Brian's Dream

October 16, 2006 by Linda Bidabe

Linda is founder and author of the MOVE (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) Curriculum, a revolutionary approach that helps children with severe disabilities to sit, stand, and walk. Developed in the Kern County Schools of California, MOVE has spread to England, Australia and many other countries. For more information contact the MOVE International Foundation or call 1-800-397-MOVE (6683).

Brian had a dream. But when his mother, brought him to see us, he was through with therapy. A seventeen-year-old with cerebral palsy, there was nothing particularly striking about Brian. He had light brown hair and a narrow face, shaved. His thin frame folded into his wheelchair, which his hands were strong enough to propel. He spoke with difficulty, yet not unintelligibly. In short, he was a normal CP teen.

He attended public high school and took special classes (Brian was a little learning disabled) but was integrated into regular classes with the other seniors wherever possible. Brian’s physical condition made school strenuous, at best. Furthermore, he absolutely refused therapy. It was painful, and boring. He wanted to get on with his life without being poked and prodded, coaxed and cajoled at inconvenient intervals. He’d had to undergo abductor release surgery, a procedure in which the tendons of the legs are lengthened, and his legs had been placed in great, cumbersome casts that held them apart and made him uncomfortable. But the surgery hadn’t stopped him from losing more ground, and now his hips were dislocating again. He was going to need more surgery - and he wasn’t going to cooperate.

That was when his mother, desperate, came to us and literally begged us to do something to keep Brian from having to go through another large surgery. We agreed to let Brian try MOVE for a few weeks. She brought him in, and I gave him his first top-down test, to establish his capabilities.

Two months later, Brian achieved his first goal: unassisted standing. I congratulated him in a quiet way, and told him, "We still have a few months left before you graduate high school. What else would you like to work on?" His eyes lit up as he said, "I’ve been thinking. And what I really want to do is walk across the stage to get my diploma." But where I saw Brian trucking across the stage with the aid of his gait trainer, he envisioned himself walking across the stage. Crossing the stage on his own, walking.

Graduation might be only weeks away, but that made no difference to Brian. He wasn’t afraid of hard work. We helped him to his feet. His knees wobbled. We held our breath as his body lurched with every precarious step he tried. He fell down. We picked him up, and he kept going. He worked until time was up.

On graduation night Brian was in line with the other seniors. He was in his wheelchair down in front of the auditorium’s stage. From my seat alongside his parents back in the audience, I watched him. He was concentrating hard, I could tell. Carefully Brian got up out of his wheelchair. He held his hands out to steady himself. The contractures in his knees kept him from straightening, but he held his balance as, with a hand on the railing and his eyes on his feet, he climbed the stage steps.

And then slowly, very slowly, Brian walked across the stage. I was aware of the silence all around me as Brian reached center stage, and (just like we’d practiced) reached out his right hand to shake the administrator’s and accept his diploma. Then, very carefully, he shuffled his feet until he was standing with his shoulders squared to the audience. Brian looked out into the crowd, raised his hand, and moved his tassel across his mortarboard. And then the whole place fell apart. Three thousand people rose to their feet, cheering and shrieking for Brian in spontaneous pandemonium.

They understood. They had got it. Every single person in that auditorium knew that Brian had graduated with a real education, one worth more than any transcript or SAT score - an education that would carry him through life. They understood that this was Brian’s moment. This was about his pride, about his tough haul. For a moment, they shared a glimpse of his dream.

NoOrdinaryMoveInformation reproduced with permission.
Bidabe, D.L. (2001). No Ordinary Move . Farmington PA, Plough. © 2001 Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

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