Today marks World Cerebral Palsy Day and we turned to Jourdan Ibe from Las Vegas to learn more about this condition. Jourdan’s brother has CP.
Hey Jourdan, We’ve been working together for about 6 months now and I know your brother Dominic has Cerebral Palsy. Can I ask you some questions him?
I’m always happy to talk about my brother! He’s my favorite person in the world. (Except for when he’d hog the TV when we were kids.)
When Dominic was born, did you know straight away that he had CP? What was his diagnosis process like?
Dominic is 18 months older than me so I was brought into the world knowing that he had to do things differently than I did. I knew it was called “Cerebral Palsy”, but I genuinely never thought anything of it until a kid at school asked me “What’s wrong with your brother?” I very innocently replied with “Nothing, what’s wrong with yours?” It didn’t occur to me that not everyone’s older brother had CP. He wasn’t diagnosed with having Cerebral Palsy until he got to the age where he should be walking and couldn’t. He had a lot of leg surgeries to correct some muscular problems he’d developed by the time was a toddler. He still has all the giant surgery scars that I was jealous of as a kid. I thought they were so cool looking and I wanted to be just like my big brother. I vaguely remember seeing him in casts that covered both of his entire legs as a baby so he had to pull himself around on his stomach when we played.
I genuinely never thought anything of it until a kid at school asked me “What’s wrong with your brother?” I very innocently replied with “Nothing, what’s wrong with yours?”
Do you know what type of Cerebral Palsy your brother has?
I’m not entirely sure what kind he has, but I do know that the motor functions in his brain were damaged at child birth due to lack of oxygen. He has extremely limited movement in his legs and has to use a wheelchair for long distances or crutches for very short distances.
Growing up, do you think both yours and Dominic’s life was different because of his disability? How?
Our lives were pretty different compared to a lot of kids. For instance, I grew up learning how to take care of someone else as a first priority. When I learned how to tie my shoes, I automatically always made sure to tie Dom’s before we went out and played. As a kid, it didn’t seem different at all to be going to his regular physical therapy sessions or to ride the special needs school bus to school with him in the mornings. From primary school up until he was a teenager, he’d have a caretaker with him all day, every day. (Shout out to Ms. Linda!) It never felt strange or unusual to me. They’re definitely great memories that I have and wouldn’t change for anything, but as an adult I can see that not every child had that upbringing.
How did Dominic having Cerebral Palsy affect you as a sibling?
It definitely affected me in a few different ways. I had to learn to be okay with not getting all the attention from my family because Dominic was the one who needed it the most. At times, this was hard to understand, especially at such a young age. However, having a sibling with Cerebral Palsy gave me a very strong sense of compassion for others. Growing up around not only Dominic, but other children with special needs was really rewarding because I learned that they’re just regular children who have to handle life in a different way.
What are some misconceptions about people with Cerebral Palsy that you would like to set straight?
First and foremost, there is nothing “wrong” with people who have Cerebral Palsy or any other disability. They are much more capable than you think they are and often times just want to be treated like everyone else. Everyone is different and their disabilities are all on a spectrum that is unique to that person. In other words, not all people with special needs are created the same way and there is no “general blanket method” to interacting with them.
Has there ever been a time when your brother couldn’t be a part of something because of his disability?
For most of our lives, there wasn’t too much that stopped him. However, my most vivid memory of the first time I realized the severity of his physical challenges was during a Halloween school dance. (I believe Aussie’s call it a disco) I was 10 years old. Dom, his care taker and I were all in line to go through the haunted locker room walk through and we were both very excited. Just before we got to the entrance, a teacher approached us to tell us that Dominic can’t go through because the walk through requires you to crawl through tight spaces. Dominic was very nonchalant about it. He shrugged and said “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll see you on the other side!” He left the line with his caretaker and I stood there feeling a mix of emotions. Right when I was about to enter the maze, I burst into tears and ran out to hug him. I just remember feeling so upset that I was able to do something he couldn’t. He comforted me and assured me that while stuff like that sucks sometimes, he doesn’t ever let it get him down and he would rather play ping pong in the spooky gymnasium anyway. So that’s what we did. He beat me at it too.
Growing up around not only Dominic, but other children with special needs was really rewarding because I learned that they’re just regular children who have to handle life in a different way.
We have the NDIS in Australia which is ran by the government and allows some people with a disability to access funds for supports and services. Do you know if Dom receives similar funding or a disability pension of some kind in the U.S?
He does receive monthly government pension to help him with financial necessities! He’s had it all his life. It’s helped him out a lot because it can be challenging to find employers who will look past his wheelchair. Things have been getting better but I’d say that the workplace could be better for people with disabilities.
You and I are over here in Japan working in a vocal show and I know how much you love music. Is your brother also into the performing arts?
He’s into the performing arts but not as much as I am. Our entire family is musically inclined so it’s predetermined that we have some sort of performance ability. When he was in his final year of high school, he joined the very prestigious choral program at our school and loved it. He performed in the choir musical revue we put on and my teacher made good use of his wheelchair in the choreography. He got to spin around the stage with a girl on his lap to Rogers & Hammerstein, so he was clearly living the dream. He’s also quite a good Baritenor and can read sheet music!
There is nothing “wrong” with people who have Cerebral Palsy or any other disability. They are much more capable than you think they are and often times just want to be treated like everyone else.
You mentioned that Dominic will be coming to visit you over here in Japan soon, how exciting! Will this be his first time travelling overseas as a solo traveler?
Yes! This is his first time leaving America. We never had a lot of money growing up so we didn’t get to travel much. I’m super excited for him to come out here since he’s got a nerdy streak and likes Japanese culture. I’m looking forward to showing him this beautiful country! I’m gonna make him eat an octopus ball because I’m a loving brother.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about Cerebral Palsy?
Simply put, be kind to people with Cerebral Palsy, but don’t baby them.