Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or, more simply, as toughness. Currently, researchers at the University of Kansas are studying how that trait seems to be inherent to individuals living with disabilities in rural communities. According to those around him, said researchers could certainly learn some lessons from Newton's Brian Stauffer, as he has that trait in spades.
Born with cerebral palsy (a disability that affects motor functions), Stauffer had to develop that resilience and toughness from a young age. While he admitted speech remains a daily hurdle (his mother, Carla, noted he gets tongue-tied when he's nervous), constant stretching has helped with other activities to get him to a point where he drives his own car, holds down a regular job, pays his taxes and lives a fairly independent life overall.
Now, his daily routine is, well, fairly routine — from letting the dogs out in the morning to packing his lunch before heading off to work. Carla noted even handling tasks like that took resilience on Brian's part.
"It seems kind of simple, his day now," Carla said, "but he's had to learn everything up to this point to take care of himself."
Doing the work to take care of himself is nothing Brian has ever shied away from, admitting he likes to be busy. Knowing his situation would never change and he would have to live with cerebral palsy his entire life, he simply kept pushing himself so that he would be able to take on those daily challenges.
Carla said when Brian was getting ready to enter kindergarten, she and her husband, Jeff, were advised by a school psychologist to place Brian in a severe mentally-handicapped class and that their son would never graduate from high school.
Keeping Brian in a more traditional setting is something his parents were keen on, though, with Carla stating her belief that helped instill some of that resilience in her son, though Brian never backed down from any obstacles, either. Brian pushed himself to take on coursework in both Algebra and Geometry, while also completing driver's ed and earning his diploma from Newton High School in 2005.
"Brian has grit. He has courage and he has grit. It all starts with Brian, and that's why he's so successful," Carla said. "Everyone around him, we all support him, but it all starts with Brian."
Additionally, Brian has been competing in the Special Olympics since seventh grade in several sports (basketball, soccer, etc.). He is part of the Harvey County Special Olympics team and even got the opportunity to compete in the World Games in Athens, Greece in 2011 — medaling in bronze in the 50-meter freestyle swimming event.
The aforementioned study is looking to identify the secrets to success in order to help teach others to be resilient, though Brian's employers at Silverstone Inc. in Hesston (where he has worked for three years) noted there are several traits that can be attributed to his individual success.
General Manager Joe Dietrich stated Brian's work ethic, pride and commitment all stand out, as does his positive overall attitude.
"He's happy to be here, just (having) a chance to be doing things that normally nobody'd give him a chance to do," Dietrich said.
While Carla noted vocational rehabilitation services were made available to Brian to help find employment upon graduating high school, he has not needed that assistance since getting his first job. Additionally, while he does meet with a case worker from the Harvey-Marion County Community Developmental Disability Organization regularly, he no longer requires any monetary assistance and all income earned is his own.
That income helps Brian sustain his independent lifestyle, paying for his rent, cell phone, car and more, like efforts he has currently taken on to renovate his apartment — from repainting to installing new floors and light fixtures.
His family, both his parents and brothers (Michael and Andrew), will be helping in those endeavors like they have throughout his life. There have been a lot of helpful people in his life, Brian noted. As his mother said, though, it starts with him. His attitude has carried him to where he is today and it's a simple mentality he encourages others with disabilities to live by.
"Live your life," Brian said. "Just keep going. Don't give up."