PBSC student with cerebral palsy aims to inspire others with memoir
Looking for a way to express her emotions and document her life as a public school student with disabilities, while also navigating typical teen experiences like puppy love, Stephanie Lerose decided to write.
“I was at a point in my life where I was becoming really stressed out, and I needed an outlet to get my feelings out,’’ said Lerose. “I started writing things down. I felt better after doing it. It was a stress relief.”
What began in high school as a personal journal has turned into a 445-page memoir. Lerose, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheel chair, typed the memoir with her left index finger. It took her six years to complete her book.
Now a Palm Beach State College student, Lerose would like to find a publisher for her memoir. She hopes her book will serve as an inspiration for those with cerebral palsy or other disabilities and the people who interact with them daily. “I would like my book to help people. I want my book to be an educational tool so people that read it will understand that people with disabilities are just like everyone else. They are no different,’’ Lerose said.
While no publisher has yet expressed interest in the book, Lerose is optimistic. In the meantime, her grandfather paid $800 to get 25 copies of the double-spaced memoir bound to showcase Lerose’s accomplishment. It is titled “Me and My CP.”
“My dad —being grandpa— wanted to make her happy,’’ said Lerose’s father, Robert. “She spent all of that time and effort, so he wanted her to be able to have it and hold it in her hand instead of just being on a computer disk.”
The memoir begins with Stephanie Lerose’s premature birth at 28 weeks— 3 pounds, 8 ounces— at a Connecticut hospital to her first-time parents. She reflects on her parents’ joys and struggles during her formative years, including when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement and posture, when she was 3 years old. Lerose, who does not have full use of her hands or legs, discusses positive experiences and obstacles she faced in elementary, middle and high school and as a college student, including her interactions with classmates and teachers and the woes of dealing with various government agencies while seeking assistance as a person with disabilities.
“When she first started writing, she was just writing out of frustration or to get her feelings or thoughts out. She decided she should go back and tell a whole story instead of just what she was writing at that point,’’ Robert Lerose said. Stephanie’s mother Lynne told her the stories surrounding her birth and childhood.
Stephanie, 25, has been enrolled at PBSC since fall 2007. She usually takes one class each semester and is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree. She would like to become a psychologist like her TV idol Dr. Phil McGraw.
Marilyn Tiedemann, learning specialist and adjunct professor who taught Stephanie in her Prep English II class, says she is inspired by the young woman’s tenacity.
“She’s very bright and very articulate,” Tiedemann said. “She does not let anything keep her down.”