October 7, 2015 is World Cerebral Palsy Day. In honor of this day, the students in Shoreline’s Disability Awareness Society will be hosting a table in the PUB from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. to help educate the campus community on cerebral palsy…a disability that affects 17 million people world-wide.
Although cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability in childhood, it is widely misunderstood. Through World CP Day, we have the opportunity to raise awareness of CP in our communities and assist others to look beyond the disability.
Public awareness is an issue because CP is a complex, lifelong disability. It primarily affects movement, but people with CP may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments. It can be mild, such as a weakness in one hand, to severe cases in which people have little control over movements or speech and may need 24-hour assistance.
People living with CP can experience a range of responses from others in their communities. On one end of the spectrum, they can face deep-seated but misguided sympathy, or even pity. Though intentions are good, they infantilize the person with CP. They can be smothered with (too much) love, and spoken to in a simple, childlike way. Others can subconsciously over-protect a person with CP, and thus prevent them from having essential life experiences.
On the other end of the spectrum, CP is viewed through deep-seated cultural beliefs. It may be seen as validation of superstitions about the mother, or wrath upon a family. Some even believe that CP is contagious or that a child with CP brings shame to a family. Mothers may be abandoned with their child, or a person with CP may live their life in an institution.
And in the middle are thousands of fine people who still find it difficult to make eye contact or know how to communicate with someone who has CP. It is not that they feel any ill will, it is just best—maybe even polite—to not engage.
There is nothing to be gained in blaming people for their ignorance about CP. Instead, we will work to put an end to it. We have the ability and the moral obligation to ensure everyone knows the real truth, and acts accordingly.
The Disability Awareness Society (D.A.S.) is hosting a presentation called “When You See Me…” a personal look into our lives on May 28 from 1-2:30 p.m. in the PUB Quiet Dining Room (9208). The D.A.S. is a diverse group of Shoreline students with many different interests and abilities. We are doing this presentation because too often people with different abilities are stereotyped and misunderstood. Come and learn about us, our lives, and hear how we represent ourselves. We are more than what we look like, how we talk, and how we seem.
Our club’s mission is to have meaningful conversations that raise awareness of diversity and difference. Our club’s motto is “Respect Differences—Respect Matters.” Please join us on Thurs. May 28 in the Quiet Dining Room from 1-2:30 p.m. for our presentation and a follow up discussion.