Especially for Parents: On Special Abilities and Overcomings
– by Vesna N. Rafaty
I recall how in June 2014, at the Art Picturehouse in Cambridge, England, I viewed a documentary film on the behind-the-scenes of the touring theatrical production of Shakespeare’s play Richard III. The doc is entitled Now – In the Wings on a World Stage. To prepare for the role, Kevin Spacey, who plays Richard III, donned various heavy contraptions on his body to simulate Richard’s disabilities which included scoliosis and other complex disabilities. It was initially thought that Kevin had to simulate 17 disabilities to accurately portray Richard. Eventually, however, Kevin, the consummate actor, acted the role convincingly with minimal external paraphernalia, including a cane, a hunchback and a limp. To do this Kevin stated that he prepared mentally by imagining how long it would take an individual such as Richard to overcome his disabilities and make them a strength, a man who was called “every name in the book” due to his disabilities, but also one born with very high ambition and a self-perception of royalty. The pivotal moment for Kevin, and collectively for the entire stage company, was the realization that for Richard III, the mere act of standing was in and of itself, and without more, an act of aggression, and an overcoming of disability that gave way to the underlying strength of resolve of the man. With that insight and empathy, Kevin Spacey was able to masterfully deliver King Richard III to the stage.
You must be wondering what in the world the above story, one that includes a complex, villainous king, has to do with special needs youth in transition. In our parent training entitled Take a Look Ahead – Empowerment for the Transition, Dylan and I teach the importance of self-discovery for the job-seeking youth – the importance of becoming self-knowing, knowing one’s interests and identifying one’s super-skills. This self-knowing helps the job seeker to self-advocate better and stand out during the job seeking process, including job interviews. We invite parents to help identify their son’s or daughter’s special hidden ability/abilities that co-exist(s) with the disability, maybe even because of the disability. Special abilities or strengths, when identified, help to validate the individual in his/her overcoming. Once identified, strengths can be nurtured and developed.
Loving parents usually know best the special ability that is present right alongside with their son’s or daughter’s disability. Parents intimately know their son’s and daughter’s overcomings. My son Dylan, born with a significant hearing impairment, was also born with an innate self-confidence, aspiration to leadership, desire for inclusion and sincere interest in and love of people. One of Dylan’s daily overcomings is his strength of ‘seeing-hearing’ people, empathizing, engaging and communicating with them, despite the profundity of his hearing impairment and the difficulties of experience associated with it and living with its accommodations. It feels good that Dylan is using and further refining his strengths in his role as entrepreneur at DylanListed and as advocate for job seekers with disabilities.
Our vision is that the special abilities, the overcomings of individuals with disabilities, are ones all employers will value and employ in an American workplace becoming transformed by greater utilization of individuals with disabilities who self-identify.
Let’s Work Inclusively!℠
PS: We are requesting permission from the film distributor to post and stream on this site the relevant video clip from the documentary film Now: In the Wings on a World Stage.