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See the abilities

By: Letter to the Editor

 | Mar 19, 2014 - 2:54 PM |

Don’t instantly start applying banal, inaccurate labels, I tell you. That is what I want to say every time I get an awkward stare from across the hall at my high school, or every time people try to look away while I am at the mall.

My name is Jonathan Lu and I am 17 years old. I have cerebral palsy, which affects how I walk, and various other things, especially my fine motor skills such as writing, cutting with scissors and even folding laundry (yes, I enthusiastically fold laundry, just like every other teenager in the world).

Although I am not able to do some things as well as others my age, I also have many abilities that come with my disability. Kids with physical disabilities have passions and hobbies, as well, just like every other kid.

I love to read, play musical instruments, am fluent in piano, guitar, cello, bass and drums, watch television and drink Iced Caramel Macchiatos (just kidding, I actually prefer tea, so I order the Passion Tea Lemonade).

Kids with physical disabilities are just like any other kid. So why aren’t we treated like one? Why is the focus on the physical disability rather than on the children themselves? Why is the majority of society unable to look beyond the superficial and see the true character of the individual?

The majority of children have an innate self-consciousness regarding themselves. This self-consciousness is amplified when you are a child with a physical disability.

I have never been very confident or very outgoing. I think a large part of this is due to my physical disability. When I was younger, I spent more time in the hospital than I spent at school due to frequent appointments with specialists.

These occurrences, I feel, impacted my social skills tremendously. I was used to talking to doctors and nurses rather than fellow children. I was used to discussing my gait and bone density rather than chatting with my friends about the newest video game that they already finished three times.

It did not mean that I did not want to, but rather did not have the opportunity to. I struggle with oral participation in class. If the discussion were occurring in my mind, I am sure that I would do very well. Likewise, if telepathic communication would ever be possible, I would not be writing this article.

However, the way that society sees me is different from the way I see myself.

Perception is a very powerful thing. Its impact on our daily lives is beyond what we can consciously comprehend. You see a man of dark complexion sleeping on the street, then you immediately start walking faster in the other direction.

You see a tan-skinned man wearing a turban take a seat beside you on the bus, and your mind fills with images of terrorism. Remember that dark-skinned homeless man? Well, he is well-educated, former business professional who sold all his assets to care for his ill, elderly parents before they passed away.

And, that tan-complexioned man wearing a turban? He is a doctor who runs a medical clinic in the Middle East for child victims of civil war.

You see a child sitting in a wheelchair, a child using crutches, a child using a walker, a child with plastic supports on his legs and a child who is “normal” rather than a group of children who hang out every Saturday to relax after a long week.

It is time for a social paradigm shift. It is time we start seeing with the eyes of our hearts. Children with physical disabilities have a lot to offer society. All we want is a chance. You can start by treating us like any other kid.

Jonathan Lu
Easter Seals Ontario Youth

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