I am a person with multiple disabilities. I’m also a mom, a wife, and a preschool teacher.
First and foremost, I was born with hydrocephalus. The right hemisphere to my brain is filled with fluid. There is no gray matter. This condition leads to cerebral palsy. I have limited use of my right hand. I have almost no use of my left. My final disability is the worst. I have epilepsy. The last one gives me no independence.
I cannot drive. Therefore, when I look into a job position, I have to determine where it is. That depends on whether I can get there by taxi, ride share, a bus, or the old reliable feet. When the snow hits the pavement, my husband, son, or any vehicle in my path becomes my crutch. Climbing stairs is a nightmare. When I went to college, I specifically asked for the disabled dormitory. I have lived with these disabilities for 53 years. I do not mind if you ask what they are.
That is why I became a preschool teacher. I love the inquisitive little 3- to 5-year-olds. I wish I could put them all in the circle and have them ask whatever they wish of me. I would prefer that their parents don’t say, “Don’t ask any questions!” I want the adults to ask questions, too. I feel that they are afraid because someone in their own childhood told them not to. I am here to say, “Just ask.”
After being married for 27 years, my husband is used to it. My son is 22 years old. He is used to having a disabled mom. I do feel guilty about the fact that when he was sick at school, I couldn’t pick him up to drive him home. That’s why I pushed him so hard to get his own license. And with a little bit of selfishness, I was kind of hoping that he would become my chauffeur.
The hardest part with having cerebral palsy is the assumption that I cannot do my job. While I understand people asking if I can lift children, I kind of laugh under my breath when they ask me if I can change diapers. If you’ve ever been into a nursery school, you will wonder if the able-bodied current employees are able to change diapers! I can change diapers. I just do it on the floor. I can lift and carry children. I carried my son around like he was a sack of potatoes. I couldn’t wait till he could get up and walk!
My epilepsy led to a different issue with my son. While I was taking medication, the neonatologists believed that it would make the growing baby disabled. It took early-intervention nurses about 3 months to realize that my son was perfectly healthy! He did stay in EI until he was 3 years old. I was told that he was the model for the other children! I believe this also led to my son having much more compassion and understanding towards people with disabilities. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the man he has become! He may be part of me, but I believe it’s mostly his own strong heart that made him this way.
Yes, I am someone who is in my 50s with a disability. I want you to ask questions and I will answer as best as I can. I’m not uncomfortable with who I am because I’ve always been this way. It may be frustrating at times, but it’s the way it is. I cannot change it, so I have learned to be comfortable with it. It can be annoying, it can be frustrating, but this is the way it is. It won’t change. And it’s me. If you have questions, just ask!
Lynne McCormick is a mother and preschool teacher in her fifties with multiple disabilities. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.