To My Parents, Who Never Told Me I Couldn't Do Something Because of Cerebral Palsy
Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you. Two simple words, but they really do sum up how I feel about how you raised me as your daughter. You had no reason to believe your beautiful daughter had anything “wrong” with her; after all the pregnancy was uneventful. Not counting my chronic ear infections, everything about me led the both of you to believe you had a healthy child.
Then it started to happen, creeping up on the both of you like an exam you hadn’t quite studied for. I was dragging my left leg behind me when I was crawling, seemed to only prefer the right side of my body, couldn’t sit up without looking limp and wasn’t talking.
I was officially diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy at the age of 2 and you both put me in early intervention programs. From speech therapy to occupational therapy and even physical therapy, you probably had worries if you were pushing me too much. How much would all these therapies actually help your daughter?
I was put into a specialized nursing school and pre-school where I would receive early intervention. In September of 1999 I started on my way to kindergarten; self-contained but by the time I was in second grade in September of 2001 I was taking a few classes with the regular ed kids. In third grade I was officially “integrated” into regular ed and in 2012 I officially graduated high school with a Regents Diploma. You both were so proud and would tell anyone and everyone about it, much to my 18-year-old self’s embarrassment. I was accepted into a local community college for their version of liberal arts as I worked towards the credits needed to officially be in their Theatre Arts department.
You’ve had to put up with some rather rude responses from people ranging from telling you to give me up because I wouldn’t be any good to society, to people saying I was disabled because of your sins. Yet you’ve never been bitter. Instead you’ve taught me to hold my head up high and not give ignorant people or bullies any attention.
Ever since I found out I had cerebral palsy when I was 6, you never used my disability as an excuse. You always pushed me to try my best at everything I do. Growing up I was never told I couldn’t do something because of my CP, instead that it might just take me a bit longer or I might have to figure out ways to adapt to the situation. I was never treated differently because of my disability; I was expected to do the same chores and have the same responsibilities as any one of my peers. For this I thank you.
I’m now 23 years old, and I’m about to graduate college. I know how to do simple tasks, and know how to advocate for myself if need be. I don’t view myself as an individual with a disability, I view myself as a typical 23-year-old and my disability just sometimes provides a rude awakening to me (shout out to all the times I lose my balance and end up making friends with the ground). For everything you’ve done, thank you.
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Cover image via Thinkstock.