Congratulations to Julia LiPuma, Winner of the 2017 Birth Trauma, Neonatal Injury and Disability Scholarship!

Reiter & Walsh, P.C. is happy to announce that Julia LiPuma of Wayne, New Jersey is the recipient of the 3rd annual Birth Trauma, Neonatal Injury and Disability scholarship. Julia was born 10 weeks prematurely. She had a brain bleed at birth, resulting in a diagnosis of periventricular leukomalacia, and later, spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. In her essay, “Nature vs Nurture,” Julia reflects on her physical limitations, but also the ways in which she has been able to push those limits. She notes that she was fortunate her parents recognized the importance of physical and occupational therapy, corrective surgeries, and assistive equipment, and that they were capable of providing her with these things. For her successes, Julia also credits her own perseverance, writing that, “Although nature is always with me, and with all of us, it is nurture that has brought me to where I am. And it is my own nurturing of myself that brings me into the future.” This fall, Julia will be attending the University of Delaware, where she is planning to study towards a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

To learn more about Julia, read her winning essay here:

Julia’s Essay

Nature vs. Nurture

“Nature vs Nurture” is one of the most debated arguments in history.  This essay is a reflection on how concepts described in the “Nature vs Nurture” debate have influenced who I am today.

Nature and nurture have been battling over my body since November 12, 1998, so I have had a front row seat to this argument.  It has shaped, and will continue to shape, my identity. On a macro level, the debate revolves around the unanswered question of which factor is more significant in determining behavior and development: nature or nurture.  On a micro level, there is me. Julia LiPuma, Scholarship Winner

Nature dictated that I was to be born ten weeks prematurely, which caused a brain bleed and a diagnosis of periventricular leukomalacia. With this type of brain injury, I was at high risk for impaired movement, speech, cognitive, and/or sensory problems. It became apparent that it would be my gross motor skills that were impaired, which later led to a cerebral palsy diagnosis. On the Gross Motor Classification System, I am considered a level three.  A level three states that children walk using a hand-held mobility device in most indoor settings and a powered mobility device when in the greater community. Here’s where nature reared its head again, because a person’s classification level doesn’t change, not with any amount of therapy or intervention or hard work.  “One’s GMCS,” nature says, “Is what it is, so take that!” Nature decided I would have tight, stiff leg muscles, abnormal postures, hip subluxation and the constant risk of contractures.

“But wait,” Nurture interrupts.  “Although the GMCS scale is an indicator of maximum motor potential, a person can reach their potential (or not) based on their behavior and how hard she works for it.”  Using nurture, people with cerebral palsy can affect their ultimate potential.  Sadly, I have seen people with my exact classification be limited to wheelchairs because they were not as fortunate as I in terms of nurture.  In the early years, it was my mother who starred in the lead role as nurturer.  She researched therapies and treatments to help improve my quality of life. She learned that intensive and early therapy is critical for maximizing the opportunity for the young brain to adapt and learn. And so, my rigorous regime began with preventative work when I was ten weeks old, and continues to this day. This included intense physical therapy, occupational therapy, corrective surgeries and assistive equipment. Through the years, my mother continued nurturing while helping me understand my body and my challenges. With her relentless support and encouragement, I learned the values of courage and perseverance. In later years I took on the fight, too, with daily stretching and self-advocacy. I was lucky to have a supportive family who had the means to provide me with an abundance of nurturing. From birth, the ethos in my family has always been about reaching my maximum potential through early and constant interventions.

Although nature is always with me, and with all of us, it is nurture that has brought me to where I am. And it will be my own nurturing of myself that brings me into the future.  Nature does her part, but Nurture wins.

To apply for the 2018 scholarship, visit this page!


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