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Articles and information about cerebral palsy

We need some help from you experienced moms here.  Do you have anything you can share with others dealing with cerebral palsy.  Please send your article or resource to:   (From Sherry Bushnell)

(Editor’s note: This story of Stephanie Bushnell, daughter of Dan and Joan Bushnell in Washington state, gives us all a glimpse of the heart-felt struggles and joy that a family working with challenges can face. In  case you are wondering about the name Bushnell in connection with ours, the answer is YES!  Stephanie is our very own niece.  We are very proud of her.)

  Who would guess that having a stroke at birth would be the blessing to catapult our little Stephanie into a successful entrepreneur venture?  As she grew older Stephanie became more and more determined to accomplish what came easy for others: she focused on each task, out worked everyone, and never quit.  Stephanie was the type of person who, when receiving a latch quilt rug for Christmas, had it completed before New Years Day.  She was nicknamed “Little Miss Persistence.” 

  At first we didn’t realize the amount of determination this little girl carried.  We knew something wasn’t “right” when, prior to her second birthday she was communicating through her own repertoire of sign language instead of speaking words.  We thought her older two sisters (Melinda and Kristin) were speaking for her, therefore Stephanie didn’t need to talk, but we soon realized that they were only interpreting the language Stephanie had developed.  After months of doctor visits we took her to a neurologist who, within a minute, diagnosed the cerebral palsy and confirmed the degree through an MRI.   

With the help of a speech therapist, Stephanie worked consistently on perfecting those pitiful sounds to make sense for  others.  After working for two and a half years at riding a bicycle (something the doctors said she’d never be able to do), her younger sister (Brianna) ran to the front door and started yelling…. “Come and see, come and see…Stephanie is riding…” I could see my wife’s eyes tear up as Stephanie road by, white knuckled, head and eyes facing straight forward, eye brows down, determined to master riding this bike. 

This persistence carried on to her academics.  While her younger sister read fluently at the age of 5, Stephanie struggled at nine.  Without her stubborn streak, she would have given up; however, she was determined to read and a good reader she has become.

My wife and I have learned that there are certain trials, which became poisonous for her.  From kindergarten to fourth grade Stephanie attended public school.  Although her teachers were great, recess and the bus ride were the “valley of the shadow of death.”  Everyday she would talk about how wonderful her teacher was, but the tears would flow when describing the latest recess song…“Dumbo Stephanie can’t jump rope, Dumbo Stephanie can’t jump rope…  It’s OK, Dad,” she told me, “the rocks are my friends, I just sit in the gravel, making little farms, with fences, roads, and little rock animals, they like me. Dad? I just can’t get that song out of my head, It’s what everyone sings as they jump rope… Dumbo Stephanie can’t jump rope, Dumbo Stephanie can’t Jump rope, Dumbo Stephanie…”

Just walking without a limp was a major accomplishment, but to hop?  Well, she just could not get that blasted special left foot to leave the ground at the same time as the other foot.  To practice jumping rope at school was now out of the question. Her sisters and mother started helping Stephanie practice hopping while at home.

I couldn’t help but think, “What else will she not be average or above in that would invite ridicule?   

As I think back, “Was it everyday Stephanie came home and broke down in tears as her oldest sister rocked the sobs away and Stephanie dozed into a peaceful slumber?”  If this wasn’t enough of a warning signal, her mood change must have been a neon light attached to a siren.  Stephanie was angry and even lipped off at her own mother.  What a shock to us and her sisters.   Stephanie, sweet Stephanie’s determined personality was slowly dieing…

“Our Stephanie is back” were the words of my wife after a month of home schooling, and she was right!  Her two distinct smile dimples where now the neon signs we saw.  The anger that was budding up left her like the opening of a rose.  Different interest sprang within her as we began our Washington State History travel course.  Visiting these predetermined historical sites of Washington State and tweaking an interest in history became a passion.  Now it’s Stephanie asking to visit a museum or stopping to study a roadside historical marker. 

Set backs are just a part of life for Stephanie.  Life just is not normal without some type of challenge.  Steph decided to write a K-2 workbook for children to learn Washington State History.  Her hope was to spark the same interest in history that she enjoys.  No one at home told her that it is not normal for a 14 year old to write a book, so… she just did it.  Forty pages of fun filled activities, completed when the computer hard-drive crashed.  

Here we go again, this is the life of Stephanie.  She is born with a stroke, the kids reject her, and when she does something great it disappears.  But, when you get Stephanie there is one thing that comes along with her, persistence.  About six months later I found a hard copy of her previous work and all those tears turned to cheers as she stayed up late, night after night, working to re-create and add more activities for her history book.

The next week at the Washington’s Home School Conference was her opening debut.  Stephanie was hoping to sell 10 copies but made 20 “just in case.” She sold out after the first day and that night had 30 more printed up.  People who came by her Washington State History booth loved the activity book and at $5.00 a book they seemed to fly off the shelf.   I listened as one patron asked her what she was going to do with the money, Stephanie replied, “Now I can pay for my car insurance and save a bunch for the missions trip to Honduras that our youth group (First Baptist of Marysville) is planning.  We are going to help the local Church build their own building.”

I remember the first time she mentioned this missions trip. “Daddy I need a job so I can make $1,500 for a missions trip to Honduras.”  The same day she designed and printed handfuls of resumes and went job hunting.  After months of not landing a job she continued. 

Stephanie did NOT give up; after all, this is Stephanie.  Ideas sprout in her mind like a batch of popcorn ready to expand.  She came to me and said,  “Dad, I have orders for 39 pies.”  My mouth dropped, I envisioned spending nights trying to help her make pies, and where was she going to get the berries?”  After making a few encouraging comments I kept quiet and watched.  Earlier, Stephanie had looked in the freezer and saw the years of raspberries and wild blackberries piling up so she decided to clean it out.  She started making pies. 16 pies EVERY night for five nights (I didn’t realize we had stored up over 80 quarts of berries.)  She sold the pies for a donation and placed a little thank you card on every pie explaining the missions trip to Honduras.

One day she made 16 extra pies, but Stephanie had no fear of selling them and within 20 minutes they were all sold.  It was neat how she recruited Brianna, her younger but much stronger sister.  I heard the story from one customer, “There these two teenager girls were, one carrying this heavy box of pies while the lanky Stephanie chatted to everyone she saw” (did I mention Stephanie could talk the ears off a mule?)  She earned over $700 at the end of the pie adventure.  Yesterday Joan and I found Stephanie in the raspberry field weeding and singing away.  I can already predict the outcome of wild blackberry season …. because of Stephanie’s persistence, our former 80 quarts of berries will seem like mere pitance.

One Saturday before making the pies, she decided to cut out and sew two skirts for two of her sisters to wear on Sunday.  While the pies baked and cooled, two by two, Stephanie was at the computer creating another activity sheet for her book.

Although Stephanie does not attend the public High School (over 2000 students) she does her home schooling through a Home link program where she teams with many encouraging friends that have gone through similar valleys.   

Watching Stephanie struggling through her handicap I started thinking… “Do we have it wrong? Are we not the ones who are handicapped?” 

Hello, I was recently told about NATHHAN from a friend. Checked out your web site, but didn't see any C.P. listings.  Did I miss something?  My daughter is 2 1/2, has C.P. and was severely mentally handicapped at birth.  Was hoping for some Christian resources. Thanks for any suggestions.

Lorie Franke