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Voices of Self-Advocates: Newsline is interested in bringing you the reflections of self-advocates who provide rich insights into their lives as persons with disabilities. In this issue, we hear from Carrie Piaggi, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy. If you are a person with a disability and would like to share your story for publication, please e-mail your contribution to beth@fcsn.org. Submissions should be no longer than 500 words. The Federation reserves the right to edit your contribution.

Finding My Voice
By Carrie Piaggi

I am 16 years old, and I have Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is usually caused by brain damage that occurs at or before birth and is marked by muscular impairment, which can cause poor motor coordination. Sometimes, it also involves speech and learning difficulties.

Even though I have difficulty walking, I don’t let it interfere with having fun and enjoying sports. I compete in skiing and equestrian events at Special Olympics. I also enjoy ROPES Course. ROPES stands for Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-Esteem. ROPES is for everyone, not just kids with disabilities. I appreciated that the ROPES instructors, mostly local police officers and teachers, didn’t say, “she has a disability so we aren’t going to accept her.” I could do all of the activities just like anyone else there, and even invented a rope element that is called “Carrie’s Climb.”

On March 13 of this year, a friend and I gave a presentation at the Federation’s Visions of Community conference. Our presentation was based on the movie “Including Samuel.” It’s about a boy named Samuel who has Cerebral Palsy. We showed clips from the film and used personal stories to illustrate and discuss our experiences with Inclusion. I thought it was important for attendees to hear things from my point of view, as a youth with a disability.

I am also an active member of BPA (Business Professionals of America), a career and technical student organization. I competed at this year’s BPA State Leadership Conference. My events were Interview Skills, Fundamental Word Processing Skills, and Basic Office Systems and Procedures. I placed fourth in the Fundamental Word Processing competition and will now go to California to compete in the national BPA competition. I am very excited about this because even before this competition, I wanted to go to college to learn more office skills so I can have a job in office management.

It may sound like everything in my life goes smoothly, but sometimes things go wrong at school. I’ve been going to my IEP meetings since 7th grade, so I could begin to advocate for myself. I know what I need on my IEP, and how to talk with the teachers and other school staff if there’s a problem. Then, we work together to figure out a solution.