They ask “Why do you walk like that?” “Cause the wiggle is just my thing. If anybody asks, I just say this is how I walk and all that. This is how I was born and I’m glad.”
Olivia, 11 years old
My braces help me walk better
If they ask, “What’s the matter?” I just say that, my braces help me walk better. That’s basically all that I say.
Educating your peers
I have never been teased directly, but sometimes kids will talk and laugh behind my back; thinking I can’t hear them. My friends will stand up for me if they see me being teased. At my public school, I sometimes give a presentation to educate kids on CP. It gives kids a chance to get questions answered that they were afraid to ask before.
Choosing your battles
It’s more of a problem for the adults than the kids. If it’s a kid, I’ll just kind of ignore it because you’ve got to choose your battles. And I really just don’t want to get into scrap with the popular kids. And then when it comes to adults, it’s like well, they’ve grown up in a different time period where people like me were sent to institutions. Yeah, but I don’t really confront them, no. If I have a chance to, I will. Like if they said something really rude and belligerent, I will. If somebody asks me, I just say “Oh yeah, I have this brace because it straightens me out and it helps me walk better.” And if they are really belligerent, I just say I wear it “because I’m trying to make a fashion statement.”
I’m kind of had to factor my CP into all my friendships. I’m like ok, is this person going to accept that I’m probably going to have to be in the hospital? I’m probably going to have to wear braces and stuff like that. I also have to factor it into what I’m going to eat in a fancy restaurant. If my parents aren’t there, I don’t want to ask for help cutting things. I really just don’t. So I probably will just order a burger when I’m out with my friends all the time because I really don’t want to order a steak because I really don’t want to ask them to cut it.
When I was younger like in elementary school I noticed how my peers would stare at me and make fun of me, and I was hurt by that, but I didn’t really know how to stand up for myself. I’ve always had a sort of scissored gait, which is easily noticeable. I felt kind of helpless.
I have been teased about my limping, but I have set this to be a motivation for me.
Playing modified games
I do play tag, but my friends and I play tag weird. Instead of just the normal “Ok, you’ve got to tag me” we play like “No, you’ve got to find me, drag me back to a spot, and get me to stay there”, which is fun.
My friends ask, “Ok, what would you do if you could walk?” The first thing I would probably do for about a week would be to climb up and sit in a tree and just write a book. That’s about it.
Dealing with the stares
People talk to you slow all the time. And it’s not cool. So, I answer them in a foreign language. On my first day of school, my aide talked to me really, really, really slowly when she first met me. I didn’t answer her at all because if you won’t talk to me civil, I just won’t answer you. And if I do answer you, it’s not polite.
The thing I’ve noticed about people today is that people aren’t very opened minded. When people first see me, I get a lot of weird stares. I’ve got people staring at me all the time. When I go to the mall, I have at least 50 to 60 people staring at me. Before I was eight years old, I hated people staring at me. I was like, “Why are you staring at me? Stop!” It doesn’t really bother me now. What bothers me is that if you are going to stare at me for 10 minutes and you really want to ask a question, and you don’t. Then I get agitated. I actually went up to somebody in the mall once and asked them what they wanted to ask me. That person asked me, “How many miles have you gone in your chair?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, but I’m sure I could figure it out.”
People with questions don’t bother me. Ignorant people bother me, not stupid people, because there is a difference between stupid and ignorant. Stupid is you can’t do it. Ignorant is you can, you just choose not to.
They made fun of the way I talked
I have been teased many times at school throughout my childhood. Many students made fun on my slurred speech and would mimic it. Those students thought that I was mentally retarded. I tried to ignore it and move on with my life, because I had better things to do. When it really bothered me, I told a teacher or principal about that person.