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Real-Life Stories

Written Stories:

I am an Elementary Teacher

The Story of Margaret

The Story of Ricci Ann

The Story of Caitlin

Kieron, Living with CP

He taught me a lot about one thing and I taught him a little about a lot.

Jimmy's New Shoes

Mary & Robert's Story

The Story of Marvin Ray Risen

The Story of Morgan

The Story of Karen

Battling Back

Madison's Story

The Story of Father Ball

Video Stories:

Tony, told he would NEVER walk

Vicki's Story

Cerebral Palsy Remix

The Cohesion Project

Additional Video Stories

I am an Elementary Teacher

I am an elementary health and PE teacher in the Central PA area. Last year was my first year teaching and I had the privilege of teaching the Adapted PE class. One of my students was a 5th grade girl with cerebral palsy. She actually attended regular PE classes with her homeroom class. She was quite active! She was pretty much non-verbal but always came to class with a smile on her face and ready and willing to try anything. She was able to walk but had some balance and coordination issues. Her pace was definitely much slower than other students in her class. We also had to be careful when she ran that she didn't lose too much speed and topple over. She had the option of wearing a helmet and doing more adapted exercises, but she ALWAYS chose to not wear the helmet and do what the other children did. She really wanted to fit in and not be 'different'. She was extremely independent and I tried to give her that independence and freedom, even if she wasn't able to do all of the skills, games, and exercises. The students in her class were extremely helpful, inclusive and encouraging to her. I always tried to give her options ie- running on the inside of the circle to go at her own pace, using small basketballs, etc., providing balance support with equipment to hold onto, etc. Towards the end of the year, I also helped her with some training for Special Olympics. She was an extremely fast runner for someone with her level of CP. We set up a course in the hallway and timed her in the 50 yard dash. We submitted her time and she was able to compete in the local Special Olympics! It was an excellent opportunity for her.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with a CP student and will hopefully have the chance again in  the future!


The Story of Margaret

Hi, my name is Margaret . I was born on April 1960.. I have 1 brother and his name is Tom, and 2 sisters Nancy and Mary Ellen. My umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. So I was a blue baby. The doctors advised my parents that I needed to be moved to the Children's Hospital in Boston Ma. (USA) My mom was extremely concerned and demanded that a priest be called so that I could be baptized, I was Named Baby Girl McCabe. The doctors told my parents that I may not make it and if I did survive I probably would not talk, walk, or understand much. Well as you can see I did make it. I was at the Children's hospital from April to August. My parents told my brother and sisters what the doctors had told them. Well I did grow up. It was hard on my parents and my siblings. My arms were working but my legs were another story. My brother tells a story of my 1st steps. I had taught myself to use the wall to balance and to stand up. Now remember I was not expected to ever walk. I took my 1st step then 2nd step, and then 3, 4,5th step. I was walking. Both my parents and my sisters saw my performance. Everyone did the happy dance including me. This is the link to my brother's story. http://www.tommccabe.com/audio.htm Now that I was walking there were new concerns for me. Like what to do when I fell, and what to allow and not allow me to do. I had to be taken to the doctors a lot. My mom worked nights so she was the one who took me to the all my doctor and PT appointments. My dad joined us whenever he could. I was able to go to regular school with the help from both tutors and my parents.

