Monday, April 30, 2012

Nobody likes the ADA

My colleague from law school was frank enough with me to tell me that he doesn’t like the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can get an injunction- he noted (meaning you can have the Court order somebody to do something or stop them from doing something else) but not a big recovery. And he is right. Some of the disability law allows attorneys to get fees and costs covered but not a large pay out. In a way in makes sense- the point of that legislation is to fix problems and relatively quickly: build a ramp, provide access, put kids in schools, assure accommodations, promote inclusions. It is not designed to penalize businesses or to essentially offer a premium for having a disability and catching a violation. On the other hand it worries me. If it’s not an attractive area for lawyers to go into, how will there will be enough of to help the clients and make them aware that they even have rights? Even accomplished attorneys we have spoken to use disability area as a passion project. They have cautioned us to find actual continuous paying clients before venturing off into that type of practice. And then I remembered how much trouble James Klausner had finding legal representation for parents of kids with Cerebral Palsy negotiating with school boards. He wasn’t able to find able to find more than one with expertise, not only in the immediate area, but this part of the State. And it seems to make sense- if it doesn’t pay the bills, you can sustain a career. The sad thing is- a lot of the civil rights legislation came out off the civil rights movement and litigation.
My law partner and I are now in the process of establishing an ADA- themed workshop, that would travel across Florida to campuses to educate students, hold meetings, presentations and assemblies. To do so, we’ve begun to survey schools for interest: How many students with disabilities do they have, what disability programs, what student groups. The answers are very similar. While the number of students is growing, some schools have not seen groups dealing with this subject since the 1990’s. My old law school teaches disability law only once every two years citing very low interest and again, can you blame them? One thing that I found striking about the class summary is that it’s federal in scope and focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A lot of rights, especially in education  come from other bodies of law, like the Rehabilitation Act (RA ) or IDEA.  To advise anyone on what they’re entitled to and what their options are you need to look into the legal system of that particular state. Florida Accessibility Code  is for example.often much more restrictive than the Federal model. And you can’t have any kind of discussion without analyzing it first. You really need to adopt a perspective like we do teaching Wills and Trusts, Evidence and Family Law.
One other thing I find surprising is that I see law graduates volunteering with professors or firms just to get some experience. Yet nobody seems to be interested in an area where you can really make an impact. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Should lawyers give more?

Eugene Pettis, The Florida Bar's president elect and the first black person to assume the position visited Gainesville last week and was a speaker our monthly luncheon held by the Eight Judicial Circuit Bar Association that I'm a proud member of. During his presentation he encouraged the attorneys in the room to be more actively involved in their communities, promote diversity and become more active on committees. Lack of time, he reasoned, should not be an excuse as no one in the last few months was as busy as he is. For many months now, if not for as long as I've had this blog I've been a great promoter of the idea that lawyers should at their discretion, give more and that theirs a great need for new programs to- aid the underrepresented groups like children, individuals with disabilities and the poor. I've also pointed out repeatedly how those groups tend to overlap. I have a long history of being involved with non profits, standing for causes I believe in and I could just as well be a poster child for diversity. Still, I think, President's remarks were not entirely fair. 

If you decide to work for a law firm or as a solo practitioner you continuously need to develop new clients. It's a never ending process: you have to advertise,  convince them to trust you, put a lot of hours in structuring whatever legal services they need, if it's a contingency agreement based case they can change their minds and walk away. I don't think there is ever a time in practicing law for firms big and small when they don't have to worry when and where is their next client is coming from. And it's a stressful profession in a very competitive market. If you don't put in the work at all stages, you're not able to pay your bills. You are only as good as your next case, because no brand, no history, no name is worth anything if you're not able to convert it into an ability to attract clients. I think it's harder for young attorneys at established firms, because while playing with boys might give you a sense of security, the pressure to prove your with and establish a client base is greater. Some guides on setting up your own practice caution that it may take a year if not longer for a new office to become sustainable, essentially meaning that for many months a bold and determined new attorney has to live off loans or support of his family and friends. You can of course  become a corporate lawyer. A lot of my friends get burned out with the 9 to 5 (more likely 7 or 8) routine. Not only do they want to do something else or more meaningful, they lose passion and excitement for life and I guess the job turnover at these places is really high. But it's a trade off- you get a study check, you know when your pay comes and how much it's going to be. Of course, a person is not in charge of their own time and has even less ability to get involved in any projects the may just as well be passionate about. Some of my colleagues work for the government. I'm not sure how rewarding that is, but I see them frustrated a lot. Also I think that teaching law is a good type of career to consider- it's a secure position, challenging in how one needs to adapt to it, inspiring and meaningful in ways teachers inspire others. I want to help the community. I want to get involved. And if someone else paid my rent, bills and meals, so I can afford my own existence I would gladly volunteer all my time. I really don't have any material goals or dreams. No villas and fast cars for me. I want to help others and I want to be happy, but I also want to be able to buy food. Literally. Perhaps people who talk about giving back or giving more to new attorneys could offer some actual, practical guidance. How does one make it work?

