Living With A Disability

An owner's manual

Posted Oct 09, 2012

As we all know, life has no shortage of personal challenges and disasters, some relatively small, such as a minor accident, some major, such as a serious illness or disability. As we have discussed in this blog, resilience is the ability to manage adversity in your life, to bounce back. It is not a trait. It is not inherited. Research shows that it is a set of skills and attitudes that create mental toughness. These skills and attitudes can be learned and applied. Just as we have learned that reinforcing a bridge may make it stronger and less likely to be washed away by a flood, we know that reinforcing an individual’s coping skills, their resilience, can make it less likely that they will be overwhelmed, washed away, in the same flood.

Acquiring a disability could very much feel like being caught in a flood. A flood of emotions, a flood of changes, a new life in many ways for you and those close to you. The landscape that is left afterwards may appear just as desolate as one that has been ravaged by a hurricane. Those who cope well with disability, who bounce back, quickly learn the skills and the attitudes that we are talking about. They end up knowing more about resilience than the average person. We have used persons with a disability to teach these skills and attitudes of resilience to more “able-bodied” individuals. The Maine Resilience Program was developed by persons with a disability and provides assistance to others in the community, including first responders, in helping them to develop and maintain these skills and attitudes.

In this blog and the next, I will talk more about disability and resilience. I developed a program a number of years ago that focuses on the skills and the abilities required to live with a disability. The title of the publication was Living with a Disability: An Owner’s Manual. My goal then and now is to provide the information, skills and resources that are needed to succeed. The program doesn’t offer answers. But it does offer a process that I think can be effective. Living with a Disability, like other publications that have been written about disability, is similar to a driver’s manual. It doesn’t matter what kind of a car or van you drive, there are simply some general rules and principles that apply.

To learn and refine the skills of resilience, you must practice them. Living with a Disability provides basic information about a variety of issues and problems that you will face as a person with a disability. You need to become an expert on your disability. If you use Living with a Disability or another publication similar to it as a resource, you will need to reread and discuss with family, friends and healthcare providers the information that it provides. And most of all, you will need to find ways to practice the skills and attitudes in your life on a daily basis.

We have also been developing a serious game called “Bounce Back” which allows a person to practice these skills and attitudes. I will talk more about that in later posts.

If you would like to learn more about the publication, Living with a Disability or to purchase a copy, you may do this by going to:

In the next post, I will talk more about what constitutes a disability and about my own experience of having a disability.