themighty logo

The Little Things I Struggle to Do Because of Cerebral Palsy


Due to my group of friends with cerebral palsy, I am aware of how relatively mild my CP is; however, there is still an astonishing list of things I “struggle” to do. I find it funny, because though this list of simple things strikes my non-disabled friends as the end of the world, it is such a part of my everyday life that all can say is “C’est la vie!” It’s a French phrase meaning “That’s life.” We use it in English too, of course, but the literal nature it bears in French is worth noting. I am largely incapable of zipping a coat, tying shoes, putting a ponytail in or cutting meat.

The irony of all this is, on top of teaching French, I am a preschool para. Which means I spend two hours every day tying shoes, zipping coats and fixing ponytails for 3 to 5 year olds. Technically I can do all these things, but with such effort and time that it is not worth it for my personal shoes, coats and ponytails. But I do the best I can for the kiddos I am there to help. I have had my co-teachers come up to me and say, “I’ll do that, Madame.” The one I remember is zipping a preschooler’s coat. I can help with coats, hats, gloves and mittens, but not zippers. I was trying to zip, a co-worker watched me struggle with it and stepped in and said, “I can’t watch you do that anymore.” Or they will say, “That’s a two-handed shoe, Madame,” and trade tasks with me.

For my own personal life outside of school, I do not wear tie shoes and I do not zip my coat. Living in Minnesota, this might seem ridiculous, but a good parka with snaps and scarf does just as well. I rarely eat meat that isn’t ground. And I only wear ponytails on special occasions when I have extra time, and even then, they’re crooked.

I find it endlessly funny when people say, “Really, you can’t…?” No, really, I can’t and it really is fine.  I remember dining with my in-laws for the first time. I was cutting my meat, clumsily. My mother-in-law offered to do it for me. I declined, and tried to explain to her that it really is fine and a normal part of my life. My inner thoughts about this were more like: I am a 24-year-old woman. I am capable of feeding myself.

The things I can do far outweigh the things I cannot; for that I am very grateful.

Getty image by Peter Berglund.