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Parenting with Cerebral Palsy
Hi, I'm Richard and I live with Cerebral Palsy, Spastic Quadriplegia to be specific. I am the specialist information officer for Cerebral Palsy on the community, but today I will be talking about my experiences of being a parent for World Cerebral Palsy (CP) Day.
Could I really do this?
Growing up I wanted the same things as most people; a good job, my own house, maybe get married.
Then on New Year's Eve my wife announced, "I'm pregnant!". I was absolutely delighted, even a little shocked, but mostly delighted. As the weeks past, we told family and friends, but my excitement was being replaced with self-doubt. I started thinking, how will I teach them to climb a tree or ride a bike? I didn't know any other dads with an impairment, so I found myself quite isolated by my intrusive thoughts. It was at this time that I found Scope's online community and spoke to other parents with impairments. Speaking to people in similar situations really helped to change my outlook and focus on what I could do, allowing me to concentrate on the impending arrival of our bundle of joy.
Adapting as you go
Many aspects about caring for a new baby was physically demanding, particularly trying to get this wriggly human to lay still during nappy change time. But, it can be done. When you have an impairment organisation and giving yourself enough time is very important.
Well, that bundle of joy is almost ten now and like every family, not everything about raising a child has been straight forward. However, people with impairments have a great ability to improvise and look at situations differently. We attached the buggy to the front of my wheelchair and looked like a convoy whilst going around the supermarket! I bought baby grows with extra strong fastenings, so I could lift my daughter one-handed from the play mat, something that she found hilarious! I have been many things: a horse or a train, the possibilities on four wheels are almost endless!
The time to start school arrived, and that too caused me some concerns. Mainly, this was about being a different dad and whether that caused any issues with bullying. There were a few issues, but I'm thankful that I have always been very honest with my daughter. I decided very early on to always be very upfront about my Cerebral Palsy, and this gave her the confidence and the tools to answer questions from children who were being negative about her dad. I decided to turn a negative experience into a positive and was elected to the PTA, this was a great opportunity for me to interact with parents and children alike and help to educate people about disability first hand.
Now I'm preparing to support my daughter in the next stage of her life, secondary school. I'm certain that there will many more challenges to face. We will face those together with humour and love. I have learnt that my child doesn't see the leg spasms, they see dad. They don't see the wheelchair, they see dad. My daughter just likes to think she has a seat wherever we go! It's easy to overthink and worry that thing aren't quite how the media portrays the perfect family to be. Nobody is perfect, and certainly no family is perfect.
I'm just like a regular dad. My jokes are corny, my shirts can be loud and I'm sure I'll be an embarrassment for years to come. After all, that is part of the job description isn't it?
What are your tips and tricks as a disabled parent? Is being a disabled parent really that different? Let us know in the comments!
Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead
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