Inspiring Potential

by Debra Grimm • December 05, 2016
Institute employee knows firsthand what a difference Kennedy Krieger can make in the lives of families.

Twenty-one years ago, my twin daughters, Cheyenne and Dakota, were born premature. A team of doctors in their white lab coats lined up at the bottom of my bed and told me, “I‘m sorry, but your daughters have Down syndrome.” Instead of congratulating me on the birth of my beautiful babies, doctors told me that, since I was a single parent, the twins would be a burden to me and I should give them up for adoption. They assumed I would not be able to provide the care my daughters needed. I was also told my daughters would never be able to walk or talk. But I knew better.

Kristina Rolfes • June 28, 2016
Inspired by his cousin and best bud Corey, who has autism, Alex designs and sells cards to raise money for autism research.
Alex with card

It started as a classwork assignment from Alex Gwiazda’s teacher: come up with an idea for how to change the world. Alex immediately thought of his cousin Corey, 8, who has autism, and how he could make a difference for him and others with autism. “Our assignment was just to write about the idea,” says Alex, 10, “but I wanted to do mine in real life.” His idea was to raise money for autism research by designing and selling cards with his artwork in honor of his cousin. His parents told him the best place to donate for autism research was Kennedy Krieger, where Corey was evaluated several years ago.

Paige Talhelm • December 08, 2015
A Sibling's Perspective
Paige Talhelm and her brother Sammy

When my brother Sammy was born, my life was transformed, and not just because he was my first sibling. My life would thereafter be filled with therapy and doctors’ appointments, professionals coming in and out of our house, and a foreign language of sorts with terms like IEP, ASD, and SLP. Instead of playing house, I grew up playing ABA (applied behavior analysis) with my dolls. Sammy has Landau-Kleffner syndrome and autism. He’s also the light of my life.

Tina Rosenau • September 08, 2015
Ambassador Program connects inpatients and families with mentors who have been in their shoes
Josh and his parents

My son, Josh, was injured in a bicycling accident in July of 2013 at age 15. Josh hit a boulder, which snapped his bike frame in half and launched him over the handlebars. His shoulders took most of the force, causing his spine to compress. The accident left Josh paralyzed from mid chest down.

Christianna McCausland • December 02, 2014
One patient’s journey from diagnosis to top of the dojo
Christian at karate

Where Are They Now?

Christian Thomas, 13, who last appeared in Potential when he was four, is now a black belt in karate. It’s a rigorous accomplishment that requires multiple mile runs, sparring matches, and memorization of martial arts moves. His achievement is all the more remarkable when one considers that Christian was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus at birth. 

Jenn Lynn • August 01, 2014
A mother’s emotional journey to find help for her son with autism leads her to Kennedy Krieger Schools. Jake, who has autism, was scared to go to school and totally unhinged once he got there—running in circles, biting his hand, melting down.

The year my son was in the third grade, I didn’t eat. I never left my phone, even to take a shower. Jake, who has autism, was scared to go to school and totally unhinged once he got there—running in circles, biting his hand, melting down. Desks would fly if one thing went wrong. He would return home from school exhausted, with fingernails chewed to the quick and tear-stained cheeks. It was torture seeing him so miserable. 

Katie Cascio • November 12, 2013
Special education teacher Katie Cascio is inspired by a student who comes into his own at Kennedy Krieger High School.
student and teacher

I was lucky enough to meet DeVante—a shy, reserved student with autism spectrum disorder—during my first year as an assistant teacher at Kennedy Krieger High School. During my first week, DeVante approached me with his head down and in a soft voice, he asked me to sign his “autograph book. ”

Suzanne Prestwich, M.D. • November 02, 2012
17-year-old Sarah Eber  recovered from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
Sarah Eber

Many of the children admitted to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Kennedy Krieger have experienced a trauma or illness that resulted in needing a procedure called a tracheostomy. The procedure involves placing a tube in a patient’s neck to help with breathing, but the downside is that it robs the patient of the ability to speak. Seeing a child with a “trach” tube in place may be heartbreaking for the casual observer. Seeing your own child with it is devastating.

Lauren Manfuso • June 19, 2012
In my mind, I make people smile.
Alexandra Carter

Alexandra Carter doesn't lack for social skills. In fact, unlike many teenagers with Down syndrome who may struggle to find their places among social groups and peers, Alexandra is outgoing and vivacious.  It wasn't always that way, though, says her mom, Latondria Spence. As a little girl, Alexandra shied away from crowded places. 

Lauren Glenn Manfuso • July 08, 2011
In my mind, I am very brave.
Ben's Story

It was a perfect day at the beach. The sun was shining, and the water was just right. Ben and his friends splashed in the waves and built sand castles, while his mom Joanne and the other parents chatted under the umbrellas, keeping a watchful eye on the children. But as the day came to a close, everyone headed back to the house, just a few blocks away.



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