But You Don't Look Sick

by Abigail Elizabeth Peck

Throughout Disability Awareness week, February 27- March 3, 2017, APU hosts events that inspire conversations on the topic of disability. These events remind the APU community that each student possesses unique abilities and perspectives that are greater than their impairments. A photo exhibit located in the Seven Palms amphitheater in conjunction with the week’s programming, “But you don’t look sick…,” acknowledges students with invisible illnesses. The display is sponsored by STRONG, a community that experiences chronic pain or an illness that interrupts daily life with disorders such as fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, endometriosis, and undiagnosed conditions.

Last year, students Heather Turner, a junior social work major, and Kaylin Morford, a senior psychology major, founded STRONG to facilitate this support community. “It is important for students to know that they are not alone. Since beginning our group we have realized there are others who share our experiences and we can help one another.”

“I believe that student success is defined by a holistic approach to education that focuses on mind, body, and spirit," said Bill Fiala, faculty advisor for STRONG, and director of the University Counseling Center. Through STRONG, students cultivate their whole being by decreasing the sense of isolation many of these illnesses bring.”

APU strives to assist students in succeeding academically, spiritually, and socially. Special services in the Learning Enrichment Center accommodate students based on their learning needs and provide for housing or chapel accommodations. This year’s Disability Awareness Week features a student panel, deaf theater showcase, accessibility pop up, and guest speaker Dr. Amos Yong addressing the topic of the Bible and disability.

“Groups such as STRONG and events like Disability Awareness Week remind us that we don’t always know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors,” said Morford. “People are eager to learn how we can offer support and understanding to those around us.”

Abigail E. Peck '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a public relations major and leadership minor.