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Twins meet high school challenges together
High school is a time of struggle, for some more than others. The four years fill the gap between childhood and adulthood, and the process can be confusing at times. As incoming ninth-graders, twin sisters Paige and Claudia have, at times, even more obstacles to overcome.
Paige has had cerebral palsy (CP) since infancy. CP is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, motor skills and, in Paige’s case, speech. There is no known cure, leaving Paige to rely on wheelchairs, walkers, and loved ones. Her twin sister Claudia is one of her most frequent helpers.
Claudia is not disabled, yet has at times felt the strain of her sister’s illness. In appearance, the twins are dissimilar, but through their personalities there is a twin mentality and bonding. “Yeah, we’re really close,” said Claudia.
“In a way, I have also been disabled by Paige’s cerebral palsy,” said Claudia. Although Claudia has more potential freedom than her sister, the Taylors try their best to keep a balanced fairness with their daughters. Because their parents keep their opportunities equal, Claudia has had to forgo some adolescent freedom.
“It is a constant battle of sacrifice, but it’s completely worth it, of course,” said the twins’ mom, Natasha. With her support and dedication, Paige is bound to have a great four years of high school.
However, the transition from West Middle School wasn’t exactly smooth, as much as it excited Paige. She said, “It was a shock to the system.” Coming from a small class and an intimate setting, the larger, less-personal high school was overwhelming at first. “At West, of course, my teachers were people of authority, but they were also kind of my friends,” said Paige.
With a new set of faculty there was a lot of work to be done to get Paige a suitable working environment. “When people see that Paige is disabled, some of them assume things. There is a fine line between being accommodating and patronizing,” she said. Some low expectations and misunderstandings about Paige and her CP were fixed before she enrolled in the high school. “If you couldn’t do it with oven mitts on and pens between your toes forget about it for Paige,” Natasha said.
Paige admits she has some limitations. “It takes time for people to figure out my strengths and weaknesses, and that’s okay.” For instance, Paige is unable to count on her fingers and write sufficiently, which has limited her math skills from a very young age. Yet Paige is bright in other subjects such as English and science. “It is a shame,” said Natasha, “that these state math standards are given to Paige. What about graduating?” Their family realizes that these four years are going to go by quickly for their daughters, and that it is quintessentially “go-time.”
Academics aside, high school was also a huge social transition. While Paige has no problem relating to people via social networking and texting, school is a different story. “At this age, teens are conscious of their image and who they’re seen with,” said Natasha.
“Yeah,” said Paige. “Right now I have a lot of friends, but we just never hang out.”
For Claudia, figuring out when and how to include her sister in social situations like the homecoming dance and sleepovers becomes complicated. It’s been difficult for the family to determine when Paige should be included and when Claudia should be given her space.
Homecoming was quite the letdown for Paige. Having bought a dress and ready to go, she discovered that there was a large flight of stairs leading to the dance. She did not attend.
“People never really consider it, things like elevators at school dances,” said Natasha. “But it really determined Paige’s night.”
Despite these challenges, the girls are not held back by Paige’s situation. She has a wide variety of creative interests including writing, dance, fashion and theatre. Paige also had a great opportunity to show off her love of dance this past August at the Built on Stilts festival – her second year in a row. This year, she danced a contemporary ballet piece choreographed collaboratively between herself and Christina Reppert.
Claudia has different interests, but is just as driven as her sister. As a clarinetist, poet, and all-Honors student, she’s learning to balance academics, a social life, and creativity. Both sisters possess an enthusiasm towards in-school and out-of-school life. As ninth-graders they seem to be adjusting well to high school life.