Growing up was a trip in itself. I fell constantly so my mom didn't let me do too much. I was taken out of any and all gym classes. Both my parents and the schools didn't want to take any chances. Most of the teachers didn't really know how to treat me. My neighborhood parents watched over me too. One family in particular was real good to me. The mom made sure that her 6 kids included me in their play. If she witnessed other kids picking on me she would step in and stop it. Her oldest child is my age and his mom made sure that he watched over me at school too. This was meant to protect me from the bullies. The real young kids don't know how to be mean but the 9 and 10 yr olds do know how to be mean. I met my bully in 3rd grade; He followed me for 6 yrs. Due to my learning problems I ended up having to repeat 3rd grade. My bully would trip me whenever he could. I had special education classes for reading and the teacher was the best. One memory I have from 9th grade is when my bully hip checked me into the wall while on the way to class. . My special education teacher was in the doorway of her class room and saw what he had done. She came rushing into the hall, grabbed the bully by the collar and threw him into the wall. Talk about great. I found out then that she was his big sister. While she had him up against the wall I heard her say that if he didn't knock off bullying me that she would let their dad know. Somehow I got the idea that his dad had a tendency to be real aggressive. Much later I was at a neighbor's funeral. My bully was in a chair in the corner and he was holding a cane. I asked a friend what had happened. My bully was in a car accident and now had some brain damage. I had one other bully that I met in 9th grade. This girl beat me up most days. She didn't hurt my face so the bruises were hidden. Well one day my older sister was home from her day at college. This bully knew I had a sister that went to the local high school but did not know of my oldest sister. Well having heard all the stories my sister asked me for the girl's name. She found her phone number and called the girl. Well, my sister then told the girl that she was going to put me on the extension and that she is expected to apologize to me and to make a promise that she would leave me alone, it worked. Years later I was at a cousin's wedding. I saw this woman and realized it was my bully. I pointed her out to my mom and sister, she never recognized me.

Throughout my life my parents were always looking for a cure for me. I once over heard my mom telling my dad she would like to take me to Rome. She thought a blessing would cure me. We never made the trip. I graduated from high school in 1979, I got a job and worked for about 2.5 yrs before my next challenge. One Sunday my mom was reading the newspaper and found and article on the subject of Patterning the brain.

The article mentioned that an adult man who was married with children was looking for a way to cure himself of his problems. He did fix his problems and my mom asked me to read the story then my dad read it. Once we all read it my mom asked me if I would be willing to try just one more time to see if this could fix me. I said yes and we were off on another journey. The primary reason I wanted to try was because at the age of 23 I was real lonely and all I did was work. I had no social life. My dad made some phone calls and was able to arrange a meeting with the therapist who was mentioned in the article. The three of us walked in and the woman asked where the child was, I stepped forward and introduced myself. She was impressed with what I had accomplished but saw a lot of things that could be fixed. Patterning is the patenting of the brain. Now you need to understand that most if not all of the CP population never crawled or crept as do all "normal" babies. I took time off from work and began the program. My dad moved all the furniture from the 1st floor into the attic. We moved the dining room table into playroom in the basement. Please see this link for the patterning information. http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;104/5/1149 After 1.5 years I felt that I had fixed what I could and what didn't get fixed didn't need to be. Thanks to this program I was able to find myself. I was able to accept myself and my abilities as well as my disabilities. I decided to try college and registered at the local community college. I selected a 4 yr college to transfer to in order to get a BS degree. I had to have tutors for most of my classes but I made it and was able to graduate college in 4 yrs with a 2.3 gpa. My dad said this degree also belongs to both he and my mom. They were so proud of me. I felt so proud of myself. For the 1st time I felt part of the "normal" Group. I graduated college in May of 1989 and started looking for a job. I found a job in January 1991. All was good, except I was still very lonely. I did make friends at work but no one to really bond with until I met a co-worker who would later become my husband. We began dating Labor Day 1992. I opened up to him about my physical problems and he opened up to me that he has a seizure disorder.

