Freshman ‘voices’ fresh perspective on (dis)ability
By Jenny Collins ’05
In many ways, Alex Bauer ’16 is a typical college freshman. He likes socializing and having fun, and when he’s not studying, he enjoys movies, sci-fi and video games.
But Bauer is anything but ordinary. He was born with a type of muscular dystrophy called Myotubular Myopathy (MTM), which affects muscle development.
“That’s why I have the strength of an infant, if that,” he explained. His younger brother Levi also has MTM, making them the only two living brothers in the world with the condition.
Bauer’s room in Knutson Hall is part college dorm, part medical supplies stockroom. His Avengers poster brings color and animation to an otherwise clinical environment, with 24/7 medical care. The imagery of the poster is fitting for Bauer, whose perseverance and positivity is akin to a super hero feat.
To survive, Bauer uses a feeding tube to eat and requires a ventilator to breathe, due to a surgical error. During scoliosis surgery four years ago, his right lung was damaged and he had a tracheal diversion, which means he has no larynx (voice box) and “absolutely no connection” between his mouth, nose and airway.
To communicate, he primarily uses sign language and for the last three years, a tool that allows him to use a mouse and type out his words one letter at a time on a screen. “It may look cool, but it is slower than a snail on a bicycle,” Bauer quipped, through typing.
A creative writing major with a sharp wit and a gift for words, Bauer has a precision with English language and grammar unmatched by most people, especially those with his (dis)ability and inability to speak verbally. His poetry reveals his sense of humor, imagination and a romantic heart. He’s also halfway through writing a fiction book— his first in a series of four—hoping to become the next J.R.R. Tolkien.
While his physical body is confined to a power wheelchair to get around, his imagination and intellect are boundless. Bauer is an articulate communicator who also wrote for his high school newspaper.
Real source of strength
Professor of Bible Daryl Aaron, who has Bauer in his Old Testament class, admires Bauer’s “determination to deal with his life circumstances in dependence upon God. His challenges are significant, but he perseveres with an amazing attitude.”
Bauer’s faith gives him perspective. “Even though I’m not physically capable of doing some stuff,” he said, “if I didn’t have my disability I wouldn’t have my faith I have now. In my mind, that’s more important,” he concluded.