I have plenty of passions, I just can't afford them. Some months I can barely afford my rent and I live from one project to the next. Right now I'm starting a new law practice with a partner designed to help students with disabilities and also a nonprofit. We have hope, faith and we work hard, but one thing we really struggle with is finding a sustainable model of revenue. It's easy to tell people that they should do something else or different especially if you don't know about their problems…

Monday, April 23, 2012

Letter from The White House

letter8_nA couple of months ago I wrote to the White House to thank Barack Obama for his then recent visit to Poland. I was not expecting for anyone to read it or to get a response and this is clearly a generic template but that was not the point. I felt uncomfortable with some of his remarks about Polish people one day being able to perhaps shop on Fifth Avenue. Some of us are already here and legally, with high end careers in specialized sectors. I'm here not because I have to, but to help people with disabilities of his nation and my new home. But on some level I was hoping against reason that somebody in fact read it. Because it’s time issues of individuals of neuromuscular disabilities, education and awareness got some more exposure. I have to say of all dreams that I’ve had for the world and my future, shopping in New York was never one of them. But I guess it shows the extent of my determination and the level of commitment to the disability community. I will stop at nothing to get the discussion going, even writing letters that nobody reads, because one day, maybe they will. As I’m getting ready to go to Washington DC on May 11th to take my Oath of Attorney there, a letter from its most famous resident, as generic as it it is may be a prelude to good things to come.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

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The Jordan Klausner Foundation and all of our supporters are praying for Kaitlyn Grace Kieszek and her family.  She was a Conductive Education superstar, and she inspired us all with her jovial personality and tireless effort.  Beautiful Kaitlyn will always be remembered.Please visit http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/gainesville/obituary.aspx?n=kaitlyn-grace-kieszek&pid=157114789

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Those lawyers on TV.

Recently I started noticing how many law professionals advertise on American TV. Different firms place their spots often within one show. There’s nothing memorable about them, nothing that makes them stand out. The logos change but the talking heads say mostly the same things. Ads blend together and feel  very generic. Don’t get me wrong, the attorneys on screen feel and look professional and eloquent. And it’s particularly exciting to me when someone I went to school with is on my screen, dressed up and talking like a real lawyer. And that happens more and more often. They all say that they understand what it’s like to be in a pickle. The stress of losing your home or what it must be feel like to be in an accident or have bills. The problem I would have as a client though is not knowing enough about the person talking to me. Empathy is good as a starting point, but what is it about that particular attorney? Why should I trust him? As a client I don’t care about a brand, although some of those are often fifteen, twenty years old  or more. When I talk to a lawyer I talk to him not his brand. When he takes on a case it’s his skillset- not his firms tradition that will be applied. Why do feel like in some of those ads people hide behind history, a history I might add, some of those new attorneys had no hand in establishing?

As lawyers in America, even more so here in Florida, we are limited as to how we can advertise. We cannot use our track record to boost our image and tell people about our “ability to win cases”. Because no case is predictable, no outcome is guaranteed and one can differ from the next. We generally can’t compare ourselves to other attorneys or use client statements because that would give a false implication of how good we are.  And we really have to watch out how we phrase it when we talk about our practice areas, so it doesn’t seem like we are “specializing” in something, when it’s the Bar that certifies specializations. It really limits what and how you can talk about.  But still, I would like to hear from those individual attorneys. There has to be a reason why they were chosen for that particular ad. Why did they choose to practice that area of law or decide to become a lawyer all together? What are their passions and characteristics that made them feel they are right for this? I’d have to be sold on a little more than just a face and a name. Is there some cause that is driving them? Is there a story? And I mean a different kind of story that the one in an ad I saw few days ago, when a young attorney implied he’d be a good match for me because both of his parents are established lawyers and all through law school when he had problem understanding something all he had to do is call them. Well then, perhaps I should just call them well…. instead of him? The funny thing is there is an obvious benefit in talking about tradition and family values and history, but the commercial wasn’t going there. And clearly he is a knowledgeable attorney in his own right. But the ad failed to highlight that. 

