Special Needs Now

What Kids With Cerebral Palsy CAN Do

The abilities of people with cerebral palsy
Until I had my son, I thought that cerebral palsy meant only having a disability. Then I had Max; he suffered a stroke at birth that led to brain damage and cerebral palsy. Raising a kid with disabilities has taught me a lot about strength, determination, and hope. It's also shown me the many abilities of people with CP.

March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. About 1 in every 323 kids in the United States has been identified with CP, per data cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The condition is the most common motor disability in childhood. Basically, the brain can't send the right signals to muscles. Consider it: Muscles are involved in all kinds of movements, from the way your tongue moves when you speak to your fingers' abilities to grasp a spoon. Cerebral palsy affects everyone differently; some kids, like Max, can walk but may have issues with speech, fine-motor skills, and/or cognition. Some kids aren't ambulatory, but have no cognitive issues. It all depends on where the brain is damaged.

Perhaps this sounds rather grim if you've never met a person with CP. But as Max has proven to me, people with CP find various ways to work around their challenges. When Max was two, his legs weren't strong enough to hold him up for walking and his arms weren't strong enough for doing a typical crawl. And so he'd drag himself along the floor, Army-soldier style, determined to move. As Max has also proven, people with CP have their own unique talents and strengths. Max, for one, has the most amazing visual memory; he's the person in our family most likely to notice if we've made a wrong turn when we're driving somewhere. We call him our Human GPS.

United Cerebral Palsy just released a video, along with the hashtag #CerebralPalsyCan, that's all about the abilities of kids and adults with cerebral palsy. Max is in it, showing off his skills with his speech app. He is wearing a Fire Chief hat and firefighter coat because he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. Maybe he will. Because #CerebralPalsyCan.

Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.