Hi! My name is Chloe Tear, I am 19 years old and I'm a university student studying Psychology and Child Development. I have mild cerebral palsy which affects the left side of my body as a result of being born 8 weeks early and weighing 3lb 3oz, as well as epilepsy, chronic pain and impaired vision. During this blog, I will talk about what it’s like being a student who may face a few more hurdles than most. I hope you're able to follow my educational journey because anything can happen!
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This blog is focusing on part time wheelchair users. A topic which can be ignored.
For those of you who don't know, I'm a part time wheelchair user. I may not be too happy over this fact, it's not really something to dancing about, but yes, I am a part time wheelchair user. Do you get the message? People can be in a wheelchair part time- meaning that they can walk, maybe just not as far as you or for as long as you. Socially people can often find this hard to accept and due to recent experiences, people really do need a hand in breaking these social stereotypes. I firmly believe that stereotyping have led to a stigma surrounding wheelchairs which I have experienced (and are affected by in my own opinion and the social conventions of others). Down to things deteriorating I've only had the big bit of metal (wheelchair) AKA- Walter (yes I have given it a name!) for about a year, So you could say I'm still classed as a newbie- who is trying to act like a pro.
I have never actually been 'taught' how to use a wheelchair (if that is possible); they just presumed I knew, because how hard can it be, right? I know it's not classed as the classic rocket science but it can take some getting used to (especially if it's something you don't want to get used to). Due to me striving to ultimate goal of independence this was just another hurdle I had to get over on my own. I still wouldn't class myself as an expert user, more learning as I go. I'm always figuring out new ways to make things easier and little 'tricks' to insure I get safety from one place to another (which at the end of the day is the main goal). However I suppose I adopt that to everything I do, coming up with my own unique ways of doing the tasks which I wish to accomplish. It may not be how you do something, but it's just what works for me when faced with slight limitations.
I remember the first time I used my chair. A maths lesson. No big deal right? I was just going roll in there like it was the most normal thing in the world, even though I felt like it was the complete opposite. I knew I was bound to get the odd stare/ glare of confusion, nothing new about that. Some people can jump to conclusions, presuming the worst or doubting my capabilities. Often leading to them making the judgment that I shouldn't be using one, as much as I want this to be true it can be very annoying. More often then not
they do not know my situation yet feel adequate to pass unneeded judgment. Anyway, the maths lesson. To start with a teaching assistant forgot to get me from break (putting me off the whole idea to start with!) which meant I was late for the lesson, (just in case I wasn't making a big enough entrance). When I got to maths it turned out my chair was too wide to get to my seat (great!) and the teaching assistant had just left me at the door because they had a lesson with someone else (double great!). To cut a long story short, I got to my seat in one piece, managed to crash into my table when reversing (its a lot harder then it looks people!!!), got plenty of stares, all while the classroom was dead silent with the odd whisper; bet you can tell I felt great after that one.
That lesson no one asked me questions as to why, in a way that was nice but I also didn't want them to jump to conclusions. It was after that lesson ended when it all started. What's wrong with your legs?, thought it was only one of your legs, can you no longer walk?, if you can walk then you don't need one! Granted this was not everyone, I wouldn't even say it was most people. However it was there and in a way it's not even their fault, just a lack of understanding and education on the topic. Here I am- hopefully bringing the education, because it wasn't the questions that bothered me, more the way I could tell they thought I was making the whole thing up as I went along. After the weeks when by of me using the wheelchair when ever I saw fit it became slightly more 'normal', it was no longer a shock to people. Also in the end my friends were able to push me around rather then the very busy, but unreliable teaching assistants. This did make things a lot easier, easier to get around school but also easier to accept and get used to.
During the past year there has been numerous times when the last thing I've wanted to do is use the wheelchair, and I suppose they were probably the times when it would have been a pretty good idea to do so. Thinking about it they are the times when I often want to prove things to myself. However I have an amazing group of friends who have been there every step (roll) of the way. They have definitely made it easier for me to come to terms with because they have always been willing (or fighting) to push me and encouraging me to use it when needed. Also helping me come up with ways to make it easier to use the chair, even if that means running over a few feet in the process (very sorry!), or learning that a wheelchair doesn't just go up a curb!
In order for me to complete university away from home, and get to lectures in one piece- a PA (Personal Assistant) has been vital in me being able to be as independent as possible. I have actually enjoyed the process of hiring PA’s despite it being a little stressful to find one in time. Yet, when looking for a PA, it had to be someone who could drive as well as being capable to suit all of my needs. By having a car it would mean that I could get to hospital appointments easily. However, when advertising it was often extremely hard to find someone who was fairly young (not that this is essential!), was capable of the job, could drive and was okay being with people aged 19- 21 all of the time. After 30+ applications it became clear this was all quite a big ask! Who knows my full medical history? Who would have experience in Cerebral Palsy, seizures and visual impairment? Who can drive and wouldn’t mind being with young adults all day? Who would actually quite enjoy lectures? There is a…
Dear Chloe, You're currently 7 years old and are about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. This journey will show you the world in a completely new light, it will show you things you never thought you would see, and allow you to meet people you might otherwise have never met. Unfortunately, this journey is tough, it will test you past the limits you thought you had and cause so much frustration and upset- but you are capable of overcoming this, you can find tremendous joy in every aspect of your life. You have just been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. You have never heard of this, and have no idea what it is! But don't worry- mum's done lots of research and has your back! These hospital appointments may seem strange, and unnecessary as you don't think anything is wrong, but it will all become clear with time. Ever wondered why you walk on your toes and fall over more than your friends? Ever wondered why you can't hop, struggle with maths and feel tired? Or hav…
I am a part-time wheelchair user, this means that one day I can use my chair, and the next I can be walking with my stick. Being able to use a wheelchair on a part-time basis allows me to managed my energy levels and reduce pain, allowing me to function more effectively in everyday life. I am exactly the same person whether I use my stick or my chair, so why does the behaviour of others sometimes change?
Over the last few years, I have noticed people act differently to me depending on the equipment that I am using at that time, yet it was when doing my food shopping, of all things, that made me realise what those differences were.
I've noticed that when I use my stick, people don't tend to mind. I sometimes get a few inquisitive looks as they tried to figure out why a 19- year- old is using a walking stick, but apart from that it is fine. People in shops talk to me, telling me how much the items cost and expect me to pay- good job really considering it is my food for the week…