Written by Katie Martin, Former Schreiber Client
I was born 10 weeks prematurely in 1982, along with my twin brother Adam (who is 14 minutes younger) and was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy at 6 months old. Cerebral palsy is a physical condition that affects mobility and posture that for me, was caused by a lack of oxygen and severe brain bleed at birth. I started physical, occupational, and speech-language therapies at Easter Seals (now Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development) shortly after my diagnosis.
In addition to Adam, I also have a younger sister, Laura. Both of my siblings are able-bodied; they do not have special needs. My parents had the same expectations for the three of us; we were expected to work hard and to put forth our best effort with whatever we chose to do. I was not treated any differently as a result of my special needs, which was a gift. Adam, Laura and I have a great relationship. We enjoy spending time together and we give each other a hard time sometimes (like most siblings do). They are supportive of me and vice versa.
For my family and me, Schreiber was a place of hope. Doctors were non-committal about what to expect for my future, while the therapists at Schreiber were determined to help me make the most of my abilities. As a result of my cerebral palsy, I am unable to walk, so therapists taught me to drive an electric wheelchair at the age of four. It was my first taste of independence, being able to move around on my own. I also attended the preschool program at Schreiber as a start to my education. With the support and encouragement of my teachers, Sally Wilbur and Irene Buch, my parents realized that they needed to advocate for me to be mainstreamed in a regular classroom with my typical peers. They did just that and I graduated from Penn Manor High School in 2000 and moved on to receive a degree in Public Relations from Millersville University in 2004.
I always knew that I wanted a career that allowed me to help people with special needs in some way, and joining the Schreiber staff in September of 2007 as the Grant Writer fulfilled that calling. I am honored to be able to work for and give back to an organization that has helped me in many ways. Eleven years ago, I was able to move into my own home and I receive assistance from attendants, who help me with my personal care needs. I have a roommate, my friend, Laura, who I met years ago when we were both Schreiber clients. Along with the support of my family, the support I received from many Schreiber therapists, (including OT, Becky Smith) when I was a client allowed me to realize that even with my special needs, I could lead a productive, fulfilling life.
My diagnosis of cerebral palsy is a part of who I am, but my life is not defined by it. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend and camp counselor. I love to spend time with family and friends. I like to do things people do not expect. For example, I “ran” a 5k race with my siblings in 2014, and I got “Believe” and “Hope” tattoos on my arms in 2022. I love to read; Kristin Hannah is my favorite author, and listening to Country, Christian, Pop and Christmas music is my favorite way to relieve stress. I have seen Brad Paisley, Bon Jovi, Darius Rucker, Michael Buble, Rascal Flatts and Zac Brown Band in concert. A perk of needing to use a wheelchair is that it allows you to get great seats at the Giant Center and Hershey Park Stadium. The same thing is true when watching baseball games at Citizens Bank Park (Go Phillies!), Camden Yards (Go Orioles!) and PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Having special needs can be very stressful. I am stubborn. I do not like asking for help. However, it was important that I learned how to be my own advocate and ask for help when I needed it. Figuring out my attendant care schedule is a constant job that will never end. With that being said, I am extremely thankful for the attendants that help me throughout the day with my activities of daily living, so that I can be as independent as possible. It truly does take a village; I would not be able to do what I do without my support system. I joined a support group for adults who have cerebral palsy last year through Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where I have been a patient since 2014. We meet once a month through Zoom, and it is very helpful to connect with people who are going through similar challenges and to get advice.
I am grateful that my job at Schreiber allows me to put my challenges in perspective, so that I can do my best to help the clients who need our services every day. I chose to share my story with you, the Schreiber community, in honor of World Cerebral Palsy Day to illustrate that even though I may have more challenges than other people, I truly believe that having cerebral palsy has helped to shape me into the compassionate, confident, independent, productive, and strong adult that I am today.
If you child has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and you are interested in learning more about how Schreiber’s Pediatric Therapies can help your child visit: http://www.schreiberpediatric.org/therapy-services/
As a nationally recognized pediatric facility, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development provides family-centered education and therapy programs for infants, children and adolescents with disabilities, developmental delays, and acquired injuries. Our goal-oriented approach maximizes each child’s ability to function independently within the community.