We began dating Labor Day 1992. I opened up to him about my physical problems and he opened up to me that he has a seizure disorder. I look at it this way, I fall down and remember and falls down and forgets. We dated for 2 months and then we got engaged, November 1992. I wanted a big party so the wedding was scheduled for the following fall, November 1993. We have been together now for 18 yrs and married for 17. His dad gave me the best compliment, He said that I was the best thing that ever happened to his son and that his son is the best thing that ever happened to me. The first few years of marriage were spent working with his doctor in hopes to stop his seizures. It worked we found a new drug and after about 30 days he was in (remission) from his seizures. He has had 3 seizures in the past 2 yrs so we are montering his stresses. Through out my life I have been taught to hide my CP. However, during the past 18 yrs my back and mostly my legs have gradually worsened. 10 yrs ago I was able to walk 10 miles a day. I had to have my left knee replaced in February 2004. Now I can hardly walk. For the first time in my life I had to give into my CP and accepted my limitations. In the spring of 2010 I was listening to my brothers story about me and I realized that my mom and dad were truly afraid of me. That is why they taught me to hide. Since then my CP and I have come to terms with each other. I listen to my body much more. We are in truce. I had been fighting with the SSA for my SSDI and won my case in October of 2010. I had to get my first WC right before my court date because my legs were not strong enough to walk. I chose to have my WC painted purple, I wanted to roll in color.


Ricci Ann: A story of a 31-year-old woman with cerebral palsy.

DISCLAIMER: This story derives from several e-mail correspondents between this website and Ricci Ann. Nowhere in the story will you find Ricci Ann's last name to protect her privacy, nor will you find any sensitive personal information pertaining to address,phone number or even e-mail address. It will be told in the perspective of Ricci Ann.

Every second of my life has been a real fight even from day one when I was born. There was no doctor in room with my mother, which caused me to hit my head. Yes, my life has a story.....I think everyone with CP has a story, I don't know if mine is a shocking or a unique one but if telling my story helps even one person then I have done my job. I always found it hard to tell my story and writing is difficult for me. But my English teacher in college used to argue with me about it and tell me I should write a book about my life. For example, when I was 14 years old my mother moved our family from one state to another. At the age of 18, in my last year of high school, my mother passed away......she had Cancer!!!! I have 3 younger sisters that I needed to take care of, so my next move was college and a job. I often say that I live my life as normal as possible. I consider myself very fortunate because some people say to me that many people with disabilities don't go to college or have jobs, but I have done both. I just have to live life sitting down. I held down a job for about nine years now. I refuse to do what the world thinks disabled people should do, which is sit home and not contribute to the world.


The Story of Caitlin

Living with any disability is difficult.... I should know because I myself have grown up with Cerebral Palsy. For you to get the full picture I should start from day one. July 25, 1995 a Tuesday. I was three months premature (I was due September 6th). My mother was young and my father was not in the picture at that time. But did have my grandmother and grandfather helping out when they found out I had Cerebral Palsy. My mother found out I had C.P. because I couldn't hold my head up.

Being a baby I didn't start any therapy until later on, I had physical and speech therapy. .I could talk, but some things were messed up, like pillow, Cinderella and fairy godmother and popsicles. I didn't walk until I was three years old. I could hold on to things and guide myself around with the help of braces (AFO).

C.P. has changed my life greatly. I now live my life with a sense of I do not belong. As you know most people with C.P. have balance problems and because of this I have never been able to ride a bike, (boy, I wish I could).one of my favorite things as a little girl was riding my bike down the street (with the training wheels). Other things it has affected is I don't play sports, now please don't think I can't. If I wanted to I am well enough to do so. But I lack the self-esteem because of many years of getting picked on in school to play sports. Another thing is I wish that I could walk as fast as everyone else.

I know I should be grateful I can walk at all. I try to deny i have a disability and walk and walk until i can't walk anymore, and I am silently crying and swearing to myself. I hate walking with "normal" people. Just for the fact that i get so behind that they have to stop and wait... ok honestly only my true friends wait.

Because of my balance issues i have also not been able to play in bouncy houses, or trampolines. Now it seems like this is all the bad stuff about having Cerebral Palsy, well it isn't great, but honestly i could be a lot worse.

Well let's start with school, I am in mainstream classes. Meaning I don't have an IEP, which I think is fantastic. I fought years to get out of it. Now i believe IEP is very good for the kids who need them. But my school just gave me one so i wouldn't fall on my face and cause a law suit.

