Sometimes people think about adults and children with disabilities as being one-dimensional. They see only their disabilities, and never really consider that, on top of facing the challenges posed by their disabilities, these adults and children also face the everyday ups and downs of life.
Take Marcus Ross, for example. Yes, autism, cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder present major challenges in his life, but they don’t have exclusive claims on him. There’s also the fact that, in the wake of his father’s stroke, Marcus has had to take on more responsibilities at home, including caring for lower-functioning family members. You see, he is part of a large extended family that has a total of 11 adult children with special needs, and his family’s Decatur Township home includes two generations and nine adult children, six of whom have special needs.
Oh, and his family recently endured three house fires.
But I’m not trying to show you how multi-dimensional Marcus is by telling you only about his difficulties. On the contrary: My point is for you to see Marcus as someone who has overcome difficulties, and who finds joy in life – so much joy that he does his own special dance.
It’s his resiliency that earned Marcus a chance to stand on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium before the Oct. 21 Indianapolis Colts game. He was named a Damar MVP through a partnership between the Colts and Damar. For each home game, one Damar client is treated to a limo ride to the game and a chance to be on the field for pre-game warmups. MVPs are honored before the game, and they get to meet Colts’ mascot Blue. Marcus was perhaps most excited about getting a new Colts shirt and the chance of seeing himself on TV and/or the Jumbotron.
Marcus didn’t earn his MVP status just by persevering. He earned it by making progress. When he began working with staff from Damar Services three years ago, he had another major challenge: managing bad behavior. His disabilities had left him poorly equipped to deal with frustrations, so he often responded in negative ways. The team at Damar helped him learn to control himself.
“It’s made all the difference,” said Lisa Trisdale, a Damar staffer who has known Ross since he was adopted as a baby – long before he came to Damar for services. “He’s learned how to process his feelings and stop acting out. After his dad’s stroke, he was able to talk about how scared he was.”
Like every other person with a disability, Marcus is more than his disability.
He is a human being who lives through highs and lows. He grows and progresses. He helps others and gets help himself. He has responsibilities and earns honors. He experiences sorrow and he experiences joy.
For Marcus, this joy just happens to be expressed through dance. “When he’s excited…he does what he calls his ‘yoga dance,’ where he raises his arms and wiggles his hips,” Trisdale says. With all the of the challenges he has overcome recently, Marcus has had plenty of chances to do his dance. The opportunity to dance at Lucas Oil Stadium was just the cherry on top!
If there’s one thing I could say to our MVP Marcus it would be: no matter what life throws at you, keep on dancing. It’s the simple joys in life that keep us moving forward when times get hard.