Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Rising Above Limits and Labels

Shanna McCoy

From 1993 to 1995, Shanna McCoy served on the Governor's Developmental Disability Planning Council for Arkansas, and is still a member of the Arkansas Disability Coalition. Image courtesy Neurology Now Nov/Dec Vol. 6 Iss. 6.

This short article in the November/December 2010 issue of Neurology Now magazine is equal parts infuriating, saddening, and hopefull and uplifting. Quite a cocktail in one woman’s story, but it is an exemplary story of perserverance, advocacy, and why it is so important to fight the boudaries and limitations that some doctors and educators put on disability, and worse, on the individuals with disability.

At 18 months old, Shanna McCoy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The cause was severe brain trauma from a forceps injury during birth. Still, no one volunteered this information to McCoy’s mother; a receptionist had accidentally left McCoys medical records on the desk and her mother had decided to look through them.

The pediatrician had told McCoy’s mother that her daughter would never read, walk, or talk, to which her mother responded, “My daughter will be walking by the time I’m through.”

She was true to her word. It took McCoy a long time to even be able to sit and stand on her own, but two and a half years later she was walking, just like her mother had promised. Her mother didn’t stop there, and developed a grueling regimine of exercise, practiced reading, homework, and learning to walk–with the help of a 20-poind metal day brace and a 40-pound metal night brace. Of course there were battles between mother and daughter, and McCoy recalls her childhood revolt not to wear the uncomfortable night braces and sneeking them off when she thought her mother was asleep only to wake up in the morning and find that her mother had put them back on her while she slept.

McCpy also recalls the hurtful things that teachers and officials told her and her mother such as “She belongs in the retarded class,” the first day of first grade, or her fifth grade math teacher telling her “Instead of your mother puttin pretty bows in your head, she should have given you a brain,” and insisting that she wasn’t going to treat McCoy special just because her mother insisted on “window dressinf a retarded kid.” And while her own classmates treated her cruelly and teased her, McCoy’s mother gracefully stood arms against school board officials and principals demanding that McCoy be labeled “retarded” so as not to be judged unfairly on the basis of her physical disability.

But McCoy’s mother’s ever vigilant and grueling regimine of study and exercise soon saw McCoy on the honor roll. She joined the marching band and became heavily involved in speech and drama classes in junior high and high school. And just as her mother had said, McCoy was accepted into college.

But in the winter of 1990, McCoy’s mother, her rock and supporter, passed away. Devastated, McCoy told herself she couldn’t finish college, not on her own. McCoy recalls reflecting on all the confidence her mother had instilled in her over the years and she did go on to earn her degree.

McCoy continued to push the boundaries that doctors had put before her. Having been told as a child that she would never be able to have children, McCoy is now the proud mother of an 11-year old boy, Justin Tyler Abraham.

From 1993-1995 Shanna McCoy served on the Governor’s Developmental Disability Planning Council for Arkansas, and is still a member of the Arkansas Disability Coalition.

Read the full article in Shanna McCoy’s own words in the November/December Vol. 6 Iss. 6 of Neurology Now magazine or here on their website. You can also download the PDF version of the article here.

McCoy, Shanna. “Speak Up: Rising Above Limits and Labels—I Fulfilled My Dreams in Spite of a Cerebral Palsy.” Neurology Now 6.6 (2010): 40. Print.


Neuro Film Festival 2011

Neuro Film Festival
One in six Americans is affected by a brain disorder such as as Alzheimer’s disease, migraine, autism, MS, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, ALS, stroke, and more. In an effort to support brain research, the Neuro Film Festival has opened a contest–make a film about your story (or the story of a loved one) affected by a brain disorder. Eligible entries could win up to $1,000 and a trip to see your film screened at the 2011 Neuro Film Festival and American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting held in Hawaii. Learn more about the project rules and requirement and judging criteria here. Deadline is February 15, 2011.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Neuro Film Festival 2011, posted with vodpod

Happy Holidays


Image from

The staff of DSS at GCCC would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

ReWalk with Glee

This, the second season, of Fox’s hit show Glee has seen Artie become a football player (he and his teammates cleverly deciding to use Artie and his wheelchair as a battering ram on the field), and last week we saw him stand thanks to a wish to Santa from Brittany (who still believes ^_^), and the use of an ingenious robotic system called the ReWalk.


Kevin McHale as Artie from the hit Fox show Glee. Image via Google search.

Since first airing, the show’s Artie character has been a large source of praise and debate, being both praised for the show’s topical content on some very big social issues regarding disability to ctiticisms for not choosing an actor who is in real life a paraplegic.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, last week’s episode, A Very Glee Christmas (here’s a temporary link to watch the full episode), featured a unique device called the ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Founded in 2001 and located in Haifa’s MATAM hi-tech industrial park, Argo operated, until end of 2007, under the auspices of the TechnionSeed (formerly the Technion Incubator), part of the Technion – Israel’s renowned Institute of Technology. The ReWalk is the company’s flagship of innovative development of walk restoration devices for people with lower limb disabilities. The product offers an ambulation alternative to wheelchair users, enabling paralyzed people to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. Click here to read more on the ReWalk and how it works.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image via ARGO.

The ReWalk is a wearable, motorized quasi robotic suit that provides user-initiated mobility. Through leveraging advanced motion sensors, some sophisticated robotic control algorithms, on-board computers, real-time software, actuation motors, some composite materials, and good ole’ fashion rechargeable batteries, the ReWalk creates movement through sublte changes in the user’s center of gravity and upper-body movements.

Some of the benefits to this ultra-nifty device:

this user participation in mobility brings tangible health and emotional benefits. ReWalk™ is not just a vertical wheelchair – ReWalk™ restores the element of control over mobility so lacking for wheelchair users.

As any sedentary wheelchair user can attest, life in a wheelchair carries a hefty healthcare price tag. Serious problems with the urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems are common, as well as osteoporosis, pressure sores and other afflictions.

By maintaining users upright on a daily basis, and exercising even paralyzed limbs in the course of movement, ReWalk™ alleviates many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use. In addition to relieving suffering, this has a real impact on healthcare costs – cutting yearly expenses almost in half, and enabling both insurers and individuals to redirect funds to other avenues.

Read more on the ReWalk here.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image courtesy ARGO.

The ReWalk not only has possibilities for personal mobility, its use would also drastically cut the need and cost of owning standing devices, stair lifts, bed lifts, and other mobility assistance apparatus or even the need of owning expensive powered wheelchairs. For theraputic institutions, the ReWalk has potential as a theraputic or physical training device, used for intensive functional locomotion therapy, and could replace the use of expensive mechanized gait trainers.

The ReWalk is designed for all day usage and requires the user to have the ability to use hands and shoulders and have a healthy cardiovascular system and bone density.

Videos of the ReWalk in action (other than its appearance in Glee ^_^), as well as some videos of its media coverage, are available on ARGO’s website.

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