Things You Should Stop Saying And Doing To Disabled People

Hi friends. Let’s be real. Even if you have the best of intentions, it’s possible to get it wrong when trying to help someone with a disability. So… Here are a few “don’ts” to help you navigate through a world consisting of differently-abled people.

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Don’t disqualify my beauty.

People think that if you have a disability, you shouldn’t associate yourself with anything to do with beauty. I honestly think that in many people’s perception, disability means “ugly” or “unattractive”. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Who said being disabled disqualifies you from being beautiful? Whether a disability is visible or invisible, people with disabilities can be fabulously attractive on so many levels.

Don’t call me ‘brave’.

If you know me well enough, you know that I hate when people marvel at me, saying I must be “brave” or “inspiring” – just because I am out shopping on my own. “You must be so brave.” I find this phrase very patronizing. Don’t say this to me unless I have wrestled a tiger or a crocodile, or done something extraordinary – like fly to the moon and back. I really don’t see how I can be inspiring by getting on with life.

Don’t assume that all disabled people look the same.

I wish people would stop thinking that the world is made up of purely able-bodied individuals, and that the tiny minority who are disabled are easily recognizable. Broaden what you believe in. We don’t all look the same – just as able-bodied people don’t.

Don’t use baby-talk.

When I was younger, it was irritating when people talked to me as if I was a child or I wasn’t able to hear them. Or what about my friend who wears hearing aids. People suddenly think they need to revert to loud, slow baby-talk for my hearing-impaired friend to understand them. It’s okay. We really understand and hear you well at your regular volume and adult speech pattern!

I hope this blog helps you to understand some of the many “don’ts” that differently-abled people would prefer you just avoided.

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It’s Fall Y’all, So Don’t Fall!

Pardon my pun, but we all trip, roll ankles (if we have any 😉 ), step on awkward objects, or slip on icy surfaces, which sometimes leads to falling! This especially can happen to lower extremity amputees because of balance differences! It’s never fun and can be awkward or even painful!

Now, let’s think about the act of falling! There is a good way and there is a bad way to fall. The bad way is to tense up and go down stiff as a board. As you know, it’s not easy to relax when you see future doom. The good way to fall is to remain flexible and bend at the joints if you can.  Try to protect vulnerable body parts. It’s best to have multiple points of impact. For example, when a car is in a collision, there is typically less damage when more surface is affected. The best course of action is to use your arms as a bumper leaving your head and hips to suffer less impact. This is, of course, unless you have been specifically instructed some other technique by a health care provider.

What you should do after the fall? Again, there’s a right way and a wrong way to react once you’ve fallen. If anyone is nearby, they will probably move to help you back up. This is natural. However, if you’ve dislocated a joint, improper help can make things worse. And if your leg won’t support you, or if you’re dizzy, you could quickly be right back where you started from. My advice – take a deep breath, and wait a minute. If there is someone waiting to help you, ask them if they see anything out of the ordinary, such as a wound or bleeding.

If you’re still in one piece, probably the best way to get back up is to roll onto your stomach, bring your feet and knees up beneath your torso, and then rise with support from the person nearby. However, if you‘re alone, it’s probably better to crawl or skootch to a nearby steady surface to sit on. Work your way into the seat and perform a further self-assessment in the seat prior to standing.

Best advice – don’t fall! If you do fall, be careful and be patient!

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Stop Assuming!

I am here to tell you something today – stop assuming! That’s right – you!

Every day it is an adventure for me! I always get random comments, unsolicited compliments and uncomfortable questions! But one thing that always bothers me is when people assume things! You know what they say when you assume…

So here are some of the most common things that people assume when they see me! Enjoy!

My prosthetic running legs are making me faster! Wrooong! No really, you are absolutely wrong! Even though blades give me a spring, and I can jump pretty high with them, they can’t make me faster! I do all the work! Think about it. I am missing a knee, calf, ankle, foot, you know, muscle and bones. Instead, I am using my hip flexors and glutes twice as hard to pick up my prosthetic running leg when I run. It’s not as easy as you think – trust me!

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I am a veteran – I get lots of thanks for my service! Friends, I am not even a US citizen! No, I am not a veteran. I appreciate your thoughts, though. I am going to tell you a secret (shhh) – there are so many ways to lose a limb. Cancer, diabetes, and several other diseases are major factors in limb loss and amputation, as well as car accidents or anything that could severely damage your limb. And don’t forget, you can be born that way, like me! Just ask me instead of assuming. ..or in my case when I tell them that I am not a veteran, awkwardly leave – true story!!

