Person with a Disability: New Book Teaches that All the Other Complicating Adjectives of Personhood Still Apply
Thursday, September 13 2012
By Donna Emert
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho -- When Susan
Stuntzner was nineteen and injured her spine, there was not much information
available to demystify the process of adapting to it. Her first book,
"Living with a Disability: Finding Peace Amidst the Storm," addresses
“It was written initially to be a resource for people going through the
experience of acquiring a disability and adjusting to it, relating both my own
experience and the knowledge I gained through education and research,” said
Stuntzner. “Trying to adjust can be a very isolating experience, primarily
because it is not easy to meet others who know what it's like to live life
following a disability.”
The book illustrates, by example, the arduous process of mental, spiritual,
social and physical adjustment. It also exposes the dehumanizing cultural
assumptions that people with disabilities are either weaker than or more
courageous than others. Those assumptions are pretty much fingernails scraping
across the karmic chalkboard of Stuntzner’s post-injury experience.
The need for such a book has intensified for other reasons as well, said
Stuntzner, noting that insurance companies are now reducing allowable hospital
recovery time and rehabilitation care.
with disabilities and their families are not given enough information,” she
said. “And when they’re released, they’re on their own to figure it out.”
The first book, recently published by the Counseling Association of India and
available on Amazon.com, also will serve as a textbook for educating counselors
in India. It incorporates questions at the
end of each chapter aimed at both students and professionals, and it concludes
with an overview of approaches in the final two chapters.
Stuntzner is program coordinator and assistant professor for the
Rehabiltitation Counseling and Human Services Program at University of Idaho
Coeur d’Alene. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from Portland State
University and a doctorate in rehabilitation psychology from University of
Wisconsin, Madison. She researched and wrote the books over the last two and a
half years, while teaching and advising from 10 to 25 students.
While finalizing the first book and redrafting a second — also slated for
publication by the CAI — Stuntzner’s
greatest challenges included time management and the personal nature of
the subject matter.
“Just putting my life and experiences out there was difficult,” Stuntzner said.
“I did it in hopes that it would help others. Unless you walk the path, you really don’t know what those experiences are
like. No one ever really prepares you.”
She recently submitted the second book, "Reflections From the Past: Life
Lessons for Better Living," for publication. It focuses on coping skills
tied to resiliency. She is now at work on a
third book, looking at how families are impacted by and cope with disability.
Her original intention for the books is different than what they have
become, said Stuntzner.
“Historically in our society there are such negative connotations of
disabilities, and the abilities of people
living with a disability. I hope these books provide some validation of the experience
for those going through it and help persons with disabilities find their voice.
As a person with a visible condition, I also think it’s important to open
people’s minds: Our lives are not tragic, or awful, or a ticket of doom. The
books are about trying to change attitudes, as well as helping people cope
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu