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Taking the ‘Dis’ Out of Disability

I should have known better than choosing the black pants and white blouse. I should not have chosen to sit with my friends for my own social fulfillment. It felt like a mom fail moment right from the start. Usually I would have chosen a bright green outfit for these events; an outfit that can be easily spotted in a crowd. I also try to sit near the front and center where I cannot be missed. It was the end of year awards ceremony for our third grade daughter who has Aniridia, a complicated vision disorder that keeps her from being able to point people out of a crowd (among many other problems).

Logan had received her Honor Roll ribbon, a hard-earned award from an academically challenging school. She was lined up beside some of her classmates who beamed with pride and excitement as they spotted their parents clapping and cheering in the crowd. Not our girl. Our girl tried, as some kind of obligatory attempt, to find me, but to her eyes I was just another spot of color in a blurred scene of moving faces.

Gasp! “She can’t see you!” my friends whispered. At the same time, four of them realized what I had been saying just moments before…Logan wouldn’t be able to see me cheering for her. Their reactions were full of genuine love and sorrow. My heart sank as I heard the gasps of my friends. When the ceremony had begun several minutes before, I asked the mom of the girl next to our daughter to get Logan’s attention and point to me. She has the sweetest friends. The girl grabbed Logan’s arm and pointed right at me as I stood and waved aggressively, trying to stand out from the blur. She saw me and her face lit up. ‘At least she knows I’m here’, I thought to myself. But, as she stood with her award around her neck, searching the crowd aimlessly, wanting to see me celebrating her hard work, I felt like I had abandoned my girl. The tears in my eyes welled up with feelings of pride for her accomplishments, and shame for not sitting at the front of the crowd in my bright green dress.

The awards ceremony was meant to celebrate all that Logan CAN DO. And, while the moment of her visual weakness stood out to those around me, it was simply a normal part of our lives. What stood out to me is that, despite her vision disability, Logan is SO ABLE…able to keep up with reading difficult novels, able to crush a minute of math facts, able to learn the countries on a map, able to be a leader in her classroom, able to build friendships, able to overcome the struggles of vision impairment to achieve a high level of academic success, able to light up a room with her infectious smile, and so much more.

These moments of hardship serve as reminders of the promise Patrick and I made as parents ten years ago when we were told of Logan’s diagnosis and the list of things should would not be able to do….We promised to raise our girl ignoring the ‘dis’ in her disabilities, and focusing on all of her abilities. We have grace for the painful moments and joy for the moments of celebrating being able.

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