Book by Bob Segalman
Review by: Joyce E. Howland
Mentor/Unit Coordinator
SUNY Empire State College, Alfred Unit

What is life like for an individual with cerebral palsy (CP)? Dr. Bob Segalman provides vignettes of his struggles and successes in the short essays in this book. The outline of his life – attending public schools; earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a doctorate; marrying and, after 20 years, divorcing; working for the State of California for 30 years; retiring to do volunteer work – is not unusual. The intelligence, perseverance, courage, creativity and hard work required are not. With the assistance of his parents and many professionals, Segalman was able to overcome mobility and speech problems to educate himself, find work, and become successful. In addition, his work has made possible the development of a program that allows people with speech impediments to communicate clearly using the telephone.   

How did he accomplish so much despite a disability? While the essays usually are humorous and lighthearted, many provide insight into the struggles he and his parents faced and how they coped. This book provides readers with an example of what an individual with such a disability can accomplish and suggests ways they can help make this possible. Pieces by his mother and father talk about his childhood and suggest that constant effort by many people was required. The family was fortunate (and persistent) in finding a group of caring professionals who helped him lead a relatively normal life. He studied in regular public school classrooms. Despite serious difficulties in speaking clearly, he both read from the Torah and spoke at his Bar Mitzvah. 

The typical essay in this collection is short, has an element of humor, and is written in an easy-to-read, lively style. Many of these essays were printed previously in various newsletters and publications. Not all relate to life with a disability or have serious themes. For example, one discusses the messages that are found on vanity license plates. However, the majority provide insight into the problems of, and possible strategies for, dealing with physical limitations. Lessons shared may be helpful to both advisors and those coping with various disabilities, not just those with CP. For example, the article on “Solving Medical Problems in Midlife” explains the need for working with multiple medical specialists and offers ideas that an individual with a disability might use to help guide these professionals. The suggestions made are broadly applicable to people of all ages, although the details are specific to adults with CP.  

Dr. Segalman ends with “Words of Advice” bullet points on how a young person can reduce the problems that disabilities cause. These should be required reading for advisors and their students. If heeded, they could reduce the difficulties students with disabilities face in completing their degrees and succeeding in life.  

The book is obviously relevant to individuals with Cerebral Palsy and to the parents, caregivers, doctors, and professionals who interact with them. It suggests the types of activities and accomplishments that are possible. However, Dr. Segalman is careful to note that different people have different capabilities and thus his path is suggestive of what can be done rather than a set of specific recommendations. In addition, the book can be used in courses or discussions about disabilities and to expand the view of what people with disabilities can do in schools, public organizations, or in corporate situations.

Against the Current: My Life With Cerebral Palsy, (2009). Book by Bob Segalman. Review by Joyce E. Howland. Verona, WI: Full Court Press. 159 pp. $ 19.00. ISBN 1-57861-675-1
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