Would you consider me handicapped?

I have suffered from a lifelong lack of manual dexterity. This has caused me problems in the employability area because most of the jobs I would be able to get with my current skills require an ability to perform tasks quickly. Any job from clerical work (typing more that about 35 WPM) to being a cashier (items per hour requirements) even being a hotel maid have minimum amounts of work to be done in a given period of time that I just wouldn’t be able to do because there seems to be a communication gap between my brain and the muscles in the rest of my body. I even had trouble when I was dealing craps because that nth of a second longer that it took me to cut a payoff on a bet was taken as a sign that I didn’t know what the bet paid (I can’t tell you how many times I had to restrain myself from hitting a boxman who told me what a bet paid just a split second after I had picked the chips off my stacks). It isn’t that I can’t perform any given task, it’s just that, even with months or years of practice, it takes me significantly longer than the average person to do them.

I was recently made to undergo some skills testing by a private organization that is going to help me with funding for my education. I scored very low in math, spacial relations, English, all things that I am quite good at. The reason? I wasn’t able to fill in those stupid little bubbles with a nubmer two lead pencil at a high enough rate of speed. All of the questions I did answer, I answered 100% correctly. Of course, my lowest score was on the dexterity test.

This little problem has actually cost me one job, and caused me endless grief in most of the jobs I’ve held because I’m either constantly being reprimanded for “not making rate”, or treated as though I don’t know what I’m doing because it takes me a bit longer to do it. There are many jobs I have applied for and not gotten because I had to do something like take a typing test and was found not to have fingers that move fast enough to work at the required rate of speed.

The work I do, whatever I’m doing, I do with a high rate of accuracy. When being reprimaded about not putting out quantity, I have been simultaneously praised for the quality of my work. I actually had the highest quality rating of any employee in a factory I worked at many moons ago, whcich probably saved my job because I never made rate. I think they figured what I wans’t putting out in raw number of parts, I was making up for in the money saved in not having to do repairs or rejection of the work I did (the official figure was that it cost three times as much to repair a bad part than it did to make it right in the first place.) I am also very good in the customer service area, which you would think would be valued by retail type employers.

I can do extremely delicate work- I make handmade rosaries, and I plan to do some serious dumpster diving this week when the wilted roses from St. Valentine’s day start getting thrown out so I can make rose petal beads. As I said, the work I do is done to perfection. I work slowly and carefully, picking up speed with practice, but never up to what most people would be able to do in the same amount of time. But these abilities don’t seem to be valued in the employment scene. They want quantity output, and screw quality.

Right now, I’m going to school for massage therapy, and it seems that not being able to perform fine motor tasks quickly is most definitely not going to be an issue. I’ve gotten high praise from people I’ve worked on for being able to find that tight muscle or that knot without being told where it hurts. Trouble is, massage therapy is a very competitive business, so it may be some time after I finish school before I am able to find work in the field. Meantime, I am essentially unemployable.

Legally, this problem wouldn’t even come close to being defined as a disablity. I am able to walk, talk, sing, dance, make change, etc. But it does have an effect on my ability to obtain and keep any kind of gainful employment, especially in a tight job market where if you aren’t up to snuff in that area, employers will just chuck a person out the door and hire the next application on the stack.

Would anyone out there consider this a serious handicap? Personally, I think I am handicapped, not because of an inability to work, but because of an ability to churn work out at a high enough rate of speed to satisfy any potential employer.

You certainly aren’t handicapped. You’re… erm… well, you’re weird. That’s the best way I can put it.

Oh, and it isn’t meant with bad connotations.

Handicapped? Perhaps of the very worst sort, as you summarized - not legally, so no ADA job protection and/or social service agency help, but functionally, preventing you from keeping a job.

Seems to me there would be lots of jobs where attention to quality would be more important than manual dexterity, or where the latter just wasn’t a factor. Being good in customer relations should be a huge plus in retail sales. A company like, say, Nordstrom’s, puts a huge value on customer service. And other high-end clothiers, where salespeople are more consultants than checkers, might be looking for your skill with people.

In fact, high-end retail merchandising of all sorts shares the same value system, whether perfume, luggage, home furnishings or real estate.

Don’t know if any of that helps - best of luck to you.

