They Just Adapt

November 26, 2012 — 9 Comments

I’ve been feeling very inspirational-y lately.

Lots of thinking about dreams and stars and how to reach them and such.  So, when I found this picture the other day, it really resonated with me:


“Dad of the Year” goes to…my dad!

Look at me there, reading the sports pages on the toilet just like every other all-American boy.  “I don’t care how many hands he has! He WILL read on the john even if I have to help him at first!” said my dad.  I’m starting to choke-up a little bit…

Finding that picture was perfect timing, too.  Nikki, a woman I used to work with, had just sent me a message telling me about meeting a little girl who had a limb-difference and she closed it with this:

“Anyhow, just saying that meeting a little one who has only one hand and watching her maneuver around and get into trouble made me realize what you always tried to tell me: It’s all she has ever known and she has adapted to it and it’s her normal. It was a cool realization.”

I can’t tell you how good this made me feel.  My contention has always been, and always will be, that limb-different kids will “figure it out,” whatever the task.  In fact, the videos I make are not really instructional videos.  I make my how-to videos to show people, especially parents, how do things with one hand; not how they or their kids should do it.  The actual intention of these videos is two fold: 1) To show that the task can be done, period, and 2) To encourage the viewer to figure out his/her best way.

My experience as a congenital amputee (born that way) was that I never had to adapt to anything, per se.  I was born the way I was, so just like every other kid ever born, I had to figure out how to do things.  I never thought, “How will I do this with one hand?”  I simply wondered, “How will I do this?”  Certainly, I did things differently than kids with two hands, but it wasn’t as if I learned how to do it two-handed and then had to re-learn it.  I learned it one way; my way.


Open this present? YES. YES, I WILL.

As usual, I’m speaking from my experience as a person who was born with one hand.  I’m sure it’s different for those who lose limbs traumatically.  That’s a whole different ball o’ wax.  These folks really do need to adapt.  They need to re-learn everything.  And they will.  On a recent visit to a prosthetist, Ken told me, “Amputees adapt fast.  If you don’t get a prosthetic on ’em within a month or two, the chances they’ll actually stick with it are slim to none.  By that time they’ll already have started to adapt to a new way of doing things.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you’re wondering, “How is my child going to ________?” just you wait.

They’ll show you.

How has your child surprised you?  Or showed you a new way of doing things?


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

9 responses to They Just Adapt

  1. Thanks for writing this! I’ve heard it before, and truly do believe it, but it helps to hear it again and rethink on how true it has been so far.

  2. My daughter who is now four years old was born missing three digits on her left hand. I can say my sweet little girl truly amazes me daily. My only concern is when she starts school. Any advice on how to deal with the upcoming school years and also the other children would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You,
    Samantha (A very proud mother)

    • Hey Samantha,

      My daughter, Faith, had to have her left hand amputated when she was 9 months old. She is five now and started Pre-K this year, and I was beyond nervous. The night before school started as we were picking out her clothes she told me she was going to be the cutest kid in school! She was so full of confidence and excitement when I thought she would be nervous and insecure!! Don’t worry, your daughter will do great! Just always remind her how beautiful and special she is. We started a website, Facebook, and Instagram called Faith Conquers where I post photos and videos of Faith doing everyday things one handed, and that has helped boost her confidence so much because it reminds her of all the things she CAN do. And it’s been tons of fun for us too!

      Good luck and keep up the good work! God bless you and your little girl!

      -Nicole (another very proud mother)

  3. Samantha,
    We created a book on the first day of kindergarden with the purpose of heading off a lot of the anticipated questions. The teacher read it to the class and it was filled with colorful pictures of what my son could do, just like everyone else. I didn’t attend for this because he preferred I not be there, but your daughter may be different.

    I find that “role play” is helpful so they are already prepared for their response when a negative comment is made. Most of the time the intent behind it isn’t malicious, but simply asked out of curiosity. However, a little girl at a local food chain recently said to my son, “Your arm looks ugly.” I was so proud of his response (that we had practiced). He said with a smile on his face, “That’s okay, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it.” 🙂 I actually recommend this kind of “role play” with all kids (however many hands they have), because most people are faced with an unkind gesture at some point in their life.

    • Crista, My son started preschool in the fall and I want to create such a book for his class- is there any way you could share your book so that I might have a better idea on how to put such a book together?

      Samantha, Aidan’s main problem with other children ( age 3 to 5) is that they are constantly wanting to hold his arm or they keep asking him when his arm is going to finish growing. He ignores these comments. I think it bothers the teachers more than it does him. At home we have always told him, be proud of who you are – we are all born different, I have to go. Good Luck.

  4. Ryan, great post as usual. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I find it truly inspirational. My 5 year old son Phoenix is a congenital amputee, right arm above elbow. He was fitted with a prosthesis shortly after his first year and at first he wore it regularly. However, as soon as he learned to talk and express what he wanted he started rejecting his prosthetic arm. At first, my husband and I tried to encourage him to use it thinking that it would be a valuable tool for him to do certain things (using scissors, writing, etc), but slowly but surely Phoenix has shown that he doesn’t really need it, and has his own way of doing things. So, now instead of trying to stuff him into his prosthesis to train him to do things our two-handed way, we just let him figure things out. He is in school now, and he is doing great and proving that doing things one-handed is just another way of doing things.


  5. My sister was born without a right hand, and she did just about everything all the other kids did. Now she types, quilts, sews and crochets beautifully. She’s incredibly talented! She and I just wrote a children’s book about a doll without a right hand who goes on an adventure to find a child to love and be loved by. Our hope it’s that it will help limb different children to realize their worth. It addresses bullying as well, so it’s really a book for all children. Teach them tolerance early!!! Of course my amazing sister made the main doll, and it’s beautiful!! My hat is off to all you limb different people and how you’ve adapted so well in what can often be a cruel world.

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