Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Disability



Disability has been on my mind lately. It's so true that you have to have experienced a disability in order to truly understand how stacked the world is against people with disabilities, even those who are temporarily disabled, like myself.

My building has two elevators. One goes to the courtyard entrance, which is wheelchair/disability-friendly. The other doesn't. I can take only the one elevator to go meet my drivers. It's amazing how long it takes.

I've found that the door to the handicapped stall in the bathroom opens towards me. When I am outside of the door, I have to pull it towards me (standing precariously on crutches). When I'm in the stall, I have to pull it towards me. Not easy. I've started using the non-handicapped stall because it's easier to close the door.

Speaking of doors, I never noticed how many of them are heavy. It's pretty awkward to use the crutches I am using for balance and propulsion as door stops. I'm surprised I haven't fallen yet.

I'm also considering my son's disability and more and more convinced of my own. How can I teach a boy social skills that I found so difficult to master? None of it comes easy to me. I lack patience as much as he does; I just hide it better. I hear myself respond to him and it's as if I am hearing my parents again, 35 years later, talking to me. I can't ask E a question without getting a guessing game in return. ("Why can't you just answer the question?" I hear my father's voice say.) He has become the master at finding the loophole. ("Eric, don't play soccer in the house!" "I'm not *playing* soccer. I have no one to play with. I'm not on a soccer field playing a game." Grrrr.) This weekend he wanted to know what perpendicular meant. He couldn't understand that perpendicular is about a relationship of two things. He wanted to say that the hammer was perpendicular. We tried to tell him the *parts* of the hammer were perpendicular.

He is also bored at school already. I can't decide what to do. I'm not sure a "gifted" school would work for him. I'm not sure an Asperger's-only school would work for him. Maybe a Montessori school would be good as it would allow him to explore his individual passions. But I don't want to experiment with all different schools, because he doesn't like transitions. It's easiest to keep him where he is and just try to get his work made more challenging. He shouldn't have to deal with spelling words like "if" and "mitt" and "fish" when he can spell most of his sister's 5th grade spelling words. He wants the challenge. His brain is craving it. Were his social skills any better, I'd insist on skipping him a grade (I skipped 2nd grade, myself).

Both E's disability and my own broken ankle also remind me about how hard it is to ask for help. We have help for both our disabilities required by law, but that doesn't make it any easier to ask for it.

One last thing: I have spoken often about how wonderful my husband's and my workplaces are, how family friendly they are. We can now add a new level of support: my dean is arranging for her administrative assistant to drive me home two days a week (the AA doesn't mind at all--it's nice to get out of the office for a half hour). I cannot imagine any other boss in the world arranging such a thing. I am very lucky.

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