Information for Parents of Children with Cerebral Palsy

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An optimistic mind

By Stephi Chin

"Elyssa Olson's hand shakes as she takes notes in Beginning Journalism, however she is determined to finish writing. Although her hand begins to ache, a grin appears on her face as she finishes the last word.

This is one of many moments when Olson, 16, born with cerebral palsy, has had a challenge yet stayed strong and finished the problem. Now, as a sophomore, she can look back on achievements such as writing a neighborhood newspaper, winning the Rachel H. Austin Prize for achievements in math, and traveling to places such as Spain with the support of her family and friends.

"Cerebral palsy," Olson said, "is a brain condition that has a different outcome for every single person. So if you've met someone who has it, don't judge the next person by the person you met before. Everyone is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. It really bothers me when the media talks about the victims as a whole. Each and every one of us is completely different. Cerebral palsy has one of the most diverse symptoms of any disease."

Cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, during stages of birth, or when one is an infant. It affects parts of the brain that in turn, affect one's muscle or movement coordination, according to United Cerebral Palsy, a Web site dedicated to the disease.

Olson embraces her disease with a positive attitude. "I love it [Cerebral Palsy]. It has given me chances that no one else gets to have. I have gotten to know countless of truly amazing people through having this [condition] that most people never get to know. All of my aides over the nine to ten years I have been at school, I owe so much to all of them. Everyone at therapy, who either worked with me or my friends that were beside me. Those guys are wonderful and I love all of them."

However, the reality is not always positive. Cerebral Palsy comes with pains that can be hard to deal with.

"First of all, most people ask me- 'How does it feel to have cerebral palsy?' and 'Does it hurt?'" Olson said, "My answer is, I don't really know. I have had it [cerebral palsy] since I was born…so I don't know if it hurts. I know when I handwrite it hurts. When I write or type my arms get tight as well…When I fall, yeah, it hurts, but I have no choice but to get back up again."

Handwriting can be a challenge with Olson because the disease affects one's muscles, and in turn, tasks such as writing can become difficult."

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