Throughout time, humans have sought out each other’s stories to help understand their own. No matter what you’re going through, hearing firsthand about how someone else dealt with a situation similar to yours—the emotions they faced, the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned and the victories they achieved—can help put your own experience in perspective. It also helps to let you know that you are far from alone in the struggles you might face.
The community of cerebral palsy patients and their caregivers is a strong and supportive one. But even though community is very important, it can be overwhelming to jump into a new group of friends while you are trying to process the emotions around your diagnosis. You may be feeling isolated and disoriented, as well as struggling with a lot of conflicting emotions. In that state, it can be very difficult to reach out for help, or to even begin finding the resources you need.
The following films are all powerful stories of people living with cerebral palsy, who chose not to let their physical condition define them. These films are a tremendous source of inspiration and comfort to cerebral palsy patients and their caregivers. They also serve as valuable orientation tools for helping family members and friends understand what this condition truly means.
This biopic tells the backstory of two advocates for the Americans with Disabilities Act—one of them deaf, one with cerebral palsy. Powerfully acted by Michael Sheen and Ron Livingston, it sheds light on not only the power of the human spirit to overcome personal odds, but how those odds can forge connections, friendships and opportunities that could never have come about any other way.
A fascinating, highly personal documentary that offers an inside look at marriage and parenting where cerebral palsy is involved. The film focuses on Adele and Laurence, both of whom have been undeterred by cerebral palsy in building successful careers and raising a 6-year-old son, and decide to get pregnant again. Parenting with a disability like cerebral palsy is a topic rarely approached on film, despite being a fairly commonplace event. “We Won’t Drop the Baby” treats the subject with grace, humor and honesty.
This documentary tells the transcendent story of how the smallest of circumstances can yield the greatest impact in the lives of a loving family. Parents Rick and Patty have been successfully raising their two sons, one with cerebral palsy and one without, for six years until a sudden illness renders Rick unable to help care for the children. It may seem like a small thing, but this change rocked their world…until a stranger, a local high school football star, volunteered to offer the simple assistance that could restore their family’s togetherness.
Though this film is a documentary, it opens with renowned actor Chris Cooper telling the story of his son Jesse’s journey with cerebral palsy. Cooper’s story is followed by one parent after another, telling of the challenges they faced. The common thread in all these personal tales is the difficulty each child faced in receiving an education equal to that of their classmates. It’s all too common for students with cerebral palsy to suffer under the ignorance and prejudice of a school system that views them as having less potential, simply because their physical or verbal abilities are limited. Over time, this inequality can hamper not only a child’s education, but also their self-esteem. In the words of one middle-school student, “Whenever I start a new school they look like a bomb hit them.” This documentary creates a holistic understanding of this important issue, interviewing educators and child development experts in addition to students and their parents.
One of our proudest moments in the “I Define Me” series was the opportunity to speak with Dan Keplinger, subject of this Oscar-winning documentary. Following Keplinger’s growth from age 12 to 25, this documentary offers a rare inside look at the creative and personal development of an exceptional artist. Kiplinger’s story is a remarkable example of overcoming prejudice and doubt that are germane to life as an artist and to living with physical disability. His victory over the artistic establishment and his innovative reinvention of his physical limits will have you cheering by the end.
Another “I Define Me” interviewee, Bonner Paddock definitively proved that cerebral palsy is no excuse for accomplishing any goal you set your mind to. This short but powerful documentary follows Paddock and his team of friends on their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. The expedition was launched as a fundraising benefit for an Orange County, Calif. nonprofit for kids with disabilities, but it served as a way for Paddock himself to exorcise his grief at the death of a friend’s son who also had cerebral palsy. Paddock’s climb not only honored the memory of his friend’s child, but also allowed him to redefine his life outside of the physical limits of his condition.
Get the Support You Need
If you, your child or someone you love has recently received a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, it is important to know that you are not alone. We hope these films inspire you to reach out for the wealth of support and encouragement that is out there, as well as assure you in difficult moments that you have the power to define what it means to live with cerebral palsy, rather than letting the condition define you.
If you need help understanding your rights and obtaining the resources you need in a case involving cerebral palsy, we are here to help you.