Math, Life, and Cerebral Palsy
“With tremendous burdens often come enormous gifts. The trick is to identify the gifts, and glory in them.” - Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein
“Good for you for getting out there [and holding down a job],” a guest says like I deserve some pity and unable to contribute to something bigger than myself because I have a disability.
It is shocking to me that two of the main stereotypes of a PwD (person with disability) are 1) PwDs are worthy of, and deserve, severe pity and 2) PwDs are thought not to lead a productive and fulfilling life. Both of which are pure bullshit.
At six months, I was diagnosed with a condition called Cerebral Palsy (CP.)
If you are unfamiliar with the term, some books define CP as a neurological condition, which affects the individual’s ability to quickly carry out tasks such as walking, talking, and writing. There are several ways CP can manifest itself in an individual. There is literature out there that can define CP better than I can and provide more information if you are interested in the topic.
Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, I was diagnosed with CP at six months of age. My CP affects my speech, which makes it difficult to understand me at first. My CP also affects my legs in the regard that I do not have to wear leg braces or rely on a walker. My CP, unfortunately, fatigues my muscles at a faster rate than people without CP. I refer it to it as “my CP” because not all disabilities are the same and you have to consider each individually.
Going through public school was not bad, but it was not good either. I was not treated any differently than my classmates because of my disability. A few kids tried to imitate the way I spoke, but I know they did not mean anything by it. Also, I don’t have anything else to compare it to so as far as I am concerned, it was pretty standard.
Outside of school, I went through Boy Scouts, which was an excellent time for me to grow, both socially and individually. I held many different leadership positions including Patrol Leader & Instructor, which helped me branch out socially by addressing a group of people and assisting them. I got my Eagle Scout, but the Trail to Eagle was not as “simple” as it was for someone who did not have a disability. A couple of requirements to obtain different ranks and merit badges made me realize my physical limitations. After some determination, leadership, and persistency, I got my Eagle Scout award.
It was also during my school years that I found out I was good at mathematics. In fact, my teachers would often commend me on my math skills. Furthermore, my peers would consider me a “math person” (side note: I do not consider myself a “math person.”) Using this knowledge, I would go on to pursue a mathematics degree from the University of North Texas (Go Eagles!!). The courses were tough, but I persisted through the coursework. I even contemplated switching my degree plan (curse you Real Analysis!) but my love for the subject was my motivation for completing the degree. Now I am a holder of a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics
Going back to Dr. Shetreat-Klein, I agree with her. My disability has taught me some essential qualities/gifts despite my “burdens.” Having CP has shown me that each person’s life is different on the inside. It does not matter if they look, talk, or act the same, everyone is different, and everyone has a different story to tell. Having CP has taught me that everything is not going to be handed to you on a silver platter and you have to be determined to get the thing you are trying to get. I could go on and on about what CP has shown me, but you get the idea.
Each PwD has their own story to tell and it is not up to you to view them as some poor individual that simply cannot function as well as the rest of society. Each individual’s story is their own and it is up to them how they choose to traverse the circumstances of their birth.
One last thing…
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