How to Stay Safe Despite Physical Limitations

Practicing self-defense is crucial for people with disabilities, a columnist explains

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by Lori Dunham |

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When my daughter Grace was 10, she requested a taser for Christmas. I’m not sure what prompted this request or why she felt the need for one. Regardless, she did not find a taser under the Christmas tree that year.

However, as she grew into a young teen, Grace continued to take keen notice of her surroundings. She was very interested in self-defense classes and loved taekwondo. When she started to drive, Grace purchased Mace for her key ring and requested a Birdie Personal Safety Alarm.

When Grace was diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome at age 15, self-defense took on a whole new meaning for her. Her muscle weakness and inability to run or kick left her feeling vulnerable like never before.

Recently, we were reminded of Grace’s need to be aware of her surroundings. Grace had been working an evening shift at the grocery store where she’s a cashier. As she clocked out, two of her managers approached her and asked if they could walk her to her car. Apparently, they had an unruly customer lurking outside, harassing those coming and going.

Thankfully, she had managers who were considerate of the younger employees, especially those who might need extra help.

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That incident led us to begin a conversation about ways to empower Grace despite her physical limitations.

Unfortunately, people living with a disability are twice as likely to be a victim of a violent crime compared with those without disabilities. While the statistics are grim, however, no one is powerless.

As a 1990 article in the Western Journal of Medicine notes, there are three major types of defense: prevention, psychological defense, and physical defense.


Take precautions to eliminate risks at home, at work, while traveling, and during social encounters.

Stay alert.

Avoid places or situations that put you at risk.

Know your neighborhood and surroundings. Locate police and fire stations, hospitals, and other places that stay open late.

Psychological defense

Think through what you would do in a certain situation.

Know your options in light of your limitations.

Act assertive and confident.

Physical defense

Talk: One option is to talk your way out of a threatening situation. Talk can be used to delay until an opportunity for help arrives.

Fight: Practice maneuvers so that your first two or three moves deliver maximum injury, giving you time to escape, be rescued, or sound an alarm.

Self-defense classes tailored to people with physical limitations are becoming increasingly popular. Check your local sheriff’s office for classes your area offers.

Although I pray my daughter will never have to use any of these tactics or skills, it’s prudent and wise to continue dialogue regarding her safety and preparedness in uncertain situations.

Note: Lambert-Eaton 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 other 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 Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia syndrome.


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