Now let me tell you what drives me, since it might be years if ever before you see me on TV. I want to help people with disabilities because I understand what it’s like. To not know what rights you have, to be dismissed and brushed aside. I relate not simply because I’m in a wheelchair and I use it to rise above it, but because I’ve had those things happen to me. And I know how powerless it makes you feel because I felt powerless like that. And I want to do something about it, for myself, for others. This sounds na├»ve when I say it out loud but I want to leave the world a little better of a place than I found it. And I don’t know why I was given the high level of functionality that I have, which apparently is rare, but I  want to do good and something that matters to someone.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mama’s Boy

When I was little I was afraid of literally everything.I could not be left by myself in the apartment without having a panic attack. My mom would sneak out of the house to run errands when I was sleeping just so I wouldn’t know she was gone for 20 minutes. We avoided a certain store because a large – oversized Maya the Bee plush toy from a ceiling terrified me. When I was five the live TV  performance of the band Boney M that included a fire torch joggler on a unicycle scared me so much I refused to listen to their tape that I loved before. Once when my parents left me in a car for what could not have been very long I felt they just abandoned me and crawled out into the sidewalk.  I’ve had an overactive imagination, something I hear my nephew takes after me. I was always very attached to my mom and it made me me wonder. Was it my disability that made me as clingy as a survival instinct because I had to rely on others for everything, did I just got used to having my mom by me old day long I came to expect it or was I just soft?  Was it the time in the hospital when I haven’t seen my family for days at a time that left me with a feeling of abandonment? But then, I was in Budapest, I was seven years old staying at the nun’s apartment that was very old, had a squeaky wooden floor and made odd noises, reading “ The Six Bullerby Children” sitting in an armchair, I realized my mom just left and I was fine. It was something I needed to grow out of I guess And from that point on I’ve been fine.

I remember reading a piece from a couple months ago on Conductive Upbringing I believe, about how children with disabilities get attached to one parent. And that was my experience. And I remember other kids with Cerebral Palsy my age that always had their mother with them. Elementary school, high school, later college. Taking them places, participating in  conversations, gossiping with friends, doing things on their behalf. I always thought what strange relations these were. Just like my mother these ladies have quit their jobs to help their kids get better. But I was very lucky that mine went back to work when I was 14. Nobody wants to be joint with the parent at the hip. It gave me my own space when I needed it, room to become my own person, my separate life. A world full of my own thoughts and friends and secrets and places. The art was in letting ago at a time that was not a minute too soon. Then I went to the university. I would disappear for an entire day and enjoyed coming home late on school’s paratransit service. I enjoyed how this limited my parents’ involvement and they knew that was the right thing for me. At the same time I’ve seen other students with CP riding on that same bus to their classes having their mothers tagging along. It reminded me of my first day of elementary school when the teacher said “I think your mother can go home now”. And she did, although she expected to sit through that school day in the back of the room. And that was  all it took. And I feel that if my parents didn’t let me go  like they did when they did it I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember that Warsaw University Disability Office tried to interject a little bit of independence to those other students’ lives by insisting to deal with them directly rather than having the stay at home moms speak for them, but soon gave up.  As they grew older, they continued the co-dependent relationship. They felt stuck. It can be scary to let go. It’s easier to stick with the familiar, but I say life is about progression. For me, the next step was the scariest of all and something I have never done before. Live by myself in a strange country, something I knew I had to try, wasn’t sure if I was ready for.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Women Only?

