Calgary student flourishes in university despite cerebral palsy, epilepsy diagnoses

Ready, Willing and Abled Part 3
WATCH ABOVE: Once cast aside by the education system, Alexandria Huddleston has defied the odds. In the final installment of Ready, Willing and Abled, Tracy Nagai looks at this young woman’s accomplishments, despite being legally blind and living with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Alexandria Huddleston faced adversity before she was even born.

She suffered an aneurysm in utero and had to undergo surgery at just 30 weeks old.

“They did an operation on her before I even got to hold her,” said Amy Kendall, Huddleston’s mom. “We didn’t know whether she would be able to walk or talk or eat on her own.”

Now 22 years old, Huddleston is doing far more than her grim prognosis.

Despite being legally blind and living with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, she’s flourished in university.

“University is actually easier than grade school,” Huddelston explained. “One of the schools I went to in junior high took all the disability students and put us in a remedial class, because they didn’t know how to handle it.”

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With the support of her family, Huddleston never gave up and now one day dreams of being an historian.

“Since she went into the university level, it’s been amazing,” Kendall said. “Through the whole school system, it was harder. It was more of a battle about if she was capable, but I knew in my heart she was.”

Huddleston has thrived in other areas, surpassing even her mother’s expectations.

Last year, the Developmental Disabilities Resource Centre matched Huddleston with her community support worker, Alyse Palko.

Palko shares Huddleston’s passion for history and architecture and they cleverly turned it into a tool to help Huddleston take Calgary Transit on her own.

“I got a book that was about the maps of all the historical buildings downtown, so we used that as a way to map out the bus route,” Palko explained.

Huddleston can now get pretty much anywhere in Calgary on a bus or CTrain.

“We started bus training in May and by the summer, I was a pro!”

And it doesn’t stop there: Huddleston has also learned how to navigate her way on a ski hill.

She began training in 2002 after being introduced to the Canadian Association For Disabled Skiing.

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“It feels pretty good,” she said. “Because it’s a white hill, it’s easier to account for skiers on it because they’re the black dots I have to avoid hitting.”

Huddleston’s sheer determination and positivity are paying off. Kendall now hopes others will follow her daughter’s example.

“I think everybody has to know that just because you get a diagnosis, that’s not just it. There’s always a way.”