May is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month and with that comes the opportunity for families to discuss their experiences, stories and share facts and milestones.
Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a disorder that affects movement, muscle tone and/or posture, caused by an injury to the immature or developing brain. It is a neurological condition that affects body movement and muscle co-ordination; and anyone can be born with CP no matter their social demographic.
Approximately one baby in every 1000 births is diagnosed with CP and 60 000 Canadians live with this condition. It is the most common physical disability in childhood but also one of the least understood.
My son was diagnosed with CP shortly after his first birthday –an MRI confirmed he had a stroke when he was very little (either in the womb, during delivery or shortly after delivery –doctors can’t confirm the time or why because there isn’t enough medical research to determine that). The stroke affected his ability to fully use the left side of his body (from his jaw all the way down to his toes).
Although the diagnosis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to hear and process –I knew it was not something that would define him, his potential or us as a family. He is such a happy little boy with so much determination and drive –it’s truly inspiring!
I am now a proud advocate for my son and others like him. I use his uniqueness as a way to educate people and raise awareness. It’s not easy being stared at when we’re walking in public -people are naturally curious and that’s fine. He uses a walker which helps with his independence and wears ankle-foot orthotics for better stability -ensuring he is more confident. He has a noticeable limp and struggles to walk as fast or as coordinated as a ‘normal’ child.
Unless you have a child with special needs it’s hard to understand the situation –that’s why advocacy is so important. Some days are harder than others but it’s important to realize that being positive makes a big difference. Educating people only helps to eliminate stigmas associated with those who have special needs. Talking about his condition is also somewhat therapeutic.
I am so proud of my son and all that he has accomplished in his short time on Earth. He has overcome barriers that most of us aren’t strong enough to endure and he does it with such grace.
In May we also celebrate mother’s day so I’m sending a special happy mother’s day message to all the mommies of children who have special needs. You are strong and brave and you are the reason your child thrives every day!