It wasn’t the first time I had fallen. I was as used to falling as I could be. We practiced falling in physical therapy with the cushiony mats and I tried to tuck in my head or my arms to minimize injury. But one never really gets better at the suddenness of a fall.
How could I prepare for a fall that I didn’t know was coming? I never figured that one out. They scared me every time they happened in my childhood. That was a risk I took whenever I walked on my own. And back then, I was so excited to learn to walk by myself. I wanted to practice walking and balance skills more than I wanted to practice how to fall.
Then I fell at school in second grade. I was more afraid because I didn’t have the safety of my family to pick me right up and help me recover immediately after falling. I was confused about what had happened. My memory of that moment was gone. I had knocked my head. I just wanted to go home. But I had to go to the principal’s office first.
Friends loved to be “Laura’s helper” in the classroom. They were allowed to do various tasks for me and that day my friend had taken me out of my wheelchair to put my coat on for recess. I still don’t remember the moment before the fall or the actual fall, but I’ve decided that is a good thing.
It was hard enough to talk to the principal.
It was embarrassing to be sick to my stomach afterwards.
It was awkward to realize a freedom was being taken away.
When you fall at school, something has to change. I had enjoyed the freedom of letting my peers help me instead of calling for an adult every time I had a need. Friends still helped a lot throughout all of my school years. The way it looked changed after that moment in second grade.
I couldn’t jump up, brush myself off, and still go play outside for recess. I had to go talk about what happened.
In the talking, I became more aware of my disability and my physical needs.
As we discussed the changes, I dreaded giving up a little piece of independence.
But what could I do, except agree to the plan? I already knew we were redefining what I saw as normal in the classroom.
Whenever I’m forced to look at my disability and the effects it has on my life, I feel different. And it just might take me a little while to be okay and accept the changes.