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When I Told My Gym Teacher I'm Disabled

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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.

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Thinkstock photo by lzf.

Originally published: May 22, 2017
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