Ashley Rose Murphy is one of ten siblings, seven of whom were born with physical or developmental disabilities. She was born with mild Cerebral Palsy, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disorder (FASD), verbal learning disability and HIV.
“I walked late—I think around 23 months,” said Murphy, when compared to her brother Raven, who learned to walk at 18 months. “We have all worked hard to make the best of our abilities.”
Despite her disabilities, Murphy has had a successful academic career. She graduated from Archbishop Denis O’Connor Catholic High School in Ajax in 2016 with honours and won the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and the Princes Youth Service Award for Global Leadership. Currently she is studying theater at York University.
When she was ten years old, Murphy volunteered for her first public speech at an HIV conference in Toronto. She was inspired by the stories she heard from other kids while attending HIV summer camps.
“At first, it was a very sheltered event where no media or cameras were allowed and I shared a session with two sixteen year olds and myself giving our stories and then answering questions.” Ashley explained. “I had doctors and nurses, scientists and researchers all eagerly raising their hands to ask me questions and listening to my answers. I could see them writing everything down, 1,500 people all eager to learn from us kids and I had a ‘light bulb moment’. I realized that people wanted to learn from us in order to make life better for us and that people could only hurt me if I allowed myself to feel ashamed of being HIV positive.”
Murphy has since given hundreds of speeches at high schools, colleges, and universities across North America, Europe, and Africa. She was even featured on an episode of TED Talks and is a frequent speaker at WE Day, a youth empowerment and inspirational charity held in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
She has also become involved in a number of HIV related charities, such as the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
“Education is the key to protecting yourself from HIV,” She explained. “So many youth have never even heard of HIV or thought it was something that was around in the 80’s.”
Murphy and her six siblings all attended Grandview Children’s Centre in the past. Murphy received Physiotherapy for her Cerebral Palsy, and Speech Therapy, which has helped her in her current theater studies and public speaking engagements.
“Grandview is very important to the community,” said Murphy. “Most people have no idea how vital the service is until they have a child with special needs and need to access treatment.”
When asked how Grandview affected her life, Murphy said, “I would say the biggest impact was physio therapy… I have fallen down the stairs so many times I have lost count but those “stairs to nowhere” at physio taught me to just keep going. Speech therapy was [also] super important, especially since I am a public speaker, singer and actor.”