Category Archives: ‘Rite on Point with Tanya

Back To School Tips For Parents of Amputee Kiddos

All across the United States, kids and families are gearing up for the new school year. If you don’t believe me, check your FB feed! Kiddos are excited to see old and new friends, meet their new teachers, and of course enter the new grade – well, for the most part.

 

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However, when it comes to child amputees, this time of the year can be a little stressful and it may require a unique set of preparations. So here are some basic reminders for parents to ensure that your amputee kiddos have a smooth Back to School, too!

 

Visit your child’s prosthetist!

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Photo Courtesy of bostonoandp.com

 

As we always say, kids grow up so fast! That is why it is important that you make an appointment with your child’s prosthetist a few weeks before school starts. This appointment is to verify that child’s prosthesis fits well and is comfortable before the school year starts. During this time, your prosthetist can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Remember to be open and ask questions of your prosthetist, especially if they have been with your child at every stage during their rehabilitation. Don’t forget to stock up on new prosthetic socks and pack an extra in your child’s backpack to ensure they are prepared for any shrinking of the limb.

 

Talk to your child!

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Photo Courtesy of churchleaders.com

 

It is important that you sit down with your child and ask questions about their emotional and physical state. Are they physically ready to go back to school? Are they emotionally ready to see their classmates? Are they comfortable with their body image? Make sure you give your child talking points about their prosthesis, so they can feel confident, which will allow them to be social, comfortable, and able to educate their peers about their prosthesis.

 

Can your child stand out too much?

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Photo Courtesy of walesonline.co.uk

 

But what if your child feels like they stand out and not in a good way? As a parent, you have to make sure your child understands that everyone is different—some people have glasses, some have freckles, and some have curly hair. It’s these differences that make people special. Even if your child performs daily tasks differently, make sure they understand that this does not make them less valuable.

 

Education is key!

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Photo Courtesy of charlotteobserver.com

 

Usually, a new school year means your child will have a new teacher that might not understand ins and outs of amputation. Make sure you take the time to educate the teacher and staff on your child’s prosthesis, and that they are comfortable enough to answer questions other children may have. There’s nothing wrong with educating the teachers and kids about the prostheses. It will only help the amputee child with confidence in himself and understanding and acceptance from others.

 

Bullying and discrimination!

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Photo Courtesy of makeameme.org

 

Finally, the ugly topic of bullying. Let your child know that it is never okay if they are bullied or made fun of because of their disability. That leads me to mention another topic – be an advocate for your child. Speak up for them if you feel they are not receiving the care he or she needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including work, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.  Remember to include your son or daughter in different clubs and after-school activities. The school year is about learning and continuing to grow with new experiences, including educating your child and their peers about disability and acceptance.

Continue watching those FB posts of kids going back to school. And remember, we are all in this together. We are here to lift our kids up, help them have good experiences, and grow into adults they will someday become. Happy Back To School 2018!

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How To Regain Confidence As An Amputee?

Today, let’s discuss this wonderful word called confidence!

 

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Photo Courtesy of giphy.com

 

Why? Well, because lately, I’ve been asked about confidence a lot, by both amputees and non-amputees. I imagine this is because others see me as a confident individual. But, I want to share with you that it has not always been that way. It took a lot of hard work and soul-searching to get to where I am today. And, guess what?! I still have my “off” days.

As a kid, growing up in a boarding school where I was the only kid with prosthetic legs, I was bullied and made fun of a lot because of my disability. I remember always wearing pants so that nobody would know that I wear two prosthetic legs. I didn’t want people to know. I didn’t want people to ask me questions – though I still don’t like questions. Most importantly, I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me because I hated pity. It made me feel weak and worthless.

Becoming more confident was a journey for me, and this journey continues today. Below are some of the tips that have helped me along my journey to become more confident. I want to preface this by saying what worked for me may not work for everyone. But, I still want to share my own experiences in hopes they can help someone else.

I hope some of these tips help you to become more confident with yourself. If not, please do not become discouraged, because I know everyone can become more confident in time.

 

Stay positive!

