Monday Memo

The Monday Memo

April 30, 2018                                                                           PITT DPT STUDENTS


Maysoon Zayid’s “I got 99 problems… palsy is just one.”


To the Class of 2020, congratulations on completing another semester of PT school. Rest up, because we’ve earned it. After two wonderful weeks of break, we will be embarking on the educational journey that is pediatrics, so I wanted to introduce a famous disability advocate who is diagnosed with one of the most common pediatric movement disorders.


“My name is Maysoon Zayid and I am not drunk, but the doctor who delivered me was. He cut my mom six different times in six different directions. As a result, I have Cerebral Palsy which means I shake all the time… It’s exhausting. I’m like Shakira Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.”


Maysoon Zayid is an Arab-American comedian diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Her parents couldn’t afford physical therapy, so they sent her to dance school. She went to Arizona State University for acting and after graduation, earned a role in Adam Sandler’s movie Don’t Mess with the Zohan. She tap-danced on Broadway and is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. She also founded Maysoon’s Kids which supports disabled and orphaned Palestinian refugee children. Most importantly, she has a cat named Beyoncé so that she can say she lives with Beyoncé. You can view a 15-minute clip of her Ted Talk that has had over 48 million views here (which I highly recommend because it’s hilarious):


“My father taught me how to walk when I was five years old by placing my heels on his feet and just walking. Another tactic that he would use is he would dangle a dollar bill in front of me and have me chase it”


Cerebral Palsy is a non-progressive motor dysfunction caused by abnormal brain development. The hallmark of is a limited ability to voluntarily move and maintain balance as a result of a central nervous system lesion, specifically a lack of oxygen to the brain at some point in early development. Not all children “shake” like Maysoon described. Her symptoms of dyskinesia are characteristic of damage to the basal ganglia while ataxia is associated with damage to the cerebellum. Between 70-80% of individuals with cerebral palsy experience spasticity, which is associated with damage to or developmental differences in the cerebral cortex.


Cerebral Palsy is considered when a child does not reach developmental milestones and achieve growth chart standards for their height and weight. Symptoms can vary with mild symptoms, only having difficulty with fine motor skills in grasping and manipulating items with their hands. Severe symptoms include significant muscle problems in all four limbs, epilepsy, and difficulties with vision, speech, or audition. Cerebral palsy may have a neurological diagnosis but affects the musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary systems.


“But one miracle cure we did find was yoga. I have to tell you, it’s very boring. But before yoga, I was a stand-up comedian who can’t stand up. And now, I can stand on my head! My parents reinforced this notion that I could do anything. That no dream was impossible, and my dream was to be on the daytime soap opera General Hospital!”


Pediatric physical therapy has a critical role in improving functional activities that are both fun and meaningful to the patient. As with any kid, if they don’t want to do something, they will let you know. One kiddo I’ve worked with didn’t like wearing his AFO’s so he buried them in his backyard and didn’t tell his mom. The primary goals of physical therapy are to improve balance and coordination, build strength, increase flexibility, and maximize independence. Occupational therapy and speech therapy may also be a part of the interdisciplinary team. Research shows that Hippotherapy and Aquatic Therapy are very beneficial as well ( Patients that I have helped with as an aid at Children’s hospital came to physical therapy, so they can play baseball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, sled hockey, and walk by themselves at their high school graduation.


“I’ve got 99 problems and palsy is just one. If there was an Oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m female, I’m disabled, and… I live in New Jersey.”


Maysoon uses comedy to fight for equality. Disabled people represent 20% of the population, incorporating every other diversity group. Only 2% of the images you see are disabled and 95% of that 2% are played by non-disabled actors. Her goal is to create a more positive image of disability in the media. If you’re interested in learning more, check out her website! It has her blog, up-to-date news, and some of her stand-up sketches:


Damiano, Diane L. “Activity, Activity, Activity: Rethinking Our Physical Therapy Approach to Cerebral Palsy.” Physical Therapy, vol. 86, no. 11, Nov. 2006, pp. 1534-40, doi: Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.


Zayid, Maysoon. “I got 99 Problems.Palsy is Just One.” Ted Talks, Jan. 2014, Accessed 30 Apr. 2018.


-Natalie Sorek, SPT

April 30, 2018 |

Comments are closed.