This past weekend I attended a conference called PEP. The conference is designed to provide support, information, and education for parents who have children with disabilities. I don’t have kids, but I was invited to attend as a professional who works with children who have disabilities. Although I attended in my role as a professional, I left the conference realizing how much I had gained personally as well.
A very impactful part of the conference were the small group sessions where about 10-12 of us got together and talked about the sessions we had attended and other concerns parents had regarding their children. These sessions were extremely interesting to me because I’m not a parent of a child with a disability, but I WAS that child with a disability. I was born with fibular hemimelia and had my leg amputated at age 2, so it was really interesting for me to think about the questions and fears the parents had and then apply them to my own life. It definitely caused me to do a lot of reflecting and is what lead me to share this story.
One of the issues we ended up talking about was being teased for being different. This topic really made me stop and think because I can only remember 1 time when I was made fun of because of my prosthetic leg. Some of the parents talked about how their child was not really picked on because they were in a small school and their child had always gone to school with the same kids who knew them, but I lived in 3 different states and attended 4 different school districts, so that couldn’t have been it for me. So what was it? Why was I so lucky to avoid the teasing when I was obviously an easy target?
I have to attribute a lot of it to my amazing mother. She never made me feel like my birth defect, amputation, or prosthetic leg were bad things or something I should hide. Just as importantly, she didn’t ignore any of it either. She never made me feel like it was a taboo subject that we shouldn’t talk about. Instead, she was open about it and made me feel comfortable talking to her, and others, about it. She acknowledged that it made me different than my peers, but she made it seem like the difference was a good thing, something that made me special and unique.
Looking back as an adult, I contribute my positive self-esteem as a child and young adult to my mom’s attitude towards my “disability.” She didn’t deny that it was a very real part of my life, but looked for ways to make it a positive thing. She let me take risks (like climbing trees) and didn’t tell me I couldn’t do something because I was missing a leg. Because of this, I saw my disability not as something that made me broken or deformed or less deserving of love than my peers, but instead saw it the way my mom saw it – as something that made me unique and beautiful and special.
Thank you, mom, for giving me the power to take control of how I’m seen by myself and the rest of the world.
Learn more about Emily here.
Click here for details about bowling with LIM359 in Denver on 2/28/15! Just $11 per person ($6 for kids) includes bowling, shoes, snacks, and beverages!
Check out photos from our dinner at Cinzzetti’s in Denver on January 24, 2015 here.
2014 was definitely one of the best years of my life to date, but what made the year so special was being able to really be part of my family again!
After high school, I was dying to move away and start life on my own. Though my family was sad to see me go, I was more than prepared to spend time away and was even okay knowing that I wouldn’t see them very often. Once I was done with my degree, I left my home state of Florida and moved further away to Oklahoma City. That was probably far enough from my family but I wasn’t done moving yet. I ended up putting even more distance between my family and I to start a job in Denver.
I didn’t realize how important my family was to me until I was so far away that I didn’t really get to be part of them. My youngest brother, Sam, started middle school and my sister, Susie, was in her last year of high school. I couldn’t help but think how I was missing out on all of their special experiences.
When I had an opportunity to move closer to home, I jumped at the chance. Though it was a big, expensive and tear-filled move, I made my way down to Tallahassee where I’m less than three hours from my family. Now I get to go to family birthday parties and band concerts. I get to spend time getting to know my youngest brother and actually my oldest brother too! It’s amazing to me how you can grow up together and still feel like there is more to know about a sibling. My sister and I get to be best friends now, which is something we have struggled to do for years.
All in all, I’ve had too many wonderful experiences to count from 2014, but my favorite of all of them was finding out that my family is where my heart is!
Learn more about Whitney here.