By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC
Last week, I shared the first of two columns featuring 26-year-old Kyle Maynard of Georgia, who was born with amniotic band syndrome resulting in all his limbs being congenitally amputated at birth, with his arms completely amputated at the elbows and legs at knees. He has been interviewed by Oprah and Larry King, been a top high school wrestler, and climbed Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro. To get around, he crawls on all fours or uses a manual wheelchair. He also is a motivational speaker.
I promised last week to share more about how he came to terms with his disability.
He said, “In my public speaking, I tell different stories about experiences that led me through the process of (self) acceptance. At some point, I realized I had to accept myself first before someone would accept me. In one story I tell, my grandmother used to take me into grocery stores and we would go up and down the aisles together shopping for dinner. She would set me in the front of the cart. I would introduce myself to people in the aisle and say 'Hi, I'm Kyle.' My grandmother said once people hear your voice, see your face, and shake your hand, the disability will fade away and they won't pay attention to it.”
Maynard attributed much of his self-acceptance to the positive and accepting attitudes of his parents, sisters, friends, teammates, and coaches.
He added, “I was 18 when I first started speaking and getting more media attention. That was tough because I had been a wrestler all through high school and (suddenly) went from being a wrestler to an 'inspiration.' I just wanted to be Kyle. Starting that new public speaking career was an especially tough period. It took me a while for me to accept that my story could help others. Then I realized that, in a lot of respects, it was my own insecurity keeping me from seeing it. Eventually, I had to realize the public speaking wasn't about me, but about the effect my story would have on someone else.”
As advice to a parent of a child with a disability, he said, “If your child's whole awareness is on his disability, it's almost as if that awareness will draw other people's attention towards it.” He suggested that one key to his success has been developing an identity that isn't based on his disability.
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