This story is part of 30 Under 30.
Chloe Tear an 18 year-old blogger who has mild cerebral palsy. She’s the creator of Life as a Cerebral Palsy student and also an Ambassador for CP Teens.
As part of 30 Under 30 campaign, she has shared an open letter to parents of children with Cerebral Palsy.
I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to hear the words “your child has Cerebral Palsy”.
Initially, it’s probably expected that you will have thousands upon thousands of questions about expected progress, attainment, abilities / disabilities, meeting milestones and so much more. Now, if you have been in this situation, I expect you know that these questions cannot be answered in any great detail – with the vast majority left to play the ‘waiting game’ with approximations.
Like any ordinary parent, you may research Cerebral Palsy (CP) in the hope of finding these answers or at least a bit of support in this new unknown world for you and your child. Everything I can tell you is purely based on my experience over the last 18 years (as CP is unique to everyone and part of quite a large spectrum), but I hope it can at least give you a possible glimpse into the future: the highs, the lows and everything in between.
1. They will surprise you
Doctors have a way of airing on the side of caution and making predictions based on little information right from the start. However, people with CP are often determined to challenge these predictions which they have been given. I may not have received my CP diagnosis until the age of 7 but being 8 weeks premature made even surviving a matter of fighting the odds. At that moment in time, it would have been impossible to write the next 18 years and all the challenges which have come my way, but also all of the victories- because there has been plenty of them!
It may have taken longer to walk, run, ride a bike, tell the time but woe betide anyone who says I cannot do anything. Even if it may take them longer, I guess that can make it even more special when they get there. Your child will have their own unique milestones and their own victories, no matter how small they may seem.
2. There will be frustration
I would be lying if I said it was all plain sailing – but isn’t that the case with everyone? The hospital appointments, the physiotherapy, the urge to fit in with peers. At times, it can be incredibly difficult and I can assure you that many tears were shed.
When I was younger I was such a girly girl, everything had to be pink and pretty- trainers and a splint didn’t really fit the look I was going for. All I wanted was nice pretty shoes. We spent hours in shoe shops (and even a few shoes were thrown in sheer anger as the ‘perfect’ pair of shoes wouldn’t fit over my newly cast AFO splint).
Or maybe the frustration will come from coming last at a sports day running event when all you wanted to do was win for once. People with CP are resilient, we have to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s all progress.
3. Family and friends are all the support they will need
The support that you get from friends and family can be fundamental. At the end of the day, we all need a little helping hand – some people just need a little more. I have found that having friendships with other young people who have CP can be incredibly valuable. The opportunity to share similar experiences and to know you are not alone can certainly help when you are having a rough day. And by having other people with past experiences (who may even be older than you) can be a glimpse of how things might be. For example, I am currently planning university and speaking to other young people who are at university at has been really reassuring.
4. They will be amazing at adapting
Who says that you have to do everything just like everybody else? From personal experience, I know that sometimes it is actually easier to do things in your own way – in order to get the same result as everyone else. This could be mastering tasks with one hand, like tying shoe laces or eating a meal.
Adapting is often part of each day and at times can be difficult to come up with solutions, but you do get there. For some people adapting can include the use of certain equipment in order to gain independence. From experience I know this can sometimes result in a love – hate relationship. However, it can allow loads more freedom and give you the ability to achieve much more – it might just take time to adjust.
5. Humour will get you through
Sometimes you just have to laugh, even if that is just so you don’t cry. Laugh at the fact that you have ended up on the floor – again! Or laugh at the fact you did something and might have looked a bit silly. Yes, at times this can be hard, and laughing isn’t always the answer, but it will certainly help.
“When you find humour in a difficult situation, you win” – I believe this is so true and certainly a quote to live by!
6. The diagnosis is a very small part of your child
Your child is not the diagnosis they’ve been given, they are not solely the label put on them. First and foremost, they are your child, who just happens to have Cerebral Palsy, just like they happen to have blue eyes or brown hair!
A diagnosis may seem like it is taking over at times but really it is only one piece of the thousand piece puzzle that makes up a child. Having Cerebral Palsy can open so many doors and opportunities, it can make your child unique in the best possible way. The diagnosis is what you make of it, and if I was to pass on one piece of advice. It would be to turn those obstacles into opportunities, don’t look back and never ever put a limit on what you can achieve.
Chloe is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.
To read more from Chloe, visit her blog.