Honest To The Core - Cerebral Palsy

by GEM Magazine / Apr 18, 2015 / Comments

When we see a person with a disability, we are curious... what is it like to be them? They seem different. We may ​want ​to know, but at the same time we can feel ​afraid ​to know. This can make ​us feel awkward, which prevents us from saying hello and getting to know them. Consequently, we miss out on meeting people like ​Paul, my younger brother who is one of the funniest and happiest people I know.

Paul has Cerebral Palsy, which means that his cerebellum­ (motor skills)­ were damaged during pregnancy. This makes seemingly autopilot actions like walking and talking very difficult.

Growing up with Paul, in many ways, was not so different than any other sibling. We made each other laugh and cry, we fought a LOT for Mom’s attention, we teased each other and ​pushed each others buttons. But I’m not going to lie and tell you that growing up with a brother who has cerebral palsy was a piece of cake. And I was not sugar spice either!

When I was 11 and Paul 6, our parents split up. ​I blamed Paul, he made everything difficult. He couldn’t walk or talk and he drooled. He would get frustrated easily, scream and often cry­ because he couldn’t communicate ­although he could understand.

Consider what it would be like to understand everyone around you but not be able to verbally express yourself.

At times I would think to myself; if only Paul's twin Kevin had survived then they would be normal and we could just be a 'normal family'.

After the divorce, our parents started dating other people and ​Paul turned out to be a great deterrent for Mom’s new boyfriends! Paul always listened to me so when I was around the table, I would say; “Hey Paul, where is your food?" And he would put his hands in his food. Then I would say “Hey Paul, where is your face (or hair)?" You got it... hands all over! Mom’s boyfriends often didn't dare come back… Minus one.

Paul LOVES music. ​Especially upbeat country, and particularly Shania Twain. He shakes his arms and rocks his entire wheel chair back and forth. ​However, some people aren't that accommodating to my brothers singing and excitement.

For example, we took Paul out for his​ 25th birthday to the pub for some hot country music. On the dance floor he immediately started cheering, singing and dancing to the music while we took turns spinning him around in his wheelchair. Most of the clientele responded with encouragement but one table did not see his point of view and a man came over to ask if we could quieten him down.

As a teen, I had often opted to see through the eyes of those at that table and would have told Paul to 'pipe down' because I felt awkward and embarrassed. This time, however, I could see more clearly through my brothers eyes. Courageously I approached the man at the table and explained the situation. "It is my brother's birthday, he doesn’t get out much, and you should consider yourself fortunate for not having a disability such as paul." ​I looked back ​at my brother who was still having fun on the dance floor.

After a while, the man had a change of heart and came over to wish Paul a Happy Birthday, which ​took a lot of guts and I admired him for it.

The truth is… we all have disabilities, though sometimes we fail to recognize them in ourselves. Perhaps you have no sense of direction, or you are unable to budget effectively, these too can be a “disability”. Is a “dis­ability” then, not simply the ​potential to improve ourselves?

Since breaking away from my egocentric teenage self, I have seen many improvements: I aim to see other perspectives, I am more compassionate and very interested in helping others. Although our teenaged antics removed many of Mom’s suitors, she found someone loving who enjoyed spending time with ALL of us. There is no B.S with Paul, he is ​free with his emotions which makes him honest to the core.

​Meet someone like Paul and get to know them. Chances are they will make you to laugh, cry, dance, have FUN, and respect that we are all perfectly imperfect, and that is the beauty of life!

By Kim Newns

Kim is a passionate artist whose work is playful and alive with vibrant colour and expression, much like her personality! See her work at; http://www.ginjalionart.com

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