Dennis is a research coordinator at Duke Integrative Medicine. He’s working on a National Institutes of Health-funded study regarding the effect of mindfulness training impacts a cluster of biobehavioral factors implicated in cardiovascular disease risk. A strong advocate of complementary medicine, he regularly practices medication as part of his mindful stress-reduction regimen, in addition to exercising, weight lifting and dancing.
While studying film production in college, Zach started a sketch comedy show with a group of other students. His penchant for quirky comedy led from local comedy troupe productions to a television show of his own, produced by none other than Oprah Winfrey.
Since the age of 8, Bella has played soccer with a local team. Along with being an avid cycler, she indulges in more extreme outdoor sports like canoeing and high ropes courses.
What all these people have in common is more than a lust for life and a drive for taking action on their passions.
They are also people who were born with a birth defect.
Thriving Against the Odds
Cerebral palsy, Erbs palsy and spina bifida are among the most common birth defects today. In the past, the mortality and quality-of-life statistics for children diagnosed with birth defects like these was very bleak. But today, not only do most patients live for many years — they also can grow up to enjoy a high quality of life. There are success stories abound of patients who enjoy education, competitive sports and active social lives.
One key to thriving with cerebral palsy, Erbs palsy or spina bifida is early and appropriate management of symptoms. Young adults affected by these conditions face challenges with learning to take care of their own health needs, finding and using transportation and living outside their parents’ home. In reality, these are normal challenges for any young person transitioning to adulthood — patients of cerebral palsy, Erbs palsy and spina bifida just have more specific functional challenges involved.
One such challenge is, of course, finding work. Fortunately, several advocacy groups exist to help patients in finding a job that fits well with their individual needs and health concerns, as well as their particular talents and interests.
1. Spina Bifida
Spina bifida patients can get assistance from the Spina Bifida Association’s FlexJobs program, which is accessible online, as well as through the Spina Bifida Association’s 125 regional chapters. Part-time positions are often the best option for spina bifida patients, as well as positions that allow for telecommuting (or, as it’s more commonly known, working from home). Among the current listings on FlexJobs are positions for a database coordinator, magazine editor and executive director of a D.C.-based nonprofit. In addition to listing jobs like these and helping with placement, the Spina Bifida Association helps thousands of spina bifida patients by providing them with education, advocacy, research and service.
2. Cerebral Palsy
The organization United Cerebral Palsy has a comprehensive database for those living with the condition. It lists educational and legal resources for those seeking employment, as well as several job boards directed specifically toward those living with disabilities, including cerebral palsy. In addition, the page offers several links with information and advice on entrepreneurship.
In the UCP’s words: “small business ownership and other self-employment options are viable employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.”
3. Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is a condition that presents more specific, localized challenges of motor function. But as Tampa Bay Buccaneer first-round draft pick Adrian Clayborn shows, the stunted growth and partial paralysis resulting from the condition doesn’t have to limit even the most physically demanding ambitions for a career. In Clayborn’s words, the key to reaching your career potential with a condition like Erb’s Palsy is to keep pushing.
“People told me I’d never play football. I kept going. Whatever you dream, don’t let anyone take it from you.”
At The Oshman Firm, we are experienced in helping parents of children diagnosed with birth defect obtain the resources they need to secure great treatment and promote their quality of life. Call us at 800.400.8182 or fill out the form on the right side of this page to learn more about how we may be able to help you.