Too often, as I know from raising Max, people look at people who have a disability and see only their challenges, not their abilities. But a really great recent news story involving Pope Francis and a Filipino man with cerebal palsy once again shows the can-do powers of people with disability.
John Angelo Ortiz worked for months on a cross-stitch of Madonna Dolorosa so he could hand it off to the Pope during his visit to the Phillipines, reports ABS-CBN. Having cerebral palsy can mess up your fine-motor skills; it's not easy for Max to grasp a crayon, a spoon, a toy truck or basically anything, although he tries mightily. Well, this guy came up with quite a unique way around his challenged fingers: He used his feet. Yes, this man made a rather large cross-stitch .
When you watch the video in the news article, you can see the Pope making his way through the crowd at the SM Mall of Asia, tousling Ortiz's hair and blessing the cross-stitch. And then, he's told that Ortiz made the piece. I love Pope Francis's double-take—as in, whoa, you made that? And I love, love, love the look of pure joy on Ortiz's face.
As a Facebook friend noted, "He cross-stitched with HIS FEET but yeah, we call him disabled."
This is not to say that where there's a will, there's always a way when it comes to people with disabilities—one of those phrases that makes you roll your eyes when you are a special needs parent. Max would like to jump, but his body can't yet do it. He would like to write legibly, but can't fully manipulate a pen and pencil, even ones that have been adapted. He would very much like to speak, but his speech is hard to understand. And yet, this boy has all sorts of abiliites: he can spell out words and sentences on his iPad, he has an amazing photographic memory (he's got the best sense of direction of anyone in our family), and he instantly charms the pants off people he meets, to name a few.
Yes, my son has skills. Yes, people with disabilities have skills—even ones that the vast majority of people lack (me, I can barely cross-stitch with my hands). What a more welcoming world this would be for our kids and others with physical and congitive challenges if people presumed ability instead of disability.
Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.
Cerebral Palsy: Challenges and Triumphs
Image: Screen grab, ABS-CBN video