Children’s Cerebral Palsy Movement loves speaking with young adults in the Cerebral Palsy community who aren’t letting their diagnosis stop them from following their dreams. We recently spoke with Juliana Ruggiero, an incredibly positive and talented 18 year-old young lady with CP to ask her a few questions and better get to know her story.
CCPM: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Juliana: My name is Juliana Ruggiero, but my friends and family call me Jules. I’m 18 years old and have mild Spastic Diplegia, Cerebral Palsy. Not only were my legs affected by CP, my vision was as well. I have binocular vision, meaning that I can only see past what my eyes see and nothing else. My best vision is when I look straight ahead. I’m very laid back and am very easy to get along with and love public speaking.
Interestingly enough, I had never opened up publicly about my disability until a year ago. Then, in July of last year I reached out to someone who had a CP blog and offered to share my story. Although really nervous about how it would be received, I took a chance and forged ahead. The positive responses and feedback were so great that it inspired me to continue to write about my disability. The result is that now I am a contributing writer for a few websites: The Mighty, Medium.com and Project Wednesday – a blog that fosters ideas and beliefs through storytelling. This experience has been so great! It pushed me and helped me to be more at ease with my disability, but also with my writing and now a writing career has been born. I am so excited to continue with this!
CCPM: As someone impacted by a diagnosis of CP, what has been your biggest struggle or biggest fear?
Juliana: Being affected by CP, I think my biggest struggle has been the need to modify everything I do so it would work best and be best for me, whether it’d be a PT exercise or workout, getting special technology for school every year or having someone cut up food for me. Sometimes it’s hard and you feel like you’re putting a burden on people, even though they say ”I don’t care! Just tell me what I need to do for you and I’ll do it!” Still, you feel bad because you don’t want to overload or overwhelm people with all your needs — but it’s still so nice when you have those rare people that help you when you need them or they offer to help without you having to ask (like coming to your aid when you’re struggling to climb up a lot of stairs).
CCPM: What has been your biggest success?
Juliana: I just graduated high school in June of this year. I had a big goal I wanted to achieve by graduation — that goal was to walk with my graduating class, using just my walker. After 12 months of hard work, sweat and tears, I reached the goal! It took working closely with my school support team and physical therapist, as well as encouragement from friends, I was so proud of myself for achieving this milestone. It was not an easy walk. It was bumpy due to gravel being on the walkway, and it was very muggy outside. But with determination, strength, motivation and a smile on my face, I walked the entire way. The 400 or so people that were there were yelling my name and cheering me on as I walked. That was an amazing and overwhelming feeling! It was well worth the effort!
CCPM: What are you most proud of yourself for?
Juliana: I am most proud of myself for finishing high school with High Honors, and am satisfied with where I am today.
CCPM: How have you been able to achieve such a positive attitude in spite of your diagnosis?
Juliana: My attitude has always been positive because of the way I was raised. I have always been surrounded by support and love my whole life and that has definitely kept me going and allowed me to be positive throughout my journey with CP, even on the roughest days.
CCPM: Do you have any advice for other people affected by CP?
Juliana: My advice for others with CP would be to be kind to others always. Try to keep a positive attitude no matter what, even if you’re having a rough and emotional day where you’re just like, ”Why me?! Why do i have to live with CP?” and you just want to crawl somewhere and let the tears and frustration come out. I am guilty of having these kinds of days sometimes, honestly. I have learned to be humble and to keep a smile on my face and, most importantly, to be myself!
CCPM: What do you hope for yourself? What barriers would you like to break?
Juliana: I hope one day to publish a book about my life story and journey with Cerebral Palsy. One of the biggest barriers I hope to break has to do with meeting new people. When I meet new people, I tend to get very shy and quiet, but once I warm up to them and they get to know me – I’m fine. I’m still working to break that barrier for good! It’s gonna take a lot of time, but I’m really going to break that barrier one day!
CCPM: If you could share a message with everyone, what is one thing you’d like the world to know about Cerebral Palsy?
Juliana: The message I want to share isn’t necessarily for the world. No, it’s for all the new parents whose child or children just got diagnosed with CP. To all new CP parents, I want you to know that this road will be a struggle. You’ll have your good and bad days — days where you are emotional and tempted to put blame on yourselves, thinking to yourselves that you somehow did something wrong and that what happened to your child is your fault. Well, I’m here to tell you did nothing wrong!!! None of this is your fault!!! I also want to encourage you that you are all are ready for the long CP road ahead!!!!!