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Valley Life for All: Lessons for the COVID-19 challenge

Debbie Wilde
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: The Vail Daily in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities. Twenty-seven percent of Americans experience some disability. One hundred percent are a part of our community. Each has a story.

If you have tuned in to this monthly column, you will have read story after story of people in our local communities who have met the challenges of physical, cognitive and/or emotional disabilities. They are not new to dealing with a different reality than most of us have faced. 

As we all share a new challenge labeled COVID-19, we can learn from our friends and neighbors who have grown strong making their way through a life that has been out-of-the-norm. In this new reality of challenge, they are the leaders.

You would think that diving into the lives of people who have been labeled disabled would result in hearing a lot of sadness, anger and defeat. Although those emotions surely are a part of their lives as they are each of our lives, that is far from their focus. That is why Valley Life for All coined the phrase “redefining the perception of challenge.” We found that the people whose stories we tell are keen to focus on their abilities, not disabilities. 

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In fact, the goal of our Valley Life for All advocacy is to share this perception so that others also lose the focus of disability; and instead, recognize that we are all differently-abled. In the discipline of psychology, there is a concept called reframing. Linda and Charlie Bloom write in Psychology Today: “One example of reframing is redefining a problem as a challenge. Reframing requires seeing something in a new way, in a context that allows us to recognize and appreciate positive aspects of our situation.”

Corey was diagnosed with a muscular disease at age 2 and has been in a wheelchair since second grade. “I can easily identify all the positives I got out of the negative. I am a realist. I know that the muscle degeneration that I experience puts limitations on my physical self, but it does not limit who I am.”

Cecilia is a mother of an amazing young adult with autism. She is a powerful advocate and a model of courage and perseverance. Knowing that Latino parents with special needs children are especially isolated moved her to begin the support group La Esperanza de Emily. “I said, Cecilia, you need to do something for yourself, and you can do something for other parents.“

Camy, who was born with a chromosomal syndrome that results in some developmental and emotional delays, gives us a pep talk about how to overcome our own challenges. “I want to pass along to people to say to yourself, ‘I can get over this and not be so fearful.’”

Faced with the COVID-19 challenge, will you choose anxiety and fear? Will you choose courage and perseverance? Will you choose to look for the positive day by day?

Read more of Corey, Cecelia and Camy’s stories and the stories of many others at http://www.valleylifeforall.org. Use them as a reminder that we choose the meaning we attach to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. That meaning directs our thinking and behavior. May we dig deep and find the courage to redefine the perception of our COVID-19 challenge.

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or on Facebook.


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