COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A southern Colorado boy who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy spent Wednesday, World Cerebral Palsy Day, raising awareness for the disability.
Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood.
Mathew Stanwood, 13, was diagnosed with the disorder when he was an infant. He's had several surgeries on his legs to help him move better and currently walks with crutches.
"I'll probably go down to one cane or a wooden stick sometime in my life," he told KRDO NewsChannel 13. "My type (of cerebral palsy) could eventually kill me, but that's never happening 99.99 percent."
Mathew's parents took him to the Pikes Peak International Raceway Wednesday for a chance to see new technology that could one day help him. The NeuroGroove Race Day event featured a stock car adapted so that paraplegic and quadriplegic patients can get in and out of the car and so that paraplegics can drive the car with hand controls. NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. gave rides to patients from Craig and Swedish Hospital.
At the event, Mathew demo-ed smart-glasses technology that allowed him to drive an electric wheelchair by moving his head. That technology will eventually be used in cars.
"He'll never walk without assistance, so maybe something like this could be important to his future," said Jessica Stanwood, Mathew's mother. "This car, these kinds of things, could someday come in handy for him."
Mathew's family hopes that others will take time to educate themselves about the disability and to treat those who suffer from it with more respect.
"There's so many different forms of cerebral palsy and it affects people in so many ways and I don't think a lot of people know that," Jessica said. "It has been a really difficult road for him. There has been times when you can't do anything for your child. You can give him medication, ice packs, prop-up pillows, but you can't take away his pain."
"Sometimes he'll go into a store and we'll get stares like, 'Why is he walking like that?'" Jessica said. "I'd like it if the child or the mother asked and was happy to talk to him about it. I love to talk to people about it, but when you hear the whispers behind your back, it hurts."
According to the World Cerebral Palsy Day organization, cerebral palsy is a complex, lifelong disability. It primarily affects movement, but people with cerebral palsy may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments. It can be mild – a weakness in one hand – to severe – where people have little control over movements or speech and may need 24-hour assistance.
The disorder can't be cured but it can be treated.