I’m Kathy O’Connell, the founder of Radiant Abilities.
I live happily and successfully with cerebral palsy (CP).
While I have certainly had my “bumps in the road” in the journey of getting here, I view my disability as a natural part of who I am and it’s along for the wonderful ride of life with me.
My speech, hand coordination, and walking are all affected by CP. In watching the videos on this website you will hear my “cerebral palsy accent.” It may be challenging for you to understand me at first, but keep listening. Like any accent, your listening will get attune to it!
It has been quite the experience living with a body that doesn’t do all the things I would like it to do. As a kid, I went through countless hours of therapy to learn how to walk, pronounce my words, and be able to write. Even at that young age, I thought there must be some purpose in me having a disability.
Little did I know that was the start of me intertwining my personal experience of living with the challenges of a disability with the making of a career in helping other people to live happily and successfully with a disability.
As I grew, I continued to meet challenges – keeping up in school (long before accommodations were widely accepted), learning to coordinate my muscles so that I could drive, dealing with my peers not always being accepting of me, and always having some people treat me differently because of my disability.
What these adversities could not deter was the strength of my dreams in leading a full life – having friends, going to college, living on own, having a career, traveling, dating, getting married, and someday having a family.
This is my deepest desire for you – to live happily, successfully, and radiantly with a disability.
If you feel the same, sign up here for resources, tips, and my blog on living a full life with a disability.
By believing in myself and in what I had to offer the world, I began to chip away at my own self-doubt and build my self-esteem and sense of empowerment. Today, my closest friends go back 30 years with me, I have two master’s degrees, bought my first home when I was still a single gal, have been in business for over 15 years, and did a good share of traveling before meeting the love of my life and having our son.
I would never have the life I now have without my amazing family.
Here’s a snapshot of my family’s philosophy of my disability. I have never been able to balance myself on a bike. Some of my earliest memories, though, are precariously sitting on the very front edge of my brother’s bike seat while having my feet resting on the bar part of the handle bars. He would then sit on the seat and ride the bike. By doing so, he would help balance me on the bike. We’d go tooling around the neighborhood like this.
These were of course the days before the helmet law and when we did not have as much safety awareness as we do today. As an adult, I’m amazed my mother let us do this and so grateful that she did!
It was the start of teaching me to strategized (albeit, not always safely) around my disability in order to have the experience of fully living life. My family were the first people to teach me how to believe in myself, how to value myself, and reach for my dreams.
This is why I am so committed to supporting family members of people with disabilities. I understand that the love and encouragement a person receives from family is the most influential factor in the ability to cope and live with a disability.
I’ll also come and speak at your next conference. I do keynote presentations, conference workshops and trainings in the area of personal empowerment and living fully with a disability in all areas of your life. Check out the selection of presentations and trainings.
Have a question, comment, or want to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, contact her.
Producer/Actor David Sutcliffe interviews Kathy as part of the Group docuseries. Group is a web-based documentary that follows the process of twenty strangers who come together for a week-long workshop in personal growth led by Ann Bradney, Core Energetics Therapist and Director of the Radical Aliveness Institute in Southern California.