Teacher Starts Heartwarming Friendship With Girl Who Shares Her Limb Difference

Mason Joseph Zimmer
woman with limb difference preparing to compete in triathlon
instagram | @leahkaptri

We can often see our cultures shift to address past discrepancies and we're starting to see that in how people with disabilities are represented.

And while it's certainly true that we're in the early stages of progress when it comes to recognizing people with limb differences, we can already see some caring individuals taking it upon themselves to make strides in accommodating and celebrating them.

For these people, it's especially important to undertake this work for children, as we know that the little ones are both more vulnerable in life and especially in how they'll be treated by others.

But while it's always nice to see children recognize themselves in the media they consume, one story underscores how powerful it can be for these children to meet people they can relate to.

When special education teacher Leah Kaplan was growing up, she knew how it felt to be different.

As she told Good Morning America, this was partially due to the fact that she came to the United States from China at the age of six after being adopted, but also because she grew up with a limb difference that affected one of her arms.

Nonetheless, a triathlete teacher would inspire her to take up the sport by the time she reached adulthood and she was hooked after winning her first triathlon.

She is now training to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

So when an eight-year-old girl at her school named Raegan noticed Kaplan's arm was in the same condition as hers, it was an exciting moment for both of them.

teacher and child with limb difference taking selfie together
instagram | @leahkaptri

Kaplan said Raegan noticed they had this trait in common before she even saw her, but Raegan said the teacher waved her "nubbin" at her once the elated child caught her attention.

As Raegan said, "I’m happy to see her because I thought there was nobody else that had a nubbin at my school."

In turn, her enthusiasm heartened Kaplan and made her feel like a celebrity.

But for the teacher, it was also an opportunity to take on guiding role in the child's life.

girl showing adaptive bike to accommodate limb difference
instagram | @leahkaptri

So Kaplan decided to give Raegan a special gift; an adaptive bike designed to accommodate her limb difference.

And not only is Raegan having a lot of fun with the bike, but she's also keen to start triathlon training with Kaplan this summer.

In Kaplan's words, "I just thought, ‘You know what, I want her to get into sports when she gets older and I want her to have a mentor because they said she has never been in a community with people with disabilities."

And Kaplan is hoping that this experience will be as exciting and empowering for Raegan as it was for her.

As she put it, "I know what it's like as a kid to just suffer in silence, to feel so alone, and look at so many beautiful people online and just not feeling good enough … You don't have to look the part. You can still achieve whatever you want."

h/t: Good Morning America