We are asking for young people to write about their experience of growing up with and living with a disability to help us challenge negative perceptions and promote a wider understanding of different conditions. In this article sixteen year old Sallie tells us her story of living with cerebral palsy (CP).
“When people say physical disability, most people think that this means someone who uses a wheelchair. This isn’t always the case. I’m Sallie, and I suffer from mild cerebral palsy. You might not understand what that is. It’s basically a form of muscle tone. The muscles in my ankles are tighter than most people’s which means that my feet turn in making it hard to walk.
Looking at me, it might seem that I don’t look that disabled. But it is obvious when I walk that there’s something wrong. My toes turn in as I walk, and my ankles are weak on one side and stiff on the other which make it incredibly hard to move. I have very little flexibility in my ankles, and this means I can’t keep shoes on. Unlike a normal girl of my age, I can’t wear slip on shoes or high heels because my balance is poor. This has always been the case – so I’m used to it. We don’t know if this is anything to do with my condition but my feet have always been really small – a whole size apart. I’m lucky if I can fit into a size three.
I’m by far not the normal person. Due to my increased muscle tone, I didn’t walk until I was around two and a half. I was lucky, though. Due to my specialist physiotherapists, I was able to teach my feet to stay down so I could walk on the whole of my foot rather than the toes like most people with cerebral palsy. This is why I didn’t walk until I was over two.
My CP made school quite difficult. I was more mobile then than I am now. I was quite a tomboy and preferred to try playing football with the boys. They let me play, but my slow speed meant I was often left out, unintentionally. I was unable to run around with the others which made making friends really tricky.
2010 came and I had an operation on my feet to try and release the tone in my muscles to improve my walking. I was confined to a wheelchair for two months, unable to do anything myself. But, if it hadn’t been for my surgeon, I wouldn’t be able to walk the way I can now. I have lots of physiotherapists, surgeons and paediatricians whose work has allowed me to get the best I can out of life.
I often got clapped just for just attempting to run at sports day – I got the pity clap. Most people thought I couldn’t do sport – but I proved them wrong. In 2010, shortly after my operation to split my tendons, I took up swimming with the Gloucester City Para Swimming Team. To date, I am now a six-time national qualifier, four-time international qualifier and double British Record Holder in the 4x50m 34 point medley and freestyle relays.
This is truly a case of I can do it – not what I can’t do. I proved people wrong – disability does not mean you can’t do sport. I have a dream to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and I will keep working hard to reach that goal. If you have a disability, you are not a sub-human, you are a superhuman”.
If your child would like to write something for us we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Emma Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org.