In western society we live in an environment where image is valued and sought after. Acquiring Spastic Cerebral Palsy through no fault of one’s own directly challenges and contradicts this. We tend to base our judgments of other people on the way they “look” before we even speak to them or get to know them. For many centuries western society has valued and aspired to having the “perfect” image and body shape. The children’s nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” illustrates that as far back as the 1600’s when something was broken people felt there was a “need” to correct the damage and fix the problem. Maybe “Humpty Dumpty” was an obese person who fell off the wall, maybe he was an intoxicated soldier, maybe it was a name of a large cannon that was sitting on the wall of Colchester (Wright, 2008) which was set up to protect the city. No matter what the situation, the reader is left with a feeling that whenever there was something wrong with Humpty Dumpty, there was a need to correct the error and fix what was broken. Because he was “different” or “not normal” in one way or another he was not valued for his role by members of his local community. The reader is left to form his or her own opinion. Society continues to hold those views to this very day.
I am a secondary emergency teacher, have completed a Masters in Special Needs along with having a permanent acquired physical disability, Spastic Cerebral Palsy, affecting my four limbs. This was caused after an initial medical examination was “botched” by an unsupervised intern—the specialist left the theatre during the procedure when I was 14 weeks of age, over forty years ago. Further medical testing was arranged because there was a belief that I may have had hydrocephalus—swelling and excess fluid buildup around my brain causing it to be unnecessarily enlarge for my age. In my family’s case this seems to be an hereditary trait that has passed from my father who has a large head. It’s interesting to note that an obstetrician made a comment to my sister on the size of her toddler’s head. [End Page 213]
Since 1970 I have had a range of both positive and negative medical experiences. As a child who wasn’t able to comprehend what and why things were happening I was very frightened and often very upset. As an adult I am able to understand what and why something is going on and I ask questions when needed.
“Normal” has always been completing the same things but in a different way to other people while intending to reach the same outcome of “success.” There are many ways to skin a cat and “normal” is a term that has a very broad definition which is dependent upon the individual and the situation at hand. What is “normal” for me will be “different” for someone else. What is “normal” for another person will be “different” for me. It’s the differences between individuals that we come to value later on in life. That I cope in a different manner from others has clearly been aided by being able to make use of information technology—laptop, mobile phones, printers, etc.—along with a feeling that the acquired physical disability that I have is a small part of the overall person that I am. Before I became a person with an acquired disability I was a normal, happy, healthy baby and even now although I will always have a disability I have excellent health and choose not to be defined by having acquired a disability. Unlike some other people I consider myself to be a person who “acquired” a disability instead of being a “disabled” person. Having an acquired physical disability is a small part of the person I am. The manner in which I acquired a severe physical disability is what I have come to value along with the fact that I have done well in many areas of life while having such a severe condition.
Unlike people who had disabilities in the 19th Century who...