People with Cerebral Palsy have mastered dealing with change, breaking down barriers, and coming up with creative solutions their whole lives. To mark World Cerebral Palsy Day, blogger Chloe Tear has written a piece for us about her experiences.
Like all young adults, I want independence. With this being the normal transition for all people my age, having a disability doesn’t impact the desire for independence — although it does affect the logistics! I have mild Cerebral Palsy, and with 6th October being World Cerebral Palsy (CP) Day I always find it a pivotal moment to reflect.
Wanting to be like everyone else
When I think back to my early teens, the emphasis was on the need to blend in and to be just like everyone else, so I waved goodbye to anything that might suggest I was disabled, like my Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO) splints. At the time it wasn’t about what worked for me, but about what looked ‘right’ and ‘normal’. But unfortunately, this didn’t mean that my Cerebral Palsy up and left.
I had a crucial realisation when I reached adulthood. I have Cerebral Palsy. I have a disability. But gaining independence is more important to me than fitting in. I learnt to love myself for me and no longer felt the need to hide an aspect of who I am.
I often refer to this as the practicality realisation. In order to be independent I needed to go back to basics. I started wearing AFO splints again and used a wheelchair on a part-time basis for a few years. Both of these things were needed, and they enabled me to be more independent. I also have a Motability Scheme car that helps me get around. This mindset shift shaped my outlook in so many ways.
Limitations leading to success
Who knew that accepting my limitations could actually help me to function as a young adult. I’d rather wear splints and be able to walk further. I’ve learnt that adapting is the key to success as a young adult, even if the conclusion is that you require support from someone else. I have become so much more comfortable in my own skin and strongly believe my disability has had a positive influence on my life.
For example, here are some of the ways that I maintain my independence:
- Travel assistance
- Personal Assistant
- Family and friends
- Assistive technology
- Motability Scheme car
I am unable to drive, but I do have a Motability Scheme Car which can be driven by my parents. It has meant I am able to get from A to B with ease. I also have really appreciated that I have been included every step of the way, despite not being the driver. It would have been very easy to liaise with the person who drives the car. For me, having a Motability Scheme Car means I can always leave the house easily. I believe it’s the level of communication from the people at the Scheme and the car which has empowered me to still have independence.
Unfortunately, my Cerebral Palsy is here to stay, so won’t it be easier if I work with my disability than against it? I’m not for one second saying that it’s easy, but this is my body for life. I’m tired of fighting against public stereotypes and perceptions, there is no room to fight against myself as well. As result, independence is possible.
Read Chloe’s interview with Cara Readle about driving with Cerebral Palsy here.
Independence is on the horizon
I was lucky enough to move away from home while at university. I had a team of personal assistants who were able to assist with daily living tasks and help facilitate socialising. I might not have had the typical student experience, but it was pretty close. Yet it was these adaptions that enabled me to get the very most out of my degree and provided the perfect stepping stone into the world of employment.
Finding employment after university can be a challenge for everyone, especially if you have a disability. However, combining my lived experiences, placements and advocacy work, I landed a full-time job within the charity sector — I even started this role before I’d graduated! This role enables me to support disabled people and their families every single day, but I wouldn’t be able to offer the same insight if I was non-disabled.
I look forward to building my career, getting a house and eventually starting a family. I now know that all of these things will be possible.
If you would like to know more about my experiences as a young adult with cerebral palsy, you can read my blog at www.chloetear.co.uk. You also can find visit the World CP Day website to find out how you can make your mark on 6th October 2020.