Community Voices: Young dancer’s foundation hopes to end cerebral palsy

Young people are often told that life should be about fulfilling one’s potential. But what if doctors claimed your potential would be limited by disability. Would you work to prove them wrong?

As I learned more about 17-year-old Lauren Walier’s story of living with cerebral palsy, the more I saw that overcoming the impossible is her passion. Fiercely determined to reach her goals, Lauren has the poise of a dancer, the mind of a sage, and the will of a warrior.

Born prematurely and weighing only 14 ounces, Lauren, who resides in Milton, was a baby when diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Her mother, Sherry, and father, Peter, sought help but found no special funding, no specific therapy, and not much hope for treatment.

Lauren has come a long way since then. I first met her as she was standing in front of J. Christopher’s restaurant in Roswell, greeting breakfast-goes and handing out brochures. She recently began an effort called “Make LemonAide Foundation for CP.” Her dream is “to change CP as the world knows it today.”

She told me CP is the most common motor disability in children, impacting 800,000 in the U.S. and 17 million worldwide. It’s a neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood and affects body movement and muscle control. Doctors believe it’s a result of brain injury before, during or shortly after birth, but the cause is often undetermined.

Lauren explained CP affects people across a range, from those who can’t talk or walk to others less severely affected. She speaks well and wants to use her voice to help others understand that her progress is a result of groundbreaking therapy meant to retrain her brain in habits of movement.

“I have come so far because of the support of my family and friends,” she explained, “but it’s the ‘Symptom Recovery Model’ therapy that helped me improve.” Lauren’s foundation would like to bring this therapy to the rest of the CP community but needs the medical establishment to pay attention to its benefits and train others.

“There was a time in middle school when I deteriorated so much I thought I might die,” Lauren said. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breathe well - I was going backward.” Lauren currently spends hours each week pushing her body to do things it’s never done. She can now stand straighter, walk more naturally, and best of all – dance.

“I learned to waltz, tango, foxtrot and rhumba and recently appeared on Dancing with the Stars of Cobb County,” she told me. “My next dream is to dance with Ellen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!”

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