I am in a modified physical education class which means i do what i can do. I do not run miles because i run for 15 minutes and it's hard on my knees. I do not play kickball either because of the balance issues. I have tight muscles in my legs which constantly makes it so they hurt walking from class to class with my books. Now i don't know if anyone else out there is but i am ALWAYS tired. When i get tired in school my eyes begin to wonder. I have two lazy eyes that get worse when i am tired.

I also walk with a scissor gait which a lot of people think is funny. Well, outside of school I am pretty normal. I have a boyfriend and friends. But up until recently it had been hard for me to make friends. But I am healthy and I am sure I am going to marry and have beautiful babies :) I know many wish for a cure from all this pain and stuff that comes with Cerebral palsy.... but I feel if I didn't have cerebral palsy I wouldn't be who I am today.


He taught Me a lot about one thing and I taught him a little about a Lot

The story of an art teacher and his student that had cerebral palsy

Many years ago I had the pleasure of crossing paths with a fine young man named Brandon who was a high school art student of mine. As with all public education teachers, I received paperwork before Brandon ever set foot in my class indicating that he had cerebral palsy. Of course I immediately began to think about ways to adapt how I taught to meet his needs. I researched various sites on the internet and had many discussions with his resource instructors, all things that any teacher would do. In the end I found that working one on one with Brandon and challenging his artistic ideas and process on the same level as I do with all my students was ideal, there was no need to modify the way I taught - the only modification was in my understanding of what I knew about cerebral palsy.

Brandon went on to graduate and I have frequent interactions with him in the community. He still has the same positive attitude, personality, smile and our continued interaction reaffirm why I chose a career in education. In reflection Brandon taught me a lot about one thing and I taught him a little about a lot.

David M. Burnham
District Department Head - Art
Cedar Cliff High School


Jimmy's New Shoes

Copyright © Marie A. Kennedy,

Published in "Chicken  Soup for The Mother's Soul 2"

It is September 28th, two days before our sons 5th birthday. His name is Jimmy, and he has a smile that lights up a room, sky blue eyes and curly hair. My husband, Chooch (Jim) and I are taking him to buy a new pair of high top tennis shoes. We arrive at the store and look up and down the display of shoes. Dad finds a pair with the colors of Jimmy's favorite basketball team. He shows them to him and his eyes light up, "Lets try these, OK , Mother ?" I look and find the style in his size and he sits down on a nearby stool. I have a lump in my throat as I take off the shoes he has on. I then remove the braces he has worn since his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy at 16 mo old. His therapist had recently talked to his specialist who agreed our pride and joy was doing so well, that we could try a pair of shoes without braces a few days a week. Jimmy was so excited to pick the pair he wanted. We are usually very limited in the selection that will fit over his braces.

I bend down and adjust his socks and slip on the shoes. I lace them up and just as I finish the second bow, Jimmy jumps down and looks at himself in the mirror. He has his hands on his hips, like Superman. We are all three excited and I ask Jimmy to try and walk around and see how they feel. He takes a few steps and turns to see if we are watching. "Go on Honey" I tell him, "you're doing great". I am holding Chooch's hand and we both squeeze as we watch him walk faster and then almost run in his new shoes.

He has been walking at home without shoes or braces for months, but, has had limited endurance. I am watching him march now with a great big smile on his face. I look at Chooch and ask "How much are they?" We both laugh. "Who cares?" He answered, "Jimmy is getting these shoes." I put his old shoes in the box and we pay for them.

He thanks us as we walk to the car. He is riding up front with Dad, clicking his feet and admiring his new shoes. I am quietly sitting in the back, thinking of all we have been through, especially our son , to get to this point. Jimmy is humming as we go inside the house. He wants to call everyone and tell them about his new shoes. I suggested we call just a few people and surprise the rest at his Birthday party. We have a large family that love and support Jimmy each step of the way. We make our calls and go through our nightly routine of warm bath, lotion massage, and a few stretches. I put his night braces on and kiss him good night. He again thanks me, saying, "Thank you for my new shoes. I love them, can I wear them to school tomorrow ?" I assured him that he could. He fell fast asleep with his shoes right next to him on the bed.

