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Learning to Fall in My Life With Cerebral Palsy

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Falling can be a scary topic for parents of kids with disabilities. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think.

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was 3-and-a-half years old after years of battling with my pediatrician at the time. He always said I would catch up, but year after year I never completely did. It wasn’t until an aquatherapy appointment one day when my parents finally got an answer. I had just finished up and the conversation went something like this.

“So, when did you find out she had CP?” my physical therapist asked.

My parents replied, shocked, “Uh, we didn’t?” and from that day forward I officially had spastic diplegic cerebral palsy.

I don’t really remember ever “learning to fall” but with how much I fell while learning to walk, falling became second nature. When I was first learning to walk (and relearning to walk after my selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery in 2003), I fell often. I used to fall in PE class, and sometimes just in my regular classes. Other times I would fall in the hallway going from one class to another. In eighth grade, I even sprained both wrists and both ankles from two separate falls.

When I was younger, I was also shorter. This made falls easier because I was closer to the ground. But after those falls in eighth grade, I realized I had grown from the little girl learning to walk, and falls became a bigger fear than they had ever been in the past. With increased height came increased danger. As a younger child I would fall and get right back up again, but the taller I got the harder it was to catch myself quickly, which meant more sprains.

After those two falls, I became very fearful of falling. Freshman and sophomore years of high school I always had someone with me from class to class so if I did fall, I could have help getting up if I needed it. It helped a lot and the number of falls decreasedto one or two a year. Junior year I was independently getting from class to class and had one or two falls. Senior year, I hadn’t had any until one of the last days of school, when my foot got caught on an extension cord, I tried to step and proceeded to fall. I caught myself on a table so I didn’t go completely down, but I did have a minor abrasion on my knee.

I was upset, I’m not going to lie. I did cry silently at my desk for a few minutes until I went to my next class. I was upset because I was embarrassed and in pain from hitting my knee. I got ice and eventually felt better.

Fast forward to now. I’m 19 years old and in college. I still fall at times. You may wonder, “How isn’t she scared?” Well, I’ll tell you. When you’ve fallen as much as I have, you learn bravery. I’ve learned I can’t dwell on the one time I trip or the one time I fall. If I do, I’ll start fearing it.

Falls happen and that’s OK. It helps to make sure others around you know they can happen and tell them how to help you. You might sprain or break something, but don’t let that fear stop you from following your dreams, because falling is just part of life.

This story originally appeared on Flying Toward Awareness.

Getty image by Antonio Guillem.

Originally published: August 11, 2019
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