I sat in the chair looking at the piece of paper I had just dropped on the floor. I needed the paper for what I was doing so I had to pick it up. No big deal. Right? WRONG, it was going to be a problem. I couldn’t bend over to get it and I couldn’t get out of my chair and walk over to pick it up. You see the chair I was sitting in was a power wheelchair. Many of the simple reflex actions I used before my quadriplegia still came to me rapidly when I needed to solve a problem. Today was different and I knew it. My wife and my nurse were both gone at the time and so was the option that they could pick it up for me. I knew I had a major challenge before me the resolution of which would affect me the rest of my life.
As a teacher I had been working with students for over 34 years and was involved with some unique adventure based activities which tried to teach students to find alternative ways of problem solving. Mostly as a result of these experiences I truly believed there was a simple way to pick up that piece of paper. The real challenge I faced was to figure out how to do it. The solution finally came to me although it was not that day. Like most of my problem solving creations the answer was the result of hard work, frustration, failure, modifications and persistence. The ultimate success of my solution encouraged me to move on and find other simple methods of adapting ways l could solve other everyday challenges.
Some suggestions I would make in regards to finding alternative solutions:
1. Know there is a way.
2. Keep things simple.
3. Don’t get discouraged and give up.
Professor Randy Pausch in his book The Last Lecture wrote, “The
brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want
4. Think of failure as an opportunity for learning and growth.
5. Observe with an active mind.
After noticing hockey and lacrosse players had placed continuous
wrapping of tape on their sticks to prevent their hand from sliding past
a spot, I decided to do the same. The placement of these “stops”
allows tool manipulation without a strong grip.
6. Think outside the box.
7. When possible make tools multi-functional.
Try to create tools that can be used for different purposes.
8. Make tools interactional.
Any one of my tools can be used to pick up a different one if I should I
9. Be willing to modify.
I am constantly revisiting the tools and ideas I have already come up
with to try and improve them or make them more functional.
10. Be open to the suggestions and ideas of others.
11. Remember success builds success.