My Life With Cerebral Palsy Is Like Yours
What would I do without my cerebral palsy? Walk by myself? Talk with everyone understanding me? Or just have a “normal” life? Truthfully, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything!
In my 20 (almost 21) years, I’ve realized I have a normal life, but with a unique twist. I have endless mountains of therapies and doctors’ appointments. Some people might think that is all what people with disabilities lives consist of, but that is not true. We can often do things other people do, but we do them differently.
Some people say that parents of kids with disabilities won’t take their children to practice or watch them play sports. This might be true for some parents. But for mine, I had them chauffeur me around since day one! When I was 7 years old, I played T-Ball. My parents would put me in my gate walker and away I went. I needed help with hitting the ball but other than that I did it all! As I got older, I went out for band in fifth grade; I played the drums on an electric keyboard. Man, I really could play that thing! I did cheerleading in seventh grade, had practice every day and I had to cheer at all of the football games. When I got into high school, I went out for individual and large group speech. I was the first person with a communication device in speech group. That started my public speaking gigs; I started to give my speech to colleges, speech pathologist conferences, and schools around Iowa and Minnesota.
Some people say that parents will not talk about their kids’ grades and milestones. Umm, what? I hope my parents talk about my grades and milestones because I didn’t work my butt off for nothing. At the age of 3, my parents sent me to preschool. After 6 months of going to school, my preschool teacher told my parents, “This girl has something in her head, and it’s called brains!” Her room was for children with disabilities, mostly intellectual disabilities. And there was me, the only one with a physical disability.
My preschool teacher taught me how to read when I was 3. Many 3-year-olds would want to read with pictures — but not me. I would get so mad if they showed me a picture and not the actual word. I thought people would think that I couldn’t read if I used pictures. So Mrs. Crawford got it, and she taught me real words. While the other children played and did other things, I was on the computer, and I played a game with animals that taught me how to read and spell. Weird as it sounds, my reading skills came from a giraffe and a mouse.
Then when I was 6, I got placed into a “regular” kindergarten class. Who would have thought that a little tyke like me would be in a regular class? Obviously my parents and my preschool teacher, and I didn’t see that I was any different than other kids my age. From that point forward, I was mainstreamed into regular classrooms.
Another thing that annoys me is when people say that disabled children don’t get to play with their brothers or sisters. If you have a brother like mine, you don’t get away with just sitting and doing nothing. We had an exercise mat, and he set me up on my hands and knees. He put a football a few feet away from me, and he would go on the football. “Hut hut,” he’d yell, then I dove as hard as I could to get the ball before he could get it. He dragged me outside to play in the sandbox; he always treated me like a brother should treat a sister.
Also some people say disabled people “can get away with a lot” or “they can slack off because they are disabled.” Truth is, I wouldn’t stand for doing absolutely nothing and my parents wouldn’t let me slack off. I would go to school, after physical therapy or occupational therapy or speech therapy (it depends on the day), then practice for sports/speech/school activities. Then finally at 6 p.m. when I got home, I’d do my homework until 10:30 p.m., then get to bed because tomorrow, I’d get to do it again. Truthfully, this is what mine and many other young people with disabilities’ lives consist of. If you get the lucky end of the straw and don’t get too much homework or your therapy gets cancelled, you get to do anything what you want, but it only happens once in a blue moon.
Sometimes I just want people to see me how my family sees me, and how I see myself. But then I’m kind of glad they don’t, because it makes me appreciate my family and friends more. And when I meet my future husband, I will appreciate him too!
People with disabilities, like any other person, have to beat the odds that aren’t in their favor every single day. Yes, it gets tiring and some days, giving up sounds good. But we have to stay strong for our parents, siblings, and for ourselves. To stop people from looking down on us, we have to believe in ourselves. We have to deal with people that talk baby talk to us and make ignorant comments.
People with disabilities can have a normal life like everyone has. We have similar experiences like going out for sports or playing with our brothers or sisters. We have goals like everybody does. I want to be the first speech pathologist with a communication device, and I want to open my own clinic. Trust me, it isn’t easy. Like everyone else, people with disabilities have to work our butts off to get what we want! We might get laughed at or be told we can’t do it, but we are strong enough to break down the barriers we’re up against.
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Thinkstock image by James Quigley.