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Written by: Julie Forman
March 25 is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. To bring insight to this I was fortunate to speak with one of my good friends, Jonelle, on her experience growing up with Cerebral Palsy. First, a little background on this beautiful soul that I am blessed to call my friend.
I met Jonelle for the first time in elementary school. Even at a young age, Jonelle had a very special quality about her. She had the ability to make anybody feel welcomed. Not shy to strike up a conversation, she always greeted you with a big smile and a warm heart.
20 years later, Jonelle is still the same bright eyed girl I knew as a kid. She continues to spread love and positivity through her various social media accounts.It is very rare to find someone who is an genuine as Jonelle.
She has been an incredible friend to me this past year. After my daughter sustained a cervical spinal cord injury at birth, Jonelle has been a constant reminder to keep my head up and push through the hard times. When I was at my weakest moment, Jonelle was right there to lend support and a shoulder to cry on. I feel extremely blessed to have her in my life.
1st Grade class photo. Where Jonelle and I became life long friends.
Cerebral Palsy Facts
- 1 in 278 babies have cerebral palsy
- It is the most common physical disability in childhood.
- Cerebral palsy is an general term for a group of disorders.
- Cerebral palsy is a life-long disability due to damage of the developing brain.
- In most cases, brain injury leading to cerebral palsy occurs during pregnancy.
- Motor disability can range from minimal to profound, depending on the individual.
- It can range from weakness in one hand, to an almost complete lack of voluntary movement. People with significant physical disability may require 24 hour a day care.
- Approximately 40% of people with cerebral palsy have hemiplegia.
- Spastic hemiplegia, where one half of the body has difficulty with voluntary movement, is the most common presentation of cerebral palsy.
- There is no known cure.
What was childhood like growing up with CP?
My childhood had struggles in it but overall I had a good childhood. I received special education services but went to a mainstream school. I had modifications to the curriculum or adaptations as needed in the classroom.
I am so thankful I had friends who saw past my disability or helped when I needed it.
I was surrounded by individuals with disabilities growing up so it was my normal. I went to a special needs camp growing up. I got to skip the lines at an amusement park when I went to camp. Or riding the “short bus”, I got curb side pickup. Those are some of the perks as I like to call it because of my disability.
Did you have to go to a lot of therapy/ Do you still?
I mostly had therapy through the school system. Occupational/Physical therapy till I was in third grade. Speech therapy till I was in 5th grade.
I had adaptive physical education in elementary school then on consult basis after that. My adaptive PE teacher got me part of Special Olympics for two years in 4th and 5th grade. It really gave me confidence that I needed.
How have you been able to stay so positive through all the struggles?
Trust me I am not always positive. I try to be but I am human. It’s usually an afterthought, being born with CP you just learn to adapt or find another way to do.
It helps me that I grew up around others with disabilities that showed me that I could of been worse.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
One of my closest friends I met because of my disability in a special needs preschool. She had spina bifida. She really taught me if you get to know the person on the inside that what really matters.
If you could share one message for someone growing up with CP or caretakers of someone with CP, what would that message be?
Any child with a disability really has so much potential if given the right tools and the right support backing them up. Never give up on them. The sky is the limit for them if the right support system is in place.