I have always been disabled, I never knew life any other way. I entered the world with a bang. Which is not surprising, since my due date was July 4th! However, my actual birth occurred on April 8th! I came in at 2lbs 13oz. Due to my size and underdeveloped body, I was unable to effectively fight a staph infection and brain damage was the result.
I was not diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy until I was 15 months old. My mom suspected something was wrong from her experience as a Special Education Teacher. She told me that she cried on the day I was diagnosed. My physical therapist at the time pulled her aside and said, “He is the same child you had before the diagnosis, all your dreams for him should not change.” To this day, she speaks the same words to young parents who are struggling with a diagnosis.
Cerebral palsy or CP is a non-progressive neurological condition that can affect motor skills, balance, overall mobility, vision, speech, hearing, and sometimes intellectual development. In my case, I am considered a spastic quadriplegic and have been a wheelchair user since I was three years old. This basically means my entire body is tight and affected by the CP. My speech and vision were also affected. I am harder to understand and I developed a stutter. When I was of school age, it was discovered I had a visual perception deficit. Like CP, my eyes are not the issue rather the issue is the messages my brain sends to my eyes.
I was born in Milwaukee, WI, and spent my first eight years there. My mom was concerned about the educational options there and decided to homeschool me. It was then, at the age of 4, she discovered I could read! My parents never really treated me different than other kids. They took me everywhere and made accommodations wherever they could. They also set the same expectations for behavior, so although I was spoiled in many ways, I never acted spoiled.
My parents never focused on my disability, so it was easy for me not to. My mom would always tell me how lucky I was to have the talents I had. That was the focus in our family. When I was three, my mom would turn on the demo mode on her Nintendo and give me the controller. She did this so she could take a shower without me crawling to the door and calling for her. Soon she discovered I leaned how to turn off the demo mode and was actually playing the game. I transitioned from Nintendo to PlayStation. I have never used an adaptive controller, I just learned to adapt. The internet opened a whole world of weird facts for me to memorize! As a child, I also developed a love of writing, which I carry on to this day. In fact, I have a long-term goal of writing a novel or children’s book.
Not to say my parents did not have extra worries and concerns. Multiple surgeries in which I had breathing complications brought about a great deal of stress. My therapy schedule and extra doctor appointments resulted in my mom leaving her career. There were also financial worries. However, my parents always found a way to make things work. I learned a great deal from them in this regard. I also learned to use humor to get through the rough times. In my family, there was basically nothing we did not joke about, including my disability. Honestly, laughing at yourself is so healing. It also builds a solid foundation for self-confidence.
Many may think my cerebral palsy and other disabilities are my greatest obstacles. They are not. I embrace everything about myself, including my disability. My greatest obstacle is Red-Light People.
Red-Light People are those who use words like “will never” or “can’t”. They are basically dream killers. Their focus is on an individual’s disabilities rather than their abilities. Red-Light People discourage rather than encourage. They will list reasons why you are inadequate, rather than find solutions. Basically, Red-Light People stop your progress if you let them.
I have encountered Red-Light People my entire life, so have my parents. They come in the form of medical professionals, educators, friends, family and strangers. I can thank my encounter with the most recent Red Lighter for helping me coin the term. She wrote a multi-paged report on why I could not be a successful blogger. In the report she used bold red letters to spell out “Red Light”. She seriously did that. I guess she thought I needed the actual visual cue to get her point.
I have to admit, the report did place a small seed of doubt in my mind. However, ENABLE became my green light when they asked me to be a guest blogger. The power is not within the Red Lighters, it is not even within the Green Lighters. The power is yours. You choose whether you stop at the Red Light or roll through to the next Green Light.
I live in my own apartment. Coaching a football team, singing in a Men’s Choir, water-skiing, riding on a motorcycle, and reading are a few of the accomplishments I have made so far in my life. If I or my parents had believed the Red Lighters who have crossed our path, many of these experiences would not have been mine.
I have made it my mission to use my blog and future projects to make sure Red-Light People do not become obstacles for others. It is also my mission to convert Red-Light People into Green-Light People. How ironic is it that green is the color for Cerebral Palsy Awareness?!
How do you convert Red-Light People? It is simple, prove them wrong! Be determined to find a way to accomplish your dreams. Do not let the nearsightedness of others interfere with your happiness and success. When you hear the word “can’t,” find a way to transform that into a “can.”
When you encounter special needs families or individuals with disabilities, be a Green Light! Encourage rather than discourage. Look for abilities rather than disabilities. Be a dream motivator, not a dream killer!
You can find me Rollin’ and Smilin’ through the red lights!
About the Author:
Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’ is my life philosophy. My name is Hunter Kelch and I am the author/owner of www.comerollwithme.com. I entered the world three months early. An infection in the first weeks of my life resulted in my having cerebral palsy. I have been a wheelchair user my entire life and have a visual perception deficit. Despite my rough start, I have never let my disabilities stand in my way of living a happy, fulfilling life.
I started Come Roll With Me to inspire others with disabilities to set and achieve goals for happiness and independence. My mission is also to bridge the disabled and abled-bodied together.
Additionally, I would like to bring awareness of accessibility issues that challenge individuals with disabilities and their loved one on a daily basis.
In my free time I enjoy watching sports, mostly baseball and football. I also enjoy watching wrestling, mostly WWE. I play video games, my favorites include Call of Duty, Madden and OO7. I am a huge rock fan. Some of my favorite artist are Arron Lewis (Staind), Theory of a Dead Man and Nickelback. My favorite TV shows are most cooking shows, crime shows and Born This Way. I live on my own with my Bi-Polar cat, Sully.