It may sound silly but if you believe you are right-handed, could you actually be left-handed?

gts, not likely. I’m not one of those kids who was forced to “switch hands” by some misguided but well-meaning adult. My left hand serves primarily ornamental purposes- it gives my upper body an appearance of symmetry, and is occasionally useful for holding things while I work on them with my right hand, but that’s about it. I’ve tried writing left-handed because I heard it was a good way to stimulate creativity, but it didn’t work out. Too bloody awkward.

Hometownboy I think I might look into some of the jobs you’ve suggested. I can only hope that in a tight job market, I could find part-time work that would allow me a schedule that would be compatible with school.

No more so than anyone that’s legally blind but able to see with glasses or needs a hearing aid to understand conversational tones.

In my opinion, of course.

So, you’re saying that there is an easily available gadget that, when worn, would improve my dexterity to the point that I would be able to perform tasks at the same rate of speed as someone of normal/average dexterity?

What is this gadget, and where can I get one?

No, what I am saying is that you have a defect that is annoying and limits you but is nothing crippling. I consider a handicap to be something more equivalent to missing appendages, senses, or severe mental impairments.

No offense is intended.

Everyone has strong points and weak points. You have a weakness in dexterity but in my opinion that does not constitude a “handicap.” You are still able to carry out the tasks needed to live independently without undue medical intervention. There are jobs that do not suit you – but that’s true of everyone. Stick to jobs that do not require manual dexterity. You have already identified some areas that you are strong in. Think of your other strong points and then come up with a list of professions that you would be good at – for example, something that emphasizes thinking rather than handiwork.

Seems to me that you might need physical/occupational therapy- fine motor problems can be alleviated by it. You might want to check around with a doctor or something- I’d bet lots of money that they have exercises/motions to do that will improve it.

I’d follow bump’s advice.

I’ve been horribly clumsy my whole life. I have the opposite of what you have: fine motor skills are sound (I play piano, viola/violin, and type fast) but I’m awkward when it comes to gross motor skills. I walk with a strange gait, and there’s an awkwardness about me whenever I speak and gesture. Growing up, kids would make fun of the way I would do jumping jacks in gym, and I was always the last kid to make it around the track. I’ve also gotten the “you must be lefthanded” thing because of the crazy way I hold my pencil. (Actually, my parents claim I was a left-handed baby and then was switched in nursery school.)

When my twin and I were little, we would have races for who could run up the stairs fastest or who could put on their pajamas fastest or who could make it across the backyard fastest. In order to level the playing field, our older brother and sister would always hold my twin back (against her will), giving me a head start. Recently, my twin and I talked about how much that bothered the both of us. It bothered me that I could never win on my own merit, and it bothered her because it felt like no one ever rooted for her. Deep stuff.

When I started graduate school, I decided I was sick and tired of being clumsy and I went to the doctor about it. She concluded right away that I have a mild form of cerebral palsy (MRI even spotted a little lesion on my brain), and she suggested I get into a physical therapy program. The whole idea that I had a brain condition scared the shit out of me and I stopped going to the doctor after that. But sometimes I wonder just how physical therapy would have changed my life. Maybe I still wouldn’t be so awkward, and I’d have a higher self-esteem.

(I actually went to the doctor because I was feeling depressed and lonely, and I mentioned that I hated being clumsy. Her hypothesis was that my physical awkwardness had kept me from making friends growing up–since kids had always picked on for being “retarded”–and so I was ill-equipped for making friends now. I suppose the accuracy of her hypothesis also frightened me, and that’s why I stopped seeing her.)

This site gives a good overview of the legal aspects of the definition of disability in the US.

I’d tend to agree with bump.

I also think it would benefit you to get a proper physical from a qualified MD - or, see a speech and language therapist. There are certain recognised physical / brain conditions that would make you present with what you describe above - one of the apraxias spring to mind, but like I said, there are a range of conditions and you’d need it properly diagnosed. A “proper” diagnosis may entitle you to other help / resources?

I wouldn’t discriminate against you because of what you describe; however, I am not your employer :frowning:

I strongly disagree with the above posters who posit that your dexterity problem is simply a “weak point” or “nothing crippling.” It sounds like you have a legitimate problem. Heck, if it’s bad enough that it affects your ability to run a register at Wally World, then you know it’s gotta be bad.

As I was reading your post, I kept thinking of various learning disabilities and problems that I’ve heard of over the years. I read parts of your post to my husband, who is a seventh grade teacher, and has therefore been involved in evaluating many kids for disabilities.

