Employment is a huge obstacle for people with disabilities. I struggled with finding a job immediately after graduating from college. Discrimination is real when it comes to disability — please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I have cerebral palsy and have no way to hide it. A physical disability is the first thing people see. Yet despite these challenges, I successfully landed several jobs outside my home in the last year or so.
I have wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten. Teaching is in my blood, but my body doesn’t cooperate with me. Cerebral palsy can make muscle movements difficult and speech hard to understand. Movements can also be unpredictable, leading to frustration and annoyance. However, I am not the kind of person who gives up on life, so I went full steam ahead and trained to become a teacher.
Because of my experiences of discrimination at interviews and then having my children, I’ve been a little delayed with getting a teaching position. In November 2018, I accepted a job at the YMCA. I loved working there with the children in an aftercare program. I taught them about cerebral palsy and I think that some of them might have forgotten that I use a wheelchair. My co-workers were excellent; they accepted what I physically couldn’t do and highlighted what I could.
In June 2019, I decided that I needed a job that allowed me to be home with my children after school. I had a goal to be a substitute teacher. The school district had advertised for substitute teachers. After sending my application, I was invited to attend a group interview and orientation. I talked to the supervisor and asked him whether he could foresee any difficulties with me becoming a substitute. He replied that he couldn’t envision any problems and told me that my personal care attendant (PCA) could accompany me to help me with the physical aspects of the job. I was excited about the role.
Over the summer, I worked in the mornings as a camp counselor. I enjoyed learning from new challenges and making friends. I continued to work toward preparing the paperwork for my subbing application. However, by the end of summer, I wasn’t ready to start substitute teaching. I was feeling nervous about leaving my current job that I had worked hard to get. I worried that I would fail at subbing. Besides, I liked my job and co-workers. But as the school year progressed, I realized that I needed to be home more at night. My kids needed me. I had to take the plunge.
Before I quit my regular shift, I took a half-day substitute job to see how everything would work out. To my surprise, the day went well. I had my PCA with me, so she assisted with the physical tasks that I couldn’t do.
As I taught the class, the entire experience felt surreal to me. I was teaching and controlling the classroom by myself. I hadn’t known if I would ever have the opportunity to be a teacher. It felt amazing, and my future felt bright. As I step into the new year, I have new opportunities to do what I love and be home for my children. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.