The Ability in Disability

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I have some serious disabilities. I am highly ADD and have some pretty difficult times in the classroom. I am foggily blind due to brain damage at or prior to birth and have a serious time seeing without glasses. I am partially deaf in my left ear and have an intestine issue which makes eating certain kinds of food problematic. I live a life carved out of dark times of depression and social anxiety.

I watched the movie Temple Grandin recently which I heartily recommend to you all. It is a story about an amazing woman who deals with autism and thrives by seeing life so much differently than those around her. She thrives despite tremendous abuse and suffering. She has heightened senses that cause her much pain and fear and panic. Yet she finds ways through the maze and offers amazing gifts to the people around her who have the sensitivity to listen and care. For maybe the first time in my life I saw some of my own disability as more of an ability. While my ADDness drives folks around me nuts, it is also the space in which my creativity is expressed and where my ability to put odd bits and pieces of data together in unique ways happens and thus I am able to see things others can't see and attempt things others fear to do. My disability to see properly allows me to depend on other senses in a heightened and unique way and lets me use those senses for the common good. Even the social anxiety allows me to be content in certain frameworks and allows me to not need to have other people around to meet certain needs and desires that others find crucial.

So, I am beginning to wonder if many of the things I consider tragic in myself and others are special gifts that, when properly noticed and submitted to, become a way for the community to better receive the richness of God. My son is godparent and part time care giver to a little girl who was born with only part of a brain. She is tremendously needy and regularly suffers seizures and other afflictions that will likely limit her life span. She often parrots what she hears and has a rather limited vocabulary and ability to understand. She often plays a little game with us where she says, “I...” to which you are to respond, “love..” to which she responds, “you!” accompanied by wildly clapping her hands and loud squeals of delight. We call her the ‘I love you girl.’ There is something different about the people who engage the 'I love you girl.' Something special. People who engage her regularly are more patient, more kind, more tender, more full of goofy, gentle humor. I have seen the changes in her mother and in my son and in my immediate family as we engage her weakness.

It is easy to see the ‘ableness’ of disability in others, but I realize I have been much harder on myself because of my disabilities. I want to be done with them. I tend to think I would be 'better' for society if I could see perfectly and hear well and not be so ADD or depressed, but now I wonder if that is true. Maybe I would be worse off if I did not have these unique flaws. Maybe they are under-appreciated gifts from God.

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