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Photo Courtesy of wanna-joke.com

 

Negative thoughts are toxic, overwhelming, and can really be a harm to your confidence. As tough as it may be, the best way to fight negativity is with persistent positivity. Restructuring negative thoughts into positive thoughts can be a great help. I’ve found that assuming the best of a situation greatly affects how I feel about it. For example, if I catch someone staring at me, I assume they think my prosthetic legs are cool, rather than assuming they think they’re “weird.” More than likely, they are curious and find prosthetics interesting anyway.

However, if a negative thought does enter your mind, pause and try to replace it with a positive one. If you are unable to do so in the moment, allow yourself time to cool off and relax before revisiting the thought. Try writing the negative thought onto a piece of paper and writing a positive thought next to it. Sometimes it is difficult to think with positivity, especially in the moment. But, once you get into a habit, it becomes much easier.

 

Set Goals.

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Photo Courtesy of yourdost.com

Achieving something that challenges you can be a huge confidence booster. Challenges don’t have to be physical. Maybe you just want to eat healthier or be able to speak in front of a group. Just remember, bigger goals can be accomplished by meeting smaller goals. A challenge doesn’t even have to appear challenging. It could simply be trying something new.

A big challenge for me was running. I physically couldn’t run, because I don’t have legs. But, once I received my running blades, I learned that I loved it. Now I realized that I can set running goals and possibly achieve them. Running a marathon isn’t easy. But several years ago, I set this big goal. It took me two years to achieve it, but what matters is that I did it. I finished it. This goal definitely boosted my confidence as an athlete and reminded me that if I really want something, I just have to work hard and trust the process, even if it will takes many years!

Don’t worry about others’ opinions.

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Photo Courtesy of giphy.com

 

This is a big one for me, and I still struggle with it. I had to put it into my mind that others’ opinions simply do not matter when it comes to my wellbeing. For years, I was afraid to wear shorts because I feared what people would think when they saw my prosthetic legs. I finally started wearing shorts, and I found that over time it became much easier to not care if I noticed someone staring at me.

Currently, I do not care what others think when they look at my legs, but I do find myself caring what others think of my personality. At this point in my life, however, I must remind myself that I am who I am. I will not change myself to please others, because that would cause me to sacrifice part of my core being. Letting go of worries about what others think about me is liberating.

 

Celebrate small things.

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Photo Courtesy of vinepair.com

 

Really, you’ve made it this far in life, and that is fantastic! Life deserves little celebrations. There’s no need to do anything big. You could simply decide to buy a muffin with your coffee to celebrate completing a project at home or work. Your celebration could even be a mental pat on the back for crossing something off of your to-do list. Speaking of to-do lists, feeling like you have accomplished something can give your self-esteem a boost. It can be as simple as making a to-do list that includes items like “wash hair” and “put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.” At the end of the day, it just feels nice to have accomplished something, even if that something is just crossing “put on pants” from your list. Now go have a glass of wine as a celebration! LOL

It’s ok to have bad days.

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Photo Courtesy of buzzfeed.com

 

No one can be fully confident 100% of the time. Some days are more difficult than others, and sometimes setbacks arise which make life difficult. Do not beat yourself up if you are having a bad day. Instead, try to find a way to salvage the day. Sometimes the “bad” times last longer than you would like, but trying your best to pull yourself out of a funk is the best thing you can possibly do.

One final point to consider is that everyone is different! While the above tips have been helpful for me, they may not be helpful for everyone. What works for one person, does not always work for others. The best thing to do to become more confident is to simply try!

 

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Photo Courtesy of gifpal.com

 

Do not give up. The journey to becoming more confident is a cross-country marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and there will be obstacles, but eventually you will succeed.

I am confident that you’ll find confidence. It’s out there, go get it (with a glass of wine.)

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Job Interview Tips for Amputees

Starting a new career or returning to your old one* after an extended absence can be a terrifying proposition for anybody. Trying to find your way back into the “groove” of the hustle and bustle of the working world takes time and effort. When you’re returning to work after an amputation, these fears are multiplied. You may have the added stress of introducing the world to the “new” you.

