12:20 PM

My Cerebral Palsy Gives Me Determination

March marks Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and as we observe #DDAwareness, it is important to recognize and appreciate the many contributions people with developmental disabilities bring to their communities. At Pella, we promote respect for people with disabilities and fight for inclusive communities.

This month, we'll share personal stories from Chris Reilly, project engineer, and Jenny Sharp, senior manager of learning, talent and OD, about how their developmental disabilities have made them the people they are today.

What are Developmental Disabilities?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities are defined as impairments in physical, learning, language or behavior areas, and include:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Learning or intellectual disabilities
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment
  • Other developmental delays

My Cerebral Palsy Gives Me Determination

Chris Hiking with Family2

​​​​​​​Chris is a father, husband, engineer, CrossFitter and so much more. He also lives with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

“My parents found out about my disability because I was walking late. I couldn’t stand and walk independently until about the age of six. It’s been a battle to try to be ‘normal’ like others, but today, I like to swim, bike, hike, do CrossFit, and I enjoy just trying to stay active,” says Chris. 

Staying active can be challenging for Chris who typically spends up to two hours a day stretching and doing small exercises to improve his mobility and physical fitness. “My two girls are used to seeing their dad doing his stretches – sometimes they even participate!”

Since working at Pella, Chris has had the flexibility to take a longer lunch break so he can stretch and get in a good workout. That accommodation and willingness to understand hasn’t always been the case.Chris Riley Crossfit

Before Pella, Chris faced workplace discrimination and endured the challenges of growing up differently. “Academics came easy to me, but I struggled in school with confidence because I was physically limited. I was always picked last for sports like kickball and basketball, and felt left out a lot.”

That feeling drove Chris to work harder to better himself physically. “I try to compare myself to my peers. I put a lot of work in, and I don’t give up. I would tell people with developmental disabilities to do the same. The road to your goals isn’t flat. It’s both uphill and downhill and it’s going to take a lot of work, but don’t give up. The road to success is never linear.”

Chris also encourages people to have honest conversations. “Not all disabilities are those that are easily seen. It’s important to approach people that may appear like they are acting differently with a sense of learning and humility versus a preconceived notion of what you think is happening.”

As we share stories from our team members this month, you can get involved too. Follow us on Facebook at Careers at Pella and Windows and Doors to learn more about our team members, the work we do, and the communities we serve. Consider following organizations like the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and sharing your thoughts and experiences using hashtag #DDAwareness2023.

Together, we can imagine, build and fight for a brighter future.