We look around ourselves for people who provide inspiration and support. Children in particular are shaped by the role models in their lives. But what if most of the models in a child’s life don’t look like them, or move the way they do, or face the same kinds of challenges they do in everyday life?
In his book “Life Without Limits”, Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs, discusses how isolating and even depressing his disability was at times. Despite a loving and supportive extended family and strong network of friends, he still felt different from everyone else and lonely because he felt no one else could understand what he was going through. It was not until he was a young adult that he met Daniel, a toddler very physically similar to himself. He and his family were thrilled to be able to help smooth the path for Daniel and his family, to let them know that they weren’t alone, and to help them guide Daniel toward a full and independent life. Nick believes that having someone in his life who struggled with, and triumphed over the same things he did, would have made a tremendous difference.
Harilyn Rousso, a psychotherapist and author, was named one of the ten most important women in the United States in 2003 by the National Women’s History Project. She has cerebral palsy and was profoundly affected by meeting a successful professional woman who also had cerebral palsy. She is a strong proponent of connecting girls with disabilities with successful female role models who also have disabilities.
Nick introduces us to inspiring people, including Hilary Lister. She sailed solo around Great Britain in 2009, completely controlling her boat with a modified sip and puff system. She did not let quadriplegia stop her from following her passion and fulfilling her dream.
We also learn about Christy Brown, a man born in the 1930’s who had severe cerebral palsy that severely limited his ability to move and communicate. While trying to communicate with his sister one day, he took a piece of chalk in his left foot and began writing. After years of people questioning his cognitive abilities, he was able to express himself and went on to become a writer, poet, and painter, and the subject of the award-winning 1989 movie, “My Left Foot”.
Darcy Pohland was a television news reporter in the Twin Cities for over fifteen years. Her spinal cord was injured in a diving accident while she was in college. The injury affected all four limbs, but according to one colleague, “The only thing that could stop Darcy and her wheelchair was six inches of snow.”
An article from the LA Times highlights Oakland, California school athletic director and coach Joe Hayward, who works the sidelines from his wheelchair.
Nick Scott is a Certified Fitness Consultant and Specialist in Performance Nutrition who has won multiple national body building titles. He also has a T-12 spinal cord injury.
There are amazing writers (some who also happen to be EasyStand bloggers), activists, speakers, pageant winners, scientists, educators, and athletes with disabilities for children to look up to. If a child in your life has a strong interest area, it could be a life-altering experience for him or her to connect with an adult with a disability working in that field. Network with others who deal with the same issues, troubles, and triumphs. At the very least, you and the special child in your life will know that you are never alone!
Photo courtesy of Zero Gravity Corporation
Is there a heroic figure in your child’s life that has made a positive impact on them?