Disabilities in School: My Experience with Cerebral Palsy and Music
This is the kick off of a sweeter slice of the life of Grandma Mikie. Why, would a Grandma want to sit down and put pen to paper, you ask? Because, as a Grandma, I think I just might be able to offer some helpful tidbits, a few smiles and important lessons I’ve gained along the way.
With today, March 25, 2021, being National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, l am remembering a time long ago, when my childhood friend and I were young girls in Junior High School. Our parents had enrolled us in something called, “Cotillion”-- a monthly formal dance, which was popular ‘back in the day’ for budding teenagers. On the eve of one particular dance, I remember our parents sat us down and ‘firmly’ suggested that our dance cards should include the son of friends of theirs. Both of us squirmed uneasy in our seats because their son was disabled with Cerebral Palsy. My friend and I were both good kids, but we both knew that this could prove a challenge for us, because dancing with him could mean our peers would be making fun of us. Sadly, we didn’t even consider how hard it would be for him…which is what I am sure our parents were hoping to teach us.
To our surprise, on the night of cotillion we found this boy to be smart, and full of fun, initiating a great friendship. I learned a great lesson that night with my peers, making note of my friend and me stepping-up and “treating someone just like everyone else” --- treating him, as we all wanted to be treated --- with something as simple as a dance. I’ve never forgotten that memory and it has served me well into my adulthood. It was the beginning of my learning (first hand) about compassion, empathy and that everyone has something to offer, no matter what life has dealt them.
A big part of my Grandma Mikie passion is due to my teaching connection with students with disabilities. As a teacher of grades 9th through 12th grades, one of my favorite students had Cerebral Palsy. He had great difficulty walking and speaking but, I took a chance and asked him to sing for me…and to my surprise, HE COULD SING! And so, my lesson plans began to incorporate singing at every turn. One day, at precisely 2:30pm, he began to participate… using his new found voice to alert me that the class was over and it was time to go home for the day. Amazingly, he never missed a beat, letting me know by standing up and singing one of the songs I had written especially for my classes, “We Can Do it at the Same Time” ---and he continued doing this every day until he graduated!
About two years after his graduation my husband and I were in the local diner having a Sunday breakfast and lo and behold there ‘he’ was, with his family, sitting across the dining room. Well, as fate would have it…he saw me and I saw him. He got up from his chair and headed toward me singing that song! I got up and met him halfway and finished the song with him. Needless to say, we ‘brought down the house’ and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place! Merging my love for music and children really reaffirmed the beneficial effects that the power of music has on children, especially, those with disabilities. In fact, I truly believe it works for everybody!
And so, in honor of Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and because as as a child and a teacher I have seen, first hand and up close, this common motor disability of children --- that affects their gross motor skills, fine motor skills and communication skills --- it is my hope that these memories can spark something in you, too, that can help spread the word about this most important cause.
Big love and hugs, til’ next time,
❤︎Grandma Mikie ❤