Teacher And Student With Similar Limb Difference Form Immediate Bond Over Shared ‘Nubs’

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Leah Kaplan was born with one arm missing from the elbow down. Throughout her life she has been fortunate enough to have many different people in her life to share her experience with. This year, however, she has found someone even more special than usual.

In the hallways of Leah’s school, a young student, Raegan, noticed Leah and showed her how her arm was the same. The two formed a quick bond, waving hi with their ‘nubs.’

Elementary school teacher and student with one arm sit being filmed
Courtesy of Leah Kaplan

“My student Reagan is just like every student, but extra. She has stood out to me. I have never shared something this unique with a student ever. We immediately had that special bond, our “nubs” (a.k.a our baby arm),” Leah tells Love What Matters. “In class, we would tell the whole group about our nubbins. I made a smiley face on my arm and she did too. We presented it at the front of the classroom. She has such great support at the school too.”

Their connection extends beyond moments in class as well. Leah has been able to teach Reagan many different life skills like putting her hair in a ponytail, or riding a bike easily. A dedicated paratriathlete, Leah has bikes that are structured specifically to be ridden with only one hand. She gave one of her old one’s to Reagan in hopes of fostering a love and passion in her as well.


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“I met the family at the school’s parking lot before the start of the school day. The bike fit her like Cinderella’s shoe fit her,” Leah says. “I watched them walk away with the bike. Tears filled up in my eyes of happiness and gratitude. I was so thankful for that first bike, which started my Triathlon journey. About 3 years later, I am donating my bike to a student who ended up being just like me! Watching Reagan’s experience was like watching my younger self.”

A young girl with one arm smiles holding a new bike
Courtesy of Leah Kaplan

In mentoring and supporting Reagan, Leah is adding to a tradition of people who have helped and supported her, passing down wisdom and joy.

“I knew a lot of adults who had missing limbs. I was not directly ever mentored by anybody. I was fortunate enough to meet people like me at different stages of my life,” Leah tells Love What Matters. “I admired people who were like me from afar. I had to push myself to learn to adapt to the world and listening and watching other people’s adversity taught me how to do that.”

Woman in green and blue body suit rides bike with one arm
Courtesy of Baumeyer Photography

As she has grown up, Leah has been able to become more proud of herself and has embraced her disability. Being a part of groups and communities of people like her have allowed her to thrive and view her life and disability in a positive way.

“I began to use my disability for the power of good,” Leah says about her own social media platform and voice.  “People with a disability who are posting and sharing, are not looking for validation.People like me who are bringing awareness but also normalizing our unique abilities. I don’t need a million likes to reassure me of my disability. That sense of worth has to come from within. We are all worthy.”

A woman with one arm finishes a triathlon in a wetsuit
Courtesy of Paul Clawson

This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Anna Steingruber. Follow Leah Caplan from Spokane, WA on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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