When Glen Dick was at FOX 29 in August preparing for a televised interview about his new children’s book, his wife Monica Dick said she overheard a reporter say, “I didn’t know people in wheelchairs could even have kids.”
“[I] was like, ‘Wow, an adult thinks that?’” Monica said. “There is so much that’s not known and there’s so much that’s so scary to people, the more conversations that you can have about it and joke around along the way, like [Glen] and I did early on, the easier it will be to accept all different kinds of people, and that’s what really got me excited.”
Glen said his wife was one of the people who urged him to pursue publishing.
“We Can Go Anywhere: My Adventures on Daddy’s Chair” is about the experiences Glen, a 1995 landscape architecture alumnus, and his daughter can have with their imagination, like traveling to the moon or sailing across the sea, he said. The book was published in late August, with illustrations by Glen’s friend Linda McManus.
After he finished writing the book as a keepsake for his 6-year-old daughter, Elaina, he realized it could have a positive impact on other families because it could help break down the barriers associated with discussing disabilities, he said.
“It would just open up that whole conversation about people having differences and how they don’t necessarily have to be limitations,” Glen said. “People are just people.”
Glen became paralyzed from the waist down with limited functioning in his hands, after an accident in Dewey Beach, Delaware in 1995, the same year he graduated from Temple.
When a friend reached up for help out of the water, Glen fell head-first off the dock and broke his neck, he said.
Although it was difficult at first, Glen said he managed to hold a positive attitude throughout his recovery.
“It’s been 20 years, it’s not a big deal,” Glen said. “I’m living with it, and I have a great life. … Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you’re so inspirational and strong,’ [but] everybody goes through their challenges in life. I just wear mine on the outside.”
He said he finds that most adults are hesitant to address his paraplegia, but is open to conversation on the subject.
“Most people in a wheelchair welcome the questions,” he said.
After his accident, Glen’s life “had taken on a different meaning,” he said.
Although the landscape architecture company, Pennink & Arrimour, that Glen worked at prior to the accident, agreed to accommodate his position, he decided to stay with the company for only three years. Glen wanted to pursue a career that involved children.
“I always loved kids,” Glen said. “They gave me such a sense of purpose.”
Shortly after volunteering at Simon Butler Elementary School in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, the school offered him a full-time position as a teaching assistant in the “Resource Room,” a program for students with an individualized education plan.
As fulfilling as working with children in a classroom setting was for Glen, he said he always wanted a child of his own. It wasn’t until he met Monica 12 years ago online that his dream became a reality.
The couple was married a year after meeting, and their daughter was born four and a half years later.
“He is happiest when he is with her,” Monica said. “They have such an amazing relationship because from day one they were a team.”
When Elaina was born, Glen resigned from his teaching position to focus on parenting.
“Slowly but surely I realize that [parenting] is what I was meant to do, and it’s enough,” Glen said. “I don’t care if I’m not paid for it, it’s the most rewarding job in the world.”
Even from a young age, Elaina had more use of her hands than her father, so they would often work as a unit to complete daily tasks. Glen said he believes his daughter actually benefited from their unique relationship, as she learned to follow directions and work with another individual well.
Monica and Glen said they thought a lot about other disabled and nondisabled parents throughout the publishing process, and believe that “We Can Go Anywhere: My Adventures on Daddy’s Chair” could encourage individuals to re-think what it means to be disabled.
“For those that are in that situation, and it’s a very very small audience, it’s amazing that there’s something now that they can say, ‘Hey look, being a parent in a wheelchair can be a fun thing,” Monica said. “It doesn’t have to be scary or off-limits.”
Jenny Stein can be reached at email@example.com.