Written By: Jess Weber
My name is Jessie. I’m 28 years old and I live at home but one day I hope to reach the milestone of eventually moving out. I was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy right at birth which affects my arms and legs, my hand coordination, my learning, and my speech. I use many methods of communication; however my main method is my iPad. Having Cerebral Palsy is something I have learned to deal with.
Since graduating from school, I’ve had a tough time transitioning from being a student and being involved in camps and programs to becoming an adult and seeing my active life shutting down before my eyes. As a child, I attended summer camp every year and during the school year I participated in social groups and played wheelchair hockey on the weekends. I was hardly ever home! As an adult who requires support in every activity of daily living, I began staying home a lot and was only able to go out when my mom was available.
Suddenly, I felt stuck, relying on my mom for recreational and enjoyment activities. We did much research in finding an appropriate program for me, however I never met the requirements. I was either too mobile in my wheelchair, or I needed too much personal support, or did not meet the behavioural requirements. Other programs did not provide any support, leaving it up to me to hire a support person.
Since joining the March of Dimes Canada’s LIFE Toronto program I’ve become happier, more active and I started to have meaning in my life again. I was very fortunate that I was asked to be a mentor for the next two sessions I attended. As a mentor, I set a positive role model to the other participants. I encourage them to try new things and be amazing individuals. I also help participants new to the program feel comfortable and at ease in this new environment. LIFE Toronto is an amazing program which combines fun and learning experiences. My favourite parts of the programs would have to be the social outings, Conductive Education and life skill development workshops, especially now that I have had a hand in facilitating them.
I developed a workshop on stress management and coping that I facilitated to the rest of the group. The participants really enjoyed it and it was very impactful coming from me, one of their peers in the program.
Thinking back to these parts, all of them have contributed to my personal growth during my time with the LIFE program. The Outward Bound and Variety Village programming showed me that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. During the day camp out activity, we worked as a team to put up a tent without staff’s assistance for the first time and I also reached the milestone of swinging on a regular swing.
Conductive Education is a community rehabilitation program that we participate in once a week with the LIFE program. I have seen some amazing changes in my physical ability since starting conductive education in 2013. I can now transfer on my own, using the walking ladder from my chair to stand and sit on the plinth totally independently. I’m getting better at lying down by myself and positioning myself in a straight lying position. I also worked on walking with various ladders to hold on my sides. This helps me transfer my weight onto one leg as I grab the next ladder with my other hand. I’ve really come a long way since I’ve first started Conductive Education at the end of March 2013 and I look forward to seeing what I accomplish next.
Taking part in the LIFE Toronto program has created meaningful changes for me and I’m excited about the possibilities the expansion of the Mod Mobility program has in store. The new bus is about to kick off it tour – watch out for it at events in your community!