The first step for many amputees returning to the job market is the interview. The American’s with Disabilities Act states that you do not have to reveal any disability during your interview, and it is illegal for the interviewer to ask about disabilities. I didn’t know this when I went for my first interview. I walked in and immediately told the interviewing panel that I was an amputee, but it wouldn’t affect my ability to function.

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Photo Courtesy of Haley Sedlacek & Kelsie Bailes

 

So… here are some basic tips for a job interview:

  1. Dress up for the job. First impression is always a winner!
  2. Be calm and poised. Speak slow and clear.
  3. Remember, you don’t have to reveal your disability.
  4. Know what questions can and cannot be asked during the interview. Check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Center for resources on job interviews as a person with a disability.
  5. Once you have a job offer, it is acceptable to ask about how you can perform the job with or without accommodations.
  6. You can ask for reasonable accommodation, but depending on the size of the company or the stress it places on the company, accommodations can be denied.
  7. Most importantly, be confident.

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Photo Courtesy of motivation.media.com

 

I look at it this way. I’m a part of an elite group – one that makes up approximately 0.63% of the population of the United States. We are survivors. We have survived life missing a limb – no matter if it’s congenital, a medical condition, or a trauma. So, when you walk into your interview, you are already far ahead of the rest of the applicants. You have proven that you can endure more than 99.37% of the rest of the United States. You can’t put that on a resume, but you can walk in with the knowledge that you’re stronger than the rest. Keep your head held high and your shoulders back. Answer every question with authority, and turn negatives into positives. Finally, start your interview with introductions and small talk, and leave the same way you walked in. Follow this advice, regardless if you think you aced the interview or bombed it.

Good luck!

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*See FMLA guidelines for handling situations where you are returning to work following an absence from work after an injury.

Couples Goals – Our First Triathlon!

Guys! I did my first official triathlon just last weekend! Okay, well, I didn’t do it completely by myself. My husband John was kind enough to be my teammate and we did it together! #couplesgoals

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The 34th Annual Open Options Shawnee Mission Triathlon and Duathlon occurred at Shawnee Mission Park in Lenexa, Kansas and took athletes throughout the most visited park in the state that serves as a 1,250-acre urban refuge. Additionally, the course joined the Mill Creek Streamway Trail offering asphalt pathways snaking along the stream and through hillside forests.

With a Short Triathlon Course, a Long Triathlon Course, and a Duathlon Course, there was something for every athlete ranging in experience from the first-timer to the seasoned veteran.

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This Triathlon was more than just a competition. It is also a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and resources for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the greater Kansas City area. How cool is that? 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first one, and I absolutely loved it! John and I chose the Short Triathlon Course. It consisted of a 500-meter open water swim, a 9-mile hilly bike ride and a 3.1-mile run. I did the swimming and running, and John did the biking part of the course.

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Because it was our first time, I didn’t push myself much, (maybe that’s why we didn’t place 😉 ) because I wanted to enjoy this race and come back next year with this experience and wonderful memory. …And we are definitely coming back. We both were very pleased with everyone at the race. Whether it was people helping me get into and out of the water, volunteers or staff – it was perfect!

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Thank you to everyone at the Shawnee Mission Triathlon for a memorable experience! We look forward to starting our training, improving our results, and possibly placing next year!

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Review On The Movie Stronger!

Have you seen the movie Stronger? It came out last year as a way to memorialize the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It has a special connection to me because I am an amputee and a marathoner! It also has a special meaning to Knit-Rite because they used one of our products in the movie.

For a dose of something different, I thought I’d do a review on this awesome movie. So here it goes…

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Photo Courtesy of mandfilms.com

 

What is it about? STRONGER is a fact-based drama that takes on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. On April 15, 2013, Jeff Bauman was near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, holding a handmade sign in support of his runner-girlfriend Erin. When she was still about a mile away, the two bombs went off, killing three people and injuring hundreds, including Bauman who lost both of his legs that day. When he regained consciousness in the hospital, he was able to provide the FBI a detailed physical description of one of the bombers leading to apprehension. Immediately, Bauman was hailed as a hero – both locally and nationally. The film does a nice job of telling Bauman’s story and how his life unfolded over the next few months. As he struggles with his new life challenges, including PTSD and adjusting to life as an amputee, he strives to do better. But, he simply doesn’t understand why he is viewed as a hero, and doesn’t particularly embrace what comes with that label, at least early on. (Welcome to my world in more ways than one – see last week’s blog. 😉 ) I won’t reveal the ending in case you haven’t seen it yet. But it is definitely worth the watch.

