Melvin Reyes, who was born in Puerto Rico, will be 7 years old in September 2006. Melvin has had cerebral palsy ever since his difficult birth, which was preceded by a problematic pregnancy and induced late labor. Doctors told his mother Katherine, “He won't be able to do anything.”
Then, when Melvin was 5 years old, they moved to Florida, and Melvin began to attend Buckingham Exceptional Student Center. At that time, he could not sit anywhere without falling over onto his side, he couldn't walk, and was dependent on a wheelchair. His only movement was scooting himself along on the floor. His mom wanted him to be able to walk, and would carry him around most of the time.
On his first day at the Center, Melvin was placed in the Pacer with the Arm, Chest and Hip Positioner prompts. Once in the Pacer, Melvin took off...running...laughing...And when Melvin was taken out, he kept trying to climb back into the Pacer. He ended up spending a good deal of that first day walking back and forth in the Pacer, and when his Mom came to pick him up - there he was, outside with the other students - on his first day!
Buckingham Exceptional Student Center took part in the Spring 2005 Special Olympics. About 140 area students joined in the Elementary School Field Day at LeHigh Acres Veterans Park. For the first time, students were allowed to participate with Pacers. By that time, Melvin was using the Pacer with the Arm Prompts only.
A crowd of supporters lined the 25-meter walk-and-run event. They cheered as students pushed and pulled themselves along. Melvin came in first (by a long way) with everyone cheering and his family watching. The LeHigh NewsStar ran an article on the event, with a big photo of Melvin pulling out ahead to cross the finish line.
Between use of the Pacer, and Melvin's incorporation into Buckingham's MOVE program, Melvin showed steady progress. He became stronger, and his balance improved. Every gain was a cause of celebration, and Melvin's mom could hardly believe her fortune in moving to Florida and enrolling in this school.
Kimberly Rose, Melvin's MOVE-trained Special Education teacher, says: 'Since the first day at our school, Melvin has continued to progress, removing Pacer prompts, improving his gait to taking measured steps, increasing his awareness of surroundings, communicating where he wants to go, and overall enjoying life. We are very proud of Melvin and his success.'
Kim Rose uses Arts-For-All equipment with her class, which is a fun way to motivate students and allow them to be creative, outdoors on pavement. The art equipment has a universal attachment hook-up that goes onto the child’s adaptive mobility equipment. There is a bubble blower, a chalk drawer, and paint roller, all of which Melvin can do with his Pacer!
Melvin’s mom, Katherine, says: ''I count it all as blessing. If I had it to do over again, I would. I'd do anything for my son. I sometimes think, if we could have started this sooner, with him being younger, then what would he be doing now!'
Even as it is, there is a new surprise almost every day with Melvin. Now he can sit anywhere, on a chair or bed or any surface, and maintain his sitting balance. He can walk with only one hand held. Or by himself if holding onto the handrail in the school hallway! Although Melvin uses his wheelchair on the bus or for long walks, he walks more and more during the day.
Melvin cannot speak, but he can communicate. At home, he holds his mom's hand and drags her into the kitchen when he is hungry. He even points to his diaper and drags her toward the bathroom when he needs hygiene assistance. For fun, his mom drops some crumpled paper on the floor: 'Help pick it up, Melvin, this should go into the trash.' And Melvin knows where the trashcan is, and takes it there! His mom tells us Melvin can understand both English and Spanish. A big surprise happened the other day, when Melvin got up from a sitting position on the bed and independently took 2 or 3 steps. Katherine was elated.
She says: “Ever since Melvin was born, he has been someone who likes challenge. He never gives up and when he tries to do something and he can’t, he will try again until he gets it right. When the doctors told me Melvin only had 24 hours to live, I couldn’t believe it. I thank God for letting me keep Melvin. I love him.”
We thank Melvin, his mom, and teacher for sharing this inspiring story. Congratulations to Melvin and the Buckingham Exceptional Student Center for the first prize win at the Special Olympics! There will be more successes ahead, and Rifton is proud to be a part of it.
If you would like Arts-For-All equipment for your special education class, contact:
ZOT ARTZ ARTS FOR ALL
10 S. 5th St., P.O. Box 767
Bayfield, WI 54814