Course: PT105-100 Introduction to Physical Therapy
Keeping My Balance: A memoir of Disability and Determination is an auto biography of Stephanie Torreno who due to complications at birth was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) at the age of one. Besides dealing with CP throughout her life she had to deal with her father committing suicide, her grandmother dying from cancer and her main caregiver her mother having a stroke.
Thru all of this she pursued her dream of living an independent life as an adult.
Three examples of the persons perception of their disability that were apparent in the book:
She perceived her disability as the life she was given just like some people are born to the life of an athlete or that of a genius. Of course, living her life was going to be a much harder task. I believed she got this perception from the way her parents treated her disability.
They got her every kind of help possible, participated in helping her learn to live in the life she was given, did not to pity her, pushed her to work thru her disabilities so that she was able to participate in daily living tasks. Her parents took every challenge in their daughters life head on and with determination to solve the issue and they expected the same of her. As the years went by, they tried to let her deal with and come up with ways to handle different situations so as not to depend on them to always have the solution.
They did not spend a lot of time whining about the life she was given and she adopted the same behavior from them.
She perceived the physical disabilities of her CP to be holding her back and not her mental capabilities. She felt she was smart and preferred lacking in physicality because with smarts she could figure out ways to work thru her physical disability. Her mental ability let her accomplish a lot and continue to improve over time. She was very proud of her academic accomplishments and others recognition thru life. She always questioned her progress and abilities but her doctors, friends and family had great confidence in her progress and abilities. She once overheard a professor say that she figured out certain formulas in excel before the other students did.
She perceived her disability as labelling her in the world around her. People would only see her as her disabled and from this make a lot of very wrong assumptions. She was following along with a cassette of a book on tape reading the words in the book and people in the area were surprised that she could read. She said to herself Well I am in fourth grade; I do know how to read. She perceived herself as more than her disability but her humanity. She was tense and anxious about falling in public because this just highlighted her physical disability and made people think about her as her disability without knowing anything about how smart she was or what she was thinking in general.
Two examples of other peoples attitude towards Stephanie:
There was a Dr. Russel during her college years that said to her you dont have anything wrong with you, you have a disability. I want you to go above, below over and thru your disability Do not let your disability stop you from doing whatever you want (124). She felt Stephanie could do anything she put her mind to. She wanted her to live on campus because this would make her more independence. Her goal was to be able to live independently. She set Stephanie up to make decisions that would lead her to her goal of working and living independently (124,126). She told her to use her instincts and not ask for approval all the time.
A woman that managed a vocational workplace was totally clueless of what someone with this type of disability was going thru. When she was trying to get a job working from home the women asked if she was getting disability benefits, to which she said yes. She then told her that she should forget about trying to get a job and just stay home and collect her benefits. Stephanie tried to explain to her the working was a lot more than earning money. It is about having something to do, using her skills and abilities and feeling good about herself. (98)
What impacted me most in this book was how she stayed motivated and focused to continue to figure out ways to get thru all of the issues her disabilities threw at her. She would solve daily living issues in her pre college years only to have new issues as she became an adult. It seemed that she was never done resolving issues that impaired her ability to live an independent life but she stayed motivated and took them on one day at a time. I dont know that I would have the drive and motivation to do what she did every day in her life to live an independent life.
Stephanie Torenno is living an independent life with the support of her community, which most people with disabilities dont have. Throughout her life she has become an advocate for herself and others like her. This book presents so many of the difficulties persons with disabilities face while trying to become meaningful parts of society and fulfill their potential. This book was her statement of her journey to living independently which she felt a need to record before moving into this new life which would be quite different from when she was not living independently.