Rock climbing without hands? Local kids with hand differences show us how it's done

Do you need strength and agility to climb a rock wall? Yes. But, you may also need something else: perseverance.

Despite physical challenges that would discourage most of us from attempting to scale a wall - local kids living with hand differences show us what it takes to rise to new heights.

"Rock climbing helps me see the world like in a different way," said 12-year-old Akira Martin.

The view is different high up, but here on the ground, Akira says people often stared at her arms. She was born with TAR Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which the radius bone is missing from her forearms. Now, she's learned that her difference is a strength.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles' Dr. Nina Lightdale-Miric said, "In order to live your life with a hand difference, you don't need 10 fingers -- you need resilience."

Lightdale-Miric heads the Center for Adolescent and Teen Hand Difference program known as CATCH

At the Stronghold Climbing Gym in Los Angeles, physical therapy meets adventure.

This is the first time climbing for 12-year-old Sebastian Main of Los Angeles. He uses his head and heart to replace his missing hand.

"Once I got used to it and I did the first one, it was easy after that," he said.

Adaptive Rock Climbing is about problem-solving. Instructor Dave Van Beek holds the climbing rope providing the perfect amount tension, slack and assurance.

He said, "Most of us have some form of struggle in life, and a little hand difference really isn't that big of a difference. It really isn't. "

Lightdale-Miric said, "When they feel their own strength and experience it with their families and see themselves climb the wall, they know that they can face the challenges in life that may be ahead of them. "

Adaptive Rock Climbing instructors say this gym is more than a place where kids can build agility and strength. Most importantly, it's a place where kids can build confidence.

"Akira used to come in wearing big bulky clothes because she was ashamed of her body," Van Beek said, "And now she's been working out, she is super confident in what she does."

It's a confidence she'll carry beyond this wall, because when it comes climbing, there's no right or wrong -- only different. And differences help you get to the top.

Akira said, "People are gonna say yeah, you have a difference, but that difference makes you better."
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