My husband, Jeff, is a C4 quadriplegic from a diving accident in 2013. Our daughter, Evie, was four years old at the time of his injury. For nearly half of her life, her dad has been paralyzed. As a family, we’ve adapted to living with a spinal cord injury.
Jeff and I were talking to Evie about what the word “adapt” really means. We gave her a few dictionary-type definitions to which she nodded as she took it in. Then, my husband gave her a demonstration of the word. He grabbed his mouth stylus with his teeth and said, “This is how I’ve adapted to be able to use my phone.” He then began to peck the screen with the stylus. We’ve seen him do this what feels like a million times over the last few years. He’s become very adept at using his mouth stylus to operate his phone.
Then Jeff said to Evie, “You should try using a mouth stylus to control your tablet. To see what it’s like.” Her face lit up. “I want to try!” she said enthusiastically. She ran off to get her tablet as I hunted down a spare mouth stylus in the office.
She plopped down on the sofa, gripped the stylus firmly with her back molars – just like Dad – and began pecking at the tablet screen. Initially, she was overly confident in her ability. “This is easy! I think I’m even better than Daddy!” she boasted. But after a few more swipes, her neck and jaw began to tire, and she put her hand up to the stylus to give it some extra support.
Dad was watching. “Nope,” he said. “No using your hands.” She slapped her arm back down to her side and groaned. But she kept going. She kept at it. She was playing a running game, and she moved her character from side to side, and up and down with slow, deliberate movements of the mouth stylus.
She played for a good 20 minutes until she announced that she was done, and that using the mouth stylus is actually a lot harder than it looks.
But she did it. And that’s what my husband wanted to show her – wanted her to prove to herself. Yes, it was harder than just using her hands and fingers. There’s no doubt about that. But by adapting – in this case by using a special tool – she was still able to control her tablet, just in a different way.
Just like Dad does.
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