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 that need.

“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.

 

“People 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 better.”

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About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho inspires 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. Through the university’s $225 million Inspiring Futures capital campaign, private giving will enhance student learning, faculty research and innovation, and a spirit of enterprise. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.





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.