Oh I must be used to having no legs! It shouldn’t bother me that much! Again, wrooong! I actually hear this statement quite often! Just because I was born with missing limbs, doesn’t mean I’ve just gotten used to it. It always bothers me. It bothers me when my friends are able to go do things that I am physically limited at. It bothers me when you stare and secretly whisper to your friends. It bothers me that the first impression that someone has of me is my “legs.” It bothers me that you don’t think to ask about how I’m doing, because you think I’m “used to it.” Being physically and visibly different than the vast majority of people I am around is something I’ll never get used to. I get over it and cope, but guess what… sometimes it still sucks.

Moral of the story, stop assuming and mind your own business on your two legs!

Bye-bye!

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Why Being An Amputee Is AWESOME!?

I love reminding people that being an amputee is AWESOME! You ask me why? Well, let me tell you!

– Summer is almost over, and winter is getting closer and closer! You all are stressing out about cold feet, while I worry about what sandals I can wear this winter! … Because I ain’t got no toes, so my toes never get cold. LOL!

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– Speaking of toes, I can’t stub them or have them stepped on. Also, I don’t have to worry about matching socks or my shoes being too tight! Sorry guys!

– Another advantage? Less of my legs means less shaving! Hey, I am just trying to be efficient! Don’t be jealous! Okay, be jealous!

– You can pull some great pranks. And, my list of possible jokes seems to be getting longer each day. You want to hear one? Okay, maybe not.

– With the amount of stares and questions that I get on daily basis, I could place an advertisement on my prostheses and have a company pay me to promote their product. I mean, I might as well give people something to read while their eyes are fixed in my direction!

– And I love giving my husband that look that says “please help this legless girl!” Two thumbs up to using my leglessness (is that even a word?) to my advantage! He seems to be wise to this by now, though. I guess, the honeymoon is over!

– And speaking of using my leglessness (really, is that a word?) to my advantage, how great is that disabled parking pass!? Right? It’s kind of fun too when I am judged before they realize that yes, I really do qualify for this! Ooops!

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– Finally, I get to be part of a great community of people. We include people that have an extra drive to accomplish amazing things. We have run marathons, climbed mountains, and followed our own dreams and passions. But we also do very normal things too. We are firefighters, teachers, parents, neighbors and friends. We are church goers, gym enthusiasts, the family cook, and president of the PTA. It is a pretty great community that I am proud to be part of!

So yeah, being an amputee isn’t so bad! Actually, it is great and it has to be. After all, you can’t really go back, so you might as well make the most of this new great life and find joy in every day.

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September is a National Suicide Prevention Month!

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According to the American Association of Suicidology, there are an average of 123 suicides each day in this country. It’s the tenth leading cause of death in America — second leading for ages 25-34, and third leading for ages 15-24.

Why is this month so important?

It is important because we need to decrease suicide numbers. We can do this with the following:

Awareness. Suicide prevention organizations aim to decrease suicides by 20 percent over the next couple of years. In order to do this, they’re making a conscious effort to talk about suicide — its warning signs, how to prevent it, how to discuss it, etc. – whether it is in school, at the workplace, and in politics.

Dialogue. There’s a stigma connected to suicide. Too often it’s not talked about — and those who suffer from it feel they can’t discuss it. Suicide Prevention Month helps to destigmatize this mental illness and promote conversation.

Change. Thanks to efforts of suicide prevention organizations, the approach to suicide is beginning to change. For example, schools and workplaces are implementing new programs and even pop culture is acknowledging it.

Normalizing mental illness is a huge step toward the goal of suicide reduction.

Tips on helping someone in crisis.

  1. Ask direct questions. Even though it’s hard, ask the person directly if they’re thinking about suicide.
  2. Listen to their answers. People with suicidal thoughts often feel alone, so be sure to let them know that you care deeply about them and what they have to say.
  3. Do a safety check. If you’re concerned for their well-being, try removing anything they could use to harm themselves, such as alcohol, drugs, medications, weapons, and even access to a car.
  4. Don’t keep this a secret. Let them know you’ll help come up with a plan that involves telling a professional who can utilize the many services and resources available to help.
  5. Ensure they seek professional help. It’s important to suggest they seek additional help from other people, such as a doctor, counselor, psychologist or social worker.