What do I think about the movie? Of course, at its core, this is an incredible story about how a normal guy had his life altered in a moment, as well as how he reluctantly became a hero after a tragic event.

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Photo Courtesy of time.com

 

This movie has educated people about the bombing, losing limbs and the long physical and mental recovery. I appreciated how the film focused on the everyday struggles of adjusting to life as an amputee — waking up, going to put your feet on the floor and falling flat on your face (phantom feeling), navigating large crowds, getting in and out of a car, and attempting stairs — all of the things you take for granted before an injury like this.

Why is it special to Knit-Rite? During production, the movie reached out to Knit-Rite and asked us to send them one of our products for the film. You might remember the scene after the surgery where his legs are wrapped in two white garments. These are our famous Compressogrip Shrinkers.

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Compressogrip Shrinkers are mainly used post-surgery to reduce the swelling of the limb, and to prepare and shape it for prostheses fitting in the near future. It was so awesome to see our product being used on the big screen. Big shout out to the movie producers for being so honest and accurate.

Things I wasn’t sure of? Jake Gyllenhaal is an excellent actor. However, I researched and learned that amputee actors were not given an opportunity to try out for the role. I do wish that actors with disabilities were at least given the opportunity, even if it ultimately went to Gyllenhaal.

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Photo Courtesy of time.com

 

Although, he portrayed Bauman very well, who better would know the true emotions of what Bauman experienced than someone who had a similar limb loss story.

Finally, the language factor. Despite the movie being a true story, and the point of the movie is to show the tragic truth, I do wish the language was a little more PG! The movie has way too many F-bombs, and I wouldn’t want to show it to children. And sadly this is a lost opportunity to educate them. Even though we know that kids all know the bad words, the sheer amount of F-bombs was over the top. I do understand that this is the way the characters actually speak, but appealing to a younger audience would only benefit the lesson we can all learn from this situation.  This story needs to be shared with all but because of the language, it is limited.

Overall, it’s an excellent story about tragedy and recovery. This movie is an eye-opening learning opportunity about life after amputation! Be sure to put it on your viewing list, and let me know what you think of it!

Extra credit if you can spot Knit-Rite’s shrinker! 😉

Happy Viewing!

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Am I Really An Inspiration Because Of My Disability?

If there is one overused sentence I have heard more than any other during my whole life is “you are such an inspiration.”

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Image Courtesy of themidnightalliance.com

 

I’ve been an amputee since birth, and I have used prosthetic legs for a very long time. Throughout my childhood, I was called “inspirational” so many times that it became completely lacking of meaning. People who I would casually pass here or there have called me inspirational without even asking my name. Just recently, I came out of the public restroom in my gym and this kind lady immediately said “you are so inspiring.” I wanted to point out the ridiculousness of that statement with humor, and respond, “thank you, I just pooped.” But, I decided to be polite and just thanked her.

Apparently, having a visible disability is all it takes to be considered inspirational, which is frankly a pretty low bar.

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Photo Courtesy of meme.xyz

 

As an adult, my patience for that word finally died out. What the heck does inspirational even mean in the context of disability? Let’s explore two reasons why you shouldn’t call disabled people inspirational.

  1. It can be very insulting.

This argument might raise a few eyebrows. Calling someone inspirational is supposed to be a compliment, right?! Obviously, calling someone inspirational isn’t offensive in itself. However, it can easily become insulting when it’s applied to someone with a disability. When an able-bodied person calls a disabled person inspirational, they’re usually applauding them for existing – and in turn, patting themselves on the back for realizing how difficult disabled life must be. “Go you!”

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Photo Courtesy of askideas.com

 

Unsurprisingly, these good intentions can quickly create highly unfortunate implications. For example, a man once said to me, “whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think about you! If I were in your situation, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed!” Please stop. Don’t pity us as a source of self-motivation. Think about it. You just pushed me down to build yourself up.

