A ‘winning' Battle

Becky Holland
The Americus Times-Recorder

AMERICUS November 16, 2008 12:12 am

- Jerry Battle III sits in his motorized wheelchair in the middle of the floor of his family's living room and watches his younger sister, "BriBri" or "BB," walk around the room, and listens as his mom explains exactly what cerebral palsy is.
"TJ", as the son of Jerry (JJ) Melissa Battle is called, is a student at Sarah Cobb Elementary School, and he enjoys playing video games and loves horses.
He looks at his mom and says, "This is my interview, Mom."
Smiling, "TJ" "It is for the Third Jerry," explained his mother, adding that his dad is a junior and then there is Jerry Sr., his grandfather) took over the explanation of cerebral palsy.
According to the younger Battle, cerebral palsy is a condition that affects "lots of kids." The word cerebral means having to do with the brain. The word palsy means a problem with the way a person moves or positions his body.
Battle went on to explain that there are different types of cerebral palsy: spastic, athetoid and ataxic. In an explanation of spastic CP, kids can't relax their muscles or the muscles may be stiff. In ataxic CP, a kid has problems with balance and coordination, while athetoid CP affects a kid's ability to control the muscles of the body.
Battle, who has two sisters, Chelsie, 16 and BriBri, 9, a special needs child as well, said, "I use two different wheelchairs and sometimes use a walker. Basically, when they were taking me, I needed more oxygen and something happened that caused bleeding my brain," Battle explained.
For anyone with CP, especially a child, research has shown that the problem with the brain will not get any worse as the child gets older. As explained, a child who has CP that affects only the legs will not develop CP in the arms or problems with speech later on. CP in the arms and legs can get worse, which is why therapy is important.
Battle has physical, occupational or speech therapy that help him develop skills like walking, sitting, swallowing and using his hands. In fact, Battle participates in a very special therapy, that according to him, "saved my life."
The therapy, called hippotherapy, is one of today's best therapeutic options for children and adults with CP.
Hippotherapy deals with horses and how the horse can aid the child in achieving more normal balance, improve posture, movement and muscle strength.
Battle attends a hippotherapy session in Lee County once a week, and according to his mother, "just loves it."
"I love my horses," he said. "At first, I wouldn't touch anything, any animal, dog or cat or horse. When they put me on a horse for the first time, I cried and threw a fit."
His mother asked, "But did we get you off of it?"
"No, I kept on," Battle said, smiling.
In hippotherapy, a specially trained therapist or horse trainer, sits behind a child on the horse should he or she need support for his or her head on any other body part. If the child can sit in a saddle without support, the therapist/trainer walks beside the horse.
Battle, who is the proud owner of two Basset hounds and a cat, said, "My body was real stiff before I started working with the horses. I would just lay there like a board." His bright eyes glistened, "but after therapy, we came home and saw that I was moving."
Battle recently competed in a state level horse therapy competition, and won two bronze medals and one ribbon for his participation in the events, which included, "leading the horse in for showmanship."
His favorite horse at therapy is one called, "Marco, though I will call him Marco Polo."
He loves to tell anyone about horses, but he understands that "what I like someone else may not like."
A typical elementary aged student, Battle enjoys spending the night with his friend Russell, going places with his family, hanging out with his para-pro, "Mr. Biggins; the name fits him," playing video games, including a basketball game and watching television. His room is decorated with various things, but he especially liked the picture of his cousin who plays football, and Spiderman on the wall.
More articulate than most 30-year-olds, Battle does attend regular school, and it is not in special education. He has a special para-professional who is with him every day. He is an honors student, too, with all A's except for one B. The B comes from, said Battle with a frown, "math."
His favorite subjects are science and "social studies."
According to Battle, cerebral palsy usually doesn't stop kids from going to school, making friends or doing things they enjoy.
"I just have to do things a little differently," he said.
Mom Melissa said that Battle doesn't let very much stop him, like going out the front door without a ramp instead of the back or riding his wheelchair in the backyard so his dogs can meet his new friend the writer from the newspaper or going to see a movie called Madagascar 2.
At one time in his young life, Battle wanted to be a fireman when he grows up, now he says, "I want to be a preacher."
His mom just smiles and shrugs.
With the determination, drive and strength that young Battle shows, one can see whatever he does, he will win at, or as he said, "I will prevail."

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