Cerebral Palsy at Prom

Alan Rasof CP PromsIt’s prom season for high schools across the United States. Pictures of teens in elegant ball gowns and expensive tuxedos posing with flowers and limousines are flooding news websites and social media streams. Sprinkled among the smiles and sequins, though, is the occasional story about the selfless teens who benevolently decided to take a student with a disability as their prom date.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to worry about prom, but my grandson Elijah is a toddler now and prom is still in his future. As glad as I am to see so many able-bodied teens taking teens with disabilities to prom, I don’t want this to be newsworthy. Teens with disabilities aren’t novelties, and befriending one shouldn’t be novel and newsworthy.

People with disabilities don’t exist for the rest of us to feel inspired. In a poignant TED talk, Stella Young, a journalist who uses a power chair for mobility, told the audience that she doesn’t need anyone’s help or sympathy, and she certainly doesn’t want to be held up as a model citizen for able-bodied people to think to themselves, “wow, if she can do what she does, so can I.”

Students with Cerebral Palsy especially don’t want to be looked on pitifully or as pets. Many are active members of their communities, participating in events and making friends as their conditions allow. Several people with CP have taken to blogging and vlogging to normalize and humanize their disabilities but also illuminate how difficult it is to navigate a world designed for able-bodied individuals.
As Elijah grows up, I don’t want one of his classmates to take him to prom out of pity or as a grand gesture of selflessness and altruism. Elijah has a wonderful personality. He loves to play and laugh and interact with people. When he grows up, I want someone to take him to prom because they’re friends, not because it’s a kind gesture. I’m sure he’ll be giddy to pick out flowers and bowties, and I can already picture his face lighting up when the DJ plays his favorite song. I don’t ever want to see him as a prop or the object of charity, especially at his prom.

Community Rallies Together To Build Accessible Playground For A Student With Cerebral Palsy

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Douglas Road Elementary in Bedford township has a brand new playground, inspired by Braden Gandee, 9, who has Cerebral Palsy.

NBC News first introduced the Gandee brothers’ story in June 2014 when the pair set off — with Hunter carrying Braden on his back — from their home in Temperance, Michigan, and walked forty miles to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. Along the journey, people cheered them on.

The story of Braden and his brother Hunter made national news with what they called the “CP Swagger.”

All that attention brought generous donations from individuals across the country, including from teams of engineers who offered to build a new playground for the community, accessible to people suffering from disabilities.

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Braden Gandee always had a simple dream: to play at recess alongside his classmates.

“I just had to sit back and watch them [friends] have fun,” said Braden “I really wanted to do what they did.”

With the help of dozens of volunteers, including his big brother, Braden and all his classmates can now play together.

“Before at recess, Braden was only able to do a few things: ride his power chair around the blacktop or use his walker,” Hunter Gandee, Braden’s brother said. “He had one handicap accessible swing.”

But now the possibilities seem endless.

“It’s just a good feeling,” Braden said. “Now I can go out and play with my friends.”

Kids with all different abilities can set sail on the new pirate themed, inclusive playground set.

“What’s really cool about it, is that Braden is going to be able to play with his friends,” Hunter told NBC. “It’s got special equipment he can use with his friends and he’s going to have so much fun.”

“3 weeks ago it was a dirt pile and an empty field,” Donnie Stevens, the president of the Parent Teacher Association at Douglas Road Elementary said.

The playground idea started some 18 months ago. The PTA spearheaded the fundraising after being inspired by the Gandee’s.

“The moment it became reality is when you see Hunter walking with Braden down that long hallway,” Stevens said.

He says the community really rallied around the effort, donating time and money to make it all possible.

“Piece by piece we got to where we’re at now,” he said.

The Gandee’s hope this will encourage other school districts and neighborhoods and most importantly educate people about Cerebral Palsy.

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