  1. It imagines a knowledge of disabled life that you don’t actually have.

Most of the people who call me inspirational are strangers or casual acquaintances. Do they have enough information to make that assessment? Probably not. That’s also why I never understood how anyone could be so quick to assume that all disabled people must be inspirational simply because they’re disabled.

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Photo Courtesy of gamevilusa.com

 

I know I sound like a broken record, but people with disabilities are just like everybody else. They’re complex, and sometimes flawed. They hide insecurities, struggles and inner demons that they might not want the outside world to see. We are not perfect, angelic human beings by virtue of having a disability. Life just doesn’t work that way, and you can’t stamp us out as brave, permanently optimistic, or whatever harmless stereotype helps you process our disabilities better.

That is why you shouldn’t claim to know anything about disabled life if, to begin with, you don’t even know the person you’re talking to! Instead of claiming disabled people inspire you, appreciate them for their uniqueness and individuality. Avoid the temptation to turn us into abstract symbolism. We might be inspirational to you, but at the end of the day, we’re three-dimensional human beings like everyone else.

My advice to all, when you see someone with a visible disability, don’t say any more than you would to any other stranger that you come across. If you feel the need to say anything at all, just say hi or smile and move on. That person has probably heard that he/she is in an inspiration multiple times before you came along. A simple smile will go a lot further.

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Photo Courtesy of frabz.com

 

Thank you,

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Endeavor Games 2018

It’s been a week since the Endeavor Games 2018 took place in Edmund, Oklahoma. For those who don’t know, the Endeavor Games are competitions for athletes of all ages with physical disabilities. These games are great opportunities for athletes to display their talents in a proper and competitive setting against all individuals with similar disabilities.

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This is Knit-Rite’s second year as a sponsor for the Endeavor Games, and I maintained a booth to display our products. We introduced a few of our items to athletes who were competing, as well as their parents and friends.

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Introducing our products, such as the pink prosthetic Soft Socks and SmartKnitKIDS seamless sensitivity socks, to parents of young athletes was satisfying, because I witnessed them recognizing that we are able to meet their child’s needs. We also had a few parents and kids who recognized our products and thanked Knit-Rite for our high quality socks. It is always rewarding to work for a company that makes quality products and hearing it from others.

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In addition to being a representative for Knit-Rite, I also got a chance to be one of the athletes at the games. I participated in 400m sprint, table tennis and for the first time ever, a weight lifting event. My husband challenged me to try something new this year, so I tried weight lifting for fun. I might not have performed my best, but I can’t wait to use the experience and the spirit of the competition to train and compete again.

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The past two years, I‘ve been running long distance races (including my first marathon) with non-adaptive athletes. I am used to being a curiosity for other runners and as a result, I am often starred at, which is a natural human instinct. Since the Endeavor Games focuses on athletes with various physical disabilities, I was honored to compete with athletes just like me. It was awesome! I didn’t feel like I was judged or looked at all the time because we all had differences. There were no questions or staring. Instead, there was a competition and lots of love and support.

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One of my favorite things at the Endeavor Games, was seeing a younger generation proudly competing while having the times of their lives! It was uplifting seeing everyone’s support while cheering each other on. Whether it’s a veteran powerlifting over 200 pounds, a 2-year-old boy competing in his first wheelchair race, or even a young lady trying table tennis for the first time, each of these moments will be embedded in the memories I’ll always hold of the Endeavor Games 2018!

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I finished the week with some table tennis. This was a fun addition to my experience at the Endeavor Games because it was a little bit of nostalgia. I used to play this sport competitively back home in Belarus as a child. The experience showed me that I was able to pick up my childhood skills that I developed along the way and use them for fun and competitions in the games. The best part was making new friends and new memories.

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It was a wonderful event full of positivity, hugs, smiles, encouragement and no judgment! It was an honor to be there as Knit-Rite’s representative and introduce our amazing products to everyone. It was also a pleasure to be there as an athlete and compete against those who are on the same level as me. I can’t wait to go back next year and make new memories, meet new friends, compete and introduce even more people to Knit-Rite. …And who knows what else I might try! See you next year at the Endeavor Games 2019!

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