my family. On the occasion that someone does ask, I simply say, “It’s a permanent condition.” They say no more.

Find the right tool and use it. In Dave’s words, “Leave your ego at the door.”

4. Look for people who can inspire you.

You don’t need to look far to find people to inspire you. I found these people in my own town, the Internet, the news, books, and stores. In short, I found them almost anywhere I looked. These are the people living their lives with disabilities of all kinds. They push forward and accomplish things. They do it with such a positive attitude. I searched out memoirs that some of these people wrote, and I looked for videos that they had made. These people became the force that kept me moving forward.

Some of the people I found most inspiring didn’t necessarily have disabilities like mine. An alcoholic desperately trying to become sober, a father fighting cancer, a child trying to survive unthinkable abuse, and a man born with no limbs all inspired me to push forward, feel good about myself, and live a full life.

I have compiled my collection of inspiring books, videos, and websites to which I owe my desire to fight with a positive attitude. You can find my collection by clicking on the inspiration page.

Look for people who inspire you, and let them teach you that anything is possible.

5. Allow yourself to be sad.

Suppressing you feelings will never allow you to heal emotionally. Learning to live with a disability is not easy. It is not possible to be happy all the time. Everyone who has been through adjusting to life with a disability will tell you about dark days. The key is to be able to pull yourself out. By giving yourself permission to be sad once in awhile, you will have the fuel needed for a positive attitude. If you suppress your sad feelings, they will be released in the wrong places and at the wrong times.

Give yourself permission to be sad. One sad day here and there will go a long way to having the right attitude.

6. Exercise regularly.

Exercise is not only beneficial to your physical health, it helps your mental health immensely. The hardest part might be finding exercise that you can do. The best way to do this is through your doctor or a physical therapist.

For me, it is my left leg that doesn’t work. During one of my physical therapy sessions after the fifth surgery, the therapist said, “There is nothing I can do to help you. You need to find ways to manage the pain and find things that you can do.” What he didn’t know was that saying that helped me more they he could have ever imagined. He was the first person that had the guts to say, “Your leg is fucked up. Deal with it.” That’s what I needed to hear. He suggested that I ride a bike. He felt it would be a great form of exercise for me and cause limited pain to my ankle. He was right. I can’t tell you what getting out on my bike each morning did for me. I felt better both physically and mentally. It truly helped me to accept my situation.

I now strap my crutches on my back and ride my bike to the gym. I workout everything but my left leg, and then, I ride my bike back home. I find myself constantly wanting to accomplish more and more physically. The more I accomplish, the better I feel physically and mentally. When expressing to someone that I wanted to start hiking on my crutches, they responded “Why? You didn’t hike before.” I had to shrug it off, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make them understand.

Find a way to exercise that works with your disability and push yourself. It will completely change how you feel about yourself.

P.S. Working out has made using the crutches a whole lot easier.

7. Find things to do that make you feel good about yourself.

One of the lowest points for me was the fall that of the second anniversary of having my ankle fused. At that point, I had just had the fourth surgery, lost my job, and was facing the two-year anniversary of forever altering the anatomy of my leg while still being in pain. I honestly didn’t know where to turn and found myself falling into complete despair.

My daughter’s elementary school was in need of someone to take on being president of a troubled PTA. Being PTA president was certainly something I never dreamed of doing, but I jumped at the opportunity. I was feeling so low that I desperately needed something productive to occupy some time. Being PTA president can be a thankless position, but for me, it helped me through the next two years. I was helping a broken PTA, and the PTA was helping a broken man. Three years later, I still serve as vice president, now on the PTA council board. While I might complain about it, it has filled a huge void and makes me feel good about myself.

I also volunteer teaching Junior Achievement lessons in an economically deprived city school. This helps fill the void that no longer teaching created.

This website is my first step to give back in the way of support to those suffering mobility issues. My hope is to add an online forum and to form a local support group

Find ways to volunteer. There are so many needs out there, and many can be done from your home. Volunteering is a fantastic way to make you feel productive and good about yourself.

8. Retrain for a new career.

If your disability no longer allows you to continue working in your career, you need to retrain for a new career. This was a very difficult thing for me. Teaching is not a job, but a passion. As an elementary school teacher, I continued teaching for the first two years using the crutches. It was difficult to do, as teaching elementary students is a very busy job. You are constantly on the go. Due to continuing to need multiple surgeries, major teacher layoffs, and an unsympathetic school board, I lost my job. Then, I spent the next two years trying to fix my leg through two more surgeries and find a new teaching position.

The reality was that there were more than 500 applicants for each teaching position out there. School districts were hiring young and very qualified teachers. They had no interest in a 47-year-old man on crutches. Honestly, working with the population of students I excelled at would just be too difficult to do on crutches. I would just be putting myself through stress and pain.

So, I finally “mourned” teaching and enrolled in a program at a local community college. As a 47-year-old man with a master’s degree, I had to suck up a huge amount of pride sitting in those classes. However, it kept me moving forward to achieving a new career.

If you no longer can work in your career, find a new career you can do. Suck up your pride and do what you need to retrain. In the end, you will feel good about yourself.

About Darryl
I am a husband and father of three living with a Disability.  I was active all my life, a Certified Ski Instructor, DYI enthusiast and Elementary Special Education Teacher.   My life came crashing down when I was 42years old after suffering a life changing ankle injury.  I endured six ankle surgeries that forever changed the anatomy of my lower left leg, ten leg casts, recovery time on crutches that added up in the years and debilitating pain.  In the end wound up with a deformed lower leg, chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches.  Oh yeah, I also lost my teaching job after the third surgery.  Being left a 47 year old unemployed disabled father.  I rebuilt my life by adapting to using crutches full time and retraining for a new career.  I now live a full active life and have a new career in public health.  I now hope my stories will help others find some support and comfort in living with their disabilities.  Explore my website livinglifeoncrutches.com to read my story.

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