Jordan Miller is seated alone at a long table in a Baltimore County elementary school. He’s a quiet boy of 10 amidst a room of rowdier children playing together, and at first glance looks just like your typical third grader. But he’s not.
When Jordan notices his mother, Leah, he smiles widely, happy to see her. When he waves, his hand is clenched awkwardly. The arm that propels it is strangely crooked at the wrist. Both are indications he has cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a childhood motor disability which affects two out of every 1,000 children. An often debilitating disorder, CP can result in problems relating to speech, cognitive processing, seizures, eye movements, and most commonly, impairment in motor function resulting in limitations in mobility and hand use. This explains why many of Jordan’s muscles, including his legs and arms, are permanently tight or contracted, making certain movements difficult.
When Jordan was an infant, Leah explains, “He wasn’t meeting milestones, wasn’t rolling over, wasn’t sitting up.” Fearful that something was wrong, she took him to her pediatrician who then referred her to Kennedy Krieger, where he was diagnosed. Ever since, Kennedy Krieger has followed Jordan’s progress and provided speech, physical, and occupational therapies, all designed to help him gain more mobility and independence. Despite his age, he frequently worries about his future. He has even asked if his CP might some day disappear.
Recently, Jordan was mainstreamed into a public school, a situation that speaks to Kennedy Krieger’s mission and Jordan’s unwavering determination. Still, with new situations come new problems. Typical childhood social challenges are further complicated by his special needs. On the playground or basketball court, his motion is limited. When well-meaning students give him a ball to throw or dribble, he eventually nudges at it with a foot, unable to do what other children take for granted. Despite the challenges he faces everyday, Jordan just wants to be part of the team—like most kids his age.
Leah, who is seated across the room from Jordan, calls him over. Excited, he swipes his aluminum walker and bangs across the cluttered space like a slightly reckless driver. It’s a wonderful scene. Standing in front of his mother, he pokes his glasses and smiles. He tells her about his day. Somewhat surprisingly, his favorite class was gym. Not so much of a surprise is that his least favorite was math. “Math is hard,” he says—much like your typical third grader.