Mark Riley is an 11 year old boy who has cerebral palsy, a developmental disability that affects the ability to control movement. The muscles in Mark’s mouth, hands, and legs are affected. Mark’s problems with muscle tone make him unable to walk. This doesn’t stop Mark, though! He uses his “cruiser” or wheelchair to get around and loves the freedom it gives him.
In addition to muscle stiffness, the kind of cerebral palsy Mark has can cause seizures. That’s why he wears a helmet. During a seizure, he might fall out of his chair and hit his head. Mark says, “I wear this helmet to protect my great brains!”
For Mark, one of the hardest parts of having cerebral palsy is talking, because the muscles in his mouth and throat are stiff. His words come out slowly and sound slurred, and it is sometimes hard for people to understand what he is saying. Mark is working with a speech-language pathologist, Ms. Johnson, who helps him learn how to better control his muscles so he can swallow more easily and is able to speak more clearly.
Mark works with an occupational therapist, Tricia, who comes to his classroom two days a week. Since the muscles in Mark’s hands are stiff, Tricia helps him with basic hand skills like grasping and holding objects. She taught him how to write using a large pencil with a special grip, but his favorite way to write is to use a computer. With Tricia he works on classroom skills and learns strategies to help him with everyday tasks.
Mark also works with a physical therapist, Roger, who helps Mark by developing exercises to improve coordination and balance. He gives Mark exercises to do at home to help loosen, strengthen and prevent further stiffness of muscles. These exercises involve stretching and positioning arm and leg muscles.
Mark and his family recently moved to a new neighborhood. Mark has an identical twin brother, Michael, who does not have a disability and a little sister, Suzette. They’ve been making lots of new friends at their school. Mark is now in the fifth grade and is included in all activities. The subjects he likes the best are history, math and lunch! He is also a reporter for the school newspaper, The Woodburn Gazette, and he loves to write stories, especially sports articles. One of Mark’s favorite things about his new school is that it’s close to his house and he can “cruise” to school instead of taking the bus.
Mark has a great sense of humor and is very outgoing! He has a positive, optimistic outlook. He likes to try new things and approaches new challenges with a courageous attitude. As Mark says, “I’m a regular kid and I like it when people treat me like one.”