What’s it like?

Have you ever wondered what it was like for someone living with a disability?  How do they feel?  What do they think?  What’s it like to be in their shoes?

I realized that I didn’t know all that much, myself about so many of the different disabilities out there that people are faced with and decided to learn more.walk in my shoes  I would like to share what I found. Please keep in mind that this only scratches the surface of the many different disabilities that people live with. And some people live with several.

I’m giving you some information as well as some first-hand accounts of what it feels like for people living with various disabilities. Check out the videos and get a different perspective of life.  I learned a few things just from researching, watching and writing this article. I hope this helps you to understand and empathize with the many faces of disability and possibly think about how to lessen the additional challenge of employment that many people who live with a disability have to face.

Intellectual disability


A disorder with childhood onset that is characterized by limitations in intellectual functions, such as reasoning and learning, and difficulty carrying out the functions of daily life.
 Intellectual disability is a below-average cognitive ability with three characteristics:
  • Intelligent quotient (or I.Q.) is between 70-75 or below
  • Significant limitations in adaptive behaviors (the ability to adapt and carry on everyday life activities such as self-care, socializing, communicating, etc.)
  • The onset of the disability occurs before age 18.

Intelligence refers to general mental capability and involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience.

There are many causes of intellectual disability, factors include physical, genetic and/or social.

The most common syndromes associated with intellectual disability are autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Sometimes intellectual disability is also referred to as developmental disability which is a broader term that includes ASD (autism spectrum disorders), epilepsy, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, fetal alcohol syndrome (or FASD) and other disorders that occur during the developmental period (birth to age 18).

The major differences are in the age of onset, the severity of limitations, and the fact that a person with a developmental disability definition may or may not have a low I.Q. While some people with intellectual disability will also meet the definition of developmental disability, it is estimated that at least half do not meet the requirements for the developmental disability definition.


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  1. a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

Did you know …

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
  • Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
  • Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism


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Down Syndrome

Down syn·drome
ˈdoun ˌsindrōm/
noun: Down’s syndrome
  1. a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy (trisomy-21).

In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes.  Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes.  Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

– See more at: http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/#sthash.bLSLPM1k.dpuf


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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

fe·tal al·co·hol syn·drome


  1. a congenital syndrome caused by excessive consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy, characterized by retardation of mental development and of physical growth, particularly of the skull and face of the infant.

    Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can give birth to babies with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (sometimes known as FASD). FASD is the umbrella term for a range of disorders. These disorders can be mild or severe and can cause physical and mental birth defects. Types of FASD include:

    • fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
    • partial fetal alcohol syndrome
    • alcohol-related birth defects
    • alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder
    • neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure


    FAS is a severe form of the condition. People with FAS may have problems with their vision, hearing, memory, attention span, and abilities to learn and communicate. While the defects vary in degrees from one person to another, the damage is often permanent.

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Celebra Palsy

ce·re·bral pal·sy
ˌserəbrəl ˈpôlzē/
  1. a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.

While cerebral palsy  is a blanket term commonly referred to as “CP” and described by loss or impairment of motor function, cerebral palsy is actually caused by brain damage. The brain damage is caused by brain injury or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after birth.

Cerebral palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.

An individual with cerebral palsy will likely show signs of physical impairment. However, the type of movement dysfunction, the location and number of limbs involved, as well as the extent of impairment, will vary from one individual to another. It can affect arms, legs, and even the face; it can affect one limb, several, or all.

Cerebral palsy affects muscles and a person’s ability to control them. Muscles can contract too much, too little, or all at the same time. Limbs can be stiff and forced into painful, awkward positions. Fluctuating muscle contractions can make limbs tremble, shake, or writhe.

Balance, posture, and coordination can also be affected by cerebral palsy. Tasks such as walking, sitting, or tying shoes may be difficult for some, while others might have difficulty grasping objects.

Other complications, such as intellectual impairment, seizures, and vision or hearing impairment also commonly accompany cerebral palsy.

