“Low expectations” can be a limiting factor in any area of human endeavor. They exist in all generations and cultures and are frequently established by societies, institutions, and agencies to define certain limits of behavior. Although the focus of this blog is disability and rehabilitation, the conclusions can apply to other arenas.
Approaches to medical problems are complex. Most individuals facing disability experience confusion due to lack of information or experience. Primarily, they rely on professionals, media, advertising, Internet, and agencies including third-party payers to guide their decisions.
As medicine and rehabilitation become more specialized, research, technology, and options are increasing, as is confusion over appropriate care, cost effectiveness, and financial resources. Essentially, misinformation continues to be communicated due to inexperience, prejudgement, and lack of openness on the part of professionals. While scientific knowledge is important, professionals cannot limit thinking to accepted theory, standard guidelines, and agency minimums.
I grew up in Chicago, a mecca of medical and prosthetic care, and was fortunate to have more advocates for testing the limits than adversaries who limited their thinking regarding my potential as a high-level hip disarticulation. The fact that I came from a large family, and a $700.00 prosthesis was beyond our financial means, I was referred to the Division of Services for Crippled Children. The agency required a two-year waiting period on cancer patients before they would authorize a prosthesis. Dissatisfied with this low expectation for me, my doctor wrote a prescription stating I needed the limb, and my prosthetist’s American Legion Post funded my first prosthesis. Within six weeks I returned to clinic wearing my new “leg.” Propelled by determination and PTs, I mastered walking, stair climbing, bicycle riding, and roller skating.
The amputation made me eligible for a special education school with daily transportation, and no stairs to climb, etc. Fearful of becoming labeled handicapped and isolated from my peers, I asked to return to my home school where I had to keep up instead of accepting lowered standards. Working as a nursing assistant in college, I asked for a knee that would allow me to walk faster. Despite common wisdom was that the technology would not work for a hip disarticulation prosthesis, the team agreed to try the knee, which I quickly mastered and never looked back.
My application to nursing was challenged due to my amputation. Armed with several letters of recommendation, I completed the bachelor’s and master’s programs in nursing with honors. Again, low expectations would have held me back in these ways that were ultimately shown to be unwarranted.
The message here is that neither children nor adults should be tyrannized or limited by low expectations. Our job should be to support people in living a full quality life. View each situation individually, and it becomes easier to see possibilities rather than problems.
This blog will explore challenging situations to encourage different perspectives. Your comments are welcome!