He asked me if you felt like there was a “disconnect” between your brain and your hands. You had said the following:

He said that if he became aware that one of his students was having problems like yours, he would alert the guidance counselor, who would likely order a round of testing. Among the tests would probably be a nerve conductivity test, and a variety of tests to quantify the level of dexterity. If a problem was found, appropriate treatment would be ordered of course, which might include occupational therapy.

But more importantly with regard to your situation, the student would be entitled to accommodations for her disability. These accomodations might include additional time to finish tests and adapted lab activities.

And when I say that the student would be entitled to accommodations, I mean that they would be entitled by law, under the ADA. (Here is a handy guide to disability rights laws: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/cguide.htm Section 504 may be of use to you.)

FWIW, it’s not uncommon for my husband and/or his colleagues to identify that a student is having a serious problem, even when the student himself isn’t cognizant of the severity of a problem. Usually it’s when something “doesn’t add up.” For example, a student might seem to know the material and turn in good homework, but leave many questions on tests blank. If they report that they just don’t have time to finish, then the teacher might quiz them orally on the material. If they know the material–well then there has to be a reason why they’re taking so much longer than the other students. The reason may be something that’s easy to fix–seventh grade girls sometimes get obsessed with perfect penmanship, and so take way too long to fill in answers–or it may be because the student simply is physically unable to write fast enough.

An example: One student was very bright, but seemed to miss much of the class material. Eventually, they realized that he was getting anything that was said, but missing material that was written on the board. Obvious vision problem, right? But vision testing hadn’t turned up anything. Dyslexia? Nope. Ultimately, they sent him for a much more in-depth round of vision tests, and they found that he had a major vision problem after all. New glasses. Problem solved.

So, get yourself tested. I know you don’t want to be disabled, but if you are, then you’d be better off knowing about it, so you can deal with it appropriately. Good luck.

Actually, when I was in elementary school, I always had problems on timed math tests, you know, those things where you have basic single-digit problems, usually about 100 to a page and have to finish them in five minutes or less. I could never finish them, especially when I got up into the 5th and 6th grades and the time limit was three minutes. This actually affected my grades in math class. I sat in on a conference with my parents and my fourth grade math teacher, who proceeded to tell my parents, in my presence, that if I didn’t know the answers "like this (snapping her fingers several times), then I didn’t know them. My stepfather’s assessment of the situation was that the woman was a bitch.

I wonder if I could be tested at this stage of the game. I have no health insurance, money is extremely tight, and it is doubtful that County Social Services would pay for me to have the testing done. Also, I’m thirty-six years old, so at my age, I wonder how much help therapy would be. And really, how many employers would make reasonable accomodations if I actually did get a diagnosis of poor nerve conductivity or whatever? Of course if I land a job in a spa and get bitched at because I take too long to clean the table and change the sheets between clients, (which is actually a potential issue that might come up), if I had a legitamate diagnosis and could prove on paper that I had a genuine neurological deficit, they might be legally required to allow me additional time between clients, and I could have a nice little lawsuit if I was let go…

There is inherent value in knowing that you aren’t imagining or exaggerating things or simply being “lazy”.

I remember hating my PE teacher in elementary school. One day, I was walking to class and she was walking behind me, and all of a sudden, she grabs me by the shoulders and yells at me for not walking in a straight line. Something that is apparently simple for most people, but not for me. I felt like such a freak and burst into tears.

I hated PE because of her. She and everyone else had led me to believe that my poor performance in everything, from relay races to warm-up exercises, was MY FAULT. That if I just worked at it, I wouldn’t be clumsy. That my clumsiness was due to my sedentary nature, not the other way around. Because it was my fault, I deserved all the name-calling and bullying and sadness.

Just recently, a girl asked if I liked to dance. I told her I don’t dance in public because it’s embarrassing. She went on to tell me that everyone can dance, if they just practice. I told her that it wasn’t for lack of effort; it’s simply something I’m not good at. She was unconvinced and continued lecturing me on the value of dance lessons. Finally, I told her that I have a mild form of cerebral palsy which makes it difficult for me to move gracefully. That shut her up quick. I wish I had could have done that twenty years ago.

