The perspective of people with disability or dwarfism is much different today than it was when I was a child. All too often people mistook me being physically disabled to also being mentally disabled. I know in my circle of influence I helped change these perspectives. As a young kid I often heard “Larry you can’t do that…” In the early years of my life, it was Mom who always said I could do anything I want if I put my mind to it. So I did. Here is a list of things I have done in my life time where I have had to overcome various obstacles and challenges to prove a point or to get what I wanted.
High School Graduate
During my time in elementary school all the way through high school was a fight to get administrators and counselors to realize I didn’t need to be in the special education classrooms. I had the capacity to be in a classroom with everyone else and I could do the work. In fact when I got in high school I started taking advanced courses and eventually taking college courses during my senior year. I even participated as a waterboy on the middle school and high school football team. I joined the yearbook staff and went to Gettysburg and New York City for conferences. I even started a karate club.
College graduate not once, not twice, but thrice
I graduated high school, but life didn’t end there for me. I went on to a local college where I graduated with an associate’s degree. Not feeling satisfied and having other inspirations to continue my education I went on to get a bachelor’s degree with a focus on History. It was during the days of working on my history related assignments I began to enjoy researching and writing. So I decided I would go after my master’s degree. During the 18 months working on my degree is where I shined the most. I made straight A’s all the way through the program. I even got one of my papers published after I graduated.
Move out on my own
There were some people who thought I’d live at home with mom and dad. One day I decided I needed the challenge and see what I could do on my own. So I got an apartment with a friend. I remember telling mom and dad of my decision to move out. Dad questioned me about everything on “How are you going to do this….? How are you going to do that…?” I knew from childhood that an “I don’t know” response wouldn’t be acceptable. So I made sure I mitigated all risks and had a plan for all of the challenges. In other words, I had an answer for every question. Ironically enough I ended up getting a master’s degree that emphasizes risk management.
Have a family
I was told that that most girls were shallow and would not be able to see past my height and disabilities. I should expect to be a bachelor for the rest of my life. Then one day I saw a friend who was my neighbor and went to elementary through high school. She had a boyfriend who was in a wheelchair. When I saw this, my first thought was – “wow, she isn’t shallow.” So a few years later when she was single we started talking. We had a lot in common. So we got married. Best and easiest decision. Many years later we have kids. Each of them is interested in some form of martial arts. They have no problem sparring their dad 3 on 1.
The last thing on anyone’s mind is a 3 foot tall person sending a 6 foot tall person through the air and onto the ground with the flick of a wrist. The Ju-jitsu class I attended had a focus on the basics of Judo. I stood there and watched people throw each other across the room. I assumed a style such as Judo would be impossible for me to do. What did I have to lose; I might as well give it a try. After a month in class the jujitsu instructor had taught me the basics of Judo.
Never underestimate the abilities of people with disabilities. If someone truly wants to do it, they will find a way around the obstacles. I live by Marine Corp’s motto: Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome!
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