Every case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual. One person may have total paralysis and require constant care, while another with partial paralysis might have slight movement tremors but require little assistance. This is due in part by the type of injury and the timing of the injury to the developing brain.

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Learning Disability

The dictionary definition:
learn·ing dis·a·bil·i·ty
  1. a condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, especially when not associated with a physical handicap.

A learning disability  or LD is a neurological disorder. In simple terms, a learning disability results from a difference in the way a person’s brain is “wired.” Children with learning disabilities are as smart or smarter than their peers. But they may have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling and/or organizing information if left to figure things out by themselves or if taught in conventional ways.

A learning disability can’t be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong issue. With the right support and intervention, however, children with learning disabilities can succeed in school and go on to successful, often distinguished careers later in life.

  • Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities such as autism, intellectual disability, deafness, blindness, and behavioral disorders. None of these conditions are learning disabilities.

Common learning disabilities

  • Dyslexia – a language-based disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.
  • Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.
  • Dysgraphia – a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.
  • Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders – sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.
  • Nonverbal Learning Disabilities – a neurological disorder which originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, causing problems with visual-spatial, intuitive, organizational, evaluative and holistic processing functions.

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Psychiatric Disabilities and Mental Illness

Mental illness is a term that describes a broad range of mental and emotional conditions. Mental illness also refers to one portion of the broader ADA term mental impairment, and is different from other covered mental impairments such as mental retardation, organic brain damage, and learning disabilities. The term ‘psychiatric disability’ is used when mental illness significantly interferes with the performance of major life activities, such as learning, working and communicating, among others.

Someone can experience a mental illness over many years. The type, intensity and duration of symptoms vary from person to person. They come and go and do not always follow a regular pattern, making it difficult to predict when symptoms and functioning will flare-up, even if treatment recommendations are followed. The symptoms of mental illness often are effectively controlled through medication and/or psychotherapy, and may even go into remission. For some people, the illness continues to cause periodic episodes that require treatment. Consequently, some people with mental illness will need no support, others may need only occasional support, and still others may require more substantial, ongoing support to maintain their productivity.

The most common forms of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, andschizophrenia disorders. Brief introductory information about these conditions is presented in this section for educational purposes only.

Anxiety disorders, the most common group of mental illnesses, are characterized by severe fear or anxiety associated with particular objects and situations. Most people with anxiety disorders try to avoid exposure to the situation that causes anxiety.

  • Panic disorder – the sudden onset of paralyzing terror or impending doom with symptoms that closely resemble a heart attack
  • Phobias – excessive fear of particular objects (simple phobias), situations that expose a person to the possible judgment of others (social phobias), or situations where escape might be difficult (agoraphobia)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder – persistent distressing thoughts (obsessions) that a person attempts to alleviate by performing repetitive, intentional acts (compulsions) such as hand washing
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a psychological syndrome characterized by specific symptoms that result from exposure to terrifying, life-threatening trauma such as an act of violence, war, or a natural disaster

Mood disorders are also known as affective disorders or depressive disorders. These illnesses share disturbances or changes in mood, usually involving either depression or mania (elation). With appropriate treatment, more than 80% of people with depressive disorders improve substantially.

  • Major depression – an extreme or prolonged episode of sadness in which a person loses interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Bipolar disorder (also referred to as manic-depressive illness) – alternating episodes of mania (“highs”) and depression (“lows”)
  • Dysthymia – continuous low-grade symptoms of major depression and anxiety
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a form of major depression that occurs in the fall or winter and may be related to shortened periods of daylight

Research has not yet determined whether schizophrenia is a single disorder or a group of related illnesses. The illness is highly complex, and few generalizations hold true for all people diagnosed with schizophrenia disorders. However, most people initially develop the symptoms between the ages of 15 and 25. Typically, the illness is characterized by thoughts that seem fragmented and difficulty processing information.

Symptoms of schizophrenia disorders are categorized as either “negative” or “positive.” Negative symptoms include social isolation or withdrawal, loss of motivation, and a flat or inappropriate affect (mood or disposition). Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorders.

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