March is Cerebral Palsy Month, which aims to increase awareness about this disability. We talked to Haley M. about what encouraged her to work with children who suffer from cerebral palsy—and were very inspired by what she had to say.
Name: Haley M.
Profession: Medical Assistant, starting PA school in August
Where are you from? Sarasota, FL
Can you tell us about your experience working with patients who have cerebral palsy?
I worked as a Program Assistant at the Conductive Education Center of Orlando (CECO), which is a school for kids with Cerebral Palsy. The kids ranged from 5-22 years old. Some had more extensive disabilities than others, but the majority could not walk, talk, sit, stand, eat or use the bathroom on their own. I was assigned to a classroom of six students and would strictly work with those six students for the year, so I got to know them really well.
What were some of your responsibilities when working at CECO?
Feeding the students (either with a hand over hand technique or through a G-tube), changing their diapers and assisting with toileting, and practicing techniques that would allow them to move and talk more independently through the use of Conductive Education.
What inspired you during this time?
I hoped I would make an impact in some of these students’ lives, but I had no idea the impact they’d have on mine. These are some of the hardest working humans I have ever met in my life. These kids struggle to do simple tasks that we take for granted every single day, yet they’re able to keep a smile on their face the entire time. They motivated me to keep going and pushing when things in life got hard or didn’t go my way.
What was the best part of working with CP children?
The best part of working with CP children was being able to see their victories and the joy they had once they accomplished a task they had been working on for months. Working with six specific kids for a whole year, you create a bond with them, and you really get invested in their journey, so every victory they had, was also a victory for me.
What do you want everyone to know about Cerebral Palsy?
People with CP understand more than you realize. They may not be able to talk or communicate in a way you’re used to, but they know what you’re saying and they know if you’re happy, sad, mad or scared. They don’t want you to treat them differently or to be afraid of them. If you see someone with CP, don’t shy away or stare or look down on them. Go up and say hi—I guarantee you it would make their day.
How has this experience prepared you for PA school?
Working at CECO taught me how important teamwork and good communication is. When you’re working with children that depend on you so much, you have to work as a team, communicate with the child and communicate with each other to ensure things run smoothly.