The ever changing sky of disability

Photography by Michelle Steiner

One constant in every day life is the sky. You can be sure when you look upwards, there is a sky. It may look different depending on weather conditions, time of day, and other factors. It’s always there. Another constant in my life is having a Learning Disability. I have always had one, but similar to the sky, my view on having one has changed. What I once viewed as one way is constantly evolving.

My first view of the sky of disability was in the deep black of night. I struggled with learning and socializing with my peers. All I could see was darkness and frustration. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t succeed. Slowly the strategies the school implemented began and the hard work began to pay off. I found things that I was good at. I saw a twinkle of light from the moon and stars shining in the sky. I made many wishes on the stars. Some of them came true much later, and others weren’t granted. I was told to shoot for the moon, but felt discouraged. Despite my successes, I still lacked confidence. I also began to see fireflies dancing through the sky. I chased them during many dark nights in summer. Often times the fireflies would flutter away. I used to try to keep the ones I caught in carboard milk cartons with holes poked on top. Sadly I was unable to keep them alive much like many of my dreams. I thought the night would last forever. Just when I thought it would never end, the darkness began to dissipate and the sky began to get brighter.

The morning sky burst forward with streaks of orange. The golden sun began to slowly rise, warming me. I was put into all regular classes except for math and resource room. I was thriving and made honor roll. I still had to work hard and receive supports, but it was working! I was concerned about my life after I graduated. I was doing so good with all of the support and wondered if I could handle college. Many people wondered how far I would be able to go with my disability. With the doubts lingering in the air, the sky began to change again.

The sun settled in the sky and the light began to fade. New streaks of pink and orange filled the sky. I wanted to hold onto the beauty, before the night came. I knew that new challenges, of the real world were going to be difficult. There are fewer programs for people with disabilities after high school. So many people struggle in college, work and other areas of the community. Learning to find the right strategies can be challenging. Watching the beauty in the sky gave me hope that it would get better and would return to better days.

It between the drastic changes, the sky also went through more subtle changes. Some days brought clouds and rain. Other days brought the bright golden sun. When there was rain and sun it created a rainbow. Other days brought freezing cold snow and sleet. On certain days the sky was blue and other days it was gray. What often started out looking like one type of a day, often turned into another day quickly. Subtlety through time my attitude shifted on having a disability. I began to see more of the sun and less of the shade. I even began to see more rainbows as I saw that I could turn what I thought was the most awful thing into something beautiful. I still felt the cold whip through me and felt like I was drowning in the rain. What I learned how to do was handle each type of condition that the sky presented. If it rained I needed an umbrella and a rain coat. If it was snowing boots, and warm clothing. Warmer days meant that I could have a light jacket or none when as it got hotter.

Often times the sky presents new challenges in different situations. I have to look for alternative ways to combat these obstacles. Having one can cause me to feel discouraged and to think of what I’m missing out on. But now I know that when I look at the sky, it won’t stay that way for long. Brighter skies are ahead, and even the stormiest sky doesn’t stay dark forever. How I wish I could have seen this when I was younger. Most importantly it’s not what the sky is doing. What counts is is my response to it. I have had to learn to adapt, survive, and cope under the ever changing sky of having a disability.

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