I first heard about P. J. Crouch of Chattanooga, Tennessee, through a personal message sent to my “Disabilities by Daniel J. Vance” Facebook page. So I telephoned. Crouch has cerebral palsy, which a person usually “gets” during fetal development or at birth, when brain damage permanently short-circuits the brain’s ability to effectively control body coordination.
In a telephone interview, 21-year-old Crouch said, “I’m a military brat, so I’ve moved around my fair share. When I was entering kindergarten, we were living in Chicago. The school system there refused to provide me with an aide, but instead wanted to keep me in a multi-handicapped classroom. My disability only affected my extremities. It didn’t affect my mental capacity. So my mom knew the multi-handicapped classroom wouldn’t be best for me.”
His mother, who had been a special education teacher, pulled P. J. from public school six weeks into kindergarten in order to begin homeschooling. He said he likely learned more at home than he would have in the public school setting.
Eventually, after graduating from high school through homeschooling, he began online courses with a Christian college in Chicago, through which he now hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in ministry leadership. He has been a volunteer for Joni and Friends (a disability ministry) over two summers, currently interns for LifeLine, and would like to become a disability ministry leader or youth pastor. He currently has a 3.1 grade point average. He uses a walker to get around home, and a wheelchair in public.
He said, “I live at home and am hoping within the next year or so to be on my own. It’s not easy (for a person using a wheelchair) to just get an apartment and move in your stuff. I’m looking to move to Orlando and get a job at Disney World, which would help me get through college financially.” He said due to physical limitations, he never would be cleared to drive a car, and so would have to line up steady transportation wherever he moves.
He doesn’t mind people asking about his disability, saying, “Those questions don’t bother me. How can people expect to learn about my disability if they don’t ask questions or make comments? When people ask me to explain my disability to them, I just say this was how God made me. Just because I can’t walk doesn’t mean I can’t live my life to the fullest.”