There are certain disabilities that people would assume to be ‘invisible’. I’ll often see posts on Facebook saying things along the line of “Share this if you support people with invisible illnesses/conditions” and it’ll have a list of conditions, such as: diabetes, autism, anxiety, depression, epilepsy. I’m sure you’ve all seen similar posts before.
The conditions listed are ones which people recognise as being ‘hidden’. However, one disability which is never recognised as being ‘hidden’ is cerebral palsy.
A number of you will now be thinking “But that’s because cerebral palsy isn’t a hidden disability…” People just don’t seem to realise the fact that CP can, in fact, be a hidden disability. If I was to ask someone to say what they thought of when they heard the words ‘cerebral palsy’, most people would have an image of someone who is a wheelchair user. This is where people are wrong. Just like many other disabilities, the severity of cerebral palsy ranges from very severe to extremely mild. In fact, according to statistics 30% of people with cerebral palsy use a wheelchair, while 10% use a walking aid and 60% walk independently.
I saw a video about dyspraxia a few weeks ago, and it stated that unlike CP, dyspraxia is not an obvious disability. I was sat there thinking “But CP isn’t always an obvious disability either.” The fact that I wasn’t diagnosed with it until the age of 13 (although I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of 3) proves that!
I’ll admit that someone who has CP may have an ever so slightly more noticeable disability than someone who has dyspraxia. For example, people have noticed me being ‘shaky’ before and this may not be something that people would be likely to notice in someone who just has dyspraxia. However, I still consider myself to have a hidden disability and it’s still true that cerebral palsy isn’t always ‘obvious’.
At a disability athletics event someone else who had mild cerebral palsy once asked me how people react when I tell them I have CP. She told me that her friends were shocked to hear that she had it.
I’ve had similar reactions before. People seem to be surprised to hear to that I have cerebral palsy, which in a way I can understand but at the same time it can be annoying. I’ve even had people before who don’t believe I have cerebral palsy, because they ‘know someone who has cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair/walks with a limp’. It’s frustrating, because cerebral palsy isn’t really considered to be a misunderstood condition, when in fact it is misunderstood by so many people. There seems to be this stereotypical image of what cerebral palsy ‘looks like’ when actually it varies from person to person.
There have been a couple of times when I’ve been out and someone has been collecting money for charity saying “For people with cerebral palsy!” and I just find it quite amusing that they’re saying that to someone with cerebral palsy most likely without even realising it!
If you remember one thing from this blog post, please remember the fact that visible disabilities can also be hidden!