Every body is different, as is every brain. Everyone has strengths and challenges that impact their daily lives, and some are more outwardly visible than others. This collection features stories of people with diverse abilities and health conditions. Many of these audio stories offer examples of how being different, while sometimes challenging, can also be a source of strength. The collection illuminates the experiences of people who are neurodiverse or differently abled. It includes stories of how individuals with disabilities advocate for themselves, lead fulfilling lives, and combat stigmas surrounding ableism.
Natural disasters don’t just devastate our environment; they wreak havoc on our mental health as well. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. Psychologist Jean Rhodes studied the long-term mental health effects and health outcomes of young women living in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. However, Rhodes discovered something interesting after looking at survivors years after the trauma: many women gained strength despite the hardships--a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth. Listen to learn more about Hurricane Katrina and its destruction as well as the merits of being strengthened by adversity.
Many people know about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind woman whose struggle to communicate was immortalized in her 1957 autobiography, The Story of My Life. Keller’s book was made into several movies and adapted for the stage, making Keller a well-known figure. But few people have heard of Laura Bridgman, a woman who learned to overcome the loss of four of her five senses 50 years earlier than Keller. Listen to hear more about how one young woman, with disabilities similar to Keller’s, overcame great adversity.
In this interview, actor Henry Winkler discusses his own learning difference and that of Hank Zipzer, the main character in Winkler’s children’s book series. Hank, who is based on Winkler’s own experience as a child, struggles with learning to read, but works hard to succeed despite his challenges. Listen to learn more about Winkler’s story, how he persevered through his dyslexia and achieved success, and what he considers his greatest accomplishment.
Ancient Greek plays called tragedies were often about characters dealing with the aftermath of war. Today, these sad stories may help modern veterans recover from the emotional consequences of returning home from battle. Listen to find out what today’s veterans can learn from Sophocles’ play “Ajax,” written over 2,000 years ago.
Some people have trouble staying focused. Many of those people have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. A team at Yale University was able to identify children and adolescents with ADHD by studying certain connections in their brains. This finding adds to the evidence that ADHD is not just a behavioral problem. Listen to hear more about this new research.
Studies show that teen girls are more vulnerable to depression. In fact, girls are three times more likely than boys to become depressed, due in part to social pressures such as the overemphasis on physical appearance and the prevalence of social media. Not only are girls more likely to use social media, they also appear to be more vulnerable to the emotionally damaging effects of a constant, virtual connection. Listen to learn more about trends in teenage depression and the role of social media.
The number of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is growing in the United States. Unfortunately, many individuals with autism struggle to find work. In fact, 40% of people with autism are unemployed. As people with autism enter adulthood, they lose a lot of their services and many struggle through socially challenging one-on-one interviews. However, some corporations are creating recruiting and training programs in an effort to employ people with autism. Listen to learn more about the challenges faced by people with autism as well as the unique strengths that they bring to the workplace.
People who are missing an arm may use a high-tech artificial limb to help them with everyday activities such as eating or writing. These prosthetic limbs are very expensive, however, which means that it does not always make sense to use them for activities such as biking or playing baseball. To address this issue, a medical center is 3D printing custom prostheses that are much less expensive. Listen to hear how 3D printing is helping people, especially kids, fully participate in sports and other daily activities.
Some people who are deaf use assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants to help them hear. Others feel that using assistive technology impacts a deaf person’s identity. One teenager who was born deaf has had cochlear implants since she was a year old, enabling her to hear and speak. As a result, she has felt excluded by members of both the hearing and the Deaf communities. Listen to her reflections on her experience navigating both worlds as someone who is “hearing but deaf.”
A blind runner recently completed the New York City Half Marathon with his guide dogs. He has run many marathons with human guides, but completing this race was an important accomplishment for all involved. Listen to this story to learn about this courageous runner and his helpful dogs and find out what he hopes to do next.
The deaf community is considering how to say “Joe Biden” and “Kamala Harris” in sign language. Each of the country’s newly elected leaders has distinct characteristics, such as wavy hair or trademark sunglasses, that might translate into a sign. With the help of technology, the process of choosing new signs has become more inclusive, increasing the likelihood that they will be culturally sensitive. Listen to hear more about how new signs are chosen, and learn which ones are being considered for Biden and Harris.
Update: Since this story aired, the deaf community has agreed to use a name sign for Vice President Kamala Harris signifying a lotus, which is the meaning of her first name. A name sign has not yet been adopted for President Joe Biden, so fingerspelling is being used to represent him.
A teen diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes created an app to help himself and others manage the disease. Thirteen-year-old Drew Mendelow felt overwhelmed by all the data he had to keep track of as a diabetes patient, like food intake and blood sugar levels. He designed an app to help him, and he’s sharing it with as many other patients as he can. Listen to hear how a teen entrepreneur took action to manage his illness and help others, and learn why one medical professional thinks his efforts will make a positive difference.
Poet Amanda Gorman never expected to become a public speaker. Although she composed poetry from a young age, her speech impediment made it difficult for her to pronounce certain words. Recently, though, she stood at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and delivered an original poem at the inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden. At age 22, she is the youngest poet ever to receive that honor. Listen to Gorman describe why the event held special meaning for her, how she prepared for it, and why she sometimes revises her poems at the last minute.
For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.
A former cancer patient at St. Jude Research Children’s Hospital is scheduled to become the first person in space with an artificial limb. Hayley Arceneaux lost her leg to cancer when she was 10. Now she’s a physician’s assistant heading into orbit with SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, a project that is raising money for St. Jude. Listen to a pioneering young astronaut describe how she first heard about the mission and what most excites her about the upcoming trip.
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