"Empowerment is actionable": Trainer, actor with cerebral palsy to speak in Rockland next week
Wicked Local South/Mariner - 11/19/2019
Nov. 18--ROCKLAND -- A personal trainer and actor with cerebral palsy will speak at an event in Rockland next week about his personal experiences with disability and his hopes for better inclusion and representation for all.
"I'm an open book. There's not much I'm not willing to share in a very frank manner," Brennan Srisirikul said.
Srisirikul was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) at birth, and given a less than 10 percent chance of survival. Now 28, he uses crutches and a wheelchair to get around.
Around three years ago, he said, he decided to start seriously exercising in addition to his physical therapy.
"I started to think, 'how am I going to be when I'm 70 if I'm already struggling so much?'" he said. "People view people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities as physically weak, and I kind of bought into that."
He loved exercising so much that he began creating his own training programs, and ultimately became certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
He currently has one personal training client, and said coaching him perfectly combines his loves of fitness, motivation speaking and acting. Srisirikul gives directions from a sitting position, and is able to instruct his client using just his words.
Along with his work as a personal trainer, Srisirikul is an actor who's looking to move from his background in theater acting to TV, movies and print ads. He will also soon be a published author, with a children's book based loosely on his own experiences set to be released through a major publisher.
"CP can be difficult, but it has made me so creative, so tenacious," he said. "It goes to show what can happen when we put the negative away and lift ourselves up."
In his talk, Srisirikul will share his thoughts on the importance of being kind to yourself, and his own struggles with depression.
He'll also speak about what being disabled has meant for him.
"I feel like sometimes our experiences are viewed as so different from everyone else's, I feel like I'm like an alien, when I'm just trying to live a human experience," he said.
Sometimes, he said, people can come away from an experience with his or someone else with a disability thinking the disabled person has perfectly adjusted to their limitations. Or, they think of them as tragically one-dimensional and fully defined by their disability. Neither view is accurate, Srisirikul said.
"It's not sad all the time. Sometimes it is sad, but sometimes everyone's sad," he said. "It varies, and my experience with disability ebbs and flows all the time."
Srisirikul said he wants people to walk away from his speech feeling confident to advocate for themselves, not just inspired by his story.
"I feel like people with disabilities are viewed as inspiration. But to me, inspiration is idle. Empowerment is actionable."
Srisirikul's talk will be part of a Youth Health Connection event through South Shore Health. It will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 30 Reservoir Park Drive, Rockland. To RSVP, email Karen Peterson at email@example.com.
Audrey Cooney can be reached at 781-837-4573.
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