Scoliosis – seeing the curve

by Edward Henkler on December 2, 2014

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m passionate about improving quality of life and increasing employment opportunities for folks who are differently-abled. John Robinson’s OurAbility is a great resource for companies that believe in the value of hiring individuals with disabilities. His website also begins to address one of the challenges with invisible disabilities. The real and perceived stigma associated with disability causes many people to hide diagnoses such as hearing impairment and intellectual disabilities. This is a two-sided problem as it reduces the effectiveness of the employee, potentially frustrating both employee and employer. Today I became aware of another disability which I would never have classified as invisible, scoliosis.

The majority of you probably know that scoliosis is a curvature of the spine but do you realize that 1-in-40 people will be diagnosed with it during their life? Unlike humans, it is completely nondiscriminatory and can affect anyone at any age. 85% of the cases are idiopathic, meaning that there is no identifiable cause. The good news is that it can be stabilized if caught early but that happens infrequently and a very simple screening process is seldom applied. Failure to detect it early can lead to painful corrective surgery and, left untreated, death can result. As with any disability, people are reluctant to admit that they have scoliosis and the right clothing can often hide even significant curvature.

SHIFT Scoliosis

I’ve chosen to post on this topic for three reasons. The first is a reminder that there are many more individuals than we realize who are differently-abled and failure to appropriately accommodate them diminishes their contributions. Perhaps more importantly, I want to draw attention to SHIFT Scoliosis. This is a wonderful organization which was founded by Sami Petersen. Her goal is to increase early diagnosis and remediation while giving others the courage to publicly acknowledge their difference. Lastly, Sami is a reminder that we can’t control the challenges life throws our way but we can always control how we react to them.

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