Well, for what it’s worth, LOTS of people feel extremely awkward when dancing comes into play. I’m a reasonably coordinated and athletic guy, but I can’t shake the feeling that when I’m dancing, I either look like a circus dancing bear, or like I’m having some kind of seizure.

Sounds like that girl liked you- girls usually don’t put that much effort into getting guys to dance! Next time, go for it- even if you’re not good at it, if you’re confident about making an fool out of yourself, it’ll likely score you points with the young ladies.

Did she test you orally? Then how did she know that you didn’t know the answers?
Well, that may not be an entirely fair question, as there have been great strides in understanding of different learning styles and assessment methods over the intervening decades. She may have truly believed that if you didn’t know something like <snap> you didn’t know it. She may not have realized that a) some people do know something perfectly well, but may take a bit longer to puzzle it out, and b) somebody may know the answer like <snap>, but may take longer than normal to get the answer down on paper.

I’d bet there is a way for you to get it paid for. I’d do some research and see if there are any advocacy groups out there for related disorders. They may have funds available or know of someone who would be willing to do it pro-bono.

Occupational therapy isn’t just physical exercises. They also can teach you tricks and strategies to help you cope better.

All of them. They have to. And if they don’t, you can sue them.

See, you wouldn’t get “bitched at.” You would go to your employer with your diagnosis, and explain what reasonable accommodations you need. The question of what constitutes a “reasonable” accomodation is enormous–but I think an additional 5 minutes between clients is very much on the clearly reasonable side of things. The employer might even be thrilled to be able to claim that they hired someone disabled–without having to put in any effort at accomodations.

Eh, you sound kind of defeatist about the whole thing. As monstro said, it’s quite a relief to find out that there is a reason for your difficulties–that you’re not just incompetent. :slight_smile: I was diagnosed with ADD nearly a year ago, and I can’t tell you what a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I never could concentrate on studying, and I always felt very ashamed of myself because of it. I always assumed that it was because I just wasn’t trying hard enough. It never occurred to me to say “hey! But I am trying really hard to concentrate! It’s just not working.” Fortunately or unfortunately, I was always bright enough to get by anway. Or more than get by, really. I have some pretty great academic acheivements under my belt. But I could never feel really proud, because I knew that I could have should have would have done better, if only I was able to SIT DOWN AND STUDY, goshdarnit! Now I don’t feel ashamed anymore. I feel proud of myself for acheiving as much as I did while dealing with a raging case of ADD. Drugs have been very helpful, but I’m also looking into some therapy to learn some more coping skills. It’s never to late to get yourself fixed. (I mean to get your problem fixed, not to get spayed. ha ha)

On June 6, 1995 I lost control of my truck in the rain and ran into a ditch. I woke up and was tied to a wheelchair in the Medical University of SC. I had received a traumatic brain injury. I had to learn how to walk and use my hands and chew before I swallowed. Eventually I would be able to learn how to read and do math again. Most of 1995 and some of 1996, I had to ask my wife to wipe my ass for me. After 18 months and hiring a lawyer to work for my behalf, I was able to get the Social Security Association to acknowledge that I was disabled. That’s beside the point.

I spent the first couple of years feeling sorry for myself, it’s easy to do. Then out of the blue, one day I began to inventory the things I could do rather than the things I couldn’t do. “This ability” rather than disability (don’t youi hate puns). I am now in my second semester at university where I am studying civil engineering.

If you want to see disability go and volunteer at the nearest rehabilitation hospital. Or go to hell.

If you are planning to go back to school, you really, really need to get tested. The ability to take untimed tests alone will be a great benefit, and this is a very common situation for college teachers these days–I had several such students, and it was no big deal for me or them to implement. Schools often have disability centers, too, that can provide you with some input and tips.

I’d start with the private organization. Go back to them and explain the situation, and see if they can help, or refer you. Point out that you did so well on the questions you did answer–that is a sort of proof. If nothing else, ask for an untimed or verbal test. Bet you blow their socks off!

You are way too smart to waste those brains on a lot of the jobs you mention. Imagine not having to be bored at work! (I didn’t say happy, just not bored.)

If you think you are at all cut out for that sort of thing, you might try other types of sales–the kinds with commissions, like real estate, or other types of accounts. My husband does tech support for people who sell yellow-page ads, for instance, and they are frequently hiring. You may be one of the naturals, and there is very good money to be made if you are.