After listening to Jayne Harrington talk about her varied activities as a busy office manager for a bustling daycare, it’s hard to believe this same determined, passionate and positive woman needs help with some basic daily needs, like tying her shoes. Such is the life of this accomplished 36-year-old. Hers is a life she says she wouldn’t trade for anything. 

Jayne was born in 1979 in Ida Grove, the youngest of three children. At nine months of age, she suffered a seizure and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. According to cerebralpalsy.org, this condition is a neurological disorder that affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning. Jayne also has a cyst on the left side of her brain that affects the movement of the right side of her body.

Jayne’s parents connected with the Area Education Agency (AEA) after the diagnosis to begin occupational and physical therapy for Jayne. In addition, speech-language pathologists from the AEA helped her with communication skills.

“This was the best help at the time,” said Jayne. “The doctors originally told my parents that I wouldn’t walk or talk and to put me into an institution.” 

Jayne’s parents had other plans for her. But the road was not always easy. There was a period of about a dozen years when Jayne had to go to the hospital every day for one hour for therapy.

“I hated it because it was very painful in my joints,” Jayne recalls.

The years of therapy and support from people like Deb Krager at Northwest AEA have helped Jayne and her family realize the dreams they had. With AEA support and the high expectations Jayne’s parents had for her, she began working at KidZone Daycare at the age of 14, graduated from high school and attended Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs where she earned a receptionist certificate. 

Jayne chose to return to her hometown after college and continue her work at the daycare, where she has now worked for 22 years and was recently promoted to office manager. She also held a second job for several years at Ida Services, Incorporated, working with people who have special needs.

Jayne has a laser focus of determination to do things people don’t expect her to be able to do.

“I like challenges,” Jayne reflected. “If you tell me I can’t do it, I try harder.”

Jayne’s family was the biggest source of encouragement for her. She says her older brother and sister, along with her parents, treated her just as they would anyone else. They let her struggle when she needed to, but they also assisted her when she needed help. Jayne believes this made her stronger and more determined.

Her message to children with special needs and their parents is this: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help because if you don’t ask, no one else will advocate for you. In addition, don’t be afraid because you are different. Instead, celebrate your uniqueness. And never listen to those around you who are negative.”

And Jayne says to those who don’t live with special needs, “If you see a kid who is different, make them feel part of the group.”

Jayne shares that living with cerebral palsy, and continuing with physical therapy a few times each year for maintenance, is her “normal.” She doesn’t know anything different. Nor would she want to live any other way. She feels she is where she is supposed to be and has set some long-term goals for herself, including public speaking and obtaining a driver’s license.

“It’s ok if you are different. You might like it,” Jayne stated.