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.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Definition:

Cerebral palsy, though commonly associated with impairment of motor function, is actually caused by brain damage that occurs while a child’s brain is still in its developing stages – before birth, during birth, or directly after birth. Due to this brain damage, those who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy have difficulty with body movement, muscle coordination, muscle tone, muscle control, reflex, balance, posture, and motor skill functions (fine, gross, and oral).

Alan Rasof

Cause:

Each individual’s case of cerebral palsy damage due to the amount of brain damage that occurs, the time the brain damage occurs during a certain developmental phase in the brain, and the type of brain damage that occurs. According to Cerebralpalsy.org, the type of brain damage that causes cerebral palsy can be one (or more) of the following:

  1. Prenatal disturbance of brain cell migration – genetic and environmental factors disturb brain cell migration as cells move to their appropriate location during brain development.
  2. Prenatal poor myelination (insulation) of developing nerve cell fibers – brain function is impeded when poor myelin provides an inadequate protective covering over nerve cells that aid in the transmission.
  3. Perinatal brain cell death – events in the birthing process that rupture blood vessels or starve oxygen to the brain.
  4. Postnatal non-functional or inappropriate connections (synapses) between brain cells – trauma, infections, and asphyxia that damage connections developed in the brain.

Alan Rasof Pregnant-Woman

History:

Alan Rasof amigo mgaCerebral palsy was pioneered by Dr. William John Little in the mid 1800s, who used his own childhood disability as motivation for this discovery. In addition, Sir William Osler, an important figure in modern medicine, wrote the first book pertaining to cerebral palsy to help spread awareness. He came up with the idea that the disability was a result from abnormal fetal development – far before the medical field agreed with his concept.

According to Cerebralpalsy.org, “At different times, the U.S. government passed crucial legislation to modernize care and further rights of individuals with a disability. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, which promoted community-based care as an alternative to institutionalization,” (History of Cerebral Palsy).

Medicine has played a large role in understanding cerebral palsy, along with diagnosing it. Technological advancements in medicine have aided those who have cerebral palsy, redefining what it means to live with a disability. In addition, blood typing medicine, similar to which is used to cure jaundice, and vaccine developments such as rubella, have helped, and continue to help, to prevent the development of cerebral palsy.

In Children:

Many times, signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are not apparent at birth, but when it comes to development and growth milestones, parents will likely notice a delay unusual from normal patterns. Today, about the amount of children with cerebral palsy ranges from about 2.3% to 3.6% out of 1,000 children.

Please stay tuned for the next blog post to find out about the preventative measures for cerebral palsy.

The Susan G. Komen Global Movement

Alan Rasof breast cancer awarenessThe Susan G. Komen Foundation began in 1980, after Nancy Brinker made a promise to her sister, Susan, who was dying from breast cancer. This one promise was that Nancy would do everything she could to end breast cancer for good. 30 years later, this promise has turned into one of the world’s biggest philanthropic accomplishments that has impacted millions of lives.

Nancy began the foundation with just $200 and a list of donor names. Now, the organization has invested in over $2.6 billion in research, community outreach, health advocacy, and various programs that span across more than 30 countries. Breast cancer death rates have decreased by 34% since the foundation’s start.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has one of the world’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists. When Suzy was diagnosed in 1977, breast cancer was not a subject people openly spoke about – women felt like they were alone. But now, after tremendous efforts in the last 30 since the founding of the organization, women know they are not alone. There is now a global community made up of millions of people who are not afraid to share their stories and increase awareness of the disease so that it can one day be a part of the past and not a reality.

Alan Rasof nancy-brinker-1According to the official website for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and Chair of Global Strategy, has spoken about the rapid growth of the foundation and its effects on patients diagnosed with breast cancer. She writes:

“We have fought for access to care for the poor and uninsured; funded the clinics that educate, screen and treat people with breast cancer; paid for the groceries, transportation, wigs, prosthetics and insurance co-pays to help women face breast cancer with dignity and hope. We are doing this in more than 30 countries around the world, with more to come. We have invested more than $1.7 billion to make these programs possible,” (ww5.komen.org).

The efforts of all of those involved with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation have gone above and beyond any expectation that Nancy first had when she began the organization.

With continued efforts, this Foundation will flourish among the many profitable nonprofits and help those diagnosed with breast cancer, never ceasing to set out what they originally planned to do – find a cure.