This is my nephew Robert.  He is 12 years old and attends the public middle school.  He likes anything and everything that has to do with the Police and I he watches the show “Cops” religiously.  My boys adore their cousin Robert and love to swim with him in the pool and get rides from him when he pulls the wagon for them.  Robert is a typical 12 year old and he fakes being sick to stay home from school, he has been sent to the principals office for cursing in class.

Robert also has Cerebral Palsy.

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and to maintain balance and posture. It is due to a nonprogressive brain abnormality, which means that it does not get worse over time, though the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.

People with cerebral palsy have damage to the part of the brain that controls muscle tone. Muscle tone is the amount of resistance to movement in a muscle. It is what lets you keep your body in a certain posture or position. ~ CDC.gov

Today, March 20th is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day.

I guess because we have Robert in our family we don’t really think much about CP.  Robert is who he is and it never crosses our mind that he might be seen as different.  He’s just a neat and ornery kid.  But to the outside world, he is noticed.  He is stared at.  I think it’s the adults that stare the most.  Kids are very accepting of things until taught differently by the adults in their lives.

People think that people with CP are “retarded” (which is a horrible word by itself).  It’s called “Developmentally Disabled” people.  Get with the times.  But, Robert is not developmentally disabled/delayed.  He has a perfectly good brain when it comes to that.  So if it hurts me when I see people stare or shy away…you know it hurts him.

Some people think that it’s contagious.  No, really.  They do.  It makes me laugh, too.

Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that affects a child’s ability to control his or her muscles. The part of the brain that is damaged determines what parts of the body are affected. There are many possible causes of the brain damage. Some causes affect how the child’s brain develops during the first 6 months of pregnancy. These causes include genetic conditions and problems with the blood supply to the brain. Other causes of cerebral palsy happen after the brain has developed. These causes can occur during later pregnancy, delivery, or the first years of the child’s life. They include bacterial meningitis and other infections, bleeding in the brain, lack of oxygen, severe jaundice, and head injury.

Children who are born prematurely or who are very low birth weight (less than 1,500 grams or about 3 1/3 pounds) are more likely to have problems that might lead to cerebral palsy. However, children who are full term and normal birth weight can also have cerebral palsy. ~CDC.gov

This last sentence describes Robert.  He was born 30 minutes before his due date.  He came out weighing 9 pounds!  His mother was in the hospital awaiting a planned induction when his heart rate fell dramatically.  He rolled around and compressed his cord several times resulting in oxygen deprivation.  It was only after the 4th or 5th time (I think…his dad could say for sure) that they delivered him.  By then, it was too late and the damage had already been done.

He spent a month in the NICU enduring seizures and other complications.  We did not know he would have cerebral palsy when he left the hospital.

So today for Cerebral Palsy Awareness day, I just ask that you pay attention.  Teach your children acceptance of things that are different.  Perhaps visit a home or hospital where you can volunteer your time.  Learn about them.  Learn who THEY are, not what their body indicates they might be.  Visit the United Cerebral Palsy website to see what you can do to make a difference in someones life.  Maybe make a donation that will go towards education and research.