PARENTS

A Paralympic Legacy - My Child Is Proud Of Her Disability

17/09/2012 14:19 | Updated 22 May 2015
A Paralympic legacy - my child is proud of her disabilityTracey Davies

It was the summer of 2008 and the opening of the Beijing Paralympics. I'd always been a big fan of the Games but I couldn't bear to watch the magnificent feats of these super-humans. My daughter Nancy had just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and the news had completely floored me.

Born nine weeks early and two minutes before her identical twin sister, Nancy couldn't sit unaided until she was 15 months old. Although as sharp as pin, she couldn't walk or use her right arm.

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An MRI scan confirmed our fears, Nancy had suffered a bleed to the brain whilst in the womb which caused right-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.

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That summer, despite Team GB storming the medals table, I found it very hard to see the positives. Of course, as the old cliché goes time is a great healer and I soon got over my initial shock. Nancy wasn't ill, or as sports commentators like to say, 'suffering from' cerebral palsy, she just had a weaker side to her body which was harder to control and made her, well, to use the technical term, a bit wobbly.

Together we threw ourselves into her therapy. She began an intense course of occupational and physiotherapy and had botox injections to loosen her tightened muscles.

Finally, the summer before her fourth birthday, Nancy took her first steps.

Fast forward three years and my lively little girl runs, jumps, cycles and even rides horses with the best of them. Yes, she's still a bit wobbly and can't use her right hand very well, but all in all life is pretty normal in the Davies' household.

So when this year's London Paralympics opened we embraced it wholeheartedly. The fact we were the host country made it even more special. Nancy is fully aware that she has a disability (like I said, she's not daft), although the issue rarely comes up at home.

However, there has been times when she's been frustrated at her lack of precision or the ability to coordinate as well as her sister. So I was determined that we would follow the games intently so I could prove to her that her disability would never hold her back.

We managed to secure some great seats for the athletics and had a fantastic and rather emotional day at the Olympic Park. It was incredible. Nancy sat on my knee and made me point out all the athletes with cerebral palsy.

While her big brother was in awe of 'blade-runner' Oscar Pistorius, Nancy was fascinated by the T37 athletes, especially 19-year-old Bethany Woodward who, with the same condition as Nancy, won silver in the 200m.

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As we left the stadium, conveniently forgetting her life-long dream of becoming a ballet dancer, Nancy announced that she wanted to be a paralympian "because they get more medals."

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When her brother and sister said they also wanted to be paralympians, she quickly berated them with "well you can't because you're not disabled!" albeit a bit too smugly.

A Paralympic legacy - my child is proud of her disabilityTracey Davies

The London Paralympics have been inspiring in so many ways. The games have brought disabled sport to the masses and achieved an unprecedented amount of support from the nation. Although Nancy's disability is rarely reflected on negatively, I do have private moments of worry about how she'll deal with it as she gets older and how the world will treat her.

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But these last few weeks have shown my daughter that having a disability is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to celebrate. And I can't express how much that means to me, her mother.

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The barriers are starting to fall away for young people with disabilities and this can only mean their confidence will grow. With national heroes like Shelly Woods, Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds, disabled children and young people will have a whole host of new role models to look up to. And while Nancy has never hidden behind her disability, she now seems to walk that little bit taller.

As we watched the closing ceremony, the tears fell as I remembered how far we had come since the last Paralympics. The legacy left by the London 2012 is not just one of pride or acceptance, but hopefully of real change in the world's perception of disability.

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When Nancy announced that she was 'proud of being wobbly' I cried, not for her lost hopes but for her bright future.

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Have your children been inspired by the Paralympics?

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