New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

Imagine how things could change if we presumed that people who don’t have the usual oral communication do have compensatory skills. What if we presumed they can read our facial expressions and/or body language? What if we recognized that they would know when we’re lying, because they could pick up on facial cues that we may not know we’re projecting?

Kathie Snow

I have long wondered about “compensatory skills”—the notion that when a person does not have one particular physical ability, other abilities are enhanced and can compensate for the “missing” ability. Before I knew anything about disabilities (prior to my son being born in 1987), I was familiar with the idea that people who have little or no sight, for example, may have extra-sensitive touch or hearing, which enables them to successfully move through space by “seeing” in other ways. I don’t know if this is 100 percent accurate then or now, nor do I know if the idea of compensatory skills in every person could be scientifically proven. But it makes sense to me.

My son, Benjamin, has cerebral palsy, and when he was very little (and we did not yet understand the value of independent mobility, even for little bitty kiddos), he wasn’t able to move around and learn from his environment the way most babies and toddlers do.  For most children in the early years, movement (running, walking, sitting, jumping, etc.) is used as a primary learning technique. Benjamin could do none of those things on his own, and as he grew, we noticed he had incredible hearing and auditory memory skills. It seems that this way of learning (auditory) helped compensate for what he was unable to learn or do through mobility. As a result, language and words became critically important to him. It seemed the hunger for experimentation...Click hear to continue.

Invisible Abilities