What’s wrong with his legs? What’s he wearing on his feet? Why does he walk like that? Is he okay? Are his legs broken?
These are just a sample of the questions I often hear directed at my son who is four years old and lives with Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy, or CP, is a physical disability that affects movement, muscle tone and/or posture and is caused by an injury to the immature or developing brain. My son suffered a stroke around the time of birth and was officially diagnosed with CP after his first birthday.
When he was a baby, he had little control over his muscles on the left side and he could barely sit without support. He didn’t crawl until around the age of one and he didn’t walk independently until after his second birthday. With the help of a lot of physiotherapy, he became stronger and eventually learned to walk without needing a walker at all times. Another component of his recovery is occupational therapy, to help with fine motor skills, as well as speech therapy to assist with articulation and vocational clarity. He wears ankle foot orthotics (often referred to as AFOs), all day – one on each foot – which helps support his gross motor function and provides stability, in addition to preventing falls.
Ever since my son was born my perspective on the world has changed drastically. I’ve realized that the world is not made for people living with disabilities. I see an enormous gap in inclusive public infrastructure, which subliminally says ‘you are not welcome’ to people who have different abilities or special needs. Everyday I strive to make this world a better place for people living with disabilities, whether it be through educating others by starting a conversation or writing an article -it all makes a difference.
But I worry about what’s in store for us as the Ford and the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario continues to slash funding intended to help our most vulnerable people. There have been critical cuts made to the disability community which will have a ripple effect on society in general on top of further alienating people.
Our ability to thrive in Ontario is at risk and those who are most marginalized will pay the biggest price. It’s a shame that this is happening, but together we can demand for better, I encourage you to call or email your Councillor, MPP and MP and ask them what they think about these cuts and the effects they are having on our communities.
May is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month in Canada so I encourage you to wear green (the official colour) and learn something new about CP or start a conversation with someone to share what you’ve learned. You can also check out the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy: https://www.ofcp.ca/ to learn more, get involved or to make a donation.