Meet two women - Liz and Melody. Both these women have cerebral palsy and anxiety.
Liz recently graduated college summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree. She is a fierce activist and has presented at many national and local conferences. She is able to ambulate independently and gets around her neighborhood using paratransit services. She's also working on getting her driver's license. Liz lives close to Manhattan and often takes the train in to see friends and attend events. Her anxiety is controlled by medication and she has spoken out often about the benefits of psychiatric medication. Recently, Liz flew to Pittsburgh alone for a conference and then took the bus with a friend to Baltimore. Liz received a score of 2060 out of 2400 on her SATs and was in Advanced Placement classes alongside her nondisabled peers throughout high school. She is a voracious reader who has a large vocabulary and has been described by many school personnel as "smart". She also writes and is working on her first novel. Liz hopes to pursue a master's degree in Disability Studies starting in the spring.
Melody uses a wheelchair, walker or crutches when out of the house. Her speech is often stuttered, especially when tired. Her inability to stand for long periods of time or walk distances caused problems during her field experience and contributed to her decision not to pursue teaching certification. She does not make eye contact with people when talking. Melody was not able to shower or brush her teeth independently until her mid teens and still has trouble putting on clothes with small buttons or fasteners, which led to her wearing solely sports bras until her mother insisted that she wear a proper bra. She cannot tie her shoes tightly enough for them to stay on and wears shoes with Velcro or slip ons. Her voice is often inappropriately loud because of problems with respiratory muscle control. She has limited depth perception and often cannot distinguish a step from the ground below it, which has caused scary falls and near-falls. In addition, she cannot reliably tell left from right, especially when stressed. Her anxiety is complex and includes general and specific anxieties. Her anxieties often interfere with sleep. Recently, she had a panic attack at a conference that manifested itself in sobbing and shaking - what could look like a tantrum to an outside observer. The trigger? Having a random roommate.
What are your perceptions of these two women? Tell me your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for part 2!