For as long as I can remember, I have had a knack for finding creative solutions to the obstacles life throws at me. Living as a disabled person in a wheelchair has meant that in order for me to participate and experience life as fully as possible, that I sometimes have to find different ways to accomplish a given task. My solutions are often not pretty, but they get me where I want to go. I learned this skill from my parents, who always found a way to keep me included in whatever was going on. I discuss this skill at length in some of my Roll Models workshops, but I would like to share an example of how it can work with you today.
I was around 4 years old, and my family had spent the day at my aunt’s home playing in her in ground pool. It had been a great day filled with swimming, barbecuing, family, and friends. As I played in the pool, I kept watching everyone else going off the diving board. I said to my mom, “I want to use the diving board too.” Now, obviously this would be a logistical nightmare for someone in a wheelchair, if it was possible at all, but my amazing parents didn’t see it that way. Instead of thinking “Can Scott do this?” (A yes/no question), they thought “How can Scott do this?” (A solution-driving question). From there, they found a solution. They knew that two of the people at the barbecue were lifeguards and very competent divers. If one of them held me and dove in, while the other was waiting in the pool to make sure we surfaced, that would be safe. The only other issue was fear of me getting whiplash when I hit the water, since the muscles in my neck are so weak. Once again, innovation prevailed. They used 2 diapers to construct a modified “C-collar” to stabilize my neck. And just like that, with Pampers up to my ears, I got the experience of going off of the diving board. An experience I distinctly remember to this day, and that no amount of reading, listening, or people watching could ever give me.
This is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of instances where thinking about things differently and from a solution-driven perspective allowed me to experience life more fully. The next time you think to yourself “I wish I could do that,” stop yourself, backup your thinking, and instead think “How can I do this?” With a little practice, you will be amazed at what you can do.