Community Rallies Together To Build Accessible Playground For A Student With Cerebral Palsy

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Douglas Road Elementary in Bedford township has a brand new playground, inspired by Braden Gandee, 9, who has Cerebral Palsy.

NBC News first introduced the Gandee brothers’ story in June 2014 when the pair set off — with Hunter carrying Braden on his back — from their home in Temperance, Michigan, and walked forty miles to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. Along the journey, people cheered them on.

The story of Braden and his brother Hunter made national news with what they called the “CP Swagger.”

All that attention brought generous donations from individuals across the country, including from teams of engineers who offered to build a new playground for the community, accessible to people suffering from disabilities.

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Braden Gandee always had a simple dream: to play at recess alongside his classmates.

“I just had to sit back and watch them [friends] have fun,” said Braden “I really wanted to do what they did.”

With the help of dozens of volunteers, including his big brother, Braden and all his classmates can now play together.

“Before at recess, Braden was only able to do a few things: ride his power chair around the blacktop or use his walker,” Hunter Gandee, Braden’s brother said. “He had one handicap accessible swing.”

But now the possibilities seem endless.

“It’s just a good feeling,” Braden said. “Now I can go out and play with my friends.”

Kids with all different abilities can set sail on the new pirate themed, inclusive playground set.

“What’s really cool about it, is that Braden is going to be able to play with his friends,” Hunter told NBC. “It’s got special equipment he can use with his friends and he’s going to have so much fun.”

“3 weeks ago it was a dirt pile and an empty field,” Donnie Stevens, the president of the Parent Teacher Association at Douglas Road Elementary said.

The playground idea started some 18 months ago. The PTA spearheaded the fundraising after being inspired by the Gandee’s.

“The moment it became reality is when you see Hunter walking with Braden down that long hallway,” Stevens said.

He says the community really rallied around the effort, donating time and money to make it all possible.

“Piece by piece we got to where we’re at now,” he said.

The Gandee’s hope this will encourage other school districts and neighborhoods and most importantly educate people about Cerebral Palsy.

Watch this video to learn more about this inspiring story:

To read more about this story, click here

 

High School Students Use Their Engineering Club To Help A Fellow Classmate With Cerebral Palsy

A group of high school students in Green Township, Ohio, created a project for themselves that would help a fellow classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is a student living with cerebral palsy.

Alan Rasof

Members of the Oak Hills engineering club designed and built a table to help classmate Jerry Potavin.

What started out as just another project for the engineering team at Oak Hills High School turned out to be much more then that for classmate, Jerry Potavin. Jerry is sitting easier now thanks to the selflessness of his peers at Oak Hills.

“I have always loved helping people, it’s just what I like to do,” says Oak Hills, senior, Dylan Noble. Dylan along with 5 other engineering students were contacted by their high schools engineering teacher to build something that would make Jerry a little more comfortable. “Once we finally delivered it to him, it was exactly what they wanted” says Dylan.

Alan RasofJerry has to spend a lot of time in his wheelchair every day and because of this he needs to spend a certain amount of time a day stretched out on a flat mat. Dylan and the engineering club built a table that would make it easier for Jerry to move around.

Laura Velasquez, one of Jerry’s teachers at Oak Hills said that when they brought the table down to show Jerry, their faces were lit up with joy and excitement. Their faces were just glowing, you could feel the overwhelming positive energy that they had, said Velasquez.

Velasquez said that the table has already made a difference for Jerry. “It makes him feel a lot more included, so that’s really wonderful,” she said.

Dylan Noble, along with the rest of his engineering team, have set such a great example for their peers. They have found a way to combine the skill sets that they have learned in engineering class with giving back to their community to most importantly, help a friend.

To read more about Jerry and his classmates, or to watch a video on this story, click here.

 

Abbey Curran: A Voice of Confidence

Abbey Curran, Alan RasofAbbey Curran was the first woman with a disability to compete and win in the Miss Iowa beauty pageant and later to compete in the Miss USA beauty pageant. After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy from birth, Abbey’s determination to exceed a wide range of expectations throughout her life is what has made her a powerful voice for young children with disabilities today.

As a child, Abbey was told that it wasn’t realistic for her to compete in a local beauty pageant because of her disability. As stated in an interview with CerebralPalsy.org, Abbey claims that her frustration turned into determination: “‘It made me mad when someone told me I couldn’t do something. I entered that pageant, and I was in the top 10,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty). From that day on, if Abbey was ever told she couldn’t do something, it was her mission to prove them wrong.

When Abbey competed in the Miss Iowa pageant in 2008, she was told she would never win. But she did. She made history as the first woman ever with a disability to compete in the state competition, and the first to win. When Abbey then competed in the Miss USA pageant her confidence levels skyrocketed. Though she did not win, Abbey learned how much of a confidence boost participating in a pageant can be for young girls, especially young girls with disabilities who have been discouraged a multitude of times both at school and at home.

One day between pageants Abbey had a conversation with another girl who also had special needs. This girl toMiss You Can Do Itld Abbey that she wanted to compete in a pageant, but her parents told her she couldn’t because people would laugh at her. These words devastated Abbey, so in 2004 she created the first “Miss You Can Do It” pageant for young girls with disabilities, catered towards making girls with disabilities feel confident and beautiful just the way they are.

Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and braces are familiar sights at the pageant, and help to create a sense of empowerment as well as support for contestants who have special needs. In her interview, Abbey exclaims:

miss-you-can-do-it-w352“‘They get oodles of confidence; they’re the prettiest little girls. Everyone here likes them. They learn when they come to this pageant that they’re not alone. People aged 5 to 105 love them. They get to go home with something huge…They meet other girls they would not meet otherwise,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).

It is a very powerful thing when young girls see other girls and women who have disabilities so that they know they’re not alone – that thousands of girls around the world have similar struggles to their own. Abbey’s main goal for the Miss You Can Do It pageant is for everyone “to view those with challenges as people who have as much to offer as others,” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).

Abbey’s confidence and determination is something for young girls – with or without disabilities – to emulate. She is a true leader dedicated to making the world a better place by creating equal opportunities for these girls with a kind, compassionate heart. For more information about the Miss You Can Do It pageant, please check out their website here.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Alan T. RasofTypes of Cerebral Palsy are classified by which areas of the brain are affected and therefore which movement disorders occur. The following movement disorders are the most common to those affected by CP: stiff muscles (spasticity), uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia), and poor balance and coordination (ataxia). There are four main types of Cerebral Palsy categorized by these various movement disorders.

The first type of CP, and the most common, is called spastic Cerebral Palsy, which affects 80% of those diagnosed with CP. According to the CDC, “People with spastic CP have increased muscle tone. This means their muscles are stiff and, as a result, their movement can be awkward. Spastic CP is usually described by what parts of the body are affected,” (Cdc.gov). Spastic diplegia/diparesis, spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis, and spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis are all categorized under Spastic Cerebral Palsy.

Spastic diplegia predominantly occurs in the legs and most who are diagnosed under this category have normal movement and range in their arms. Many people who have spastic diplegia have trouble walking because their leg and hip muscles are extremely tight; and often times their will turn inward and cross at the knees. Spastic hemiplegia, on the other hand, affects only one side of a person’s body and the arm tends to be affected more heavily than the leg. Spastic quadriplegia affects all four limbs, the trunk, and the face of a person – it is the most severe form of spastic SP. Most people who have spastic quadriplegia cannot walk at all and have developmental disabilities, difficulty with their vision, and seizures.

Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy is the second type of CP. Those who have dyskinetic CP have difficulty controlling movement of their legs, feet, arms, and hands, which results in having trouble walking and sitting down. According to the CDC, “Sometimes the face and tongue are affected and the person has a hard time sucking, swallowing, and talking. A person with dyskinetic CP has muscle tone that can change (varying from too tight to too loose),” (Cdc.gov).Alan T. Rasof

The third type of Cerebral Palsy is ataxic, which correlates with balance and coordination. Those diagnosed with this type of CP usually have a hard time with quick movements, or movements that require stability. Walking can be be unsteady and they may have trouble controlling their hands if they are reaching for an object.

Last, mixed Cerebral Palsy is the fourth type of CP, and happens to those who are affected by more than one type of CP. Most commonly, spastic-dyskinetic CP occurs as a mix, resulting in an individual’s increased muscle tone and difficulty controlling movement in their hands, arms, feet, and legs.

It is important that we are all aware of these different types of Cerebral Palsy so that research can be conducted to help ease pain and aid in controlling muscle movements on an individual scale. Each human being is affected differently by their CP, and the more we can understand as a society, the more help we can offer.

Caring For a Child With Cerebral Palsy

Alan RasofCaring for a child who is diagnosed with a disability is never easy, but it is important for you to help your child reach their maximum potential and live the best quality of life possible.

For cerebral palsy in particular, helping your child reach their goals depends on the level of cerebral palsy he or she has, and may require an extra set of hands from professionals including physical therapists, physicians, educators, nurses, psychologist, and social workers. Together, you as a parent and a team of professionals can work side-by-side to resolve issues that may revolve around social and emotional development, education, nutrition, mobility, and communication

According to an article published on Care.com, professionals can offer a plethora of services to help your child grow mentally and strive to reach for his or her physical goals. Speech therapists in particular offer many valuable communication services and can:

“Help through oral motor work toAlan Rasof enhance sucking, eating, etc. This work will facilitate communication, both through facial and verbal means, making speech as intelligible as possible. If lack of muscle control makes speech too difficult, speech therapists may help teach use of an augmentative communication device or sign language,” (Caring for a Child With Cerebral Palsy – Advice for Families and Caregivers).

For children living with cerebral palsy, working on muscle movement in the mouth is one of the most important aspects of physical therapy that will help them to communicate more effectively and voice concerns they have or pain they may be in.

Physical therapy is one of the most beneficial commitments a child with cerebral palsy can do to help them with various movement and abilities. Physical therapy can not only aid in muscle strengthening and independence in movement, but they can help ease pain and increase comfort. Physical therapist work with the body to stretch muscles that are tight and stiff, strengthen weak muscles, and help your child to gradually start walking, using a wheelchair, or standing – depending on their needs.

For more information on how you can help care for a child with cerebral palsy, please readthis article published in Care.com, that will also give advice on how to improve nutrition for a child living with cerebral palsy.