As happy as I was, I was a little worried he wouldn't want to wear his braces again. The next morning, as I helped him dress for school, I talked to him about it. I explained he could only wear his new shoes a few days a week. He said "My braces are cool Mom, I can wear them too. I bet Miss Cindy (his bus driver) will say Oh my gosh I can't believe it!" When the bus came and Cindy opened the door Jimmy held onto the rail and walked up the four steps. He stopped at the top and said , "Look! Look at my new shoes! and no braces!" Miss Cindy said, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe it." He turned to me and smiled. He got into his seat and blew me a kiss and gave me the thumbs up sign, like he always does. I went back into the house thinking about how his teachers and friends would react, and wishing I could see and hear everything. The few hours he was gone I paced and wrote in my journal. I prepared snacks for his school party the next day. Chooch was decorating the house, the yard and the mail box for our big party the next night. I went outside to wait for the bus 15 minutes early. It was a beautiful day and I could hardly wait for him to come home. I feel this way every day he goes to school, but, today when the bus turned the corner, I wanted to run down the street and meet him.

The bus pulled up and he still had that big smile on his face. He blew everyone kisses bye. We held hands and walked across the street into the driveway. He then stopped and said, "Mother this was my happiest day ever." As tears welled up in my eyes I bent down to hug him and he wrapped his arms around my neck and he said, "I know, me too." We both cried as we hugged each other and seconds later laughed together. He told me how his friends liked his shoes and his teacher, Miss Susan, screamed when she saw them. I have a feeling she cried a little too.

Birthdays are always special, but this one is dear to my heart. I could have popped with pride looking at the smiles of Jimmy's grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, watching him do some of the things we all hoped for but were a little afraid to believe he could ever do.

He still wears his night braces and day braces without a fuss. I let him pick the days he wants to wear his new shoes. Jimmy is my joy, my strength, and the best of me. He verifies my belief in miracles and the power of love daily.



Mary & Robert's StoryMary & Robert's Story

Respite For Everyone

It wasn't easy, but Mary is a firm believer in the benefits of respite for everyone. The second of Mary's 3 children, Robert was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. He was born prematurely and placed on an emergency ventilator. While on the ventilator, Robert's lungs burst, and he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage. "We were told that he would not survive the next 24 hours", Mary said. "But Robert displayed an amazing spirit and battled on."

A Close Family

Robert has always lived at home, growing up on Sydney's northern beaches with his parents, a protective older sister and a playful younger brother. He enjoyed a childhood surrounded by extended family and friends. "Robert would take part in all family activities, including surfing with his Dad", Mary recalls.

"His older sister was always very protective of him, and they developed a very close bond. His younger brother would always play and wrestle with him as if he had no physical problems at all."

Letting Go

As Robert grew up and entered his teenage years, Mary found herself facing a new challenge - finding the strength to 'let go'.

When the Cerebral Palsy Alliance suggested the family apply for respite care, she was at first reluctant. The idea of someone else looking after Robert, even for a short period, was daunting.

"The first respite visits were difficult for me because, like all mothers, I thought no one else could look after Robert as well as I could", Mary said. "I also missed him terribly."

"However, the respite allowed us to start spending some quality time with our other children, who were also in their teenage years."

"It wasn't long before I realised that Robert was also benefiting from respite, as he was learning to become more independent."

"Respite care soon became a regular part of the Mockler family's routine. When Robert turned 18, he began spending one night a week and the occasional weekend at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance's respite cottage at St Ives."

A Break for Everyone

The family is now also utilising the flexible respite option available to carers over the age of 60. It enables Robert to go out with friends on the weekend, and gives Mary and her husband, Warren, time to do their own thing.

"Despite his disability, Robert is a very gregarious young man who enjoys all sorts of social activities", Mary said. "At 27 years old, a night out at a concert with friends is much more enjoyable than staying home watching TV with mum and dad!"

