PART 1 OF MAX’S STORY
Max is an 11 year old boy who would love to eat macaroni and cheese for every meal. He likes to play video games and watch a lot of movies. He crazily rides up and down the streets on his bike, and when his parents tell him it is bedtime, he fights with them.
It sounds like the regular life of a pre-teen boy, right?
Max was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth. Most of the time, Max needs someone to help him hold his spoon because the cerebral palsy makes the muscles in his body really tight. It affects his large muscle groups as well as his small ones. Max’s little sister helps him make the movements necessary to bowl and play soccer on the Wii. When Max relaxes and watches movies, he starts to drool because it takes a lot of effort for him to control some of the muscles in his face. When riding up and down the street, Max is on a special bike, called an adaptive bike, made especially for children with special needs. The bike looks like an enormous tricycle. “No” is the word it most often sounds like Max is saying because the cerebral palsy makes his speech jumbled.
Max’s mother Ellen has one big wish for her son: she wants him to have a happy life in which he sees himself as normal. Ellen doesn’t appreciate it when people treat him with pity. She wants people to understand that regardless of a child’s physical or cognitive challenges – and many children with cerebral palsy have no intellectual problems – the kids are just people that have a life to live like everyone else. Ellen feels that pity brings Max down because it says that he is a lesser person than other children. But Max has no pity for himself; he is just his “wonderful kid self” who goes about his day like other kids, playing with an iPad and getting pleasure out of the same things they do. Ellen emphasizes that she would hate for Max to ever be aware that people think he is pathetic.
Max will indeed have big obstacles to overcome. Pity is one obstacle that parents can help to diminish. Ellen wants people to think not in terms of sympathy, but in terms of equality. She does not want people to say “aww” to him and look at him sadly. Max should be treated like other kids, with encouragement and questions about his favorite things. People should joke around with Max, and if he can’t speak his response, he will use his iPad app to express himself.
HOW SOCIETY CAN HELP CHILDREN WITH CEREBRAL PALSY
Children with cerebral palsy should be included in school and other activities. Kids should be on the cheerleading squad or local Boys Scouts chapter. There is a program called Miracle League baseball, which is baseball played on a special field that allows children with any disability to play. Even children in wheelchairs can hit the ball and go around bases because every kid has a “buddy” to assist him. There are horseback riding trails in almost every state so that children with cerebral palsy can ride horses and enjoy nature. Kids in wheelchairs can ride in buggies pulled by horses, and some riding trails have music stops where children can play or enjoy music. There are incredible camps around the country for kids with cerebral palsy and special needs, and they provide a festive atmosphere with specialized counselors who can help children go swimming and roast marshmallows.
It is important for children without disabilities to interact with children who have disabilities. This will help kids see that children with disabilities are not so different, and the kids with cerebral palsy will more likely be treated as peers. Earlier, we wrote about a teenager in Lansing, Michigan who has mild cerebral palsy and is on the track team. Margaux had to work really hard just to be able to run .25 miles in the time it takes other girls to run 3 miles, but the work and the sense of accomplishment made her feel really good. Eventually, she competed in a 5k race, and she ran it in about an hour. Being part of the track team keeps Margaux smiling. She hangs out on the field with other girls in between events and cheers for her teammates. When it is Margaux’s turn to run, it sounds as if every single person in the stands is cheering.
Indeed, being around other kids and being treated “normally” is very important for children with cerebral palsy. Ellen doesn’t want her son to be thought of as special or pathetic. He should be thought of as a regular kid.
REITER & WALSH: ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN WITH BIRTH INJURIES AND CEREBRAL PALSY
Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping and advocating for children for decades. Jesse Reiter, the co-founder of the firm, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 25 years. He is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best law firms in the country. The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).
If your child was diagnosed with a permanent disability, such as cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual disabilities or developmental delays, the award winning attorneys at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation.