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How It Feels to Live with a Physical Disability.

by Jill Krementz, [C] 1992. Published by Simon & Schuster. To order: Exceptional Parent Marketing, P.O. Box 889, Boston, MA 02134-9857, (800) 742-4403, $18 + $3.50 shipping & handling (hard cover only).

The following excerpt from Eli Abarbanel-Wolff, Age Twelve, has been reprinted with permission from the author.

I think that most people with handicaps experience many of the same reactions. For example, most of us go through a period when we feel uncomfortable and want to run away or hurt ourselves. But some of us adjust more slowly. It's not just people with handicaps who go through phases. It's everyone. I think it's part of growing up.

When you have a disability, one of the most important issues is knowing when you need help. The reason a person with a handicap doesn't like to ask for help is because he or she is afraid that the person they ask will tease or mock them and will tell people. Why do people laugh at a disability? I'm not sure, but I think it is because at our age most people have their own problems inside, but since someone like me has an obvious problem, he or she is the easiest to target.

The first time I needed help from a friend, I was scared and embarrassed to ask for it. I was at school and rushing to get to my next class when my shoelace became untied. When my friend Scott offered to give me a hand, I told him everything was OK and that he should run along. But he persisted, saying, "Are you sure you don't need some help?" I said, "It's OK. I can do it myself. l don't need your help or anybody else's. I need the practice. Besides, I'm afraid the other kids will make fun of me if they see I can't tie my own shoe." At that point Scott said, "I can tell by your temper you need some help tying your shoelaces. I don't want you to trip, and I don't want you to be late for your class. I'm just trying to be a friend," and he knelt down and started to help.

Once my friend helped me, I wasn't scared anymore and then I felt I could ask for help more often. These kinds of incidents have helped me to overcome the scary feelings. My friends have been a big help to me. All people with disabilities -- and without -- need friends who will treat them with respect, will not make them feet foolish, and will help them when they need it.

My friends and family have made me the person I am today. When I am frustrated make me feel better. And when I have accomplished something important, they congratulate me and make me feel good. When I need help in doing something, they are always there to help out. They have always pushed me further to reach whatever goal I have set for myself.

This past year I gave some assemblies at my school so everyone would have more understanding of what it's like to have a physical disability. The first assembly I gave was for the students and teachers, but the parents heard about it and so I put on a special meeting in the evening for all of them. After I had talked about what it was like to have a disability, I asked for volunteers from the audience to come up on the stage. I told them we would participate in two activities. One would be tying a shoelace and the other would be peeling an orange. Both of these activities would be done with one hand. I explained that these were two things that even I, with all my practice, couldn't do perfectly or without a certain amount of frustration. The two main requisites are practice and coordination ....

I think that people who don't have physical disabilities have a hard time realizing how much psychic energy gets used up by those who have them. They realize that people like myself might have trouble with sports, but it's the day-to-day tasks that can defeat you. I think the two experiments at my assembly helped my friends understand more about what my daily life is like and how frustrating it can be.

I have not had the easiest life, but in some ways it has made me a better person. Now I realize what other people with physical handicaps go through and what they feel. Also, I am more aware of other people's faults because I feel my personality has changed, too, because of my stroke. Some people tell me, "You're so nice. I wonder if it had anything to do with your stroke." It's hard to know why I'm the way I am. It's true that I usually like being helpful to my friends and my family. These things are a part of my personality. I hope these traits will stay until the end of my life.

This year I feel as though I have changed a lot and have had some major accomplishments. Besides the school assembly presentation, I have found new ways to do things that I haven't been able to do in the past. For example, in tennis I have developed a one-handed serve.

Being able to participate in sports has made me more confident about myself. When I step out onto the field, I feel as though I'm stepping into a dream where I forget all my problems. I feel like a person without any worries.
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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