There a lot of crazy (and very untrue) things you hear when you have Cerebral Palsy. In fact it’s often hard to pick just one thing that’s the most untrue. It’s actually pretty funny now, but as a kid it gets really obnoxious. Clearly there are a lot of people out there who don’t know a lot about CP, or at least what they should know.
I wish I could divide comments by age and background; unfortunately they’ve come from all ages and professions (even doctors).
One of the most common things I get is that we’re all retarded. Yup, I’ve had someone come right out and ask, “So are you retarded?” right after I tell them I have Cerebral Palsy.
While it can be true that individuals with CP can also have cognitive issues it’s not true for everyone. Hence why I say individuals with CP, sometimes all people in the CP community have in common is having a diagnosis of CP.
I’ll just say one thing on the word retarded. If you use the word do yourself a favor and update your vocabulary. You’re not only insulting others, you’re insulting yourself. You may think you’re cool, in reality, you’re an idiot.
Another thing I get a lot is, “Are your legs broken?” I’ve gotten this question (& even phrased as a statement) for longer than I can even remember.
According to my mother I once came close to beating up a boy over it, and I swear I don’t remember this at all. My legs are not broken. My body works differently than yours, which does not automatically mean “broken.”
“Where is your walker/wheelchair?” Not everyone with CP uses an assistive device. I do use a wheelchair on occasion but not on a daily basis. I’ve been out sharing a meal with someone and when I get up from the table they ask me if I need my walker.
Use your powers of observation. Look around. If you don’t see an assistive device nearby it’s probably safe to assume they do not need one (at least in that situation). The same goes for asking, “How do you walk?” if you don’t see an assistive device around, they walk just like you do.
“It’s amazing what you’re been able to accomplish.” I admit this is probably the newest most common statement and it takes me a while to realize what people are talking about. In fact I’ll often ask them what they mean by that; just because CP is seen primarily as a children’s condition that it goes away at 18. At the same time we’re not much different than our average peers, it was expected of me to go to college, graduate, and get a job, and support myself. It’s not amazing, it’s normal.
“You’re most likely to old to see any improvement.” This one comes primarily from medical professions, and it’s probably the most wrong. It’s true that there are no (or few) studies of individuals past the age of 18 but that doesn’t mean making gains doesn’t happen.
I learned to jump, climb stairs without assistance, and pulled socks off my feet standing up (among other things) in my 20s. It’s more a matter of practice and guided coordination than actual ability.
This is just the short list of things I’ve heard about my condition. I’m sure I missed a bunch. Feel free to include your own if you’d like.
*A similar version of this post was written on April 7, 2013
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