Egyptian With Cerebral Palsy Defies Expectations, Inspires ‘Differently-Abled’ Community

Egyptian With Cerebral Palsy Defies Expectations, Inspires ‘Differently-Abled’ Community

Magdy Abdel Sayed at Helm NGO's Community Day (Photo: Helm NGO via Facebook)
Magdy Abdel Sayed at Helm NGO’s Community Day (Photo: Helm NGO via Facebook)

At the age of one, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and doctors said he would never to be able to read, write or speak, or even manage to perform any of his daily functions.

More than two decades later, Magdy Shahir Abdel Sayed graduated from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in February 2015 despite his diagnosis.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement, muscle coordination and balance. CP affects the part of the brain that controls muscle movements.

In its most common form, it affects cognition and physical ability. However, Abdel Sayed was only affected physically and, despite doctors’ gloomy outlook on his cognitive development, Abdel Sayed was able to identify all the colors by the age of two.

“I consider it to be a slight disability because, with my determination and strong will, I am able to do almost everything myself,” Abdel Sayed told Egyptian Streets.

Although Abdel Sayed and his parents have been determined to prove doctors’ prognosis of his disability, he faced several struggles in entering and enduring in Egypt’s educational system. Many schools refused to grant him entry as a student, claiming they lacked the appropriate facilities to accommodate his disability.

“There was a specific school that would not allow me to interact in the classroom. My face would be turned facing the wall for very long periods of time,” Abdel Sayed recalled.

Contrary to the schools’ claims, Abdel Sayed’s parents insisted that their son did not require any special facilities and that he could keep up with the school’s regular curriculum.

After spending 10 years at the International School of Choueifat in Cairo, Abdel Sayed was able to graduate with high honors from the Modern Schools of Egypt in 2010, in addition to winning an award from Cambridge University in 2008 as the Egyptian student who overcame the most to achieve his goals.

Now 24 years old, Abdel Sayed is the holder of a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Arts and has been working as a media specialist at the Egyptian Petrochemical Holding Company for nearly a year.

However, Abdel Sayed’s true passion lies in being an inspiration to others struggling with disabilities and to help them reach their dreams through Helm.

Helm is an Egyptian nongovernmental organization that focuses on the employment of people with disabilities in Egypt. Abdel Sayed has been volunteering for the NGO since he was a student at AUC.

Helm is currently working on a project called Entaleq aimed at making the country more accessible for and inclusive of persons with disabilities by building more ramps and elevators in different areas.

Abdel Sayed has already embarked on his dream path of being a motivational speaker and becoming a public figure who inspires others. His story has been featured in a variety of local media outlets, including state-owned Al-Ahram, privately-owned Al-Shorouk and AUC’s flagship newspaper, the Caravan.

“I want to become a world-known motivational speaker, spreading positivity around the world,” Abdel Sayed told Egyptian Streets.


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Journalism student, aspiring writer and a book worm. I also happen to be a feminist who is interested about human rights in Egypt. But I can’t do all of that without a big mug of a coffee and a chocolate bar.

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