Flowers and gardening are one of my passions. I love to plant flowers and watch them grow. I also like to take pictures of flowers and visit botanical gardens. So many people admire the beauty of the flower, but the process of growth the flower endures is unseen. I have often felt with my disability that people have my accomplishments, but few knew the work it took to achieve my goals.
All flowers go through the same transformation. The plant begins with a seed. It is unbelievable that a small seed will eventually turn into a flower. I remember holding the seed of so many dreams. I knew that I wanted to go to college, have a job working with students, becoming a writer, and getting married. I was often discouraged and had little faith in the small seed of my dreams. Despite my doubts I planted the seeds of my hopes in the soil.
The next stage of growth of a flower is germination. During germination little sprout-lings begin to develop. I can remember small improvements that began to happen gradually. I can remember my teachers telling me that I read with such expression. I still struggled with reading comprehension, math, and eye hand coordination, but I was starting to see what I was good at.
The flower goes from germination to becoming a seedling. The flower begins to produce leaves and begins to grow towards the sun. The sun nourishes the flower and helps it by giving it food. I can recall when I began to see leaves beginning to sprout with my disability. I was learning what strategies and accommodations I needed to succeed. My parents also spent time studying with me and advocating for me. The progress was slow, but the growth was steady. Despite my growth, I had people that told me that I had met my growth positional. I was told because of my difficulties with math, I could not handle college. I was told that I should pursue vocational trade school, even though nothing at the school interested me. Once I got to college, I was told that I would not go beyond an Associates Degree and that my job choices would be limited. I was also told by my adults and peers that I may not find a partner who loves me because of my disability. I spent many years being negative and always wanting more for myself.
Pollination is the next stage the flower goes through. The flower blooms and everyone gets to see its beautiful blossoms! The flower will be pollinated by other animals or the wind. The flower will also grow more seeds. I can remember when many of my dreams began to bloom. I was able to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree. I married a wonderful guy who loved me and accepted my disability. He encouraged me to try to do new things such as photography.
A flower needs to have sun, air, water, nurturing soil and space to grow. I had so many invest the nurturing support, that I needed to grow. My family never gave up on me and was there to support me. My teachers helped me to understand my disability and to find strategies to help me learn. My friends helped me by simply being my friends. It was not their job to fix me, but to be my friend. I have had so many people see my potential when I couldn’t see it. Faith has also been a huge influence on my growth. God has opened so many doors for me and has turned what was meant to harm me for my good.
Flowers also need to have the space to grow. If you plant seeds to close together, then the flower can get overcrowded and not be able to grow. When flowers have their space to bloom people can see and admire the bloom. I love how there are flowers of different colors and varieties. I have found that people often value diversity in nature, but not in other people. Too often people have narrow ideas on intelligence, and ability. If you don’t fit into a neat box you are often disregarded, and not celebrated. Each person with a disability comes with their own strengths and struggles. Individuals with disabilities also have things they like and dislike. Self-determination helps to give the space needed for the person with a disability to bloom.
Flowers go through quite a transformation from a small seed to a blossoming flower. So much growth happens that others cannot see. Much support is needed for the flower to produce lovely blooms. I have experienced a transformation in my life as well from the support of so many other people. I can now encourage others to bloom to their fullest potential.
About the Author
Michelle Steiner has been published on The Mighty, The Non-Verbal Learning Project, Imagine the World as One Magazine and The Reluctant Spoonie. She has a Learning Disability and advocates for others with disabilities. She works with children with disabilities as a para educator. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and cat.