Holiday preparations are in full swing and the giving of gifts has already begun for some. I spent some time recently reflecting on my favorite gifts I had received through the years. I enjoyed some very magical Christmas mornings as a child, and I remember well the feelings of excitement while waiting to look under the Christmas tree when my parents woke up. Some of the best presents ever have been ones that further developed my independence.
An aspect of what makes my cerebral palsy so frustrating sometimes is that I have a mixture of every type of cerebral palsy. I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I can do independently, but I wish I had a bit more control of my arms so I could do even more. Involuntary movement makes independence difficult to obtain. With this in mind, my family and friends always have my need for independence in mind when giving gifts.
I, and probably others with disabilities, have a different perspective on gifts. A gift that brings me independence is always amazing, even if it is only an ounce more freedom. For example, one of my favorite gifts, a typewriter, opened a new world to me for writing and doing my homework by myself. A typewriter gave me a new way to communicate, to use my imagination for stories and even learn new things.
Turning on and off lights for most people happens with ease several times per day. But when you have a physical disability, switching on and off lights might seem impossible. As a young girl, I received a gift that helped me be more independent by turning on and off my bedroom light.
Back in the ’80s, the technology wasn’t as accessible or as easy as it is today. I’m grateful that my dad is very good at electronics. I thought turning my own light on and off myself was extraordinary. Then, years later, my husband gave me the gift of being able to control all of my lights in my house through my iPhone or iPad. Every time I use it, I feel joy in my heart that I can do this on my own.
My family was fortunate enough to have a family computer in the ’80s and early ’90s. The big gift that I wanted for Christmas one year happened to be a key guard to put over the keys so I didn’t hit all the keys when I tried to type. I used key guards often at school on various typing equipment that I used, but I didn’t have one at home.
As you probably can imagine, anything customized for someone with a disability is very expensive, so it was a big gift to ask to receive. I was extremely happy when I opened a gift on Christmas morning to see the key guard! I could barely wait to put it on the computer and give it a try. Yes, it was as good as I imagined to type on our computer without assistance.
In more recent years, my husband has given me iPhones and iPads as they become updated. I didn’t think I could use any of these until I tried. Again, these devices have given me so much more independence than I could ask. I can control devices, lights and even lock my doors with a touch of a button.
Next time you give a gift that you might think it is ordinary, it might be the perfect thing that will open more worlds than you can possibly imagine.
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