Valley Life for All — Meet Alyssa
Editor’s note: The Aspen Times, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities.
Meet Alyssa: She is a professional bowler and has won gold medals for the 1500 meter race even though she was born with cerebral palsy. She has learned not to jump to conclusions regarding judging others who have a disability different from hers. It is a lesson she shares with us all. She has learned to live confidently.
In Alyssa’s words:
I have lived with cerebral palsy all my life. When I was young, I struggled to fit in socially. I did have friends, but I didn’t feel like there were many other students like me especially in middle and high school. I was lucky enough to be able to join the Special Olympics team “Roaring Fork Mountain Niños” when I was in high school. I competed in bowling, skiing, snowshoeing, swimming and track and field. In the beginning, like anything new, I found these sports to be challenging because of my cerebral palsy.
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My right side can’t do the same things my left side can do. In bowling, I remember struggling because I was the only left-handed bowler on the team. It really angered me because I felt like my other teammates did not have that same struggle. My coaches Paul and Cammi were very supportive and helped me improve. Bowling became a sport I really enjoyed competing in and is now a hobby of mine. In track and field, I worked my way to being able to run the 1500 meter and earned some gold medals.
Another aspect that I found a challenging in my first few years on the Special Olympics team was understanding and accepting people with disabilities that were not physical like mine. Because of my lack of knowledge at the time, I was not so nice. Through talks with my coaches and the help of my best friend, I learned that the teammates that don’t have a physical disability just take a bit more time to get to know. I spent my senior year of high school doing everything I could to be nice and get to know them better. That experience has made me realize that there is more to someone than a first impression.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” A big lesson I learned not only from my time with Special Olympics but from my best friend who has ADHD. You cannot jump to conclusions about people with learning or intellectual disabilities. People often do that. Even with me, people make snap judgments because I walk with a limp. There is more to my personality than the fact I walk with a limp. To me, it is the people that can look beyond my physical appearances that are my true friends.
Throughout my time with Special Olympics, I became more confident, made friends along the way, and learned to embrace my cerebral palsy. Though I may feel awkward at times, I know that even with my challenges, I am able to do whatever I set my mind to. Along with surrounding myself with others who accept me for me, I am living confidently with my cerebral palsy.
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.