My 'normal' life With Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that affect the movement of the body, and are caused by a problem in the brain that occurs around the time of birth, or before. There are a number of symptoms associated with cerebral palsy, but often they are not noticeable until the first few years of life.
Chloe Smith is a 19-year-old from the West Midlands who lives with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic quadriplegia, or spastic tetraplegia, which affects the use of the legs, arms and body. Here, Chloe blogs about living with this difficult condition and the importance of seeing people who are 'different' in mainstream media.
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Growing up, I always knew I was different (and no, this isn't the start of some superhero origin story or some inspirational tale or anything; it's just the truth) and everyone else did, too.
Having Spastic Quadriplegia, a type of Cerebral Palsy, in a small town meant that I was the only physically disabled kid in my mainstream school. I was the only kid who used a wheelchair, the only one who walked around in leg splints, and the only one who used a walking frame. I stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the other, abled kids.
I distinctly remember my first day at a new school. I was young, maybe 6 or 7, and really excited to start, but the memory that's stayed with me isn't what I learned, or anything like that. It's lots of kids crowding around me - bustling, staring and curious - firing thousands of questions at me, like ‘what’s wrong with you?’ Because they'd never seen anyone like me before, a disabled person, and wanted to understand.
That's okay, of course, it was just really jarring at the time because even though I always knew I was different, I never thought I'd be bombarded with questions about it. There was just no other way for people to learn about disability. To be clear, at the right time and place, I don't mind questions - they're fine.
The point is, growing up with Cerebral Palsy, with a difference, is harder when the world makes you feel like you aren't normal; that you're strange and weird.
Difference should absolutely be celebrated, and these kids should already have had answers to most of the questions they asked me. They should have seen people like me on TV, in films, and in books. They shouldn't have had to go chasing me for them, because they didn't have any other frame of reference. They shouldn't have seen me as anything but normal.
Growing up, I should have seen me too, in films and TV and books, everywhere - because disability is normal, and our experiences should be represented just as much as able people, and theirs. In hindsight, it would have been easier to realise that I was normal if I could have seen myself and people like me represented, rather than feeling so alien, outcast and isolated at times.
I didn't, and even now there are hardly any disabled actors playing disabled characters on TV and in film, and I'm still getting asked questions about disability that could easily be answered by simply having more representation out there. Despite this, I have realised that although the media has made me feel different, I am in fact very much normal!
I guess until all that changes we just have to keep answering as many questions as we’re able to, while trying our hardest to loudly and proudly remind the world that we're perfectly normal too, thank you very much.
- Chloe Smith
Chloe on what 'normal' means to her...
Normal, for me, is more than just what's shown in the media. So many people and their experiences, whether they are disabled, POC, LGBT or all three, aren't properly represented so they will never be treated, or even see themselves, as normal. If you feel his way, don't worry. Just because the media doesn't see you as normal, doesn't mean you aren't normal. Don't let it bother you. Keep on being you. They'll catch up eventually.
For support and information on cerebral palsy and other physical impairments, check out the Channel 4 support page.