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The Adaption That Wasn't 'Fantastic' for Me as a Child With Cerebral Palsy

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It was the scissors. They were the first concrete manifestation of my being “different” that I could remember. I remember equally well the teacher’s reaction when she handed them to me. Her expression radiated pride and superiority, and her smile was irritatingly smug. She obviously thought she’d won the battle that was trying to support annoyingly stubborn, relentlessly determined little Erin. I could see her thinking, I’ve done it! I’ve finally found a modification that works for this kid!

Clearly, she didn’t know me very well. Just because they were purple and glittery (an undoubtedly premeditated, ridiculously transparent design decision, targeting primary school me’s favourite color and pattern) in no way meant that I was going to use them. Instead of an effective “adjustment” to help remediate my highly dodgy fine motor skills due to cerebral palsy, I saw this pair of scissors as an artifact of my difference.

In what I presume was a magnificent fluke, for the many worksheets I had to cut and glue in class (my primary school education was a monument to the “chalk, talk and worksheet” method of teaching), I somehow managed to get away with using the plain blue scissors that every other kid in that class had, sparing me the humiliation of using my glaringly different, albeit “easier” scissors.

Now, at this point I have to add that these “easier” scissors, in addition to being starkly different from everyone else’s in both color and decoration, had the word “fantastic” emblazoned across them. Even now, looking back, I don’t understand why. My cutting was obviously not fantastic – what sort of ironic statement about my skills were these scissors making? Outside the confines of the classroom, though, especially when I went to my weekly occupational therapy sessions, I wasn’t always so dismissive. These scissors were made with a convenient little yellow lever that helped them snap open automatically as I cut stuff — hence, their qualifying as an appropriate aid for my life at school. And although I hated to admit it, they did make my cutting easier. My binder of very thick, very black BlackLine Masters (coloring pages) that I had to complete at these OT sessions weren’t always ending up as mutilated as they might have been with my prized, “typical” blue scissors.

So now I had a decision to make – I could either use the purple scissors, improve my fine motor skills and get over this “scissor stigma” I had built up in my mind, or I could continue with my old faithful blue scissors, with very messily trimmed worksheets, but with my façade of typicality still intact. I’m sure you can guess which path I chose — I can’t overstate how stubborn I was at school. Not much has changed now, come to think of it. And even though it might have been easier to use the ironically “fantastic,” modified scissors, they just didn’t cut it when it came to helping me do the one thing I wanted to do at school – be like everyone else.

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Originally published: January 24, 2017
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