People Who Care

"Importantly, Robert now also knows that other people can look after him, and if Warren or I weren't there, he would be able to manage."

"The Cerebral Palsy Alliance's kind and well-trained respite carers are committed to the wellbeing of their clients and their families. Speaking on behalf of our family, including Robert, I would recommend all families utilise respite care. It benefits everyone."

The contents of this story comes from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (www.cerebralpalsy.org.au).


The Story of Marvin Ray Risen

Hi this Marvin Risen I have Spastic Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy on my right side. I wanted too say never give up the road is fill with different situations and goals. We must fight the good battles, there will be ups and downs. If there are down pull up your racing socks and run the race and win. With a disability life does not stop it keeps on going. We can't do everything but we can do something. Please LOVE yourself, have self esteem, self-confidence, and thank God for your disability and other things too. With my disability I have encourage so many people and I am touch by others too. It is a blessings not being lucky, it is mercy, grace, wisdom, kindness, overjoyed, determination, willing, hope, I want to live, surviving and thriving through many difficulties, humbleness and so on.

All my life I was in Special Education but made it real well. I am 40 years old and situations are difficult for me I always find the way with God, Jesus, Holy Spirit help. I battled depression, no self-esteem, self-pity, lifeless, all that junk I battled with. Right now I totally healed from all those things. I was created in God's own image and we are loved unconditionally.. Remember God doesn't put a lot on us that we can't bare.

Marvin Ray Risen

Feel free to find me on Facebook or e-mail me at notrisenmarvin@yahoo.com


The Story of Morgan

I born with Cerebral Palsy and my mum (mom) picked Cerebral Palsy up when I was six months old baby, I have depression problem, I have manic problem and I can't communicate verbally that means I am mute and I use tried up towel (bib) for eating and drinking, my mouth drools all time and in the past my mouth drools full time and I used tied up towel (bib), I use a bidet (toilet thing) because I can't wipe my bottom.


Disclaimer: Morgan is from another country so that is why his English is not that good but to be
respectful to Morgan,the website has decided to leave his story the way he has sent it.


The Story of Karen

My story isn't that long or interesting. But I found out last summer that I have a mild form of C.P. I had started working more hours at my job and soon after my calves would start to kill me. It would hurt just to put any pressure on them. If I did sometimes it felt like they were going to go into a charlie horse. I would use heat and massage to control the pain but after awhile a friend told me that she noticed one calf was slightly bigger than the other. I didn't really do much about it or see anyone for it. But the pain got even worse and worse over the months so I finally went to a doctor and they told me nothing seemed wrong and to stretch. So I did but that hardly helped. I then was looking up why maybe they hurt and I couldn't find anything so I went back to the doctor the day my one calf was way bigger than the other. She sent me to a neurologist. They said they wanted to do an MRI of my brain. So they did that and they found some interesting stuff. They told me when I was born I had a mini stroke. It surprised me because I had never known. I don't remember exactly what they said but something about the stroke in my brain has done a little damage to the nerves in my legs. I have what they call spastic diplegia. I had to go to physical therapy for a month so my calves wouldn't hurt anymore. I can put some pressure on them and it doesn't hurt that much. I try to keep working out so they are strong but every once and awhile they'll have severe pain in them. When I walk people have told me it looks like I'm limping. I can hardly tell and not everyone says something only if they are really watching me. I noticed that my calf muscles are way different than everyone else's. I don't wear shorts much because of it.



Battling Back

A barrel racing team overcame devastating injuries to continue giving hope to children with cerebral palsy.- (PDF)

"Reprinted with permission of Paint Horse Racing. www.apha.com."


Madison's Story

Let me start off with a little bit of my story. I am a twin, and we were born at 29 weeks, which means we're 3 1/2 months premature. As you can imagine, this caused many complications. I had to be put on a jet ventilator that beat 400 times a minute, which caused me to have a brain bleed. Both of my lungs collapsed, and I spent three long months in NICU.

