Living with Cerebral Palsy
As a person living with CP, I often find that people have misconceptions about the disability, or the person living with it, which is why there is an awareness month, and why I’m writing this.
Here are 5 tips you should know about Cerebral Palsy and the people who live with it.
Tip #1: Cerebral Palsy affects people differently
Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term. This means that Cerebral Palsy affects people differently. I have Spastic Quadriplegia (Cerebral Palsy effects all of my limbs, and my muscles are very tight). I am very lucky to be able to walk and do all the things that I am able to do. I've included some pictures that may help distinguish the types of Cerebral Palsy.
It is almost rare to find a person with the EXACT type of Cerebral Palsy that you have, but It is possible to find people with similar types of Cerebral Palsy. For instance, I’m blessed to have some wonderful friends who have Cerebral Palsy. While each of us have it, we are all affected differently- just because we are affected differently doesn’t mean that we don’t experience some of the same things (shout out to the squad).
Tip #2: You don’t have to speak to people with Cerebral Palsy (or any disability) like you’re speaking to a child
I feel that one of the most annoying things about having a disability is that people assume that just because you walk differently, your brain is affected too. People with all disabilities are smart in their own way. This weekend, I was standing in line at a candle store and there was only one person standing in line in front of me. The lady working the cash register asked if I would like a chair to complete my transaction. I kindly told her no thanks and continued with the transaction. I should point out that I realize she was just trying to be nice, but I did not appreciate the tone in which she asked the question. She asked the question as if she thought I couldn’t hear her clearly, but I could.
Tip #3: Don't Assume We Can't Walk
"Oh, wow! You can walk? You’re doing so good!” Yes, I can walk. I’ve been doing it for 19 years, thanks (I took my first steps when I was three years old). That part always makes me laugh because clearly you can see that I am taking steps towards you. The last part though, isn’t so bad. If you are working on your walking or have done something to try and improve it, it’s nice to hear that the change is noticeable.
Tip #4: If you are walking with someone that has Cerebral Palsy, do your best to walk at their pace
My friends and family are some of the best friends and family ever. They are pretty good at making sure they are walking at my pace. It is a documented fact that people with Cerebral Palsy burn three to five times the amount of energy (and calories) than anybody else when doing any activity. Nothing is more stressful and frustrating than trying to keep up with people who are walking what seems like miles ahead of you.
Tip #5: Adaption is key
One of the things about Cerebral Palsy that keeps you on your toes is adaptation. Whether it be sitting on a bench or sitting on the floor, it’s hard to maneuver your legs because of the tightness. However, you’d be surprised. This maneuvering can happen pretty fast.
Tip #6: Know your facts