For Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I got to reconnect with two former high school students of mine, now young women: Tamara is a college student who loves R&B and is studying human resources, and Faith is is currently living at home but dreams of having her own place post-pandemic. They are both living and thriving with cerebral palsy.
I hope you'll take their words for the gift that they are, offering us non-disabled people a window into a world we'll never know firsthand.
What is your favorite thing about your life as a disabled woman?
T: I like proving people wrong. When they say I can’t do something and I do it, it makes me feel happy to prove them wrong. So for example this happened in the summer when I was a senior in high school. Remember you were in the meeting when they told me I couldn’t work? So, I was like what am I gonna do for work in the summer? So, I emailed Mr. Luke on my own and set up an interview that spring break and he was like you can volunteer, and I volunteered all summer and kept myself busy. I set it up all by myself and called COTA every week and earned a whole bunch of internship hours just for that.
F: That I can teach others about what it's like having a disability.
Disabled workers are often undervalued and stigmatized, even by the people meant to serve and support them. I remember this meeting very well, and I was so impressed when Tamara refused to take no for an answer. She took charge of her own summer opportunities, proving that this agency professional was 100% wrong to underestimate her. And Faith is just so wise (if you know her, you know!) She teaches me so much.
Advice for parents of kids with CP?
T: Just be patient. It can be hard sometimes but you just have to be patient. When I had my surgeries and stuff back in 2010, I had a big leg surgery and I was in a cast for like three months. My mom was encouraging because I couldn’t go to school at the time and I was really sad about that, but she kept my spirits up. Be understanding of your kid with a disability, and encouraging. Like, when I volunteered at summer camp, my mom was like “I’m so proud of you, you did everything by yourself,” and she didn’t even have to help me.
THIS RIGHT HERE. One of my biggest challenges as a mom of disabled kids is the negativity I witness from some (not all) fellow parent of disabled kids. Be your kid's biggest cheerleader guys, and understand that they are on their own timeline. Milestone charts and comparisons are irrelevant, and our kids deserve to be appreciated for exactly who they are.
F: To always be positive as much as possible even though it's not always easy having a disabled kid you can still have a positive life with them and try to make the best out of life on a daily basis no matter what.
The way she worded that breaks my heart a little bit (I don't want my disabled kids to think life with them is hard or a burden cuz it's totally NOT) but I get what she's trying to say here. Fight for that joy! No pity parties.
What do you wish others knew about supporting people with CP?
T: I wish they knew that we’re people too and we like to do stuff, we like to hang out just like they like to hang out! Talk to us, get to know us. Other women can empower women with cerebral palsy too, and encourage us.
F: That it's not hard to try and support us you can learn more about CP by supporting people who have CP, and that more people should!
Women empowering women MUST include abled/neurotypical women empowering neurodiverse/disabled women. This Women's History Month and Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I hope you'll share these badass ladies' words, and learn from them.