Davida Shensky author of No One Stands in Line to Become Disabled
I’m 59 and female.
Since I was born in the 1950s, society didn’t recognize or even admit to having a disability community; therefore, there were a few laws then, giving rights to people with disabilities. During that time, few people even acknowledged the fact that there was abuse in the home, like they do today. These two issues affected how I saw my self-image, rather than what I saw in the mirror. I have cerebral palsy, which affects only one side of my body. As a young child, my right arm drew my hand into a balled fist. I have no control over the muscles in my right foot; therefore I had to wear a shoe with a brace so I could walk without dragging my foot. At the age of fourteen, my orthopedic surgeon split the heel cord so I could walk better and have better range of motion. A few months after the surgery on my foot, he also did surgery on my arm to release the tightness in the tendon, so I would have better range of motion in my arm. When he did this, my fingers became double-jointed but with exercise I’ve gained some control over my arm. I can hold things in my hand but I can’t pick them up from a table.
At that time my self-image was tied more to the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse I experienced as a child from both parents. My father died forty-one years ago when I was eighteen. My memories of him are not good. All I remember was his hand going up and my hands going over my face to protect it. My mother would often say to me things like why are you crying you have no reason to cry, you’re helpless, you’re worthless, you can’t live on your own, etc. due to the disability. I have a poor sense of direction and my mother would often say to me you could get lost in a closet.
As a child I think I recognized this as a dysfunctional family but the healing began when I was fourteen after the surgery performed on both my arm and leg. At that time, physical therapy meant picking up blocks and moving them from one place to another. It was only later, after the health movement started, that I began to realize that by exercising with machines where I could stretch the tendons in my right arm and leg, I could improve my gate when I walked and strengthen that side of my body. My family doesn’t accept the fact that I’m willing to pay to belong to a health club, where they have machines that I can use to isolate and strengthen those muscles. They believe I should only go to the health clubs in the apartment where I live, even though they don’t have the equipment that meets my needs.
As a child, when my parents were abusing me, I would often go into my room and question—why me? I came to the conclusion that God had a purpose for my life. I was educated before they had laws on the books guaranteeing people with disabilities the right to an education; therefore, my teachers didn’t recognize that I learned differently. Because teachers teach in a cookie-cutter manner, rather than tending to the needs of each student and because when I learn using the typical methods of teaching and learning i.e. just reading the material and studying it for a test, it doesn’t always get from short-term memory into long-term memory. I don’t learn orally or visually but by physically doing the project. Math was often very difficult for me because sometimes what I see and what I write down are two different things. For me, I’ve found that reading books in historical settings helps me learn history.
It was not until I finished college and entered graduate school that the Individual Disability Education Act (PL 94-142) become law in 1977 and took effect in 1980. By then I was in graduate school and also employed. I entered the workforce in 1977, which was still fifteen years before the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. After I lost my job with the state, I found it difficult finding another job with the government and was unable to find gainful employment in the private sector. I was often an observer of people’s behavior; therefore, since I wanted to understand why people act the way they do, I studied both mental health and psychology. I also took credits towards a Master’s in rehabilitation counseling to understand the laws about employment for people with disabilities. My father died just as I was entering college; therefore my mother looked at my education is something to occupy my time, not a means to gainful employment. She would often make the comment to me why are you taking that class you are only going to fail.
Whenever someone would put limits on my abilities, it was often like waving a red flag in front of my face and challenging me to prove them wrong. When I couldn’t find gainful employment, I decided to start my own business. I have been in business for thirty years and my business has evolved to where I am today. It has always been in my nature to help others live a better quality of life. That is why today I am a life and career coach. As a career coach I help clients find their passion and build it in to a high-paying income, which is what I did for myself. Eric Berne in Transactional Analysis talks about how our behaviors are formed based on the tapes we hear in our head; those things that other people told us that give us limiting beliefs which prevent us from setting and reaching personal goals in our lives. As a life coach, I work with clients to help them recognize these limiting beliefs so they can overcome them and set reachable goals. While I was in college, I participated in TA groups and psychodrama groups as part of my training. The training gave me an opportunity to work on and overcome many of my personal issues on self-image and self worth. It is these experiences that I bring to my clients.
I’ve found that technology such as Dragon Naturally Speaking—a speech to text software—makes the workplace an even playing field, which gives me a tool to compete against able-bodied people in the workplace. Without a car I have limited mobility to get around, therefore the technology in use today helps me increase my visibility. Networking through social media gives me the opportunity to build a business online.
My company is Career Performance Institute. I have finished a book titled No One Stands in Line to Become Disabled that talks about the importance of communication, team building and good listening habits. I use my personal stories from when I was a child to emphasize the points I am making. I would like the opportunity to promote this book and my websites. I have a radio show on blog talk radio called live without limits. That website address is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/careerperformanceinstitute
The website for my business is http://www.1personalcareercoach.com
Since social media is an important part of building business, I discovered and use software that allows an individual to send video e-mails, have video conferencing, video blogs and live broadcasting for their business. Anyone who would like to find out how they can use this software with their business can go to this website address: http://www.TalkFusion.com/1310330
Let me close this by saying that once I learned to love and respect myself, I found that for my own psychological health I had to stay far away from my family and limit the interaction I have with them because they refuse to accept the positive changes I made in my life to live independently. They do everything to try to sabotage my personal growth and independence. This is true for anyone, whether able-bodied or disabled. When you make positive changes in your life to find personal success and your family stays in the same place, then the best thing you can do for your own personal growth, independence and success is to stay as far away from them as possible.
Because I had an outgoing personality, to compensate for the lack of support I had in the family, I built a support system for myself through my relationship with friends and coworkers. They believed in me and encouraged me to set and achieve high goals for myself and also to improve my self-image and my abilities.
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