Please Don't Single Me Out Because of My Cerebral Palsy
It’s true that I have a disability, but I don’t think of cerebral palsy
that way. The word “disability” means “a physical or mental condition
that limits your abilities.” I don’t think cerebral palsy limits my abilities.
Even though it is polite not to stare, I don’t want anyone to avoid looking at me completely. I wear braces, also called ankle foot orthotics (AFOs), and it would really be nice for someone to look me in the eyes rather than at my AFOs. Or you could comment and say, “Those are really cool.”
I receive insincere comments from other kids because of cerebral palsy; that helps me to be sensitive to other people’s feelings. But that doesn’t mean I like the comments. So many kids say I run slowly, but I wish they would focus on any of my other traits or interests rather than my physical success.
If you’re my friend, I’d like to talk with you about something other than cerebral palsy. If you said, “Caroline, I’m interested in learning about cerebral palsy, can you tell me a bit about it?” then sure, I’d tell you some things. But people don’t speak carefully and say things like, “Why do you walk different?” So instead of being able to educate someone, I feel I have to defend myself, as if walking differently is a bad thing.
I don’t like to be singled out. If I want to play jump rope, for example, I feel like an alien if you say, “Oh go slow so she doesn’t trip.” I know it can be a kind gesture, but when someone changes the game because of me, I feel like a one-eyed dragon. In other words, I feel different from everyone else in every way.
These are the things I wish people knew about how I feel about cerebral palsy.
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Thinkstock image by Ingram Publishing.