During my time at the world famous Peto Institute in Budapest all Conductors working with Cerebral Palsy children were women. I’ve only seen men, and exclusively men, during what had to had been weeks in reality, but felt like months in the sick bay. A few of us caught mumps and I guess the disease was too risky for female health to be exposed to. I can understand the stereotype that leads to a strong preference of one gender over another. Women are motherly. A Conductor is an educator who is part therapist, part nurse, part mother if you will. Somebody who encourages, demonstrates, pushes and motivates. Men are, or were back then not believed to possess that tender  caring quality that allows to form that type of bond with children. I’m not sure what they do now. JKF’s Kata Szvoboda told me once that it’s “slowly changing”, but I’m not sure to what extent are men these days included and if it’s even a career option for males to consider. The definitions of gender roles are changing. Some of the professions seen exclusively seen as female end up being performed just as well by men. In a few of them, like nursing the male element is in extremely high demand.  I’ve had friends who abandoned other careers to pursue it, including one with multiple other degrees and a PhD. In America male nurses get paid really well, often much better than their female counterparts. Why? Most likely because of their strength. A lot of the daily activities include lifting, turning, transferring a patient and what would require two female nurses to complete a lot of times one male can do. And I wonder if this is not an attitude Conductive Education should’ve adopted decades ago. Yes, the core of CE is about the children doing the routines themselves and  working on their body, but in the reality Conductors to get involved and physical at times. Children fall down, you need to catch them or pick them up.  Sometimes you need to correct a movement or posture. And when you put on braces to lock them in place you need to apply strength. As kids become older and heavier it becomes more difficult not to mention dangerous for female Conductors to work with them. Yes, this approach is most effective at a young age and started as early as possible. Still, it’s not to say that you can’t benefit from it when you’re older. Yet, programs like JKF's Academy and I assume many others only accept children of a certain age and weight for reasons having more to do with the limitations of the Conductor rather than the ability to help the pupil. The considerations are practical. A lady like Kata as strong as she may be, may injure herself assisting a spastic boy who is taller and heavier than she is. That is the cut off point although it feels you can go even further. Perhaps it’s time for this to become a viable career for men just like nursing. And I’m curious to hear: Do we know any male Conductors?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Learn a Language

A few days ago one of my Facebook friends, a Conductor if I recall correctly wrote a blog post about learning foreign languages and was looking for tips and suggestions. My advice is: just do it. I started speaking Hungarian when I was seven. I arrived at the Peto Institute one day and nobody was too concerned that I didn't understand what they were saying. They didn't get me a translator, a dictonary, or any kind of cheat sheet with common phrases. They didn't try to figure out if I spoke any other language. That first day they spoke to me in Hungarian. Yes, that first month I only understood basic phrases like stretch out your arms, stretch out your legs and I could count to ten. But when I was back for my six month term I ended up speaking pretty fluently, translating Soviet jokes I did not get at age seven.  Conductors would chase me to kiss my cheeks screaming  'Puszi'. Yes I was a cute kid. Learning the language was pretty much like learning to do my routines. I remember that first day they made me walk between two long pipes tied to chairs at the end. She pointed out a spot on the floor with her foot and said "ide" which meant "here". So I ended up walking forward. That first day I was in full rehabilitation mode, no excuses, no special explanations and accommodations. And I caught on. I was in full learning mode as well. An I guess that's the thing about Conductive Education being after all an education. The two seemed so intertwined it felt one process. I remember translating an issue of "Tom es Jerry" comic with my mom with a dictionary in hand, writing in Polish translation into the bubbles but that wasn't what did it. It was a need to communicate.

I've learnt English at age 12, just by watching TV. We had our cable connected that year and although it offered  at least  four times as many channels in German I didn't really care for them. I watched :"Sky One" (before BSkyB chose to encrypt it) and "Lifestyle/The Children's Channel" every day. My mom loved the old black and white "Dick Van Dyke", "Mr. Ed", "Diff'rent Strokes" and "Bewitched" and we enjoyed them together. I was also a big fan of the "Facts  of Life". I guess I've learnt it simply because I wanted to, I needed to and it was useful. I've studied German for a year or two by that time and continued for 5 more in school and I never got any good. My English replaced my Hungarian, although my parents made me go to The Hungarian Culture Institute every week  for couple months, there was no saving it. Europeans think I sound American, many Americans think I'm from "somewhere else" but I don't have the typically hard Slavic accent. For the record, I still  struggle with slang, Australian and New Zealand  accents and for many years I found shows made in the UK impossible to watch.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Build-A-Camp

