A few years ago, Kiara Manley found out that her daughter, Naomi, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP).
Kiara had initially noticed that her 3-month-old daughter didn’t meet some of the milestones or markers that other babies reached during their early childhood development and growth stages.
She began to worry.
“I had noticed that she wasn’t doing what other babies were doing,” Kiara said, explaining that she began to frantically research possible disorders on the web before consulting doctors and learning about the diagnosis. “I was in denial at first. I felt guilty as well because she wouldn’t have a ‘normal life’ and be able to play and move like other kids,” said Kiara.
Kiara was nervous and overwhelmed by the information about CP and didn’t quite know where to start.
“I felt like I wasn’t going to be a good enough mom for her. I was young, barely in college and just fighting my own battles.”
Cerebral palsy is a common motor disability that can manifest in childhood. CP is part of a group of disorders that can affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture, according to the CDC.
Today, Naomi is a vivacious and happy three-year-old with varied interests. She inspires her mother and everyone around her with her spirit and courage for moving independently and taking on tasks with a smile on her face.
Recently, Kiara decided to create an Instagram page for her daughter in an effort to educate people about cerebral palsy and dispel some of the common myths or stereotypes about CP. It was also a way to document her child’s growth and journey with CP and support other moms who are looking to find more resources or a supportive CP community.
“I wanted to show that although she has a disability, she is a happy 3-year-old that still lives her best life! She swims, she travels, and she just isn’t being placed in a box, she has no limits,” says 25-year-old Kiara, who currently works as a special needs instructional assistant and is in graduate school to pursue a career in school counseling.
Last month, Kiara posted a tweet about her daughter doing a task independently. The tweet went viral, amassing over 200,000 likes and 26,000 retweets. Kiara soon received a ton of support from the CP community as well as strangers who were touched by her daughter’s story. Kiara tweeted, “ my daughter, who has cerebral palsy, just wiped her mouth independently! This may seem small to you but this is the result of progress!!!! I’m so proud!!! #GoNai.”
The short video shows Naomi using a paper towel to wipe her face without giving up. It’s a sweet moment that also shows the bond between mother and daughter.
Kiara shares that she posted the tweet because she wanted to document her daughter’s journey with CP, and also because as a mom, she was excited about her daughter being able to independently wipe her mouth because that exemplified her fine motor skill progress.
“I really didn’t think it would go viral. The support and encouraging words have been nonstop and it feels good to know that there are strangers out there that are wishing her well and wishing her good health,” says Kiara, who adds that the positive and heartwarming messages from people gives her faith in humanity again. Through the tweet, she has also recently connected with other people who have CP, and have given her encouragement through their stories and advice. “It’s been great and I am very appreciative.”
Kiara says that some of the main misconceptions or misunderstandings that people might have about her daughter having CP is that she either doesn’t understand others because “she isn’t verbal,” or that “she’s so fragile.” This, Kiara says, is untrue.
“She’s the toughest person I know. She also understands a lot. I wish people knew that people with CP are humans first, their disability doesn’t define them or their capabilities,” says Kiara.
Kiara says the bond she shares with her daughter is very special. “We just get each other. She wakes up every single day with a smile, no matter if she’s sick or got woken up early.”
Little Naomi has quite the personality, according to her mom. Naomi is hilarious and sassy and loves to play in her little rocking chair that has a rattle connected to it. She also enjoys listening to music and going to pre-school.
“She has a mean side eye and has the brightest smile and cutest laugh! Her smile is contagious. She’s sweet and gives the best hugs too,” says Kiara. One of the current challenges for Naomi right now, is gaining more core strength daily. “That’s her biggest obstacle right now,” says Kiara, who adds that she is inspired daily by her daughter’s strength in the face of adversity, even at such a young age.
Kiara is incredibly proud to be Naomi’s mother and says she is always amazed by her daughter’s resilience and ability to smile through challenges and difficulties at such a young age.
Over the years, Kiara has learned so much from her daughter. She’s learned to appreciate everything and not take the little things for granted.
“Naomi makes me realize that what’s easy for me may be the same exact thing someone else is working hard to do. She does everything with a smile and so will I… appreciate the small, celebrate the common and lead with love,” says Kiara.
*This article was featured/published exclusively on morningswithmoni.com
-Written by Monica Luhar