October 7 was World Cerebral Palsy Day, and Mathew Stanwood of Colorado Springs, CO wanted to spend it focused on raising awareness of the disorder. Now 13, Mathew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby and walks using crutches.
Thanks to several leg surgeries over the years, his doctors expect that he will one day need only a cane to get around. However, the type of cerebral palsy he has could possibly shorten his lifespan, a fact that Mathew and his family continue to grapple with by remaining positive and focused on what they can do to make his life easier and more comfortable.
One of the ways they do this is by exploring new technologies that may make certain tasks, such as driving, possible for Mathew in the future. That’s why they celebrated World Cerebral Palsy Day by going to Pikes Peak International Raceway to check out items such as an adapted car that paraplegics and quadriplegics can enter and exit on their own, and that paraplegics can drive via hand controls.
Mathew also had a chance to test out smart-glasses technology that let him control a wheelchair using his head; the goal for that technology is to one day use it in cars.
His mother, Jessica, was excited to see all of items that are being developed to help people cope with their cerebral palsy, but said that perhaps the most important thing is still getting other people to understand and accept cerebral palsy and those who have it without judgment.
“Sometimes he’ll go into a store and we’ll get stares like, ‘Why is he walking like that?'” she says. “I’d like it if the child or the mother asked and was happy to talk to him about it. I love to talk to people about it, but when you hear the whispers behind your back, it hurts.”
That’s what World Cerebral Palsy Day is all about: spreading correct information about this complex disorder and the different ways it can affect the people who have it. The more the public knows about it, the less stigma is attached to it, and the more everyone can focus on improving life for those who live with it.