What I Wish You Knew – Teagan’s Story.

homecoming-1

“And the winner of Homecoming Queen 2016 is Teagan Motschall!” September 23, 2016 was a special day for Poudre High School. It was homecoming week; it was a football victory over Rocky Mountain High School; and it was a win for the whole Poudre High School community. That evening, 19-year-old Teagan, with an infectious smile, was queen for the night. Teagan, who is beset by health complications and unable to speak without assistive technology, sparkled like the gem she is.

Teagan’s childhood was a fight from her first moments. At birth, Teagan suffered a brain injury that would significantly affect her brain. Within 6 minutes of her birth, baby Teagan began what would become a life of seizures. Through determination, fight and her faith, Teagan has made the most of life with, and despite, her limitations. To friends and family, she is the sassy girl with a great sense of humor.

Being the oldest of four children, Teagan’s siblings have never known a life untouched by Family photo (2).pngdisability. Teagan’s brother Taylor, who is 13 months younger, has helped her become the young woman she is. He treats her the same as anyone else. As children often do, he expected a lot from her. He didn’t stop to consider her limitations; instead, he pushed her beyond them. The night Teagan was nominated for Homecoming Queen, her whole family, including her brother who made the hour drive from college, were there cheering her on. As we sat and visited for this article, Teagan scrolled through years of photos saved on her phone, beaming with pride over pictures and videos of her sisters and brother.

“We are better people for having her in our family,” shares mom Christine. They have had enough close calls to know how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone. When Teagan was eleven she experienced an allergic reaction to pain medication. One evening while napping on the family’s couch, she became unresponsive and her heart stopped.  She had for all intents and purposes died. Paramedics were called and revived Teagan. “We got her back!” says Christine.

Over the last year and a half Teagan has become a beloved member of the Poudre High School Community. “I am so happy that Teagan came to Poudre High School and that I have been one of her teachers. She brings the best kind of energy to our school; she not only has a great sense of humor, but also real determination to try everything and have fun while she’s doing it. She is an incredibly valuable member of Poudre High School and will be truly missed when she graduates this year!” Lisa Owsley, Integrated Service teacher, shared.

“The thing I appreciate and cherish most about Teagan is her sense of humor. That girl is one of the funniest people I know. She’s also incredibly caring and has a great attitude. basketballSometimes I catch her playing with my hair and loving on me, just because. She’s got so much love in her heart and she radiates that to everybody she meets. In Unified basketball, I might have perfected her shooting form but in high school she didn’t need my help. She has shaped me into a better human being and has helped me be successful in viewing things in a different perspective. Teagan has been successful at PHS in the fact that she has touched so many people’s hearts. She is unafraid to make new friends and is very accepting of everyone. She puts her all into her academics, sports, and the meaningful relationships she creates along the way. I am truly blessed to call Teagan Motschall my friend,” shares classmate and friend Madi Giles. Whether it’s secret handshakes or playing together on snapchat, Teagan has been accepted and loved by her community and peers.

taylor-swift
(Teagan and her favorite artist Taylor Swift)

Teagan’s favorite class is PE with Mr. Goyler, so it’s no wonder she is active in Poudre High School’s Unified flag football and basketball teams. She spends free time with her family, care takers and her Capernum (Young Life) group.

“We are so grateful for the Poudre High School kids, Ms. Owsley, paras and teachers.” Christine, Teagan’s mom, shared why Teagan is thriving at school. “I genuinely believe it [the school culture toward people with disabilities] comes from the top down at Poudre. Lisa has revolutionized how typical kids’ attitudes have changed toward students with needs. Lisa gets everyone excited! She loves her students! She is amazing with all of the students.” Christine had no shortage of praise for the PHS staff, in particular Lisa Owsley. “Every time I am around her I think, I want to be like Lisa, to love as much as Lisa does.”

In addition to the Poudre High School community, the Motschall family is excited about and supportive of High Pointe Services. High Pointe Services is an organization that provides private care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A variety of services are offered based upon the needs and desires of each client. By partnering with PHS, High Point, and home care providers, Teagan’s family is given the chance to be father, mother, brother, sisters and not simply care takers.

