Meet ninth grader Emily Johnson from Damascus, Ohio who is on a mission to teach people about cerebral palsy. Emily’s cerebral palsy occurred as a result of a premature birth. She was born at only 1 pound, 12.5 ounces and the lack of oxygen to her developing brain caused her cerebral palsy. But she doesn’t want your sympathy.
Rather, she wants your understanding. Emily’s mom, Amy, was told that she would probably never walk or talk and that she would be wheelchair bound. Today, instead, Emily walks with difficulty and uses crutches when necessary.
The reaction she has gotten from those around her has been the most difficult part of dealing with her disability. As Amy said, “The kids were great when they were little. They jumped to help her if she needed anything.” But as Emily got older, she started to be bullied. Today, she is enrolled in an online school where she is on the honor roll. She plays catcher on a Challenger League baseball team, she is part of her Salem church and she has an online friend from Las Vegas who also has cerebral palsy.
She said, about the reaction she gets from others, “People freak out, and I hate it when they do that. It’s just a disability. You cannot catch this. You can shake my hand. You can talk to me. I am a human. It’s just cerebral palsy. It’s not going to hurt anybody.”
As her mom added, “There’s nothing wrong with her brain. They’ll ask me what’s wrong with her, and I’ll say, ‘Ask her. She’ll tell you.”
Emily hopes to educate people and she hopes, as an adult, to become a physical therapist or a motivational speaker.