I know that most of my blog posts involve my brother in some capacity or another… and this one is no different. Today, October 6th is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. So, I wanted to shed some light on this condition and how it has played a role in my family.
For those of you that don’t know Brett and I were born 2 months and a half months premature due to Brett’s placenta rupturing, this caused Brett to lack oxygen which affected his brain development, which in turn caused his Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition and like most neurological conditions it has different levels of severity. In short, it affects your ability to move. It can impact your gross and fine motor skills, your speech, your cognitive abilities, your balance and muscle control.
Brett is in a wheelchair; his legs don’t work. He still has feeling in them, the muscles are just so constricted and there is a disconnect between his legs and his brain. His fine motor skills are also affected his has a hard time writing and doing anything with small objects. He has better control of his gross motor skills though. He can feed himself, type on a computer or tablet and text on a phone. He can also talk fine (the dude talks all the time), and his cognitive abilities are at a normal level. He was in mainstream school our entire life and is in college studying business right now.
I’ve personally also been affected by being born premature and have what my dad used to tell me was a touch of Cerebral Palsy. If you know me you probably already know that when I walk I put my weight on the balls of my feet forward onto my toes. The muscles in my legs are also very tight, not as tight as Brett’s obviously, but tight enough to make me super klutzy. When I was younger my walking on my toes was much worse, I needed special shoes and I used to get made fun of because I walked funny.
It is a lot better now, but I still have to consciously make the choice to put my heel down before the ball of my foot.
Brett used to go to physical therapy, both while we were in school and during the summer and when it was summer I use to have to go and watch him. It would make me sad to see him and all these other kids struggle to try and learn to do things that most people take for granted but, it also gave me an appreciation for my body and the most basic abilities it is able to perform.
And while I wouldn’t wish this condition on anyone, growing up around kids with disabilities taught me more than I can express. The biggest thing is people with any sort of disability want the same things as every other person on the planet. To be accepted, respected and loved. They have fears, hopes and dreams just like everybody else and it's important to treat them like you would anybody else.
Personally, I believe its all about education. People, kids especially will make comments about Brett when we are out in public. They aren’t mean comments, just curious. Because chances are a random kid at a store has never seen a young person in a wheelchair and that’s ok.
We all know that “it's not polite to stare or point” rule and that’s true, but it is polite to smile and say hi as it is with anyone you pass.
While there is a part of me that will always wish I could give Brett a “normal” life, I wouldn’t change anything about him. I know it is a part of my journey in life to help him, and hopefully others like him, believe in themselves and know that they can do anything they set their minds to… just like we all can.