 Take a few moments this month –or always – to be aware of those who struggle. Remembering these tips might help you save a life.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

Sources: Devereux.com, Nami.org, Suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Journals Of A “Disabled” Mom

What’s it like raising a baby while being a “disabled” mom?

Awesome! 🙂 I love it! It’s not easy, but it is not impossible! Obviously, my baby, Gabriel, at 6 months, is too young to understand that his mom, according to this world, is disabled! He already loves playing with my right (prosthetic) knee. However, I try not to let him play with it too much, because I am worried that he’ll hurt his little fingers.

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But here’s the thing…. I can’t wait to help him understand that my “disability” is a normal thing for us, and it doesn’t stop me from being the best mom I can be for him. I can’t wait to show my son that my “disability” doesn’t stop me from being active, social and fun.  I can’t wait to educate his friends about my special legs. I will tell them I am a cool robot mom, who loves to run and does an awesome job. I can’t wait to help my little guy learn that his mom doesn’t have excuses, and I’ll be an example for whenever he faces challenges in his life. Finally, I can’t wait until he gets older and starts educating others about my “disability.” He will help them understand that I am not disabled – instead, I am extra abled! He’ll be my champion, just like I’ve always been his.

So yes, raising my baby while being disabled isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Smooth Back To School With A Disability!

All across the United States, teachers, kids and their families are getting ready for the new school year. If you don’t believe me, check your FB feed – first day of school pictures are the best and I love them all! For the most part, kids are excited to see old and new friends, meet their new teachers, and of course, enter their new grade. However, when it comes to children with disabilities, this time of the year can be full of anxiety and stress. And to help with that, it may require a unique set of preparations. So here are some basic reminders for parents to ensure that your kiddos have a smooth Back to School, too.

Bugsley-ProstheticLegFirst and foremost, talk to your kiddo! It is important that you understand their emotional and physical state. Make sure you give your child talking points about their prosthesis or orthotic devices, so they can feel confident, which will allow them to be social, comfortable, and able to educate their peers about their devices.

ALWAYS visit your child’s prosthetist or orthotist before school starts! As we always say, kids grow up so fast! That is why it is important that you make an appointment with your child’s practitioner a few weeks before school starts. During this time, your doctor can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Don’t forget to stock up on new prosthetic socks or AFO/KAFO socks. Pack an extra in your child’s backpack for just in case.

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 and awesome — some people have glasses, some have freckles, some have curly hair, and some have prostheses or orthotic braces. 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.

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Let’s not forget about educating others! Usually, a new school year means your child will have a new teacher that might not understand the ins and outs of being differently abled. Make sure you take the time to educate the teacher and staff on your child’s devices, and that they are comfortable enough to answer questions other children may have. 

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 – or any reason. 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. 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.

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Continue sharing on FB those cute photos of you kiddos 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 the adults they will someday become.

 

 

Happy Back To School 2019!

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How To Love My “Disabled” Body!

Having spoken about loving my “disabled” body for the last 5 years of my life, a common first question I get is always “How did you do it? How did you learn to love your body?”

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I am going to tell you a secret: I’m still working on it – every single day. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them, and you shouldn’t trust anyone who says they do. However, here are five things I’ve learned both as a mentor and as a student that might work for you too.

1. Be your own best buddy!

I’ll admit – I have this problem, and I have found that most everyone else does, too. I’m great at mothering and loving up on other folks, but terrible when it comes to myself. When I’m fighting with my body, I think, “What would I tell a friend who felt this way? How about a child or a student?” Somewhere among these possibilities, I usually find a place to start.

2. Find happy spaces.

How we feel is hugely influenced by who we surround ourselves with. Finding a space full of people we love being with makes us happier. It also allows us to be more comfortable to be ourselves and to be in our bodies. This can be a community that directly focuses on these issues or something less direct. Do you love your body because it lets you run? Join a running club. If you feel best when you’re moving, you can take a class in dance, yoga, swimming, or whatever you and your body enjoy. Maybe it’s cooking or painting! So many possibilities. 🙂

3. Associate value with joy.

So often we associate our bodies’ value with ability/inability to meet expectations. On days when it is hard to see our body as beautiful, remember that bodies are made to be lived in. What can we do with our body that brings us joy? This may change day to day, and that’s okay. On the really bad days, when I’ve walked too far, and my legs hurt, I might say, “at least my hands are for writing.” When I’m beating myself up for my inability to do much of anything on a random Tuesday, I might say: “Today my body is for drinking tea and staying in bed.” When we make joy the value in which we measure ourselves, it is easier to find something to like.

