- Leah Kaplan was born with a physical disability.
- She is a special education teacher in an elementary school in Washington.
- In the school where she works, she met an 8-year-old student with the same disability as hers.
Having been born with a disability, Leah Kaplan knows what it’s like to be different from everyone else.
She has a “nubbin” at the end of her forearm that she serves as her hand. She was adopted from China at the age of six and raised in the United States, where she never saw anyone who looked like her.
Leah understands what it’s like to suffer in silence as a child, to feel so alone, and to see so many gorgeous people online and not feel good enough.
Leah overcame several insecurities regarding her limb discrepancy as an adult. She went to work as a special education teacher in a Spokane, Washington elementary school. She is a paratriathlete in her free time and intends to compete in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
It’s still unusual for Leah to come across someone with a limb difference similar to hers, so when she ran into Raegan Justesen, 8-year-old, in the school hallway, they were both taken aback.
Leah recalled, “She saw that I had a little arm before I even got the chance to see her and she pulled out her little arm in the hallway and she literally was like, ‘(Gasp) Oh my gosh!’ and she’s like ‘Look!’”
Raegan’s mother and grandmother later told Leah that their daughter couldn’t stop gushing about their meeting. The teacher now says she feels “like a celebrity” when she sees Raegan at school!
Leah was so happy to represent limb differences at school that she posted an Instagram photo of herself with Raegan.
She wrote: “On my first day, I met [Raegan]. She saw my arm before I saw hers. She had a surprised face look and took her arm out to wave to me. Little did she know, I would be a teacher at her school! Every time we see each other, we do the nub wave. I love seeing how proud she is of her arm.”
Leah later asked Raegan if she wanted to learn how to ride an adaptive bicycle, and gave her old adaptive bike, which has all of the gears and brakes on one side, to the second-grader when she enthusiastically consented. In the para-sports scene, Leah has found true acceptance and community, and she wants Raegan to experience the same.
“I just thought, ‘You know what, I want her to get into sports when she gets older and I want her to have a mentor because they said she has never been in a community with people with disabilities,” Leah explained.
This summer, Leah intends to train with Raegan in the hopes of getting her in triathlons! These two show that our differences may bring us closer together in unexpected ways.
Source: Inspire More