Personality Profile: Tim Wambach and Mike Berkson

Mike Berkson embodies this blog’s tagline “Putting  the ‘Cerebral’ in Cerebral Palsy” so well I can’t think of a better candidate for my first personality profile here at Off Balanced. Where cerebral palsy limits Mike, close friend Tim Wambach enables. Together the two spread disability awareness in the form of a live stage show called “Handicap This.” Don’t fret, “Handicap This” provides much more than a lecture rambling about individuals with disabilities. Media outlets such as ABC 7 News and Western Springs Patch praises the show for its humor. To learn more about “Handicap This” visit www.handicapthis.com.

The friendship between Berkson and Wambach started when Tim began working at Mike’s school as a special needs aid. Wambach’s assistance helped unlock Mike Berkson’s creativity, a personality trait too often overshadowed by the physical affects of his cerebral palsy. “Handicap This” shares the varying instances which led to the duo’s empowering friendship. The majority of these performances however take place around the Chicago, IL area. Fortunately for anyone interested Tim Wambach documents his adventures assisting Mike inside the book How We Roll. Overall How We Roll serves as an extremely insightful look into life in a wheelchair. For my complete review checkout “Book Review: How We Roll by Tim Wambach.” To order the book, visit Amazon.com.

How We Roll  by Tim Wambach

Book cover for How We Roll by Tim Wambach

All in all Mike Berkson and Tim Wambach demonstrate inclusion at its finest, and no I’m not talking about the old grocery store Finest, ;).   For able bodied folks and people with disabilities to thrive together in society requires much patience. When you find frustration overwhelming you remember these phrases which Tim Wambach adopted as his mottoes “Improvise, adapt, overcome” and “Keep on keeping on.”

*To stay in the loop with the Handicap This duo connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Debunking Misconceptions: The Disabled are Physically Helpless

Welcome back to Off Balanced! This past weekend in my introductory post (read here) I spoke about my plans for this blog. To help keep my posts organized I’ve decided for at least the foreseeable future to preface my posts with one of three categories: Debunking Misconceptions, Personality Profile, and Book News. Each topic seems self-explanatory so without further ado I wish to get into the meat of today’s post.

Recently SI.com’s Dan Greene highlighted independent professional wrestler Gregory Iron in an article titled “Gregory Iron, The Handicapped Hero, Chases  His Wrestling Dreams.” The wrestler dubbed “The Handicapped Hero” has a case of cerebral palsy which affects his right arm. Early on in the piece I became tempted to forgo reading the rest of the article due to the following sentence-

“If he (Iron) tucks his right arm at his side or obscures it from view, you’d never guess that there’s anything disabled about the upbeat kid whose pectoral muscles stretch his T-shirt”

Whether Greene meant to or not, with the above he endorses the stereotype people with disabilities can’t be physically fit. Now I don’t want this to come across as me picking on Greene because the truth is overall the mainstream media views disabilities negatively. When Gregory Iron appeared on Fox & Friends Weekend (see video) the host basically asked “The Handicapped Hero” what kept Iron from allowing his disability to influence him to give up on life. Such a question provides the allusion having a disability means  facing insurmountable challenges.  The truth however reveals a disability to be just another problem to tackle. Everyone in life encounters difficulties so in a way everyone has handicaps.

Now to be completely  honest the misconception people with disabilities are physically helpless bleeds over internally to the disabled community. Last year around this time a healthcare company contracted me to write a series of articles about living with spinal cord injuries. I worried about how many articles I could actually produce because I imagined severe disabilities involving being paralyzed to some degree to create a very restrictive lifestyle. However, a little research really opened my eyes. I learned a lot about adaptive sports especially, even finding myself staring at my computer screen awestruck watching the intensity adaptive sports like sled hockey and wheelchair rugby bring out.

Sled Hockey

Sled hockey competition from the 2010 Paralympics Photo: Wikimedia Commons user popejon2

I’m not the only one though to underestimate the abilities of my disabled peers. Let’s go back once again to “The Handicapped  Hero” Gregory Iron who I interviewed this past summer for my Yahoo! Contributor Network article “Inspirational Profile: Gregory Iron.” Iron explained to me growing up he knew he wanted to work in the wrestling industry but didn’t consider in-ring action a possibility until he saw one legged wrestler Zach Gowen on WWE television. Zach Gowen inspired “The Handicapped Hero” to reach beyond the misconception the disabled are physically helpless.

If asked to speculate  on why able-bodied individuals and their disabled kin believe the physically helpless misconception, I’d venture to say the negative stigma stems from how mainstream media perceives disabilities. Yet thanks to the Internet and social media we all possess the power to debunk this misconception. If we all just tweeted or posted one disability orientated athletic story a day, we can show everyone people with disabilities can be stacked and jacked just like able-bodied individuals.

Introduction

Hello and welcome to Off Balanced, a blog dedicated to cerebral palsy. The blog’s name “Off Balanced” corresponds with the title of my upcoming book Off Balanced, soon to be released on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. Off Balanced the book serves as my teenage memoir where I share how growing up with a mild case of CP affected me socially. As a title “Off Balanced” provides a pun, playing off the idea of poor physical balance to suggest mental instability.

Blog-wise the title “Off Balanced” still works as a pun, indicating my blog’s goal to throw misconceptions about cerebral palsy and other disabilities off balance. I plan to address these different preconceived notions in detail while also introducing you to various individuals I’ve had the opportunity as a disability beat writer to learn about and interact with over the past few years. Hopefully you will enjoy reading about blues musician Jake Nielsen, professional wrestler Gregory Iron, and others as much as I’ve enjoyed interviewing and writing about them.

Before I conclude today’s introductory post I want to ease any concerns. This will not be a platform for lecturing able-bodied individuals about how they mistreat the disabled population or a place filled with rants from an oversensitive person. I sincerely believe misconceptions regarding disabilities stem from lacking inclusion and NOT malicious attitudes. With time you will also notice I’m a laid back individual who enjoys sarcasm. Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to our blogger-reader relationship budding. To steal a few words from the band P.O.D. “Goodbye for now.” 🙂