Coping with a disability

A disabled father in a wheelchair with his family

People with disabilities


She can still walk,” says the mother of a young girl called Maggie. “But her coordination is off, and her speech is slurred.” 

Maggie has multiple sclerosis and is one of the millions of people the world over who suffer a physical disability.

Perhaps you are one of them. And whether you were born with a disability problem or you acquired it as the result of illness or accident, there is no need to conclude that your life is over.

With patient effort on your part, you can take positive steps to cope effectively with your situation.

If your disability has just recently come about, you may understandably be struggling with feelings of bitterness, anger, and sadness.

In fact, it is perfectly normal—and healthy—to go through a period of grieving when you have suffered a serious loss. But what can help you cope?

Act With Knowledge


You need accurate knowledge of the nature of your disability. This may mean reading some medical literature or asking specific questions of your doctor and other health professionals who treat you.

Educating yourself in this regard can relieve you of any misconceptions that could hold you back from reaching your potential.

It may also help to keep abreast of medical developments and treatments that could improve your situation.

For example, artificial limbs (prostheses) using new, lightweight materials have been developed that allow greater comfort and flexibility of movement.

Indeed, there is an “explosion” of helpful devices for individuals with disabilities. Perhaps such products are available locally and are within your family’s budget.

More conventional devices, such as hearing aids, canes, crutches, and braces, may also be quite useful. Now, some people may feel too self-conscious and awkward to use such aids.

You could likewise wear yourself out—or hold yourself back from enjoyable activities—if you fail to make good use of the tools that can help you.

But, why let pride cause you to make your life more difficult than it has to be?

Yes, it is to your advantage to use something that will help you walk, see, or hear better.

True, it may take considerable practice and patience to master using a crutch, prosthesis, or a hearing aid. And these devices may not necessarily do much to enhance your looks.

 But think about the freedom they can give you and the opportunities they may open up!

Challenge Yourself!


Since medical procedures may not always offer a total cure, you can circumvent the sad consequences of your disability by living up to your fullest potential.

This can be done by developing the full the abilities and talents that you possess.

One person who did this was Helen Keller, a famous author and lecturer, who was both blind and deaf.

But there are many other physical challenged people have also excelled in various fields.

When a handicapped person feels challenged to develop his or her skills, the result is often greater independence and self-respect, not to mention the aid that such a motivated person can be to others.

“I can drive a car!” are words that were uttered by a 50 year old man who had contracted polio as a baby, his legs had scarcely grown at all.

These words may sound unremarkable to you, but they had a profound effect on a 28 year old man.

He was devastated by the news that he could no longer walk without crutches. But those words helped him to cope with his depression.

He reasoned to himself that, if the 50 year old man can managed to learn to drive, although more severely disabled than him, then he too could rise above his affliction and do likewise?

What benefit did gain by learning to drive despite his disabilities? He says:

Renewed confidence, independence, the chance to help others, and a great deal of pleasure from being able to say, “I am going for a drive!"

Helpful Relationships


Many people who suffer disability problems often feel lonely in their predicament. Other times they even lack companionship.

How can this vital need be filled? Sometimes pets can help. Yes, pets have helped many other impaired people.

An organizer of a program to provide pets for the sick and the elderly comments:

You only have to see the joy they get. People who are so withdrawn they can hardly speak to anyone will respond to an animal.” 

Of course, the advantages of having the company of a pet have to be measured against the responsibility of caring for it.

Although a unique bond may grow between the impaired person and an animal, it is by communication with other humans that of great help when available.

Be assured that with time and the loving support of family and friends, the storm of hurt feelings will eventually lessen. But how can you cope when other people do not treat you well?

Dealing with people


Indeed, people are sometimes just plain cruel. Do not be surprised, then, if some of your close friends are equally merciless regarding your affliction.

Usually, though, people do not really mean to hurt or embarrass; sometimes they are just curious.

Ill at ease with your affliction or perhaps simply insensitive, they may say something foolish or hurtful.

What can you do? Sometimes you can laugh off embarrassing situations.

You might also, for example, try putting others at ease if you sense they seem to be tense or at a loss for words. Recognize that all of us tend to fear what we do not understand.

Help others to look past your infirmity so that they can get to know the real you. When the situation seems to warrant it, you might try saying something like: “Are you wondering why I have to use a wheelchair?”.

In fact one teacher, an amputee, satisfies her students’ curiosity by opening with: “I bet you’re wondering what happened. Would you like to know?”

So, despite the challenges that affect you, if you cultivate the right attitude you will be able to add meaning to life. You can become a valued member of the society.

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