It’s not hard to figure out why Teagan was elected Homecoming Queen by her peers. She is brave, resilient, sassy and inspiring. I dare you to see her smile and not return it in full.homecoming-2-2

Poudre School District Integrated Services

Director: Sarah Belleau

2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Advertisements

What I Wish You Knew – Hettie’s Story.

pic 1For the past 2 years, Poudre School District’s Integrated Services Department has been fortunate to have Hettie Hueber as a part of the team. As a mother of four children, the youngest of which has Down Syndrome, she has offered a unique perspective and insight to a department that is charged with the care and wellbeing of students with disabilities.

To understand Hettie, you must rewind the clock eight-plus years. After raising two children to adulthood, Hettie found herself the mother of a toddler with another baby on the way. When Cora, the youngest of the four came along, life changed forever. Cora was one of about 6,000 babies born in the United States each year with Down Syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

“In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.” (For this information and more regarding Down syndrome visit NationalDownSyndromeSociety.org)

Apart from concerns related to a heart condition Cora was born with, the Hueber family was elated to have their beautiful baby join their clan. Hettie did not let the concerns of others weigh her down. “I never needed to grieve,” shared Hettie, though she did wish that people would have congratulated her on her baby girl rather than offer condolences. Life had changed forever, by offering a brighter outlook on life! Cora has brought perspective and spunk to the family. “There are enough negative things happening in the world; it helps you focus on the positive and what is important,” says Hettie.

When asked what she wished people knew about her, the most important take-away was that being the mother of a child with a disability is not a tragedy. She believes the most important thing you can teach your children is to be kind. “You can be tenacious, driven and successful in this world and still be kind.” As a self-proclaimed “inclusionist”, Hettie’s desire is that all students everywhere be taught together. By helping children understand and embrace kindness, combined with growing up together all throughout their school years, she trusts that a world of accepting and inclusive adults will be formed.

We wish Hettie good luck on her next journey of student teaching in Early Childhood Education.

photo 2

What I Wish You Knew: Libby’s Story.

 

DSC_0035

“It’s just the way I was born,” she said so matter of fact.  Making it through the world as a 14 year old young lady is a challenge in itself.  When obstacles that come along with cerebral palsy are added to the teen years, you see true strength and resilience emerge. Libby’s confidence comes shining through when asked what she would like strangers to know above all else. “If you push yourself far enough you can do anything” she responded.

Libby and her twin brother James were born 11 weeks prematurely. Right away doctors knew that Libby had cerebral palsy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, “The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves.  It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.”

DSC_0015At birth, Libby’s complications were more significant than her brother’s. However, at 5 weeks of age, James suffered a stroke which left him with extremely high muscle tone and the inability to communicate verbally,  among other complications. Libby and James share a unique and special bond as twins. She understands James and what his needs are, enabling her to help when there is a necessity. “I feel like he’s my age but I still watch over him more,” she shared. Twin life for Libby isn’t all unity all of the time. Like many siblings close in age, they argue and have a little sibling rivalry. Over the years, Libby’s parents have instituted different “birthdays” so that each has the opportunity to be celebrated as an individual.

Libby’s wisdom and confidence are far beyond her years. She has learned to overcome things that may have taken a lifetime for others.  After a tough 6th grade year with typical “girl drama”, as she referred to it, Libby learned the importance of keeping her head in her school work, refusing to get caught up in gossip and hurt feelings. She now has straight A’s in her classes at Poudre High School.DSC_0038

Along with maintaining her grade point average, Libby has participated in
activities like wheelchair basketball, swimming and equine therapy. The challenges of cerebral palsy are real and a part of Libby’s everyday life. Things most take for granted require more time and a lot of energy for Libby to accomplish. Her day is full of transfers (moving in and out of her wheelchair) which can be very tiring. Writing with a pen or pencil takes Libby extra time and attention. Libby doesn’t let it get her down. She uses all that life has set in her lap to inspire others. She hopes to inspire younger children who are in a wheelchair by teaching them not to limit themselves based on their circumstance.

