Friday, April 8, 2011

Growing Up with a Sibling with Cerebral Palsy: Learning to adapt

My sister was born with cerebral palsy affecting the left side of her body. Her left arm is shortened and under developed. Her left leg is twisted inward making it very difficult for her to walk. She is not affected cognitively other than the fact that many of her classmates made fun of her. But through the years she’s learned not to allow any of that to affect her spirit. I think she has become the strongest person I know. 

When we were kids I remember sitting in the Doctors office one day after her yearly checkup. My Mother was frustrated with my sister’s disability. She said that she was constantly fighting her when she would try to get her to do anything and my Mother said she had a tendency to want to give up before really trying. There were times that as a family we would give into her believing that she probably couldn’t do it. I remember the Dr. telling my mother not to assume that she couldn’t do something and to make her prove it to you. Do not accept “No” for an answer.
On the way home that day Mom turned to me and said from now on your sister is going to play baseball with you. I played everyday with my friends and at first I was horrified at the idea of having our game interrupted. I argued and stomped my foot but my Mother was having none of that, we were a family and we were all going to deal with this together. My sister yelled and screamed the first day. Even threw herself to the ground at one point in a grand display of drama designed to make me feel bad. But neither one of us wanted to go tell Mom that she couldn’t do it. At first playing with her was difficult but over time and through perseverance she was able to adapt. She learned to catch the ball with her right hand and then cradle the glove in her left hand pulling the ball out with her right to throw it. She learned to bat one handed and though she didn’t have much power she could punch out hits by utilizing holes in the outfield. She couldn’t run very well but all she had to do was make it to first base while the rest of us scored. Over the years she became valuable to our team and she only quit playing when she became interested in boys.
Now she works as a welder and the company she works for allows her extra time to make brackets to hold the parts in place. She makes up for their generosity by doing a great job and working on her own time if necessary. Once again she’s learned to adapt. Her life has never been easy and there are lots of things that she can’t do but she will never give up trying. And I will always be there to encourage her.
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