Determination Is Key to Success This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 26, 2012
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Everyday when Patrick, my brother, got home from physical therapy, he would scream and cry and throw a temper tantrum involving hitting, throwing things around the house, and making loud, piercing noises.
“Why is Patrick so loud and obnoxious?” I asked once when I was eight, “I’m trying to do homework.”
“He’s tired from his therapy today,” my mom would say with a tired voice.
“I come home from cheerleading practice everyday, and I don’t throw tantrums like he does.”
“You don’t understand, honey. His body works differently from yours and mine.”

The more I think about it, the more I comprehend that my mom was right; Patrick is much different than her and myself. Born with multiple disabilities, such as low muscle tone, Patrick doesn’t have the motor capability to function as the average person does. His lack of muscle development is what keeps him from engaging in everyday, simple activities that we take for granted and do not think about. No matter how hard the task may be from tying your shoe to running for president, it takes people different levels of motivation and determination in order to actualize these tasks successfully. Having low muscle tone throughout his body, Patrick’s muscles felt like soft "Jell-o,” when he was born as opposed to some muscle development that most people are born with. Though one may not realize it, there are muscles in almost every part of one’s body, no matter how big or small they may be. Though there are many areas of low muscle tone that Patrick struggles with, the coordination and strength while chewing and his physical motor coordination are the areas he gets the most help in to improve his everyday activities. Through his struggles of overcoming difficult these tasks, he has taught me that determination is key to success and one needs to work hard for something if they truly want it.

First, one of the therapists Patrick works with is his occupational therapist, Kathy. Her primary goal is to teach Patrick to be comfortable with everyday motor activities. For example, Patrick has an immensely hard time holding a spoon correctly to eat a cup of pudding. One would think that is an easy, simple task, right? Well, not for him. Since he does not have a lot of motor coordination, he tries to use the spoon holding it with a digit pronate grasp (grasping it like a wrench) as opposed to a tripod grasp (grasping it the way the average person holds an eating utensil). But that isn’t the only motor control needed to eat the pudding; he also needs the strength in his wrist muscles to bring the pudding in the spoon up to his mouth, the right timing of when to open his mouth, and the physical coordination to put it his mouth (as opposed to missing or dropping it from the spoon). This is a task he is currently worked on, but it has only taken him a few months to accomplish. This is because of his determination to want to be more independent. I get tired after practice, but what I don’t understand is how hard he actually works during therapy. Him walking one hundred meters is the equivalent of me running one mile. Muscles and motor coordination is something we all take for granted and something we do not have to worry about because we are born with a lot of it. Patrick works ten times harder to do activities that I do every day, even though it may take him months more to accomplish. He does this because he is determined, and he is what pushes me to do my best to succeed. Even though what he does may not be extremely hard, like taking off a jacket, it is his determination to be as independent as possible is what inspires me to work hard and to do my best.

The second of the therapists Patrick works with every week is his oral motor feeding specialist, Beth; she works on guiding Patrick in what steps to take in chewing a piece of food and to help him eat more independently. Why does he need help with that? Well, the average person doesn’t realize it, but there are several muscles in one’s mouth. It takes a lot of steps and coordination in order to eat. The broken down steps area as followed: one must be able to open their mouth with efficient jaw grading, hold that position around the food, and then release the position and bite down. Your lips then serve as a stabilizer to help hold the food in your mouth. Your tongue then lateralizes and moves the food onto your molars in order for your teeth to breakdown the food. Your jaw moves in a rotary motion to breakdown the food against your teeth. Your tongue then holds the broken down food and moves interiorly. As the food is propelled over the back of your tongue, your swallow reflex is triggered. Your airway is closed off and your esophagus opens to allow food to pass through. The average person is able to do all of those things automatically, but have you ever thought about all of those steps that you’re automatically doing? Probably not. People do these things without even realizing it, but Patrick has to be told to do each of these steps because he is incapable of chewing independently. The simple task of eating, say a strawberry, is so hard for him, but he pushes to eat harder and harder foods each week in therapy. To put this into perspective, each bite is like the feeling after chewing fourteen pieces of Hubba Bubba bubble gum, which is a lot of work to break down. This determination and drive is something that I notice and appreciate. Although I know I do not have the same challenges as him, it’s nice to see someone with the work ethic that he has. It is one of his most admirable qualities that I follow and never want to lose in my lifetime.

All in all, Patrick is a very hard-working kid. He has accomplished some major milestones later in his life than the average person does, but that does not stop him. Though the average person walks by the age of one, he wasn’t able to until he was four, but he would have never been able to if he didn’t stand up right after he fell to try again. When I look back at his temper tantrums after his therapy sessions, it almost inspires me now. The activities he does in therapy are ten times harder because he is still learning how to control his muscles and their functions. So instead of getting annoyed and yelling at him to be quiet, I’ll appreciate him more when he comes home. After all, if eating hard candy is so difficult for him, than I give him a lot of credit for eating all of his Halloween candy with his feeding therapist!





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