Through life’s ups and downs, Libby has upheld her amazing perspective.  DSC_0043She refuses to view things that do not work out as failures but instead as a learning opportunity. For example, after a season of basketball she found that she just didn’t have the speed required to keep up with her peers. Instead of being discouraged by that, she smiled and chose to look forward to her next possible adventure. There is no doubt that she is already achieving her goal of inspiring both young and old alike.

 

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                               Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                               2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

What I Wish You Knew: Tyler’s Story.

DSC_0158 (2)

When asked “if there was anything you could share with the world, what would it be”, Tyler didn’t hesitate. “I wish people knew that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.” This subject hits very close to home for Tyler and his family.

In his 15 years of life Tyler has endured a lot. At the age of 8, while in the prime of his mini-cup driving career, Tyler became ill with what the family thought was a stomach bug. When his throwing up persisted, he was tested and the results came back with the dreaded “C” word. Tyler was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumor found in children. His particular type of cancer accounts for 18% of all pediatric brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

Tyler’s first course of treatment was an 8 hour surgery to remove tumors. Surgery was followed by 31 rounds of radiation and 9 major chemo treatment over 15 months. The cancer treatments were extremely hard on his body. “He would cry in his sleep because it hurt so much,” says Carrie, Tyler’s mom. While Tyler’s memories of the grueling months of treatment are hazy, he can still recall the pain.

Cancer 2So this brave young man has made it his personal mission to educate his community about Childhood Cancer. It comes down to simple math; the more awareness there is for cancer in children, the more donations and funding are given. The more donations and funding that occur, the more research happens and treatment options are created, equaling more opportunities for sick and dying children. According to the I Care I Cure Childhood Cancer Foundation, each year in the United States 13,500 children, age 19 and under, are diagnosed with cancer. Each day 36 children are diagnosed. These numbers all add up to cancer being the leading cause of death among children under of the age of 15 in the United States. Despite having a gentle voice, Tyler is doing all that he can to assure that his message is heard. In September, with the help of Fort Collins High School Speech and Language Clinician, Colleen Reyes, Tyler shared his cause at school.  He set up a table where he passed out free yellow ribbons to raise awareness among his peers and school staff about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer has shaped Tyler in a profound way. Like many cancer survivors, there are side effects that accompany treatment.  Tyler’s pituitary gland was damaged from treatment, which requires that take medications for the rest of his life, one of which is hormone replacement. With treatment he will continue to grow, however it will occur at a slower rate than his peers. Sometimes peers don’t understand why Tyler is smaller and can be unkind.  With strength and determination Tyler uses his experience to educate people and fight for his fellow cancer patients.

After a fight for his life, Tyler is now cancer free!  As a cancer survivor, Tyler is plagued by the constant fear of cancer reoccurring. “The hardest part of having cancer was to deal with having friends going through it,” said Tyler. “He watched a lot of friends die,” added Carrie. Tyler’s first friend he battled cancer with was recently diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer after 5 years being clear. “(It’s) hard to not know what is going to happen and what is in the future,” shared Tyler.


 Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Tyler found himself in another fight for his life. When Tyler was 5 years old he starting racing mini-cup cars competitively. “He was really good!” shared mom Carrie.  While he was going through his cancer treatment the racing community rallied around him as one of their own. It was no surprise that as soon as his body was up to it, Tyler jumped back into the driver’s seat. The first race back, after winning the fight with cancer, Tyler suffered a car accident that left him in a coma. Six days after his accident, Tyler woke in a hospital with no memory of what had happened. As a result of the accident he suffered a traumatic brain injury. He spent 6 weeks in the hospital, re-learning basic skills such as walking, eating and much more. Tyler has new struggles and is figuring out how to live life under a new set of circumstances, but the 15 year old is forging ahead. His strength, courage and true selflessness in the face of adversity are inspiring and something we can all strive to achieve.photo 1

The Morgan Adams Foundation and Miracle Party are a few of the organizations Tyler supports in his quest to bring awareness.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521