11 Oct

Group exercise classes at my local YMCA are one of my favorite activities. I love attending class and enjoying non-competitive physical activity with other participants. One of my favorite classes in the past has been Kickboxing. I loved to kick and punch away the stress of the day. I have not always been the most graceful participant. Having a Learning Disability has made coordinating my body difficult. Despite the difficulties, I loved going to the class and didn’t give up. Life with a disability has been like my kickboxing class. There were many ideas that I had to kick and punch to have success. The first idea that I had to punch out was that I was stupid and that I was not capable of learning. When I was a young child, I spent a great deal of my life feeling frustrated and discouraged. I would try to learn what my teachers were teaching me, but I could not get it. My peers were little help with this and I was quickly labeled the dumb one.  I can remember studying with my parents and still not doing well a class. Thankfully they did not give up on me or expect perfect grades.  I needed to have specialty instruction and alternative ways of learning. I also needed to have accommodations such as extended test time and having the test read aloud.  I had to punch out the idea that using these services was cheating, but giving me the tools that I needed to level the playing field. After I mastered the punch, the next concept was kicking out the idea that I could not be successful because of having one.  Many people including myself doubted what I could do. I had many professionals who didn’t think that college would be a possibility because of my difficulty with math and poor test results. Once I got to college people thought that my job choices would be limited as well. I had to kick those ideas to the front, back to the side many times. Once I mastered the kick and the punch it was time to coordinate both moves together. Many times, I missed a punch or a kick. I was defeated when I tried to do something but failed. Frequently I would stumble and feel ashamed of my mistakes.  I would get back up again through the support of family, friends, and faith. often not to be successful and must try once again. Another important concept I had to master was who my opponent was. For many years, I viewed my opponent as my disability. I thought if I could just overcome it then I would have a wonderful life. I spent so many times seeking the cure and being disappointed when it did not work. The opponent was not the disability, but how I viewed it. I once thought that it was the worst thing that could happen to me and that I would never be able to succeed.  Sadly, many people and society view it this way. I have encountered people who have pitied me for having one and have told me that they were sorry. I am always confused when they say they are sorry. Other people have offered cures.   They did not cause my disability and there is no need to view it as sad or tragic. I also encounter those who think that I do not have one because it’s hidden. Other people think I have overcome it with the success that I have had. I may have many accomplishments, but I still have a disability. Sadly, these views on disability still occur today. I work as a teacher aide in a school with students with disabilities. Often, I hear them say they wish they didn’t have one. I get the chance to gently explain to them that having one is not a bad thing. I also get the chance to show them the accommodations they need and how to advocate for themselves. Having a disability is a lifelong journey that has required me to learn different skills. I’ve had to knock out and kick out ideas that I was dumb and could become anything in life. I had to realize that I could learn and achieve many things. I just needed a different way to do it and unique strategies. I also had to learn my opponent was not my disability, but how I saw it and how our society often views it. Life with a disability isn’t a sad unfortunate life that can only be improved with a cure. It’s simply a lifestyle with different strategies that I need to use.  I hope to equip not only myself but others with disabilities as we fight together.

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