Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Gift of Disability

My youngest son has a learning disability--dyslexia to be exact. The school psychologist who diagnosed his disability believed it had something to do with all the ear infections he started having when he first attended daycare when he was fifteen months old. The theory is, between the age of one and two you learn to distinguish subtle differences in sounds--like the difference between a B and a P. Because his hearing was interrupted at this stage, it set him up for reading difficulties later. The thing is, even though school has been hard for my son in certain respects, his learning disability is actually an unexpected gift.

How can a learning disability be a gift, you ask? Learning disabilities are gifts because people who have them are forced to think outside the box! Think about this. Under normal circumstances, the quickest way between point A and point B is a straight line:
When you have a learning disability, there is a barrier within that straight line:
You cannot see point B from point A because of that barrier. If you need to get to point B, you are forced to take an alternate route. You are forced to find a way around the barrier.

Albert Einstein had great difficulties in his early years in school because he had learning disabilities. While his teachers tried to force him to do his work in certain ways, his disabilities did not allow him to follow their rules. Still, Einstein did not give up! Eventually he came up with some of the greatest ideas in physics that exist today.

My younger son tends to think in similar ways. A few years ago when my older son was taking high school physics, he was assigned to make a catapult that could send a golf ball at least ten feet. My older son worked on it for quite some time but wasn't getting the distance he needed. My husband began to help. Neither one of them could figure it out. This is when my younger middle school aged son happened on the scene. He took one look at the catapult and asked what they were trying to do. When they told him he said, "I can fix that." He made a couple of small adjustments and tried the catapult out. The golf ball flew about three times the distance it was supposed to! My younger son had never studied physics, but he is quite mechanical and has always liked to experiment. I just attribute his gifts to having to think outside the box.

The next time you begin to pity someone with a disability, think again. There is a reason they have chosen a life which included disability. They have chosen to live outside the box. Deep down, they know their disability is a gift to enable them to learn and grow. Don't let your own faulty thinking limit what they can do. Don't let your own faulty thinking limit what you can do. Allow yourself to see the possibilities. It is only through thinking outside the box we can fix the problems in the world today.

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