The Meadows Blog

Physical Challenges

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 11, 2018

For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability.

However, many of the adults who work with us also live with physical challenges. Because this form of disability is typically more visible, it can elicit a variety of responses from the public, including sympathy, pity and the belief that to live with such a challenge is somehow “inspiring”.

But our employees simply face their physical issues as part of their lives. Nothing more or less. They do not dwell on the fact that they use a walker for their balance, or that they need leg braces for strength and stability. They are not concerned that they utilize a wheelchair for long distances. It is just part of their life. They accept it and move on.

Physical challenges can occur for many different reasons. Everything from being born with cerebral palsy to having a stroke, brain tumor or traumatic brain injury can all result in paralysis, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and neurological impairment.

Every one of these issues is experienced by at least some of the individuals we employ. But each day, with patience and perseverance, they are able to do their jobs despite the particular challenges they face. They are not trying to be inspirational; they are just attempting to do their work to the best of their ability.  

Obviously, living with physical challenges can add complexity and stress to everyday life. Many of the things that you and I take for granted, such as freedom of movement, strength, and stamina, are lacking in some degree for those we employ. 

Anyone who has broken their arm or leg knows how it changes your daily experience. Not having the full use of your extremities alters almost everything you do. You constantly have to make adjustments, and sometimes you have to rely on others for help.

It is the same for the men and women of the Meadows. Occasionally they need assistance with certain tasks, but despite a wide array of challenges, each person is able to do their job. The fact that modifications are sometimes required in their work environment does not diminish their achievements.

It is the way our employees choose to deal with their physical challenges that make the difference. They show up for work each day determined to be successful no matter obstacles they face. And although they might have to alter how they approach their work assignment, it does not frustrate them. Their sense of satisfaction is derived from completing their job. How it was accomplished is of no importance. All that matters is that they were able to finish what they started.

I have watched as our workers displayed tremendous creativity in how they dealt with a particular task. Often they do not need to ask for help because they cleverly find ways to perform their job assignments on their own. To them it is nothing extraordinary, it’s just what they need to do in order to achieve the desired outcome. Their physical challenge doesn’t register with them as an impediment. It is nothing more than something to work around.

Unfortunately, however, we often consider them to be broken or incomplete in some way. We view them as someone who is not perfect, someone who is less. We unfairly impose our bias and misconceptions on a person instead of accepting them for who they are.

It is astounding just how foolish we can be.

To discount someone whose body looks or moves differently than yours is the height of ignorance because neither of those circumstances plays any part in determining the worth of a person.

For our employees, having a physical challenge does not prevent them from enjoying their lives. They are actively involved in the community. They have many interests, and they pursue their hopes and dreams with passion.

These men and women set an example for all us to follow. They do not obsess over their challenges - so why should we?

Ultimately, we must understand that having an intellectual or physical challenge is not nearly as debilitating as being intolerant and judgmental.


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Michael Crawley - Tuesday, December 03, 2019

It is an undeniable fact that human beings have always been willing to pass judgment and jump to conclusions about people who they believe are different from them. Unfortunately, this is particularly true when it comes to individuals with developmental disabilities.

These negative perceptions occur because we allow our emotions to guide our thinking instead of seeking the truth which can require effort and an open mind. Consequently, we are quick to label people with challenges and to categorize them for our own convenience. We fail to understand that no two people are the same and that each individual has their own personality and character. But we are, unfortunately, eager to form an opinion about their life without knowing a thing about them.

Here are five common situations that we are all familiar with. In each case, you encounter a person you think cannot possibly be a productive member of society.

You are shopping at the mall when two individuals walk past you. Suddenly one of them collapses with a seizure. You watch in shock as the convulsions run their course. Certain that the person lives in terror with the knowledge that a seizure could occur at any moment, you feel great sympathy for them. You assume their quality of life is compromised and that because of their epilepsy they cannot accomplish anything of significance.


You are eating at a restaurant when a person comes in with another adult. You can’t help but stare as they follow their hostess to their table. The individual has partial paralysis on one side of their body and there is visible scarring that indicates that they have endured multiple surgeries. The person walks with a pronounced limp, and you can see that their arm is immobile. You can’t imagine how they make it through the day living with those kinds of issues.


You are waiting to check out at the store. The individual in front of you is trying to communicate with the cashier, but their speech is extremely difficult to understand. The people behind you become impatient as the person struggles to convey their thoughts to the cashier who just wants them to move along and get out of the way. You feel great pity for the individual as you wonder what kind of “affliction” could’ve caused their inability to communicate clearly.


You are in line to buy a ticket for a movie when an individual standing with their mother becomes agitated about something. Very quickly the person’s behavior escalates and they begin to yell as they lose control of their emotions. Their mother tries to help them calm down, but she is not successful in getting the person to relax. You and others watch with silent disapproval as you harshly judge her lack of parenting skills for allowing this to happen in public.


You are waiting for an elevator. The doors open and a person carefully steps out pushing a walker. Their balance is precarious and their legs seem stiff and rigid. It is obvious that they would not be able to walk without the assistive device. You suspect their life is limited in countless ways because of their lack of mobility, and you can’t help thinking it would be better for them to stop trying to walk altogether and to just use a wheelchair.

What do these five people have in common?...... Yes, they each have a disability. Yes, it affects certain areas of their lives, and yes, their diagnosis is often used to unfairly define them. But what might surprise you is one other thing that they have in common. Something positive. Something meaningful. Something that deserves to be acknowledged.

All of these individuals are successfully employed at the Meadows.

Along with almost forty other men and women with intellectual challenges, these five individuals work each day at a variety of jobs that not only provide them with a hard-earned paycheck but also build self-esteem and self-confidence. They learn vocational skills, but, even more importantly, they are given every opportunity to reach their personal potential.

But when these same individuals go out in public, people rush to judge them based on nothing more than appearances. That kind of narrow-mindedness is unfair and unjust.

Obviously, there is an important lesson that must be learned.

When we encounter a person with an intellectual, physical or emotional challenge, we should treat them just like we would anyone else. They deserve to be understood and accepted for who they are as a person. They deserve to be treated with dignity. They deserve to be respected.

The men and women we proudly employ are perfect examples of what people with developmental disabilities can achieve in a positive work setting that offers support and encouragement.

The truth is simple. Every person, regardless of what their challenges happen to be, has the right to live their best life.

That is what our employees do every day.

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Physical Challenges

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 11, 2018

For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability. 
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The Meadows
Center for Opportunity

1000 South Kelly
Edmond, Oklahoma

phone: 405.348.4470
fax: 405.340.5395