4. Learn a history lesson of your body.

Look back at the recent past and ask yourself, “When was I getting along with my body best? What is different between now and then? Was I eating differently? Was I being more social? Was I getting more sleep? Was I in therapy, either physical or psychological?” Don’t use this as an excuse to judge your current body. This isn’t about looking different. It is about a time when you felt better in your body. How can you apply that to the body you have today?

5. Share what you learn.

We can all be life students and mentors. But, we are all at different stages and with different goals. No matter how little you think you know about loving yourself and your body, you probably know something someone else needs. If there is one thing I’ve learned from writing and mentoring, it is that making people feel loved in their bodies is the best thing I’ve ever done. How can I not love a body that serves that purpose?

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I recently heard Mary Schmich’s monologue “Wear Sunscreen,” where she gives the advice, “Enjoy your body, use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” This is awesome advice for learning to love your body – a very hard task that should be so easy for us. I hope you enjoy her advice as much as I did, and use it as your life motto.

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The 2019 Amputee Coalition Annual Conference Was A Success!

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Photo courtesy of amputee-coalition.org

 

More than a thousand people attended in San Antonio, Texas, between July 25-27, 2019, for a conference focused on the limb loss and limb difference communities.  The gathering took place at the Marriott Rivercenter located on the famous Riverwalk.

National Conference attendees chose from nearly 100 educational and motivational sessions, participated in hands-on clinics, and browsed dozens of exhibits featuring useful, innovative and modern products designs for amputees. Members of the community shared personal stories, while doctors and experts revealed the latest technologies and treatments.

It is my third year travelling to this show as a Knit-Rite exhibitor. I visited with lots of people I’ve known, met new people, heard great stories and introduced the community to more of our Knit-Rite products!

Below are some photo’s from the conference.

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Already looking forward to the 2020 show! See you there!

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Tips And Tricks For An AFO User!

An ankle foot orthosis (AFO) is a custom-made brace used to support muscles, immobilize joints, and/or correct the position of your foot and ankle. It may be made of metal, thermoplastic, or a combination of materials.

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Below are some basic tips and tricks for an AFO user!

Choosing a shoe!

There are many companies now that make shoes specifically for children with AFOs. However, if you are on a budget, there are several popular brands that make wide and extra wide shoes in children’s sizes. After doing some research, I stumbled upon Stride Rite. I learned that for clients who wear AFOs, they actually offer a buy one, get one 50 percent off deal. Nordstrom also allows customers to buy two separate sizes of shoes as long as they are no more than one and half sizes different. This is a big money saver for AFO customers.

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Some helpful tips to finding a shoe to fit over an AFO.

  1. First and foremost, make sure you bring the AFO to the store with you. This is not the time for guesswork!
  2. Look for a wide or extra wide shoe, particularly with a wide and deep toe box.
  3. Hold the AFO up to the back of the shoe before you ask your child to try it on to see if it is a possible fit.
  4. Remove the insole of the shoe to make more room, if necessary.

 

Selecting high-quality socks:

A pair of good quality socks is crucial for AFO wearers. You need to protect your child’s skin from the brace rubbing against it throughout the day. You want to look for socks that are moisture-wicking and seamless, as well as wrinkle-resistant. The socks need to be long enough to cover the height of the brace and fold over the top. The socks cannot be too baggy because you don’t want them to fall down. Our SmartKnit socks are excellent for kiddos who wear AFOs. They are seamless, moisture wicking and they fit nice and snuggly, helping them not to slide down.  We even make them in cute patterns now! Check them out on our website www.knitritedirect.com or find them on Amazon.

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Choosing pants that fit over an AFO.

Honestly, wider leg pants work well over the brace, and most leggings are stretchy enough to stretch over the AFO.

AFOs shouldn’t stop your kiddos from enjoying life! I hope these useful tips can help you and your kiddo successfully navigate the world of AFOs!

Note: All of these tips are also great for wearers of KAFOs (Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis).

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