Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Life with Cerebral Palsy: A Master in Applied Disability Studies

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 5:35 pm on Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday I received an interview request from Fernanda for an assignment for her Masters degree in Applied Disability Studies at Brock University. I concurred. I asked if I could share the interview with my blog readers. She concurred.

1. How was your parents’ reaction when they found out that their baby had Cerebral Palsy?

Initially, they were understandably shocked with the complications of my birth and the following few days. Then they were fairly matter-of-fact; this is the situation, what do we do to make the most of it? The official diagnosis came later. By then, they knew I had some kind of disability. Mom might have even known it was cp. The diagnosis gave them confirmation and a label that Mom then began researching at the medical library at the University of British Columbia where she was a student – she was in Education, getting her specialty in Special Education.

2. How was the support from the rest of your family?

My family has always been very supportive. I’m not sure my Grandma (my Dad’s mom) fully understood, but she did accept me in her own way.

3. Did your parents have any kind of difficulty to register you in a regular school?

I began my schooling in a special education class and was gradually integrated into a regular class. Beginning in Grade Eight, I attended our local high school. Near the end of Grade Seven, I went through some testing with the school psychologist, which I didn’t think was fair since my fellow classmates didn’t have to go through the same testing. The results were to convince the high school staff that I was capable of handling the regular curriculum. Once I began Grade Eight and had proven what I was capable of, their concerns dissipated. Being on the Honour Roll my first semester clinched it.

4. Did you have any problem to be accepted in your school and/or in your community?

For the most part, I didn’t have a problem with other kids teasing me in high school. When I started in Brownies back in elementary school, the girls fought over who would push my small red wheelchair. They saw it as a special privilege. A few friendships from high school and Brownies/Girl Guides still exist today. Those ones are dear to me.

5. Did you ever asked why me?

No, no really; at least not for any length of time. I see my cerebral palsy as something that is. No amount of crying and self-pity is going to change that fact. I might as well as get on with it and make the most of what I do have. There is so much I can do; I try to focus on that.

6. In your daily life, you face challenges all the time, simple things that we take for granted like open the door, turn the lights off and other rather mundane tasks constitute a challenge for you. Where do you find strength to fight and don’t get bitter?

Yes, simple things can be frustrating, even extremely frustrating at times. I keep trying until I get it or find a way around it. Otherwise, I would be sitting in the dark!

In the really tough moments, I think about my Nanna (my Mom’s mom). She had bone cancer. She crawled up and down the old wood stairs to do the laundry in the basement. I figure if she could do that, then I deal with my minute frustration or pain in the moment.

7. Can you tell me if you had any kind of situation in your life that made you feel really angry and/or upset with society?

Searching for a job was tough. All of my life, I had been told to try my best and to work hard, and that I could do anything I wanted. My disability didn’t matter. But when I went for interviews, it felt like the employers couldn’t see beyond my disability to see my abilities, skills and talents. They didn’t give me the opportunity to try and to prove what I could do. That really hurt and was very discouraging.

8. What do you think that politicians and big companies should do to help people with disability feel included in our society?

There is so much they could do to include people with disabilities in society. Briefly, two main areas are:

  • accessibility, in every possible way – from infrastructure (buildings, transportation and community planning) to health care, to web accessibility, to access to services, to product development, to the electoral process and the list goes on; and
  • meaningful job creation and employment, with adequate supports and opportunities for further training and career advancement.

9. When did you have the idea to write your autobiography?

When I was ten, I read books like Joni, Other Side of the Mountain and Ice Castles, which about people with disabilities; actually, young women with disabilities. At that time, they were my only role models with disabilities. I decided that one day I would share my life to help others in a similar way. Thirty years later I self-published I’ll Do It Myself.

10. What makes you feel free?

Driving in my scooter with the sun and a big smile on my face – and plenty of accessible sidewalk!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Mike Smith

November 19, 2008 @ 5:48 pm

very, very inspirational. I am proud to be following you on twitter and to be a reader of your blog. My cousin has Cerebral palsy and a couple other conditions and is one of the smartest people I know. He cannot walk, but from scooting himself around on the ground in his house, he’s stronger then I am when we arm wrestle.

Comment by Meike

November 19, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

Nice job Glenda! I agree…those high school and girl guide relationships are pretty precious. *wink*

Comment by Glenda

November 19, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

Thanks Mike for your kind words.

Yes Meike, definitely! 😉

Comment by Andrew Galasetti

November 19, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

Hey Glenda,

Thanks so much for sharing more about your story!

This really left a lasting impression on me:

“No, no really; at least not for any length of time. I see my cerebral palsy as something that is. No amount of crying and self-pity is going to change that fact. I might as well as get on with it and make the most of what I do have. There is so much I can do; I try to focus on that.”


Comment by Steve Lee

November 19, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

Thanks Glenda. I took the liberty of quoting you.
Hope that’s OK.

Now I just remembered to drop big hints about your book for Christmas.


Comment by Joanna Young

November 20, 2008 @ 1:57 am

Glenda, she came to the right place for her studies, for you are a master!

I love your approach to life and you have so much to teach us about how to do it well.

Comment by amy

May 14, 2009 @ 10:50 am

Thank you for such an inspirational story. My daughter has CP (see blog link above) and we are collecting stories like yours for her to read when she is older.

Comment by lifeofthedifferentlyabled

December 22, 2009 @ 11:59 am

Hi i just wanted to say I myself to have CP and would like to share my blog

Comment by Natan Gendelman

March 1, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

Hi Glenda,
I completelly agree with you. I think there is a lot has to be done from accessibility to changing people minds. If it is okay with you,please kindly visit my blog
and let me know what you think. I will be honored to hear from you.
Thank you, all the best

Comment by Kennette

August 1, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have cerebral palsy and I have not had it easy but in spite of it all I try too keep a good attitude. I’m looking for work and you are so right about finding a job. Best Wishes too you! Thanks again!

Comment by John Krans

November 6, 2013 @ 11:01 am

My 15-year-old Granddaughter Lauren Walier has Cerebral Palsy. On 10/18/13 she spoke at The American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, a global audience of doctors, researchers, clinicians, therapists, etc. in Milwaukee, WI. Please be patient as she is very emotional and nervous getting started.

Please help Lauren by forwarding this to every email address you have. Lauren is a very courageously starting a crusade to help people less fortunate that she is by raising funds and awareness for cerebral palsy research and therapy. In May through August she rasied over $7000 for her cause. Please help us make Lauren’s foundation, Make Lemon Aide for Cerebral Palsy and Lauren a major fundraiser for CP. Every penny Lauren raises goes to her cause. Listen to her dreams and please support them to come true.


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