poster1A lot of our European friends often ask why are small, community based Summer rehabilitation camps so popular in the US. Busy lifestyles of parents, lack of time and the commitment required are just one aspect of it and I addressed it already in a post few weeks ago on modern parenting. To have a year-long, ongoing program, you need to discuss another- money. Jordan Klausner Foundation is no different from countless other organizations in the country that, come June, will see an great spike in interest in Conductive Education.Children are out of school and parents are desperate to make up what they've neglected over the past year in working with their kids through their disability. Or they're looking for some extra rehabilitation time. Some are just looking to try a different approach Summer is the busiest period for everybody at JKF with pupils coming from all over Florida but often also out of State and other countries. It's easy to maintain short term excitement. It doesn't translate that well into a year long program. You need a more detailed concept, a fuller commitment to have it function outside of the six week program. While a lot of summer camp programs rely heavily on volunteers that are often very willing to help out over Summer out of the sheer joy of helping out and doing something meaningful- to have a center for children with Cerebral Palsy and run it smoothly you need some professional paid staff. To do so, you need money. To get it, you need to figure out when it's going to come from. 

Remember, in America, Conductive Education is not insurance funded or provided free by the state. Do you want to form a non profit? These call for a lot of paperwork and time. You better make sure that you have enough of determination to commit to it and enough funding to sustain it, so you're not stuck with a defunct organization. Sponsors and grant makers are not tripping over their feet to help kids with Cerebral Palsy. It doesn't sound that exciting if all you can talk about is hard, repetitive, every day type of work. Originally the media were excited, when JKF launched its first summer camp dubbed "miracle class for children".  The excitement wasn't lasting. The media need to see miracle or at least a different angle to cover the story, they can't run with "business as usual " article every year. If there is nothing to report on it will not be reported on. How do you get your message out, what will your message be? Do you have a marketing budget? Is it well thought through? And again... more money. Will you charge for your services? Have parents pay for it? From our experience, not a lot of families have the financial means to pay for expensive programs. If you'll charge too much, they will not come and not pay at all. Some set ups I've seen have both a for profit and a non profit component. If they don't come, then you are wasting the infrastructure you have built. The staff you hired, the building rent, the you utilities, all need to be paid. Are you going to apply for grants? You can't rely on them, they're not that easy to get, require time and more paper work and you really shouldn't expect to get them year after year. Some States have support programs if you form as a school like Florida does with McKay scholarships. But to get that money and run as a school you need to be a school, meaning meeting educational requirements of that school and a lot of reporting. For JKF, the main problems were finding the right kind of building- being zoned for school and passing fire code and other inspections. This is again not something you think about when you put together when you have a Summer Camp that people seem to put together anywhere, temporarily, privately.

And then - there's a Conductor. Not only do American programs seek out Peto Institute -trained Conductors, they mostly look for them to be born in Hungary. While again it's easier to get one to come for a few weeks either visiting or from a different program already from US having a permanently hired alien at your school requires a costly Green Card procedure. More time, more paperwork and more money. And then, expect the medical community, the therapy experts and parents to be critical. They will not endorse you just because you formed.  The children will not be pulled out of existing routines or schools during the year to do something that may be understood and obvious in Europe but is not in America. This is why some Conductive Education centers in America end up doing less or doing things differently. They compromise because they don't have a choice, and they do what they can. Of course it may not be enough but it has to. It is a different world out here, something I never understood before I moved here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Twice the attorney/Falling free

In May I'll be taking my Oath of Attorney for the second time. A little over a year after I was admitted to practice in Florida, I'll also become a lawyer in the District of Columbia. Please share my joy. I never realized how stressed I have been over the last couple months doing what I can to get the Jordan Klausner Foundation exposure. It felt like I was eating, breathing and sleeping non profit work. When something wasn't going well I felt frustration and guilt, something within me was telling me it was my job to fix it. But I never knew how much tension I was taking in. The moment was right for me to decide to explore other options and in that instance the mysterious back and joint pain disappeared. It was stress related. Over the last few years I became a ball of stress and confusion. I've had some problems- my prior struggles involved immigration issues and bar exam just to name a few. I've burdened myself with so much. The time had come I had to stop myself Now it's time to and just let it all go. Maybe it's time to put it behind me, maybe it's time to reevaluate my life and seek new opportunities. Maybe good times are coming my way and maybe, just maybe I deserve it  I really hope that being able to practice in new jurisdictions can help me help others and perhaps strike a better balance in my life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Choosing a career.

