Diann Shaddox Foundation for Essential Tremor
My story by Brittany Adler
Being told at fifteen, “you are going to change the world”, made me realize I am meant to be a physical therapist. At a young age, I began my journey to help and inspire people to always be their best. I was born with a neurological movement disorder called Dystonia, causing my muscles to contract and affecting my speech. I do not consider this a handicap. I do not use my handicap as an excuse to hold me back from achieving my goals. I want to use my experiences to help others as a competent and compassionate physical therapist.
My Dystonia challenged the normal progression and successes of every childhood developmental milestone. When I was eight months old, I started physical, occupational and speech therapy. I not only had to be taught to walk, but also had to learn to transition from sit to stand, to steady my balance and to hold and grip with my hands. I received therapy to learn how to form sounds and words so I could speak. I had to make a conscious effort to learn things that most people do automatically. Finally, at three and a half years of age, I took my first steps. Once I started walking, there was no stopping me. Those steps were my first steps toward my goal of making a difference in people’s lives.
While achieving milestones later and challenged more than most, I was committed to achieving my goals while continuing physical, occupational and speech therapy and coping in an otherwise “normal” social environment. Despite my handicap, persistence was iconic with all activities throughout my childhood. I participated in difficult academic programs and “sports” like others my age.
Community volunteering has always been very important to me. I was active in the Girl Scouts for eleven years. I understood the meaning of community and had a keen desire to help others. I focused my passion for young children as a counselor and teacher assistant. I discussed my disability with age appropriate conversations to discuss the vast differences that all the children might be confronted with. Respect and tolerance became apparent.
I graduated high school cum laude. I attended Florida Atlantic University, studying Exercise Science and Health Promotions. The school had no prior experience with my kind of physical condition. The department was uncertain about the workload of classes and physical aspects of this major for me. I knew my potential. I even started volunteering at a ranch for children with disabilities with the use of the horses’ movement (hippotherapy). I am so inspired and proud to be a part of this program. This has reinforced my interest, passion and commitment inhelping children with disabilities. I had no doubts about what I could accomplish. I never looked back.
I want to make a difference in children’s lives as a pediatric physical therapist. I want to show and teach children with disabilities that being different does not mean they cannot pursue their goals and aspirations. They can achieve and accomplish the things that are important to them if they put their minds to it. Many may underestimate the potential of children with disabilities to learn and grow mentally and physically. I want to motivate and challenge children with disabilities to do things and to try to be the best they can be.
I am never shy and always seeking to find the answers to any question. I am determined to be understood, to speak my mind and to be an integral,contributing part of a group. Acceptance is difficult even without a physical handicap. I have proven to others and, more importantly, to myself that I belong and will succeed in whatever I put my mind to.
In spite of my physical, verbal, and fine motor challenges, I have decided to face life head on. I want to educate others to consider everyone’s special strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has a handicap of some kind whether it’s physical or nonphysical. I am fortunate in so many ways. I want to help others, especially children, create opportunities. I hope to inspire everyone, adults and children, with and without disabilities to be the best they can be.
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