Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Cerebral Palsy stigma

I never knew how stigmatizing Cerebral Palsy can be until I moved to America. Back home I had a disability. One that put me in a wheelchair, gave me poor control over my limbs and bad posture, but just some disability. Everybody has something, I've always felt and life goes on while we make the best of what we have. Imagine my surprise when I  discovered that over here "cerebral palsy" sounds like a negative, shameful term. The context that I see it popping in media all the time as well as popular culture is either as something to pity or to mean mental retardation just because it's a condition involving the brain. I guess I should just cry and cry and cry all day because my condition is so darn awful. And then everybody seems surprised to hear yet another success story of a CP person achieving great things. A lot of it comes in the form of comedy and I like to believe I have a great sense of humor, but many things that I see and hear make me roll my eyes.What is the point of singling out one condition?  'How long do they live?" "I don't know, but you never see one with gray hair" says a news reporter on a recent episode of "Family Guy" about a boy with Cerebral Palsy. On "Mind of Mancia" another person with this condition was brought out during the host discussion of things he finds "retarded". Even if it was meant to contrast and contradict it was still quite offensive.

I never minded having Cerebral Palsy. Would I prefer I didn't have it? Yes! Did I work hard to be as functional as I get through years and years of rehabilitation? Of  course I did.  Does it limit or prevent  me from doing certain things? Sure. But I'm happy. I view my wheelchair as something that enables me rather than holds me back because my independence and my functionality level allow me to use it fairly well. I can go places, achieve things, meet people because of what  a childhood of therapies made me. To me a wheelchair is a device, an accessory just like gloves and sunglasses.  My conductors, my parents pushed me hard to be the best I could be. When I think about it, it all comes together. Television of course pushes it to the extreme by mocking and poking fun but part of the reason why CE is so invisible in America at least in mind is this dominating approach to pat kids with Cerebral Palsy on the head, sit them in chairs and make comfortable rather than push and push and challenge, which is what Conductive Education requires. I'm R. Strzalkowski, I have Cerebral Palsy and I'm an attorney. I dare you to laugh and patronize me.


  1. Thanks for posting. I too have CP & agree with everything you said. I write as well. Check out my blog: http://www.mywalkofgrace.com

  2. Stairlifts

    Congrats for making it possible for creating this blog. I may not always visit this blog to see more updates but i will consider every valuable information i read here. Please keep up the good work and good luck for the upcoming post.

  3. O its so good to share our experiences as well.

    first of all i do agree with ur views & do understand what u are going through.

    next i congratulate u for ur efforts of perseverance to accept what you are & attempt to achieve your best to be an attorney.

    i am a parent of a young adult with CP who is now a MEDICAL PRACTIONER.

    We know what all the families go thr due to sheer ignorance may be not necessarily to mock at us. lets leave these few aside, lay them as stepping stones to let the pain be our strenght & move on to make a difference to all people with CP.



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