My challenge of cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is a developmental disability caused by a disruption of brain development in the fetus or at birth. The severity of symptoms varies greatly from stiff muscles, abnormal reflexes, poor coordination and posture as well as speech difficulty.
I often get the question, “Wow, what’s it like to have cerebral palsy?” Whether it’s a small child or an adult, I like to tell the story of my friend, the foreman at a big factory. He gave orders and people carried out his orders.
Now I want you to think about your body as a factory with your brain relaying thoughts down the back of your neck. Those commands are then passed along to the other parts of your body. These commands are something like the foreman’s orders. When these orders go to the muscles, the muscles are on a slowdown strike. They sort of do the job. But their work is extremely substandard.
Then I have spastic muscles and poor flexibility in my arms and legs. My body does not move the way I want it to. I can take a few steps but I have used a wheelchair for years. The wheelchair is a mobility tool that gives me freedom. I have poor dexterity in my hands and fingers. So, it is hard to drink a coffee without spilling on my clean shirt.
Disabilities & intelligence
People with physical disabilities are not necessarily mentally challenged (like many people tend to think).
I have built my life around fighting derogatory words and labels. I’m always trying to prove to people that I’m not stupid.
Because cerebral palsy affects so many parts of my body, people sometimes put me in a box. They tend to think that because my muscles don’t work well, my mind must not work well either. That definitely is not true.
One of my biggest challenges is my speech.
Watch this one-minute video so that you can hear me speak. The longer you listen to me, the easier it is to understand me. (As you work through this e-book, you will see how I began to view my speech challenge as an opportunity.)
One person who has proven to the world that his intellect remained intact despite living with devastating disabilities was Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018). He was one of the most brilliant people that has ever lived. He had a rare form of ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – where nerve cells that control muscles throughout the body gradually lose strength and die. After losing his speech, he was able to activate a speech-generating device by using a single cheek muscle.
Steven Hawking did not have cerebral palsy like me. But my point is this: even though his physical disabilities were enormous, his mind was extraordinary. His theories changed the world as we know it. He was considered to be among the 100 greatest people in Briton’s history.