When I applied to study law at Warsaw University the Dean's Disability Office encouraged me to pick a different major. Not because I wasn't qualified to follow this path or that I couldn't function as an attorney from my chair, bit because other building were better equipped to welcome disabled students. History and English studies I believe they said, for reasons having nothing to do me. I should model my career after their plans to modernize the campus. Isn't it strange that they would think it's appropriate to limit my choices in a way that has nothing to do with my interests and abilities but something as trivial as a ramp or how wide the doors are? When I think about it today it gets me even more upset. How many people with disabilities have compromised on their dreams and plans because they were told that something else would be less inconvenient to do? Yes, I could never run a marathon, but it wasn’t one of those instances. The focus seemed to be on the educational process rather than something you use to reach your life goals. I think that's what made me even more determined to go through the process and become an attorney. I wanted to do something to have my voice heard. I wanted to touch people's lives. It's very easy to be overlooked and disregarded when you are in a wheelchair. My only chance seemed to had been picking a career in a highly specialized field. I loved to write and to speak and I was a hard worker. And it wasn't that challenging logistically. Turned out the law faculty opened a new set of classrooms on the back of the library and they were able to reassign most of my lectures. For the places I needed to get to that had stairs and required moving around, the office provided me with an  assistant. So, we were able to work it out.

The thing about choosing "English studies" or History simply was that I wasn't interested in them. Even putting my dreams aside and  focusing on what be attractive from the job market perspective those are not areas that are highly sought after. You can do it for self enrichment or go into teaching and research, but stairs at Polish schools and other work places would become problems  at the first and every subsequent job. Suspiciously high number of my friends in wheelchairs and WU pursued those majors and I  don't even know what their prospects were and if they went into it because they wanted to. For me it was obvious that I had choose a career that would make my employer overlook the hassles of having a person in a wheelchair. But then, my disability determined a lot of choices in my life. We picked a high school based on proximity although I was always one of the top students and we could've gone for a more ambitious choice in Warsaw. Then, my parents thought I should be a computer programmer like my brother, because he forged the path and if I'd stuck around he would have found  me things to do. Then in law school my mom wanted me to become a notary [which in a lot of the European countries is a type of a non-trial lawyer, while in the US it's more of a secretarial task with a stamp] because she wanted me to write wills and contracts and have people come to me. Because in reality career choices for people with disabilities especially in Europe are more difficult. And you want to fit it and find something for yourself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Child knows.

When I was little I was afraid of growing up. I knew I would get heavier and bigger, more difficult for my parents to handle and there was nothing I could do. Soon enough, I'd get taller than my mom. If I fell down while walking in my braces how would she catch me? Every day my parents carried me up the stairs to my classroom, grabbing me under my arms, taking on the weight, trying to walk with me. But their backs grew weaker, they were in pain more often, it seemed like soon enough it would end. If they didn't have the strength, how would I ever finish school? What would become of me? I knew I'd possibly  have a tutor come over, but  I'd be stuck at home. It happened to many kids with Cerebral Palsy in my area. The parents got too weak and just gave up. And without that routine, something to look forward to, depression set in. I could see that being me. Looking at the outside world through a window in my room. A friend or two  would come once in a while at first to keep me company, but if I wasn't there in class on daily basis they would certainly move on. Children look into their future with excitement. In mine, I saw my parents aging. And I knew that one day they'd be gone. No child should have have these emotions, these thoughts . But most of all I felt powerless. And I saw that I'm bringing my parents pain, exhaustion and there was nothing I could do. I felt I was disappointing them because in spite of all the rehabilitation I had to still rely on them and they struggled more and more. Every school trip, every time our class decided to go to the movie involved stairs, lifting me, loading an unloading, and each time it was more taxing on my parents. I might've been small, but I've seen it. How could have I not sensed that things were changing around me? And the worst thing was I was alone with these feelings. And I know that they were fearing for my future. And they kept it from me as well.  Note that in Poland back then we didn’t have ramps and limps everywhere. Dealing with a child with a physical disability had to get very… well, physical. A lot of parents didn’t have the strength. A mind is a horrible thing to waste. Isn’t it bizarre to think that a lot of great minds had been wasted not because intellectual challenges but something as trivial as a flight of stairs?

Whenever I talk about growing up with CP I focus a lot on the sacrifices my parents made but also how it got harder on them over time. During one of my speeches a mother came up and said she's going through something similar with her daughter, but that she never considered what she may be picking up on. Children are young but they know things I replied. It was hard enough to know I was different from my friends. As we got older they played sports, sailed, went trekking across  Europe, the things I could never be a part of. But to watch my parents push themselves year after year,  wondering if that was as far as I go was a   feeling that didn’t leave me until law school