Simon Stevens, who has cerebral palsy and is a disability consultant and activist, happily wears a helmet. But it’s taken him time to get to that point – and he’s faced a lot of criticism and comments. Here, he tells us why he’s made the decision to wear one, and claim it as a symbol of pride, not ridicule.
As someone with severe cerebral palsy, I have a worn a helmet for a number of years to protect me if I fall. Well, that’s the reason on paper but, in reality, it is a much more complex story.
Helmets come in a few different designs and are used for different purposes. Some are criss-cross leather with a plastic inner core (like the ones I wear), while others cover the head more fully in soft foam.
People, mainly children, tend to wear a helmet to protect them if they have epilepsy, challenging behaviour (such as head banging), or if they’re prone to falls, like me.
My first step to wearing a helmet was when I was 17 at a mainstream sixth form college. At the time, I walked everywhere, but with difficulty. On one particularly horrible occasion, I slipped on some ice in the main quadrant, fall backwards.
I don’t remember hitting the ground, just darkness as I knocked myself out. I was immediately rushed to hospital. I spent the afternoon in the hospital with a sore head, but had thankfully not done any long-term damage. It was certainly not my first fall and not my last.
Growing up with a disability
As a disabled child with a speech impairment and walking difficulties, and going to a mainstream school in the 1980s, I had to act and behave ‘normal’. It was about integration and conformity as opposed to real inclusion.
As a ‘wobbly walker’, looking back I certainly needed a helmet. But there was no way I would have worn one then – I wanted to be like everyone else.
I resisted other tools that really would have helped me too. I had slight incontinence, so nappies or plastic pants would have been useful, just in case, to avoid accidents that were automatically on show without protection.
Also, a plastic smock with long sleeves at lunchtimes would have been useful to protect my school uniform as I was, and still am, a messy eater.
You can imagine what happened to my school uniform after school pottery class. Now, I wear a boilersuit when doing any crafts, and that works perfectly. But I am a different person now, and comfortable in my own skin.
Click here to read full article https://disabilityhorizons.com/2020/09/cerebral-palsy-and-me-why-i-wear-a-disability-helmet-with-pride/