To the Classmate Who Insults People With Disabilities

I sit across the table from you in class. You’re with your friends, and I just sit there quietly. To tell you the truth, I thought you were rude from the beginning. Now that we sit at the same group in class, your actions put light on that.

I have seen you use disabilities as insults multiple times. The most recent one is still fresh in my mind.

Today, when you looked at someone and said, “Do you have cerebral palsy because you’re acting weird?” what you may not have realized was that I have cerebral palsy.

When you asked that question and then went on to imitate someone with cerebral palsy, it might have seemed silly to you, but it hurt me. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone, or maybe you did, but the point is — it was wrong.

When you said that, did you ever think that I have cerebral palsy? Did you know I had surgery just two weeks prior? Did you see I had been using a wheelchair? Had you ever seen me walk in a brace? Do you realize that I go to therapy multiple times a week? Did you know I’m on an IEP? Have you heard of special education? Do you know that I can barely climb stairs? Did you know I work hard to do things you find simple?

Did you even know I was there?

I know you don’t know the basics of what cerebral palsy is, so let me tell you my story. I was born around 37 weeks, so they say. Six months after that, they told my mom I’d had a stroke and diagnosed me with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition where your brain does not send the correct signal to your muscles and can makes your limbs “floppy” or stiff. There are many kinds of cerebral palsy; mine is mild right hemiplegic, which means it mildly affects my right side only. Some people with cerebral palsy can’t walk or talk. No one chooses to have cerebral palsy. It is caused by complications at birth that are beyond our control.

To the rest of my classmates: if you hear comments that may offend someone or see someone use a disability as an insult, shut them down immediately.

girl standing on deck with grass and trees in the landscape

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability, disease or mental illness (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Cerebral Palsy

When I Asked My Kids What They Thought About Having a Mom With a Disability

Hello, I’m Just Mom. My teenage daughter called me that — Just Mom — with a shrug, nonchalant-like. She didn’t mean it disparagingly. It was simply fact. To her, this is how she sees me. I took it as a compliment, one of the best I’ve ever received. Why? I had asked her what she [...]

Why I View My Cerebral Palsy as a Blessing

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that prevents the brain from communicating to the muscles. There are different types of cerebral palsy, but everyone with the disorder goes through challenges that affect the muscles in some way. Aside from the muscles not being able to function properly, there are some cases in which a person might [...]
mandy's friend bill in an orange shirt and hat holding jars of candy

When a Jar of Candy Sparked a Lifelong Friendship

We all know the famous story of E.T., the lovable alien who was led out of the woods by a handful of Reese’s Pieces, brought out of the dark by trails of the Halloween-esque colored treats to the safety and friendship of the beloved Elliott. For someone like me being unfamiliar with being out on [...]

Teen With Cerebral Palsy Has Powerful Message for Parking Spot Shamers

Robyn Lambird is an 18-year-old Australian video blogger whose YouTube clips have prompted all kinds of important discussions about disability. Her latest video covers accessibility. “Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean that you use a wheelchair,” she begins. “Sometimes it has nothing to do with your legs or your mobility at all.” Lambird notes that many disabilities and [...]