Commentary: A disability is only a part of what makes me who I am

  • February 11, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

By Stacy Ellingen

Stacy Ellingen, who graduated from Fond du Lac High School in 2003, attends the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
She lives with athetoid crebral palsy.

Sometimes I wonder where I’d be today if I didn’t have a disability.| What would be I doing? Where would I be? What type of person would I be?

I’m not talking about just being “normal” for a day, but what if the words cerebral palsy, disabled, handicapped, different, etc… never were associated with me? Wow! Although that’s hard to imagine, I have some ideas of what my life would be like.

I would have probably gone to college to become a teacher. I always have loved kids and since my mom and a few relatives work in the education field, that’s probably where I would have ended up. I wouldn’t have gone to school at UW-Whitewater; I’d have gone to probably UW-Oshkosh or UW-Green Bay for teaching. I probably would have graduated already or be just about done with school and looking for a job by now. Oddly enough, I think I would gone into special education — that or elementary education. (I’m not sure if my interest in special education is because I have a disability or not; most likely, it does.)

Who would my friends be? I honestly have no idea. I’d like to think I’d have the same friends, but I know that’s not true. I have met many awesome people because of my disability. One very special person I would have never met is Ann Haskett. She was my one-on-one assistant at school for 11 years (second-through-12th grade). Even though we don’t work together anymore, we’re still very close. She’s like my second mom. I can’t imagine my life without her.

Not to mention all my therapists and other assistants over the years, I can’t even fathom my life without them. I wouldn’t have met any of my college friends. Granted, I probably would have met different friends wherever I went, but would some have disabilities? Unfortunately, probably not. Like I’ve said before, people are more likely to hang out with people that have something in common with them. Would I be friends with my able-bodied friends? I’d sure like to think so, but it’s highly unlikely.

I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I’m sure I’d have different perspectives on a lot of things. I’d like to believe that I’d have the same morals and beliefs, but I honestly don’t know.

Having a disability changes almost everything in my life. Since I’ve always had a disability, I’m blessed to not know life any differently. My disability has not made me the person I am, but it’s part of my life. Without my disability, who knows who I’d be today? I can’t say I’d wish to have a disability, but, thanks to the amazing people in my life, I’m making strides in life that many people didn’t think possible.