I just found out that World Cerebral Palsy Day is on October 6th, which is my birthday and ironically, the day I acquired what is known as “Cerebral palsy.” Weird coincidence, right? What may sound even more ironic is that I don’t believe it Cerebral palsy is a real thing. Before you consult google for a definition I will no doubt find to be flawed, inaccurate and more than likely, insulting, hear me out. CP is in umbrella diagnosis for a prolonged lack of oxygen (anoxia) around the time of birth which results in brain damage related to the movement control center of the brain. CP is not genetic, not a disease or a disorder, it is the result of a trauma, which can happen while still in utero. So, while the brain damage and resulting changes in movement, speech, coordination and balance are very real, I think having a severe and ominous sounding diagnosis is doing a disservice not only for those of us who have CP but for those of us who don’t. Because obtaining this diagnosis is often delayed, adequate support for new parents with a baby with CP are often not available. Even if they were, however, I believe the resulting socialization that follows this label is quite dehumanizing; it is a cue for fear, misunderstanding, dismissal, self-doubt and a harbinger of social chaos. Because people have heard of CP, they usually have what can be terrifying assumptions about what this means. The more people toss around this label, the more convoluted and terrifying it becomes. The more terrifying it becomes, the more I need to disassemble falsehoods and reassure others 1) I’m not contagious. 2) this is not a disease, disorder or progressive malady and 3) I’m human. Too.
I support disability awareness as a whole on the basis of the inclusion, acceptance and empowerment. I’m not a fan of CP awareness because this is only emphasizes this specific label as master status and perpetuates exclusion. If you’re interested in more background information regarding why I think CP is an ineffective label from a medical standpoint, let me know and I will happily elaborate.
The takeaway is that because CP is not in and of itself, a medical issue, disease, or biological abnormality, I’d rather that these characteristics not be named. I’d rather have differing abilities be recognized as nothing more, nothing less, with my full humanity always coming first.