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Getting Through The Day – What is Normal?

Normal has been defined as average, typical. When the average person is asked “how are you” most people would like to respond in the positive. In truth, we are each born with varied abilities and life circumstances. Normal human functioning incorporates several areas. Think of a typical day. The alarm clock rings—you shut it. You get up, get dressed, have coffee, go to shul/ daven, go to work, take care of the kids, call your mother, call your friends, go shopping, cook, go to a simcha, read, go to sleep, start again.

The above normal, average, typical day sounds pretty ordinary but if you think about each and every activity, so many processes are involved:

  1. The alarm clock rings, you shut it: you can hear, see and move.
  2. You get up and get dressed: You have clothing in your closet, can reach it and dress yourself.
  3. You make coffee: You have groceries,appliances, a home.
  4. You go to shul/daven: You believe in a higher power, are spiritually connected and have a source of inspiration.
  5. You go to work: You have a vocation (possibly a meaningful one) and probably some money.
  6. Take care of the kids, call your mother, call your friends, go to a simcha: You are part of a social group and interact with them.
  7. Go shopping, cook; You have skills of time management and nurturing.

The accomplishment of life’s tasks will vary from person to person and from day to day depending on the complex interaction of our physical abilities and stamina, intellectual skills, emotional stability, spiritual beliefs, support of family, friends, and community, and freedom from illness and disabilities.

What Is a Disability? Logically Defined

A disability is a physical or mental disorder that limits one or more significant areas of life. Disabilities can be temporary or permanent. They can be invisible or obvious. They can be congenital (from birth) or the result of an illness or accident.

What Is a Disability? Emotionally Defined

Disabilities are uncomfortable realities. They’re not the way things were supposed to be; not supposed to happen. Most of all they’re a reminder of our vulnerabilities.

Engaging the Disableed

One of the key challenges of a person with a disability is to be seen by the public for the person that he is and not stereotyped by his particular disability. It’s important that the media portray him as a whole person with individual abilities. It is also important that health care professionals give him their full attention.

What comes to mind when you think of the disabled? We sometimes think of the disabled as “that person in the wheelchair” or that unkempt person with obviously inappropriate behavior. We’re not quite sure how to interact with them. This can lead to uncomfortable relationships at best and avoidance at worst.

It can be difficult at times to look beyond the individual’s disability and see the unique person. Just as all of us, they want to be treated respectfully, they want to be trusted and they want to be admired.

When that alarm clock rings in the morning, what does it take to get through your day? What disability do you have and what would make it better.

—By Sarah Newman, NP Sarah Newman is a Nurse Practitioner who has worked extensively with the critically ill and developmentally disabled

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