Monday, 5 December 2011

I Can’t Walk So I’ll Learn to Dance

I Can’t Walk So I’ll Learn to Dance
By Carolyn Martin and Gregg Lewis.

Our school counsellor, Gay Gallagher recommended a fantastic book to me. I Can’t Walk So I’ll Learn to Dance was written by Carolyn Martin an inspiring young woman who was born with cerebral palsy in June, 1946.

Throughout the book Carolyn writes about how she was inspired by Dr Anne Carlsen. The knowledge that someone else with disabilities achieved her goals and and became a success encouraged Carolyn to strive to achieve her best. I hope that one day Alicia will read this book and be inspired by Carolyn’s story.

Unlike Alicia, Carolyn was born in a different era. Alicia is fortunate that the attitudes of most of society have changed and people with disabilities are given a lot more support in education. Carolyn spent most of her life fighting to get a good education. She was frustrated as while her body was disabled she was mentally just as capable as anyone else. She had a strong desire to learn and just needed to get into a school that would and could cater for her needs. Alicia is fortunate to have attended main stream education and because of this is achieving equally with her peers.

I remember the chapter where Carolyn complained about the long waits and paperwork required to get technology to help her. Then how excited she was when she finally received her motorised wheelchair and communicator. She then writes about how much these things improved her quality of life. This chapter made me think of Alicia and her ipad.

She endured some terrible events in her life and struggled through some very difficult times, but her perseverance is inspiring to all. Despite all the barriers set before her and eventually graduated and achieved her life long dream of becoming a writer and living independently. At the end of the book she moves into her own apartment, finds inner peace to wrongs that were done to her and we assume lives out the rest of her life harmoniously.   

Alicia's art work, produced all by herself.
I love the part where she discovers that her art work, like her, was not perfect, but it didn’t have to be. I shared this with Alicia and she has written about it on her blog. On several occasions I have come over to find friends doing Alicia’s art for her. She asks them because she wants it to be perfect. I have to explain to her that Mum and Dad don’t care if it’s not perfect. They want Alicia’s art hanging on their wall, not anyone elses. I think she liked the message Carolyn had about art and told me that from now on she’s going to do it herself, and she has.

This is just one of many lessons one can learn from this book. It may challenge some people’s views on people with disabilities. To anyone who has ever asked why Alicia has been mainstreamed, this book will clearly explain to you. When Carolyn was born a doctor told her parents she was an imbecile. As a family they would joke about it whenever she achieved something special in life. She proved them all wrong, but it wasn’t easy!

Unfortunately this book was published back in 1994 and is no longer available in bookstores. It is not available as an ebook. I have looked online and managed to find a few copies, however they won’t mail to NZ. Also no luck on Trade Me. They have a copy at the National Library if you’d like to read it, and I recommend you do. If anyone find a way I can get my hands on a copy please let me know.


  1. Wow this is lovely am reading this book and its giving me the courage to go on and on despite my disability! Thanx for the post!

  2. Hello Opetsi. Lovely to hear from you, all the way over in Kenya. I am pleased to hear you are reading this book. I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspired you in some way. Do you follow Alicia's blog? Do you have your own blog?
    Kia Kaha
    In NZ that's a way to say be strong and persevere. Through teaching Alicia I have seen how difficult and tiring it can be living with disabilities. Enjoy the good days:-)