The Camp Abilities Story: Introduction to Adapting.

By Lauren Lieberman. 


The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1 of The Camp Abilities Story. 


Just as sports started early with me, so did adapting, although I never called 

it that. It was just normal family life. My older sister Ann had a beautiful 

head of brown curly hair and was way beyond her years in academics. She 

was also born hard of hearing. When she needed hearing aids, our parents 

spared no expense. In those days, hearing aids didn’t work very well, so she 

had a hard time eliminating background sounds. We learned to face her 

when we spoke, and to avoid covering our mouths. It was my first lesson 

in lip reading. 


My younger brothers, Marc, and Eric, were active, energetic, and fun 

little boys, always ready to play games outside. Marc had dark curly hair, 

sparkling eyes, and very long eyelashes. Eric’s curly reddish-blond hair and 

huge dimples enhanced his adorable smile. What I was too young to notice 

was the delay in their development. Both were held back in first grade so 

they could catch up with their peers. Eric, the youngest, had oral motor 

problems. He often needed to be reminded to swallow. My parents were 

concerned about both boys, so they took them to a Doman-Delacato clinic 

in Philadelphia. Marc was diagnosed with dyslexia, which was not a common

label, and difficult to treat in the 1970s. Both were given homework 

exercises involving patterning therapy. My mother sewed patches onto the 

knees of all their jeans, and every day the boys had to crawl, first moving 

one arm and then the opposite leg forward in what’s known as reciprocal 

crawling. They crawled through the tentacles of our 1970s lime-green shag 

rug as if they were crawling through a field of grass. We’d call out “right, 

left, right” as they traced patterns around the large wooden dining table 

for fifteen minutes every day. Eventually the patches faded to white and 

the tentacles of the rug wore thin. 


The training didn’t end there. Using only their eyes and not their 

heads, they had to follow the beam of a flashlight for a set amount of time. 

We glued a penny to the middle of the flashlight for Eric so it would be 

easier for him to follow. For Marc, we used a penlight. He had to follow 

the pinpoint of light––up, down, left, right, up, down, left, right––for ten 

minutes at a time. These exercises helped to strengthen their eye muscles 

to make it easier for them to read. 


The therapy became a family effort. I helped Eric with his lip strength 

by pinching his lips between my fingers using two hands. His job was to 

pull his lips apart to develop lip strength. It was a messy way to build 

lip strength, and not much fun for me as a child, but I was told it was 

an indispensable exercise, so neither of us gave up. He was as invested in 

the exercises as we were. His dimples emerged each time his lips left my 

fingers—five, six, seven, giggle, breathe, wipe, start over. 


Every day, Ann, the boys, and I had to come home half an hour before 

dinner to help our brothers with their exercises. My parents always rang us 

in from the neighborhood with a large bell, and when we started going in 

early, our friends asked us why. We told them we had extra chores. At nine 

years old I was a bit resentful about the imposition on my schedule, but 

deep down, I knew what I was doing would help my brothers. It was not a 

chore; it was a commitment to each other as a family that would ensure each 

of us would reach our full potential. That was the first time I recall feeling 

the satisfaction of caregiving and the commitment to reaching potential. 

Marc is now a district judge in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Eric 

a manager at the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York 

Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Ann has her doctorate and is a professor 

at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.


Meanwhile, I was experiencing my own challenge: a very short attention 

span. Today we would call it Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but in 

those days no diagnosis or prescription existed. To deal with the obvious but 

undefined condition, my mother invented a practical explanation. She told 

all of my teachers that, like Ann, I was a bit hard of hearing and therefore 

had to sit in the front of the classroom. It worked. Up front, I was much 

more attentive with fewer distractions. I innocently perpetuated this story 

about my hearing deficiency throughout my school career and told all my 

teachers I had to sit up front. In college I did the same, but when I took 

my adapted physical education classes, I realized I was not hard of hearing 

at all. I had inadvertently learned ways to cope with my ADD.


To continue reading “The Camp Abilities Story” check out the following links:

Order the paperback version through SUNY Press. Or order the e-book through Amazon.


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