Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Disabilities or Abilities

A friend of mine passed on this video of one of the most inspiring young women. HeeAh Lee was born with only two fingers on each hand and legs that had to be amputated at her knees. She was so sick and weak when she was young, the doctors didn’t think that she would survive. Her spirit proved them wrong.

Her hands were so weak that her mother started her taking piano lessons, hoping that it would help. HeeAh Lee surprised everyone. Not only did her fingers get stronger, but she was amazingly gifted. She learned to play piano better than most pianists that play with 10 fingers. Audiences around the world now hear her play.


When I played this video the other day, Tyler, my 18 year old son, happened to be nearby. A piano player himself, he asked who was playing the piano on the computer. When I told him that it was a young woman with 4 fingers, he didn’t believe me. He actually had to come and watch for himself. As he watched, he told me how hard that piece was.

After watching this, I thought about another of my children who has a severe hand disability. It really made me think about the expectations that I have set for him and made me rethink the best way to parent him. This video made me think about special needs and how I view them.

When you look at a person with a disability, do you think about those things that they can’t do instead of being open minded about their abilities? Do we set lower expectations raising a child with a disability? How do we best parent a child with a disability, giving them all the support they need but not setting limits?



  1. My sister in law, now 45 years old, has Downs Syndrome. She has a fairly high level of functioning. Her large family has always been nurturing and loving, so she has always had terrific support. Yet, I often wonder how much more she could have done if her family had helped her push her comfort level a bit, instead of cocooning her.

    The teacher in me says try everything and pursue activities that appeal to the child. Instead of thinking "maybe that's not such a good activity" think "how can we make that activity work".

    One of the best gifts we can give our children is the positive can-do attitude, then no matter the challenge, they face it with the potential of success, rather than the assumption of failure. Guess which attitude produces more successes? Of course, the next lesson is to accept that we all have different strengths, but when more is attempted, the child has more opportunities to discover strengths.

    I was born with a cleft palate, yet my parents always instilled in me the thought that I could do whatever I put my mind to. While I still have limits, I also have lots of choices.

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I agree, a positive can-do attitude needs to be at the forefront of what we teach our children - whatever life brings them.

    I appreciate your comments...they are very thoughtful!

  3. Karen,
    You are a wonderful person - not only for the great works you do with children who are born into incredibly difficult situations, but for continuing to raise the bar with questions like you pose in this article. You help all of us continue to challenge ourselves to think differently about how we can help those in need - with disabilities or otherwise.

    In this case, by helping remind us that if we focus on what can be done, vs. what we sometimes presuppose cannot be done, we are sure to overcome many of these assumed obstacles, and rise to new levels of humanity & greatness. Great article - well done.

  4. What a wonderful point to be made. We need to have that positive can-do attitude in everything that we undertake....disability or not. What a great way to look at life in general.

    Thank you for your comments...they continue to make me think about how I can be a better person and a better mom.

    Wonderful thoughts!!!