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Don't Make Assumptions About My Intelligence Based on My Disability

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I am a 21-year-old young woman living with a movement and muscle disability caused by permanent  brain damage which occurred at birth. My condition is known as cerebral palsy. I’ve realized over the years that some CP cases are similar, but there is no case the same as another.

Some people who live with cerebral palsy can walk with or without the help of a mobility device; some may need to use a wheelchair from time-to-time, or use one all of the time and require 24/7 care from those around them. Some people who have CP may need extra support academically or mentally to complete tasks, or may show a need for assistance in multiple areas mentioned above. The degree to which people are affected by CP has to do with which part of the brain experienced damage.

I can walk with the help of a walker for short distances and use a wheelchair when my leg muscles become too tired to support my desire to walk effectively. People have looked at my CP as an extra special case all of my life (even though no case is the same). I do very well academically and am very self- sufficient. I can sit up, roll over, speak and feed myself the same way my peers without disability, I just need support from mobility devices to get from one place to another efficiently.

Recently, on more than one occasion, people have said they wouldn’t guess I am disabled if I didn’t come along in a wheelchair or a walker because I have intelligent conversations. Although I say nothing in the moment, those words are the most hurtful I’ve heard in my 21 years of life. Those words are hurtful because they affect more people than just myself.

What makes someone disabled? According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a disability occurs when someone cannot complete a task in the way society expects because of physical or mental limitation(s).  A disability does not determine a person’s intelligence or worth in this world. Just because someone cannot speak does not mean they can’t communicate; just because someone can’t walk does not mean they cannot do anything for themselves. Please get to know someone based on their personality and not the stigma behind a label. Differences occur to keep the world interesting. Please accept others the way you would want to be accepted.

Originally published: June 24, 2018
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