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First published in 1978, Does She Know She's There? is the inspiring story of one family's determination to love, cherish, and keep their only daughter. From the moment the Schaefers were told their first-born Catherine would never walk, or talk, or even feed herself, they swore that to institutionalize her would be their last resort.
The keeping of that vow was far from the story of tears and despair that some would assume. "Cath" emerges as an engaging personality in her own right, as terribly challenged as she is.
Now 37, Catherine Schaefer lives in her own home, with live-in support, plus friends-cum-tenants in the upstairs apartments. Still unable to move much, or to speak, Catherine's life has, nevertheless, been a rewarding success story. This book is its chronicle, illustrated with black and white photographs.
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Nicola Schaefer is a Fitzhenry and Whiteside author.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Cath has always had the knack of compensating us for the various worries she puts us through. Not long after her back problems, Tony phoned me from her school and asked me to come down. He and Lindy, the other teacher, thought I might be interested in something Cath had to show to me. I knew they had been trying to teach her to feed herself with a spoon but they had wanted her to achieve a measure of success before I was given a demonstration. I suspected the moment of truth was at hand. I grinned and said I was on my way.
To see my daughter enthusiastically feed herself with a meal from a plate, with a spoon, almost unaided, had a strange effect on me. I neither exclaimed nor wept nor laughed; I just stood and gaped. It didn't matter that her spoon had been bent inward and had had its handle built up, nor that her plate was specially shaped and secured to her tray, nor even that her elbow was tactfully guided by Lindy as she lifted up each mouthful. What mattered most was that she had learned, step by step, to grasp her spoon, scoop food onto it, lift it up, put the food into her mouth, chew and then recommence the process, and all without releasing the spoon. This last point was significant because it meant that she had achieved a controlled and sustained grip, a very difficult task for her.
I think the most significant aspect of this self-feeding demonstration was that Cath had performed it with her right hand. Had it been with her left, I would have been delighted but not amazed, but her right arm and hand had always tended to be tight and spastic. When I tried to persuade her to hold an object in her right hand, she either transferred it to her left or held it in a vice-like grip until she was able to relax and fling it away. It was the occupational physiotherapist who had helped organize the program, who had suggested that she be taught to eat with her right hand. On my way home, I dropped in at the Shriner's Hospital to ask if the Special Devices people could provide me with a built-up spoon and plate for Cath so I could continue her self-feeding at home. They were, as always, most obliging,"
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