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Students share their story of overcoming challenges

nick and rebecca

Nick Asam and Rebecca Neels spoke to students at F.P. Walshe school about dealing with the challenges presented by cerebral palsy.

Rebecca Neels and Nick Asam aren’t looking for special treatment as they navigate the hallways and classrooms at F.P. Walshe school in their wheelchairs.
The two students, who have cerebral palsy, just want to be treated like any other teenager by their peers and adults.
“Even though we are disabled and have CP, that doesn’t mean we’re not like you guys,” said Rebecca, who is in Grade 11. “We like to do the same things you guys do.”
Rebecca and Nick, who is in Grade 9, delivered that message Friday in a presentation to Grade 7 boys at F.P. Walshe school.
The two students, who sat in the front of a classroom in their wheelchairs and used a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate their talk, previously spoke to the Grade 7 girls.
Rebecca and Nick, who used a Bluetooth device to advance the computer slide show, spent an hour Friday morning delivering a message designed to promote understanding and acceptance — as well as encouragement.
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking.
There are several different types of cerebral palsy, which is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first two years of life, while the baby’s brain is still developing.
In some people with cerebral palsy, parts of the brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen in the area. It is not known why this occurs.
“When Nick and I were born we were really tiny,” Rebecca,” told the Grade 7 students. “We were three pounds. That’s really tiny. We could fit in our parents’ hands.”
Rebecca told the Grade 7 boys they were likely two to three times the size of Rebecca and Nick at birth.
“So what happened is because we were so tiny, our brain wasn’t able to get enough oxygen to the rest of our bodies,” Rebecca said. “That’s why we have what we have . . . Basically we have a lack of muscle control. We’re not able to control our muscles the way you guys are.”
Rebecca and Nick explained it takes them longer to do many of the things other students do.
“You guys are very lucky, but we’re still able to do the same things,” Rebecca said.
That includes playing video games, shopping and sports.
“Nick and I pretty much do it all. We don’t let it stop us.”
The two students showed the Grade 7 boys how they travel to school by handibus and school bus with the aid of electronic ramps that load their wheelchairs.
They showed some of the special equipment they use to accomplish everyday tasks — including putting on socks.
“Some days our bodies work better than others,” Rebecca said. “It’s really crappy. It sucks.”
The Grade 7 boys were encouraged to ask whatever was on their minds during the presentation.
“Don’t be afraid,” Nick told the boys.
Rebecca and Nick are also frustrated at times by the lack of courtesy shown by others, including adults.
They don’t expect special treatment, just understanding that their bodies sometimes create issues and it takes them longer to accomplish some tasks than other students.
Rebecca and Nick also find people condescending.
“There’s people in this world, they meet us, and start talking to us like a little kid,” Rebecca said.
Other times Rebecca and Nick seem almost invisible to some people when they’re in a group, and they get ignored or left out of conversations.
“One of the biggest problems with me and Nick is we’re so tiny,” Rebecca said of navigating crowded hallways in their wheelchairs. “It’s hard for people to see us.”
That’s why they sometimes leave one class early, in order to reach their next class on time.
Both Rebecca and Nick ski, and Nick also waterskis. They showed pictures of themselves on the slopes and in the water to the Grade 7s.
Rebecca also told the students about some of the medical treatments she receives to deal with her cerebral palsy.
Rebecca and Nick are hopeful that by sharing their stories, they will create understanding and also inspire other students.
“We all have challenges,” Rebecca said. “But that doesn’t mean that those challenges are impossible to overcome.”

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Grandma BONNIE Says:

    Nickey is a very strong and determined boy.What ever he puts his mind to he will do.I am so very glad that nick has met Rebecca as it helps these special people to cope better with every day life.

  2. Nicky's ski buddy Says:

    Nicky is an awesome young man who will grow up to be an awesome adult who just happens to have a physical disability. Everybody pretty much wants the same thing…to love and be loved, to have a purpose and a place in our community, to be respected, to have fun; regardless of ability or disability. Nicky will surely have all of these things.

  3. Cousin Phil Says:

    Rebecca has always been a very strong and independent girl. As long as I’ve known her (since she was born) she has always had a very positive attitude and lots of determination to conquer any challenges. I am very glad that Nick can be a good friend and help for her as well. Way to go guys!