Duchenne Takes My Physical Abilities, but Not My Powers of Observation

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by Hawken Miller |

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I believe that my physical limitations heighten my observational skills and journalistic Spidey sense. Throughout my life, I’ve realized that I notice and remember the finer details that my physically-abled friends do not. 

I read license plates to figure out how old a car is — in California, the lower the first number, the older the vehicle. I can recount embarrassing moments in people’s lives that they’ve forgotten, and I see photo opportunities in situations that others regard as mundane. Journalism is the perfect place for me to put my curiosity and powers of observation to the test.

Like most kids growing up, I would ask my parents a billion questions about the world around me. “Why is the sky blue? Why don’t you need to press the gas pedal when you go downhill? What does that thing do? How long can you hold your breath underwater? How do they get the yellow line on the football field?” 

I’ve remained in a questioning state as I’ve become older and less able. As my physical body fails me, my sight, mind, and perceptions of the world strengthen. These qualities have helped me to succeed as a journalist. I believe that the best story ideas start with a question that is asked after first taking in your situation.

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While going about my daily life, I need to be more aware of potential hazards than others. When I’m out of my chair, any uneven surface poses a possible catastrophe. When I’m in my chair, I dodge people driving their electric scooters while they scroll through Instagram. I have to look where I’m going while everyone else seems to function perfectly fine without paying attention to their surroundings.

I notice details about people and my environment, a trait that is extremely beneficial for a journalist. I observe a person’s tone of voice, eye color, and facial expression when they speak. I see that they have a picture of their dog or kid on their mouse pad. I sometimes observe things without thinking, and I’m still honing my perceptive abilities.

While I can perceive subtle changes in people’s mannerisms, worldview, or voice, similarly, I detect alterations to the world around me. I notice when a curb is freshly painted, a road newly paved, a tree recently trimmed, or a lake’s waterline lowered. I spot typos that a publisher didn’t catch before a book was printed.

I’m sure that others notice these things, too, but many people don’t. My unique God-given abilities and disabilities come together in an unexpected way. While I can’t do a lot physically, I can see and analyze with my eyes and head. Duchenne has blessed me with the ability to observe small things that can have a huge impact on the world. I’m thankful that it has guided me toward a career in journalism.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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