At one point, the nurse came in and told Mama something no other mother should ever have to hear. She said, "I'm sorry; we've done all we can do for your daughter. She's gone."

Mama didn't know God like she does today, but she knew to pray. She went out in the hall by herself to gather her thoughts with tears streaming down her face. She cried because of what the nurse said. God asked her, "What are you crying for?" This was the first time she had ever heard God speak to her. She cried out to God saying, "God, you gave her to me, but if she's going to be a vegetable take her on. If not, I want a 180 degree turnaround." About five minutes later, the nurse came back in and said I had done a 180 degree turnaround.

Granny also called my Aunt Sherrie and told her so her church could pray for us.

Contrary to popular belief, cerebral palsy can happen before, during, or after birth. I grew up a little bit different than the average child. Even though my brother had to come home on oxygen, he had no physical disabilities whatsoever. It was several years before I learned how to walk, but I didn't let that stop me. My mom has told me stories of how I would crawl on my back to get wherever I wanted to go.

In school people would make fun of me for falling all the time, but I couldn't help it. Once they realized that, they would help me up when I fell. I was able to do PE (even though I was a little slower than everyone else), up until I had my first surgery and nine years old. Things were not always easy for me, but I always found a way to overcome them. I attribute this to the way my mom raised me and also to God. My mom never treated me any different my brother, which I'm so thankful for.

I just finished my junior year in college with all A's once again. I don't say this to brag, but I hope to offer encouragement to all the parents reading this to never let go of the dream that you have for your child. With lots of patience, love, and God's grace your child will be able to do things that you never imagined. My best advice to you is to never put limits on your child because of their disability.


The Story of Father Ball

I was born in Danville Virginia in 1960, to a girl who had just finished the 10th grade, as the "non-identifying information" available to me reports. As an adopted child, I spent a good portion of my life asking one question: "If I had been normal, would my mother have kept me?" It was only later in life I came to understand that her giving me up for adoption was both a great act of love, and divine providence.

I passed through several foster homes, until I arrived at the home of John and Marcia Ball. I was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP), a condition that was poorly understood in the early 1960s. The original plan seems to have been that I would spend some time in foster care and then, as was still common in those days, be institutionalized. All of the experts consulted had concluded two things: 1) This child will be retarded 2) He will never walk.

Marcia Ball was not a woman who easily took no for an answer, and once again the hand of divine providence was at work, and took her to Dr. John Eggleston, a local pediatrician. He believed that you could look in my eyes and see that I understood everything, even though I lacked the motor skills to respond. By this time, with regular feedings and almost no movement, I was exceedingly overweight. Following his recommendation I was put on a diet, and what would be years of physical therapy began. My parents have told me of the night my mother heard my father scream and ran in the kitchen to find me standing freely without holding on. I was three and a half.

The "therapy" of that time now seems quite primitive, but it was what they knew: forceful stretching of the muscles against the spasticity, and the wearing of braces. The worst ones had the clear plastic heels and double laces. There was a set of laces under the tongue and one over the tongue of the shoes. We would force my foot flat (the clear heal of the shoe allowed you to check this) then tie the inner laces to hold the foot flat, then put the tongue and outer laces of the shoe in place. Lastly the heavy metal brace would be strapped around your legs. The physical therapy was worse than the braces. It seemed to my child's mind, like daily torture. I would cry and my mom would cry, but every day without fail she stretched and stretched me. I must be brutally honest and admit that I was well into adulthood before I was able to let go of my anger at my mother and God, and realize that this treatment was the best they knew at the time, and without it I wouldn't be where I am today.

When I entered school there was no Americans with Disabilities Act. My mother was my personal ADA. She would often battle my well-intentioned but over-protective teachers. I can still hear her telling me, "Don't ever let anyone tell you what you can't do." Throughout my life God always seemed to send the right people into my life.

