Simpson student views disability as opportunity to inspire others


by Madison Wilson, Staff Reporter

Having a disability on campus is a challenge, but using that challenge to inspire others is a gift that Simpson student Alex Hoffman possesses.

Hoffman, a freshman actuarial science major from Clive, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. With support from his parents, he’s faced several challenges this disorder throws at him on a daily basis.

“I shake a lot and move a lot,” said Hoffman. “My hands are the most depressing. I really can’t do much of anything that another person can do with their hands.”

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that impairs muscle control and coordination, caused by damage to the developing brain. People with this disorder have shakiness and problems with mobility, eating, communicating, sleeping and learning.

While looking at colleges, Hoffman knew having a disability on campus would be challenging. With the help of Residence Life and other faculty and students, Hoffman felt supported the moment he arrived at Simpson.

“There’s always someone willing to help out and there’s always a smiling face somewhere,” said Hoffman. “I definitely think it’s a supportive community.”

To make Hoffman’s room in Kresge Hall more accessible, Residence Life made many adjustments. Luke Behaunek, dean of students and interim director of Residence Life, helped make specific changes to Hoffman’s room.

“For his room in Kresge, we installed a room door that has an ID system attached to it,” said Behaunek. “We also made a few adjustments to the bathroom in the room to make it a little bit more user-friendly for him and we installed handles on some of the drawers in the desk and dresser.”

Along with these adjustments, Hoffman receives assistance from a home health aide who comes at 6 or 6:30 a.m. to help him shower, get dressed and eat before his 8 a.m. classes.

“It could be worse,” said Hoffman. “It could be lifting. I can’t believe how early they get up.”

Hoffman’s positive attitude toward life has made him a friendly, well-liked person on campus. Nathanael Smale, Community Advisor for Kresge Hall, said Hoffman is outgoing and always willing to stop and have a conversation.

“He’s so social,” said Smale. “I can’t help but pause whatever I’m doing and just talk to him for like five minutes. He has that effect on everybody and it’s really awesome.”

As a CA, part of Smale’s job is to do floor activities with his residents. Smale is mindful about choosing activities all of his residents, including Hoffman, can participate in and enjoy.

“I’m trying to find that balance between what he can participate in and be a part of, whether actively or more passively,” said Smale. “And also that interests everyone in the hall, not just certain people.”

Hoffman hopes that with his positive outlook on life, he can inspire others to stay optimistic.

“There are a lot of good things to having a disability,” said Hoffman. “I just really want to inspire others. That’s just one of the great things that I have the opportunity to do.”