Sunday, November 1, 2020

Finding a Place Where Handicap Does Not Matter


The following is an article originally posted on the now discontinued website called StrokeNet. They published a monthly newsletter. Their articles are still very useful today. With the permission of their then editor, Lin Wisman, I am able to repost them on my site. 

David Wasielewski, the author of this article, was a member of the StrokeNet staff.
Strategies for Surviving Stroke and Diability
By David Wasielewski

Finding a Place Where Handicap Does Not Matter

A stroke often leaves a survivor with extensive physical and mental deficits. The survivor must deal with a variety of new challenges or what is commonly referred to as handicaps. Interaction and discussions with others who face similar challenges has recently led me to a personal realization. One of the ways to address a handicap is to find a place where the survivor is not handicapped, where the physical or mental challenge becomes irrelevant. Moving on after a stroke may not always be about overcoming physical or mental challenges, but rather can be about finding a place where they don’t matter

As a survivor with hemiplegia I was initially frustrated that I could no longer participate in a variety of physical activities. I initially tried to participate in some modified way. Skiing with specialized equipment proved to be too much of a challenge, physically and mentally exhausting. Being in that environment only served to emphasize my stroke related losses. Frustration and anger were evident as I continued my struggle. This was obviously not a good direction for me. It wasn’t easy but I just finally stopped beating myself up. Testing myself in this way, although necessary to the process, was not productive.

My post-stroke adventures included returning to school. This was a step into the unknown as was unsure of my ability to concentrate study and learn. I quickly realized that I was able to function in the classroom environment and that, in that environment I was not handicapped. Sitting in a classroom desk, studying and discussing issues was a place where my handicaps did not matter. In that place I was just like everyone else!

I spoke to a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury. Prior to her injury she was a successful finance professional. The injury left unable to deal with numbers read or write, a devastating loss which ended her career. She always enjoyed singing and still retained that talent. Instead of fighting to get her finance skills back she enrolled in music classes, performs locally, and is now a music major in the honors program. She found a place where her handicap did not matter.

Another member of my stroke group is challenged by severe aphasia. Prior to her stroke she was a child care professional and enjoyed painting. The aphasia prevented continuing with child care but did not interfere with the ability to paint. Rather than struggle with communicating with children she now spends her time painting, a place where her handicap doesn’t matter. She has managed, over time, to regain some speaking ability and now appears at seminars and classes to increase aphasia awareness in the community, again a place where the handicap doesn’t matter or rather, is seen as a positive thing.

Yet another member of the group with aphasia recently decided to take piano lessons. Playing the piano is an activity where her aphasia is irrelevant.

Of course, for these survivors, the challenges of the new handicaps still exist. The finance professional needs help managing her personal finances. She carries a recorder to help compensate for the reading and writing deficits. The aphasic woman has difficulty with communications, especially phones. I have trouble navigating around campus to and from classrooms with my cane. We all find that dealing with these struggles is worthwhile on our journeys.

The lesson here for the reader is that stroke survivors have number of different strategies they can use to move on with their lives. Some may choose to recreate their pre stroke lives and overcome challenges that stand in the way. Others can and do find places to be where their newly acquired handicaps do not matter. Is one strategy better than the other? Does the survivor need to choose one or the other strategy? That is always up to the individual as we all have different paths to our new places in this world.
Copyright @December 2014
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

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