The ability to teach is not always a natural attribute. It takes understanding, patience and work. It means taking a step back from thinking about how something may work for you and realising that many people have many ways of adapting to new lessons in life. In order to teach lessons at the height of your ability, it also means showcasing yourself as a role model.
I’ve said it time and time again, but if I’d have had somebody around me with my limb-difference when I was a child, my levels of self-confidence at that age would have been a lot higher. If given that wish, I might not have been as keen to hide my hand so quickly. I might not have taken so long to accept, within myself, that my hand was in fact this way and probably would have stopped asking how and ‘why me’ much sooner.
Luckily, each year, we are seeing the limb-different community grow sporadically and become one of the most inspiring groups out there. With the groups come many people just like myself, dropping our life experience onto children and parents whom have never been in such a predicament previously. Not only do the parents become more confident with handling issues, but the kids’ confidence with every day tasks grow exponentially.
For instance, two years ago I met a family from Tennessee – the Broyles family. Their little daughter five-year-old daughter Lacie had never been around someone like her and neither had her parents. Over constant contact since then, the bond between myself and their family has grown massively and the confidence you can see in little Lacie has grown, also.
As I’ve spoken about on previous occasions, tying my shoelaces as a child was one skill that always escaped me. I could get the first swing of the laces, followed by the first loop and from there it would just all fall apart. Not even my parents could get past that level with me.
This was primarily the same situation with Lacie. Last year, we made progress tying shoelaces in the short amount of time we had with one another, but it wasn’t quite the final package and she wasn’t completely up for the challenge in her mind. As was the case with young me, I was dependent and had become comfortable with it.
As children grow, so does the attitude and awareness. This year, I was pleasantly surprised by her attitude towards the challenge. After all, it was the goal set by her family when headed to camp NubAbility this year. We all saw her persistence to get it done.
As we sat down in our group on the basketball court and walked her through the method I had learned slowly, we could feel the achievement was getting closer and closer to gaining. Mistakes were both accepted and expected. Morale remained unbroken and we worked through it altogether. Step by step.
Loop, pull, through, tighten – success! The feeling as we watched on in anticipation for the moment of success, as I think back, was incredible and joyous. Considering I hadn’t been able to tie my shoes until I three years ago when I was twenty, all of us getting together to help Lacie conquer this challenge was very rewarding for all involved. What meant even more was hearing how she went home and offered to tie any shoes she could get her hands on!
It just reminds me of why these camps and this community is so vital to young people around the world – whether it be through a camp or social media – it is vastly important to the future of our people. The bonds you make, the help you can provide and the spirits you can lift, it all means such a hefty amount and goes much, much further in the head of a limb-different youngster than you or I can imagine.