Student with Cerebral Palsy Overcomes Obstacles


Ava Roesslein had just gotten to class on the fourth floor of Webster Hall. She takes the elevator because of the scooter she uses for the long distance between the two buildings she goes to on that day. When she had finally got to class after the long elevator ride, the fire alarm went off. Roesslein realized that she couldn’t take the elevator.

“I just had to use the stairs which I did but I just used the railing I went slow and a couple students there made sure I made it out okay and that I was doing okay and they helped me with my book bag if I needed it,” said Roesslein.

Ava’s Journey

Roesslein is a junior and just transferred to Webster University from St. Charles Community College. She’s studying broadcast journalism and hopes to become a sports reporter. Roesslein was born with cerebral palsy. She was born three months premature and was diagnosed right at birth. She was put on a breathing tube as soon as she was born. She didn’t stay on the breathing tube very long. Roesslein said if she would have stayed on it longer, she could be worse off. “I got really lucky and got off that really quick and did pretty well,” Roesslein said.

Roesslein, one week old.

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a child’s brain either during pregnancy, during birth, or immediately after. The disorder affects body movement, muscle control, coordination, reflexes and fine motor skills. When Roesslein was little she had to learn things that most kids didn’t have to or learned by experience.

“They had to teach me how to fall because my balance issues were so bad,” Roesslein said.

Roesslein’s doctors were concerned about her walking too much because she could get stress fractures in her legs. They don’t even want her to use a wheelchair because it would be too hard on her arms. She started using the scooter in the sixth grade.

Roesslein drives to school with special equipment in her car. Instead of using her feet she uses her hands. On the steering wheel is a lever that controls both the gas and the brake. “I had to learn that when you push it down is the gas and forward is the brake. You wouldn’t think it would be that confusing, but when I first started driving I could not keep it straight.”

Roesslein also has some problems with parking like many other students. She never had a problem with parking at the community college and was surprised when she got to Webster. “Some days I don’t have class until ten and I would get here at like 8:30 because if not all the handicapped spots would be gone,” she says.

Ava’s Experience with the Academic Resource Center

Roesslein registered her disability at the Academic Resource Center. She says they offered her a lot of help. She met with Kit Weis, assistant director of the Academic Resource Center, when she first started at Webster. The academic resource center offered her a note taker, information about what she would need if she were to get a dorm, and other things that would help her to be successful. Barbara Stewart, director of the academic resource center, says every student is notified about talking to the center about any disability they may have.

“They can have weekly meetings with me or Kit Weis and they can have the accommodations. We send out a letter once we decide which accommodations would be appropriate.”

This is the special equipment Roesslein uses to drive.

The center tries to keep an interactive dialogue. The report is based on medical reports and what the student feels they need. Then the center comes up with a list of accommodations and it goes out to professors. Students with mobility issues can have their classrooms moved and the school can make sure all their classes are on the first floor.

The student would register normally and Webster would move the class as soon as a report is ran about the needs of individual students. The academic resource center failed to see Roesslein’s class that is on the fourth floor. While reporting on the story the center has since contacted Roesslein and are in the process of moving her class. Roesslein feels like she fits in at Webster and people on campus are very willing to help her out if she needs it. Roesslein does have one message she wants to send out to anyone with a disability that thinks they can’t do something.

“Don’t ever think you’re limited by a disability.”

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