Recently I read a forum discussion about the expectations placed on amputees. I thought it was an interesting topic worthy of exploration. As always, I have an opinion.
When I was teaching, I learned quickly that students will strive to reach the expectations of the instructor. Being blind, my students were used to having the bar set low. Merely walking down the hallway often afforded them accolades from well-meaning teachers and students alike.
I expected success from my students. Obviously limited by their disabilities, I refused to let them settle for trite accomplishments. I pushed them to try new things and to expand their horizons. Although they were not always successful in the traditional sense, the experiences taught them that it was okay to try, and that perfection is not always necessary for learning to occur. At the end of the year I wanted them to remember only one thing: it is okay to fail at a task, but that it is never acceptable to settle for giving less than one's potential.
I have held the same philosophy for myself when I became an amputee. After losing my limb, I learned how little the general public expected from me. Again, well-meaning individuals showered me with praise for completing mundane, simple tasks.
People seem amazed when they see a lower extremity amputee walking. They are in awe when individuals without an arm can cut their food or dress themselves. I am certain that the public does not realize that, by setting their expectations so low, it is hampering the recovery of the new amputee.
After I lost my leg I was showered with praise from well-meaning individuals. I have been told that I am a "hero" and a "role model," but I had done nothing remarkable to receive such praise. I had chosen to get out of bed and move forward with my life. Given the choices (the other option being lying in bed and becoming a recluse), I think I chose the logical path.
This does not mean that learning to walk with a prosthetic is an easy feat, nor is it easy for the upper extremity amputee to learn the fine control required to cut food or to operate a zipper. Mastering these skills deserves celebration. After all, they are the first steps towards regaining independence.
I am proud of many of my accomplishments since becoming an amputee. I have cared for my child in spite of my limb loss. If I had merely met the expectations set forth by some individuals, I would not be living to my fullest capacity, but please don't shower me with accolades merely because I walked through the grocery store!
I was sent this video by a reader of my blog (thank you Mary). I decided to post it with this blog because I feel that it illustrates my point. It also brought a smile to my face.