Submitted by Vane Carvelli
Living with a disability such as Spina Bifida is no easy feat for those of us who know all too well the many challenges that come along with managing this disability or any other type of disability all the while trying to balance our personal and professional aspects in life the best way possible.
It is no wonder many times, we may find ourselves stressed and exhausted when many things we face get to be overwhelming for us. Along with having a strong support team to help us through our journey which includes family, friends as well as a great medical team, individuals with disabilities should also find a positive outlet to project the various emotions we may be experiencing in a positive and productive way which can help us along our journey.
Having and taking part in extracurricular activities and hobbies is a great way to do just that. With so much going on around us many times on a day-to-day basis and dealing with routines of daily treatments we must do and even medical appointments to attend frequently, having a fun side activity to do is a great breath of fresh air to destress which can enhance our creativity and many times also includes physical benefits that improve our overall well-being. Children with disabilities particularly benefit tremendously by having and being involved in an extracurricular activity or hobby. Releasing all that energy they have inside can make it a little easier for parents, giving them some time to relax while their child is having loads of fun making new friends and learning to embrace their differences while doing so.
More information is provided in detail to help guide you into finding the right extracurricular activity or hobby for you and learning more of how having this may benefit you in the long run, not to mention all the fun you’ll have!
Find Your Natural Talents and Interests
Finding a new hobby or extracurricular activity should be given careful thought and consideration to what your interests are and what you are naturally drawn to and skills you may already naturally possess. Of course, if you would like to learn a new skill such as painting or playing guitar, that is perfectly fine and provides you the opportunity to set a new goal for yourself as well as applying discipline to achieve this new skill you’d like to learn. Discipline usually is a trait those of us who live with a disability already possess as we have probably grown accustomed to staying on top with our daily treatments, medications, as well as frequent medical appointments, so this advantage proves beneficial when learning something new. In case you are not sure what natural talents you may have or what strong skills you already possess, don’t hesitate to ask someone close to you who knows you well such as a relative or close friend who can provide you very useful feedback in helping you choose what hobby or extracurricular activity would be a great fit for you.
Take into consideration the physical side of what you may have in mind doing and don’t forget to keep an open mind. No one better than you knows your physical capabilities and what you feel comfortable doing, so don’t close yourself or be too hard on yourself if the idea of perhaps being in marathons or doing ball-room dancing feels a little physically overwhelming to you. Remember there are plenty of activities and hobbies to choose from. I personally recall when I was a young girl, I was very fixed on the idea of being in gymnastics. I had 3 spinal surgeries throughout the years that also included foot surgeries which did complicate quite a bit that specific sport I had chosen. Fortunately, my mother pointed out to me my natural talent for writing poetry and essays since my elementary school days and I began to navigate the craft of writing instead which ended up bringing me much satisfaction throughout the years as well as recognition for something I greatly enjoyed doing. So moral of the story, don’t limit your options!
Ask and Observe
If you need a little more guidance in choosing a hobby or an extracurricular activity, a tip is to ask and observe what other individuals with the same or similar disability you have are participating in. Many hobbies and activities can be modified to facilitate participation such as wheelchair basketball, tennis and even rugby for sports enthusiasts and there is painting, sculpting, drama, writing, and even attending poetry nights can be very enjoyable for those interested in the arts. A good recommendation from someone you trust with a similar disability can go a long way in helping you choose the right hobby or extracurricular activity for you as they already have a good idea of any challenges that might come along and know how to successfully face them allowing for full enjoyment of the activity.
A big benefit of individuals with disabilities being involved in an extracurricular activity or having a hobby is how it opens the doors to many new connections. You will share mutual interest in the activity or hobby you have chosen and you will also come into contact with individuals from all walks of life. Many individuals with disabilities have a very restricted social life and don’t get the opportunity to go out there and meet new persons, limited mostly to their family, caregivers and medical team. By expanding our horizons in this aspect, we open ourselves to new and rewarding relationships that can help us greatly in many moments throughout our journey with the mutual respect and appreciation we experience in new connections. Children also get the opportunity to practice their social skills and meet other children making new friendships while embracing their differences. Remember that your unique experiences and everything you have been through makes you special and we all have something to share and learn from one another so stay open to meeting new people which can result into a beautiful friendship!
There is no doubt as you have fun and naturally see yourself progressing in whatever activity or extracurricular activity you participate in, you will naturally feel great on the inside and of yourself! As individuals with disabilities, we many times have so much going on around us in our lives, that we may forget all the great things about us and unique qualities we possess that makes us special! Having your loved ones supporting your endeavors goes a long way too and reminds you that no matter what adversities in life you may face, you are capable of doing and accomplishing so much. You’ve made it this far, so always stay positive knowing you have the power within you to do many great things in life!
We must focus on our ABILITY not our disability!
Vane Carvelli is an adult with Spina Bifida who enjoys writing, reading, music and art. She volunteers for various non-profit groups and organizations in both her state and community and has poetry published on disability and diversity for different groups promoting inclusion for all.