This past September, my doctor Karen gave a TEDx talk about how ‘we see what we expect to see’ and that if a doctor reads a chart of a patient who has cerebral palsy, the doctor will see the cerebral palsy in the child’s body and walk. She’s entirely correct, and I can apply the information in a kind of ‘backwards’ way to an experience I had last summer. I had a massage with a therapist I had never met before and he did not have time to read my chart before he started my treatment. He came into the appointment with no preconceptions of who I was – or how I would be – based on the fact that my chart says ‘cerebral palsy.’
The treatment went well and relieved the tightness in my back and legs. Toward the end of the appointment, I mentioned my cerebral palsy. He said, ‘Oh no way.’ He hadn’t seen or felt it in my body because he had not been told about it or expected that I would have it. I understand that my disability is evident to medical professionals without me telling them because they have been trained to see it and work with people who have it, but he didn’t see it or feel it at all. I suppose he just assumed that I was naturally stiff and tight, as many people are. My mother and sister are both considered non-disabled healthy normal people and they both have tight and inflexible bodies. My therapist could have believed my tightness was hereditary or just ‘how my body was naturally’ rather than the result of a disability. This experience was proof to me that ‘we see what we expect to see’ not only in ourselves, but in others.