When I Told My Gym Teacher I'm Disabled


Gym class is always an… interesting experience for me. (I have some stronger words to describe it but my parents check each post.) When I reveal that I have hypotonia, it generally never ends well. I laugh at the idea of being accepted in gym class or even being put up with. I’ve learned to get used to it; I feel like when you have a disability and everyone starts to accept it, that’s usually when you wake up from the dream. This year, it was even scarier, as I had just moved from middle to high school. But telling the teacher about my disability didn’t go as planned.

I tried to put it off for as long as possible, but since we always start the year off with physical fitness tests, I wasn’t able to procrastinate for that long. Eventually, when we went out on the track to practice for the half mile, I had to tell the teacher (let’s call him Mr. A). So as all the other girls took off running, I pulled Mr. A aside. Here’s how our conversation went:

Me: “Mr. A, I have something I need to tell you. I have hypotonia, a muscle disorder–”

Mr. A: “Yes, I know, I saw your shirt.” (I used my hypotonia awareness shirt as my gym shirt just in case.) “Are there any physical limitations I should know about?”

Me: “I am a lot slower at running. It is harder for me to do push ups and sit ups. Instead of walking half the track and jogging half the track, I may have to walk three-quarters of the track, or even the whole track.”

Mr. A: “Don’t worry about it. I understand if you need to walk; don’t stress about it.”

I walked, or should I say jogged, away completely in shock at how well that went. I figured it was only a matter of time until he got fed up with me and my lack of athletic ability.

About a week later, we were going to go run the half mile for real. The day before, I had been running around like crazy, and I had definitely overexerted myself. My legs and ankles were hurting so bad, I knew I would never be able to run that day. This was the real test: would he be accepting of me, or would he threaten to send me to the dean? I had no choice, so I took a deep breath and walked up to him.

Mr. A: “Everything all right?”

Me: “Mr. A, I’m so sorry but I don’t think I can run–”

Mr. A: “Don’t worry about it, just walk. It’s fine, no stress, OK?”

I was so amazed. There wasn’t even a hint of sarcasm or frustration in his voice. This has never happened to me in the history of gym class. I actually thought I was dreaming! What really astounded me, though, was after we went back in the gym. While we ran the track, the teachers timed us and told us our times. When we sat down, he called all of our names and we yelled out our time. I, obviously, did not get a time since I was walking, so I was trying to figure out what I would say when he called my name. But he saved me the embarrassment — he skipped over my name and just called the next girl on the list. No one noticed.

This proved to me that he actually does care about me, and he’s not going be the kind of teacher who sends me to the dean. He proved to me that I can trust him, that I don’t have to be terrified before each gym class. Mr. A, if you are reading this, I want you to know how much I appreciate the things you’ve done for me. It may not seem like much, but you don’t know how much you helped me out. I am much calmer before gym because I know if something happens, you will have my back.

Even just by casually mentioning that you noticed my shirt, I knew in my heart this year was going to be different. So thank you, Mr. A, for making gym class significantly better than the last three years.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by lzf.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Hypotonia

Three high school girls talking by their lockers

What My School Day Looks Like as Someone With Hypotonia

School is not fun for many people, but I have hypotonia and it can be downright hard. Each day leaves me out of energy and in lots of pain. This is what one school day looks and feels like for me: 6:00 a.m. Getting Ready My alarm goes off, I groan and reach for my phone, [...]
Girl hugging relative at holiday gathering.

5 Things on a Person With Hypotonia's Holiday Wishlist

It’s that time of year again — it’s almost Christmas! And although everybody is different, here are 5 things I believe almost everybody with hypotonia would love to get for any occasion: 1. Patience. Each person with hypo has different limits. Some of us can stand for a while, but can’t run fast, while others [...]
Group of school children singing.

Why I Sing Even Though the Odds Are Against Me Because of Hypotonia

Anyone who knows me well (or let’s face it, anyone who’s had a five-minute conversation with me) knows how much I love singing. I am in a chorus class, an after-school chorus, and a Girl Scout chorus. I am especially devoted to Girl Scout chorus; it’s the two hours a week I don’t feel like [...]
Two teen girls bullying another one.

To The Teachers Who Don't Understand My Hypotonia

Dear Teacher, I know your job is hard. Kids are a pain in the neck. And middle school and high school teachers, I know you have it harder, putting up with over 100 kids a day. The “normal” kids are annoying enough, so I know how frustrating it can be when you see “that kid” [...]