Motivated Moms: Cerebral Palsy
Career Builder for Elementary Students

By Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, Disability Employment Expert

Here are three motivated moms who I consider career builders for their elementary youngsters, even though two of them have dealt with significant disabilities other than cerebral palsy (CP).

First motivated moms fan: Peter Altschul, MS

Peter Altschul is the author of “Breaking Barriers: Working and Loving While Blind” (iUniverse, 2012). Available on Amazon, “Breaking Barriers” is a modern literary memoir.

Peter, an accomplished musician, facilitator, diversity expert and business leader, has been blind since birth. He has tackled the genre with a grace I wish I would find more frequently in contemporary men and women who have written autobiographies which turn out to be more self-serving and protective than enlightening.

Below is an excerpt from “Breaking Barriers.” I believe it reveals one of the secrets of Peter’s success in the mainstream business world.

“Because I was the only blind student at the school, Mom knew that she would have to spend more time, energy, creativity, patience, and smarts than other parents so that I could take part in school activities on an almost equal footing.

“But she relished the challenge. She learned braille and taught me how to read by the time I was five. She worked with teachers who were uncomfortable having a blind kid in their class. She taught me the skills I would need to live independently.

“She ordered textbooks in braille or on tape from agencies serving blind people and spent many afternoons and evenings transcribing materials into braille while the rest of the family relaxed or slept. She created maps, graphs, and other “tactile drawings” using nails, foam rubber, sandpaper, and other common materials that I could explore by touch. And when materials weren’t available, she read them to me.”

Copyright © 2012. Peter Altschul, MS. All rights reserved.

Mother with daughter in wheelchair

Second motivated moms fan: Liz Seger

Liz Seger, who has dealt with multiple disabilities since birth, is an educator, journalist and internationally recognized self-esteem expert. Here’s what she writes in “Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities:”

"...Choose how you're going to react to everyone and everything at work or anywhere else. You can be nasty and bitter and resentful and negative and reactionary because no one understands or you can choose not to be and help them understand while still standing your ground...

"My mom said to me very early on: 'The unfortunate thing is you'll have to do 99 percent of the adapting to the world; they aren't going to do it especially for you.' I've found that to be true. I don't go in with any pre-conceived expectations. I try to be friendly but also firm about my strengths and weaknesses. I know what they are.

"I don't tolerate bullies or nastiness towards me or anyone else, and I'm not afraid to state my case. I do the most professional job I know how to do, but I also make sure I'm kind and empathetic to others as well. I make sure I have interests outside my work so that I am able to converse with my colleagues. I don't always talk about me, me, me. I'll ask for help if I need it, and I'll explain the accessibility issues I have -- but not with a sneer or a snarky attitude."

Copyright © 2011. Lighthouse International. All rights reserved.

Third motivated moms fan: Keith Bonchek:

Born with CP, Keith Bonchek, motivational speaker and advocate, is dedicated to empowering people in professional environments through training and advocacy designed to foster understanding between the disabled and able-bodied communities.

Here’s an excerpt from one of his blog entries:

“I was born in Los Angeles in 1962. My grandmother was the first to suspect that I was different from other babies. She was proven to be correct. When I was one year old, the diagnosis came in that I had CP, which was compounded by a severe hearing impairment.

“Doctors told my mother that I would never speak (boy were they wrong about that one!), walk, drive a car or even graduate from high school. The picture they painted for her about my future was bleak.

“However, she refused to accept the limitations they wanted to place on me. She became my biggest supporter and advocate and I will be forever grateful. With her encouragement and willingness to build a support network, I learned to walk, talk, eventually drive a car, graduate high school and even attend college.

“School was never easy for me. It was beyond difficult, but I was reminded just how important it was for me and my future. It wasn't just my mother who pushed me educationally; my grandmother, sister and step-mother were enlisted along the way. I like to think of myself as an example of ‘if I can do it, then anybody can do it.’ That is, of course, if there are those willing to love, support, encourage, challenge, guide and celebrate those who face obstacles in life due to physical, emotional or mental obstacles. With the proper support network in place anything is possible.

“Emboldened by my mother to not let life pass me by, I made the decision to push myself in spite of my disabilities. It may have taken me longer to reach some of my objectives, but it made it that much sweeter when I was able to reach my goal.

One goal was to get licensed as a contractor, which I was able to accomplish, and own my own landscape design company, which I operated for over 15 years. During that time I was able to employ dozens of individuals and enjoyed a good rapport between my employees and clients.

“While I got satisfaction from the business I owned, I am really enjoying the work I am doing as an advocate and a motivational speaker.”

Copyright © 2010. Keith Bonchek. All rights reserved.

Each of these accounts of motivated moms reminds me of Michele Shusterman, founder of parent of six-year-old Maya, who has CP.

Michele writes on her site's inspiration page:

“As we have gotten to know and understand Maya (alongside her disability) we have learned that she tests us like any othe child. She makes it her business to try and tug at our heart strings just to see what can happen. We would be in big trouble now if we had let that pouty lip of hers determine what she could and couldn’t do.”

I also remember when my own mom would leave me lay in bed at five years old in the morning instead of quickly and easily dressing me herself. Instead, she would wait to see how long it would take until I decided to dress myself (which I could -- with some effort on my part).

She knew I could do it. I was just relying too much on her because it was an easy way out of a “daily chore” I dreaded. But, that was my first taste of discipline that I vividly recall. My mom rescued me from “learned helplessness” long before the term became common in academic circles for the trap motivated moms with a child who has a disability need to avoid.

Yes, I'm a fan of motivated moms.

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This is Creative Commons content.  You can freely and legally use, share and repurpose it for non-commercial purposes only, provided you attach this sentence and the following attribution to it (including the two links):

Originally written and illustrated by Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, who, as a person with cerebral palsy, served for 10 years as a vice president in a Fortune 500 company during his 29-year career in corporate communication. He’s an Accredited Business Communicator, certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator and author of 14 Amazon books about disability awareness and disability employment issues.