Dispelling Cerebral Palsy Stigmas

Too often the discussion about cerebral palsy focuses on negatives, but two individuals look to help change that. Over on Twitter CPers Kate Meuser (@katethemuse) and Timmy Le (@Timmmyy_Le) began a campaign that utilizes a hash tag, #WhatCPLooksLike. As Timmy tells in his August 15th tweet,

“Starting a campaign w/ @katethemuse about dispelling #CerebralPalsy stigmas by using #WhatCPLooksLike to show what CAN be accomplished.”

#WhatCPLooksLike aims to create a positive cerebral palsy reflection

What does cerebral palsy look like to you? Photo: “Make-up mirror” by Jurii – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Make-up_mirror.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Make-up_mirror.jpg

Obviously I’m all for the idea given I’m writing this post. Now I’m proud to know both Kate and Timmy from the live weekly Wednesday evening CP chat #CPChatNow (8pm EST). If the #WhatCPLooksLike tweets provide an accurate indicator, others from the #CPChatNow community share my sentiments.

So far according to the hash tagged tweets cerebral palsy looks like academic achievement, leadership, and athletic accomplishments. For instance Timmy shared a video showcasing him breaking a board during a Dan Tae Kwon Do exam.

Another #CPChatNow regular Devin (@AdventuresInCP), tweeted a photograph showing him receiving Who’s Who Amongst Grad Students honors. Susanne Brasset (@hazelmist) tweeted out a photo showing her working as a lifeguard.

For my first #WhatCPLooksLike contribution I posted a link to my latest Youtube video.

Honestly I began working on the above video last month prior to the #WhatCPLooksLike campaign. My goal proved to get others to view exercising with cerebral palsy differently. The intensity displayed during the various Rocky montages make them impactful.

By creating “If Rocky Balboa had cerebral palsy…” I desired bringing a similar intensity to exercising with cerebral palsy. Essentially I aimed to dispel any inferiority stigma surrounding exercising with CP, making the video a natural #WhatCPLooksLike fit.

If you have cerebral palsy, do your part to eliminate CP stigmas by sending out some positive #WhatCPLooksLike tweets. Together, we can change the cerebral palsy conversation.

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Goal to Walk a Half Marathon

Me after my Inside the Park Home Run walk

Hanging out around Progressive Field’s visitor dugout after completing the Inside the Park Home Run fun walk.

Last weekend I participated in the Inside the Park Home Run event at Progressive Field, which featured a four-mile run and one mile fun walk. Now I completed the latter, marking my first official mile since elementary school. Heading into the event excitement filled me. The course ended on Progressive Field, sacred land to a big Cleveland Indians fan like me. More so though, the event represented progress in my goal to walk a half marathon.

Flashback three plus years ago to March 2011 when I read Someone Like Me: An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph Over Cerebral Palsy by John W. Quinn. Reading about John’s Navy career left me wanting more experiences for my life. Specifically I desired to challenge my body’s limits the way John did every day at sea serving our country.

At the time two friends I saw weekly Alex (RIP) and T.jaye remained hard at work training for a triathlon, leaving me to think “I’ll run, well walk, a marathon.” Further thought led me deeming a half marathon a more reasonable goal. After all, back then I maxed out at four miles on my stationary bike.

With a goal set, I casually began training. Very casually! To build up my endurance I turned to my stationary bike. December 2012 I completed 13 miles on my stationary bike for the first time. Walking 13 miles however proves more difficult due to my gait. Thanks cerebral palsy!

While I started walking more, again I did so very causally. The Inside the Park Home Run fun walk leaves me motivated to work harder. Following my casual mile completion time 28:01 I’m curious what time I could achieve if I give 100%.

Buying a pedometer becomes a priority for me so I can track my distances walked and work down my times to the point where I can complete a 5k within a reasonable mark, my next short-term goal on my journey to a half marathon.

How about you? What long-term goals do you possess? How do you plan to get there? Share via commenting below.

Disability Portrayal in Guardians of the Galaxy

Groot and Rocket Guardians of the Galaxy Poster

Guardians of the Galaxy promotional poster featuring Groot and Rocket. Photo: IMDB.com

This past week I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, with absolutely no expectation the movie might give me a subject to blog about. Yet talking to a friend afterwards I wound up drawing a parallel between individuals nonverbal or low verbal due to a disability and the character Groot. While I’ll refrain from any major movie spoilers, beware the following will contain minor ones.

Groot’s vocabulary remains limited to one phrase, “I am Groot.” Certainly this qualifies him as low verbal. Due to Groot’s lacking vocabulary, his companions often call him words like “stupid” and “idiot.” Basically they assume ignorance, an assumption commonly made in society towards low verbal and nonverbal people.

However all movie Groot comprehends the events going on around him. His actions prove that. Minus one scene where Groot acts impulsively, he makes no choices demonstrating poor intelligence. Actually even his impulsive act does not portray poor intelligence, just little patience.

Groot’s closest companion Rocket naturally treats him the fairest. Unlike the others Rocket turns to nonverbal communication cues, mainly tone of voice, to define the meaning behind each “I am Groot.” In a way Rocket and Groot’s relationship holds similarities to someone nonverbal or low verbal and those close to the person.

Probably to anyone besides a disability advocate, Groot comes across as comic relief. Personally though I believe the character provides much more. Please consider this post a challenge. I challenge you to go beyond the basics when watching Guardians of the Galaxy. Compare Groot to nonverbal or low verbal individuals. Allow the comparison to identify the unfairness to assuming ignorance, and remember that next time you feel tempted to assume ignorance.