In 1994, Susan Arduino found herself and then two-year-old son, Luke, at a doctor’s office where she received information that would change her life forever—Luke had cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a condition that impacts motor function and a child’s ability to utilize the muscles in the body. This can include walking and writing, as well speech articulation and visual motor skills.
The news was devastating for the first-time mom. A year later, Luke was enrolled in the Babies Can’t Wait Program, and Susan became active in support groups with other moms who had children with cerebral palsy.
One night, Susan went to the support group very discouraged because Luke had not made any friends or progressed in school like other children. As she cried with the group, one mom raised her hand and told Susan about an infamous trip to Holland.
The story was about a vacation to Italy, which took a detour when the plane landed in Holland instead. In the end, the trip to Holland was still worth it because of the opportunity to enjoy everything that was lovely and special about the unexpected stop. The metaphor of the trip to Italy was a typical birth and child-raising experience, and the trip to Holland was the experience of raising a child with special needs.
The short story had an effect on Susan and how she continued to raise Luke. Instead of feeling discouraged, she began to provide him with support and helped him realize his unique abilities.
Luke developed associated learning disabilities that are associated with his neurological disorder and make school challenging. But, Susan found Thomas Burns, Psy.D, ABPP/CN, Chief of Psychology and Director of Neuropsychology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. With the help of Dr. Burns and the team at Children’s, Luke had an individualized treatment plan that included speech therapy, orthopedics, occupational therapy and psychology. He also worked with a reading intervention teacher and tutors who helped him with class assignments.
During the past 12 years, Dr. Burns worked with Luke to maximize his educational and social success and provided consultations to the family. “It is a credit to Luke’s family, as they have provided an incredible amount of support and indivualized opportunities for Luke to grow both physically and cognitively,” Dr. Burns said.
Luke experienced challenges with making friends and sometimes even encountered some bullies. He received therapies that addressed his cognitive challenges, physical limitations and social relatedness. “Luke is a child who was willing to take on adversity and overcome the physical challenges at any cost. This often meant having a good sense of humor and an eternally optimistic view in dealing with others,” Dr. Burns said.
All the hard work paid off. Luke recently graduated from Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. with honors and a 3.6 GPA. He plans to attend Georgia Gwinnett College this fall. As Luke begins the new chapter in his life, Susan is still enjoying her trip to Holland every day.