“Sometimes I forget that I have cerebral palsy.”
|Lucy Meyer is an 18-year old Special Olympics gold medalist and national spokesperson for the Special Olympics and UNICEF USA partnership. In addition to high school and her swimming career, Lucy works to highlight the power of sports in advancing the rights of children with disabilities around the world. In this op-ed, Lucy shares what it’s like to live with cerebral palsy and her work with the Special Olympics and UNICEF.|
Worldwide, 93 million kids under age 15 live with a disability. All too often they don’t receive the support they deserve, and in many countries the situation is much worse. This makes me very sad and I don’t believe it has to be this way. I believe that all children with disabilities should be accepted and included like everyone else. My goal is for children all over the world to learn and play together. I know that this is important because I live it every day.
I have cerebral palsy because I didn’t receive oxygen for five minutes at birth. The doctors told my parents I would most likely never sit up or swallow. The doctors were wrong! I am 18 years old, in the 11th grade and attend a public high school in Los Angeles. I am a Special Olympics athlete and am very proud to be the national spokesperson for the Special Olympics and UNICEF USA partnership. Both organizations mean a great deal to me and to others with disabilities. They really do change lives.
Living with cerebral palsy means I have both physical and intellectual challenges. My right side doesn’t work as well as my left, and school can sometimes be a little tougher for me. That may sound bad but I love my life. I have a great family, go to high school and have tons of friends. I love to play sports; I especially love swimming and basketball. I’m so proud to have won five Special Olympics gold medals and am training really hard to win another.
School can be tough for all kids, but especially for kids who are labeled as different. Kids with disabilities don’t do everything the same as kids without disabilities, so we often get excluded. I know some people see my disabilities… but sometimes I forget that I have cerebral palsy. My school makes it a priority to accept and include everyone. It makes me feel special that everyone, even people that I don’t know, find ways to help me participate.
Through Special Olympics, I participate in Unified Sports — it is awesome! Unified Sports combines athletes with and without disabilities to play on the same team. Last year, our unified school basketball team won a huge trophy that is displayed in our school’s trophy case with trophies from our other school teams.
Unified Sports is really important for kids with and without disabilities. It creates acceptance and inclusion which is crucial to having a healthy society.
Another important part of my life is UNICEF and Special Olympics. UNICEF and Special Olympics are making a huge difference by teaching others how to include kids with disabilities. Since 2013, I have traveled around the country and overseas to speak about UNICEF and Special Olympics.
But my favorite speeches are the ones I give to other kids at schools. After these speeches, there is often time for questions. Often kids don’t know what it’s like to have disabilities. They have great questions. They really get it that while everyone has differences, we all like many of the same things. This is the message we want to spread around the world. In many countries, for cultural reasons, children with disabilities are mistreated and ignored. I believe we can change this.
In the past year, I traveled to Jamaica and Brazil to see UNICEF and Special Olympics’ work firsthand. Sports are very popular there, and are a great way to make kids with disabilities feel valued and included. I visited programs where I met with student athletes just like me. The hugs that I got (and gave) reminded me why we need to make sure that kids everywhere have an opportunity to develop to their full potential.
Together with UNICEF and Special Olympics, I am working to open people’s eyes to the abilities that all kids have. It means so much to me to be an athlete, be on a team, and learn discipline and training. I want other kids with disabilities to have the same opportunity.
My parents once told me about a famous woman name Margaret Mead. She said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I hope we can all work together to change the world by making it inclusive for the 93 million children around the world with disabilities. We can do this!
Source Teen Vogue
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Lucy Meyer, Youth Advocate for Children with Disabilities, to Represent UNICEF and Special Olympics at Global Forums in Special Olympics