I will never forget the day my daughter, Hannah, asked me if she was handicapped.
I was hanging the blue disabled parking placard as we pulled into a parking lot. She was six and asked in the same way she would ask what we were having for dinner. I turned asked what she thought. She said, “I thought the ‘H’ was for Hannah.” Luckily, the discussion ended there because at the moment I didn’t have the words to answer her question. We have always been open and honest with our daughter. We focused on the fact that everyone has different strengths and struggles. Her challenges were physical but we always found ways to give her the experiences she wanted. Her question made me realize that everyone has his or her own handicap. It’s what you do with it that makes the difference.
Hannah has mild Cerebral Palsy (CP). It is just like saying she has hazel eyes or brown hair. She sings in the shower, dances to music and has a kind heart. CP affects her ability to run and she is not as coordinated as most of her friends. She has physical therapy and hippo therapy (horse therapy) instead of dance class or soccer practice.
Hannah is one of those kids that brighten the room. She brings out the best in people. She has big dreams and ideas and as she gets older, she is becoming ever better at sharing them.
When she was little we received services from UCP’s Birth to 3 Connections. When the therapist came, the neighbor kids would come “play” too. We were so fortunate to have UCP in those early years because they helped not only Hannah, but our entire family. We needed to learn how to live our new life together. The UCP therapist addressed our questions with patience and helped us adapt to our daily routines so that life was fun again. It can be overwhelming and scary when you learn about caring for a child with a disability. UCP gave us the knowledge and strength to love and live our new, normal life.
My answer to Hannah is, “Yes, by definition you are handicapped. Society needed to find a name to cover a bunch of people who need a little extra help and that is the word they chose. The blue sign with the H on it is the symbol. That word and symbol do not define you, they are only a part of you.”