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Sarah – Beating the Odds!

How She Overcame Cerebral Palsy

by Sara Erling M.ED.

“Program has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. For many years, the focus was primarily on addressing my physical, visual, and processing abilities. Despite ongoing physical and visual challenges, by the time I got through high school and into college, I had a solid foundation for academic success. My program has always been tailored to address my specific needs at any given point in time.

Being on an NACD program has made me very self-aware and has given me the self-knowledge necessary to effectively advocate for myself. Ultimately, it has provided me with a foundation I can build on for the rest of my life. I will be forever grateful to everyone at NACD for helping me grow into the young woman I am today.” – Sarah Benedix

Sarah was a preemie, had been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, right hemiparesis, and strabismus, and she was fed through a G-tube. When she was a baby, her parents came to NACD, as they were determined to help Sarah reach her fullest potential. I first started working with Sarah back in the early 2000s when I started traveling to Chicago to conduct the evaluations there. She was around six years old and had beautiful blonde braids with big blue eyes. She was already quite smart and witty at that time! When I stopped traveling as much to have my own babies, she started working with Ellen Doman. Fourteen years later, I was able to increase my travel again and returned to the Chicago chapter. It made me feel very old to work with Sarah again, as she was no longer the little girl in pigtails, but an accomplished young woman! What a transformation!

Over the years of being on an NACD program, Sarah’s parents worked very hard to develop her ability to walk, to eat, to use her eyes together, her fine motor development, her ability to communicate, and to think (cognition). As many parents of children with CP often face, working with muscles, tendons, and structural issues is not an easy task. However, if we simultaneously work to build a child’s cognition, it makes working with their bodies and physical development significantly easier. Because Sarah’s processing and global cognition was really high, it was, and still is, much easier for her to understand how to place her body, how to direct her movements, and how and why she needed to work on certain muscle groups. Sarah can walk well, run, do yoga, and really enjoys bike riding. Sarah could be taught how to do certain exercises by herself to assist in her gait and could understand how to do them correctly through verbal cues. In her words, she is very self aware.

Over the past 20+ years of being a part of our organization, Sarah has blown us away with her accomplishments. She received a Masters degree in Sports Administration from Valparaiso University in August 2019. She graduated in May of 2021 with her SECOND Masters Degree in Disability Services in Higher Education from CUNY School of Professional Studies. With this degree, Sarah hopes to “advocate for other students with disabilities in the future.” She is ready to fly. Sarah, we are all so very proud of you and feel blessed to have watched you grow into one pretty cool human!

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Reprinted by permission of The NACD Foundation, Volume 34 No.6, 2021 ©NACD

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