By Corey Fry –
“Just like a normal kid.”
That’s the phrase Tim Rhinier repeatedly stressed during the day spent with him. Rhinier a student at Penn Manor High School has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheel chair.
Cerebral palsy is a developmental disorder in the brain, specifically around the cerebrum. It can restrict muscle and bone growth to varying degrees of impairment.
Its important to realize that each case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual; in Rhinier’s case, he’s been permanently confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, Rhinier maintains a positive attitude and tries not to let his impairment stop him him from living a normal life.
“I can get around really well now, it used to be a lot harder,” Rhinier said.
He credits much of his mobility to his new electric chair that can automatically get him up inclines.
Rhinier is able to do most things by himself, but some limits inevitably arise from having cerebral palsy.
“I get on the bus around 6:30 and go to school, just like any normal kid,” Rhinier said. “The only difference is that I have to get loaded onto the ramp to get on.”
When he arrives at school, Tim stops at his locker before heading to his “Life Skills” class for first block. Here he develops skills that help him overcome the physical limitations he faces through life in a wheelchair. Every Wednesday, the class goes to the east gym for adjusted phys ed.
His one-on-one aide, Mrs. Saxton, had this to say, “Normally Tim isn’t too loud, but in this class he’s always yelling and hollering and having lots of fun, I’m pretty sure it’s his favorite class.”
As the class played a match of volleyball, it was noticeable that Rhinier had established several strong friendships with his classmates and was able to fit in with his peers well.
As part of his individual program, Rhinier leaves for his next class nine minutes before the bell rings to avoid the masses of students who would soon be pouring through the halls.
“The halls can get pretty crazy,” he commented.
“Kids can be really reckless in the hallways, we don’t want them to get run over or for Tim to get trampled,” added Saxton.
The cramped hallways aren’t the only thing making Rhinier’s life more difficult, there’s also the limited number of elevators (four across the entire school), which Saxton pointed out, aren’t always working.
“If one of the elevators isn’t working, we have to go the whole way to the other side of the school to get downstairs,” she said.
Rhinier was the first one to his video production class in the library. As we waited for the class to arrive, he showed the projects he was working on; a music video made using the sounds of his chair, and an informative video about the upcoming school blood drive.
Surprisingly, Rhinier could use the software better most other kids in the school. His videos were creative, well thought out, and neatly made.
As students began filing in, a few said ‘hi’, but they mostly kept to themselves. Some of them didn’t acknowledge us at all. It was possible his physical condition was intimidating to some students although he interacted naturally with many teens as the day went on.
He discussed news, media, sports, just some basic teenage things. Rhinier shares many of the same hobbies and interests as any other teenager.
“Do I play video games? Um, yeah I have an Xbox,”said Rhinier. “I got Live for Christmas so I’ve been doing that a lot.”
Not only does he play the video games, he’s also an avid football fan; and like many other male students in the school right now, he’s been caught up in the “Tebow” fad. He even did the Tebow stance.
It may be shocking to some to know how a student who seemed so different on the outside could be so normal when you took the chance to get to know him. Tim’s got all the aspects of a normal teenager in spite of his condition. He is nearly always be in a good mood, has a positive outlook on life, and is just a generally nice person to be around.
Tim Rhinier may not be able to experience all the aspects of being a teenager that other kids do, but he’s certainly never going to let it bring him down.