In the fifth grade (1970) our school district began busing some of us white children to what had been the "colored" elementary school. There I had my first African-American teacher, and the first teacher I could truly trust, Mrs. I. A. Williams. Disabled children learn early in life not to trust appraisal or approval from adults. Even when you know you have done something poorly, adults tend to tell you you've done well. Mrs. Williams was the first teacher who truly treated me as normal: no pitiful looks, no sympathetic tone, no lowered expectations. On the contrary, in a voice that spoke from experience she told me, "In this world you're going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far." Finally, I knew I truly earned any good grade I received from her.

Academics were where I came alive. While other children liked to play sports, the mind was my playground: science, math, and most of all language. Whether it was Debate, Forensics, Drama, or Spanish, I found a world where I could win. This was my level playing field. One of my funniest memories was of a friend who overheard a judge at the State One-Act Play festival commenting on how amazed he was that the actor playing the guy with the limp never once broke character. I wonder what that judge thought when I limped forward to accept the trophy.

In college, I was particularly blessed, as God brought Dr. Bernice Waddell into my life. She held a doctorate in Romance Philology and pushed my linguistic skill to its limits, not only teaching me what she knew, but finding me a Russian tutor so I could learn a language from a different linguistic family.

Through it all, the one constant was God. I was blessed with an abiding sense of the presence of God. I grew up Baptist, and still have the bible storybook from which I would read. Two stories in particular (the story of Moses being placed in the basket, and the story of the crucifixion) I read over and over. I can still recite the opening lines of the crucifixion story. My cousin, a Baptist minister, said at my father's funeral that he always knew I was "called to the ministry." He just had no idea it would be in the Catholic Church. In 1980 I entered the Catholic Church and in 1984 entered Theological College of the Catholic University of America.

In college, and later in the seminary, I tried to distance myself from the world of disability. I can now look back and see that I was still over-compensating. There is a fine line between being pastoral and being patronizing, and with the best of intentions some of the faculty and other students would often cross it. Once again God sent me the perfect person to balance my life: the only black student in the seminary, Anthony Chandler. Both of us dealt frequently with misconceptions and stereotypes. Some people assumed he must like gospel music because he was black, and some confused CP with Multiple Sclerosis, assuming my condition was degenerative and terminal. Anthony and I were able to share our frustrations and through humor tried to desensitize some of those who were overly "pastorally sensitive to our special needs." To this day, he can still do the perfect imitation of my walk.

Nine languages (Spanish, French, Italian Portuguese, German, Russian, Latin, Farsi and American Sign) and two graduate degrees later, as I approach 50 I think I have finally come to point in my life when I no longer feel compelled to prove that my original diagnosis was wrong.

Once again I saw the hand of God at work, as I was brought to what was then called the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities. Their recently created office was housed in our basement at Theological College, and I began to volunteer with them. Over the years, I have spoken at several national and diocesan conferences, and once at the November USCCB meeting. In those same years I came to know and work with Fr. Gerard Trancone, campus minister at Gallaudet University (the only university for the deaf). I was there in the days when the cry rang out, "Deaf President Now," as students protested in favor of a president who was deaf like them. Through Fr. Gerry and the community at Gallaudet, I was introduced not only to sign language, but also to Deaf culture.

I was ordained a priest in 1989, and through the generosity of a woman who had heard me speak at a conference, I traveled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. This would also be the name of my first parish in Richmond—a church with an established deaf catholic community. Again God shows his presence and sense of humor.

In 2009 I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my ordination and can still say without a doubt I love being a priest, and have come to appreciate the gift of being a disabled priest. So often people with disabilities are only thought of as a group to be ministered to. It is good to invert that reality from time to time. I remember the first mass I concelebrated with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago (who lives with the aftereffects of polio). I thought, as we both limped down the aisle, that the church has come a long way. I have found over the years that parents with disabled children and the children and young people themselves, often need someone to talk to who has walked the road they are on. Perhaps in the next 20 years we will see Catholics with disabilities so integrated into every level of the church's life and ministry that it is no longer a novelty to be celebrated, but an ordinary part of life.


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