Saturday, January 7, 2012

Explaining spinal cord injury to kids - and everyone else

I ran across a blog post talking about how to explain spinal cord injury to children. I remember after my accident going through this with my niece and nephews - except for the youngest who was born after I acquired quadriplegia.

Years after my accident I rolled into a room to discover my niece and nephew watching a home video in which I was walking. The room fell silent and both of them sent surreptitious glances at me.

"You were walking," one of them said.

I nodded, thinking that they were still fairly young when I had my accident. Perhaps, in fact, they didn't remember me being able to walk.

Apparently not. Both of them stared at the screen in fascination at the upright, homo sapiens moi.

"Wow," one said.

I was tempted to say something flip like "And now I do wheelies" but instead I let the moment be. It was what it was.

And then I asked them if they had any questions for me that they had been reluctant to ask.

Needless to say, they did, even though I thought they "got it" - that my life had gone on, I still worked, played, and did not sit around thinking about life before disability. This taught me a valuable lesson when dealing with not only kids, but adults when it came to my disability - always expect the unexpected perspective because it's about their perception, not mine. I live with my disability every day, but they don't.

I'm not talking about casual acquaintances or strangers here, but people who are close to me. Everyone had their own process and questions arose when questions arose. There were times at first that I felt I was explaining quadriplegia on a daily basis but now as the years have gone by I realize that those questions fade as others accept - and learn - what is.

I also realize how important it is/was for those who are/were close to me and love me to be able to ask those questions when they need/needed to.

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