Not Just a Summer Job

Jazlyn Samuelson and Ashton Lieb
Jazlyn Samuelson and Ashton Lieb share a laugh. Photo courtesy of Amy Green.

Jazlyn Samuelson, daughter of Mike and Abigail Samuelson, worked for YKHC’s Developmental Disability Services program this summer, helping care for eight-year-old Ashton Lieb, son of Garrett Lieb and Amy Green.

Ashton, who was born with several challenging congenital conditions including cerebral palsy and arthrogryposis (AMC), caught the heart and attention of 20-year-old Jazlyn Samuelson, a 2010 Mt. Edgecumbe graduate who is currently studying early childhood education at UAA.

Although Jazlyn had opportunities to work for other employers in the Bethel area who offered to pay her more, it was more meaningful and important for her to work in the DD program, and with Ashton.

Ashton’s mother, Amy Green, said, “I had my doubts in the beginning because she is so young, but I have only heard and seen so much good and positive information in her working with my son, Ashton.”

Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common congenital (existing before or at birth) disorders of childhood. About 500,000 children and adults of all ages in the U.S. have the condition.

Ashton has already undergone a number of surgeries over the course of his young life, including on his legs and feet.

Jazlyn understands what it means to live with a disability, having undergone challenges and surgery herself as a result of a condition she was born with. Jazlyn was born nearly three months premature, according to her mother Abigail. “As she grew older I noticed she was late in developmental skills and we got help with the Infant Toddler program that helped get her braces for her legs.”

“I believe I was diagnosed with spastic diplegia,says Jazlyn, a relatively common instance of cerebral palsy. ”I had to wear AFOs (leg braces) and do physical therapy till I was 8. It’s not a big deal, I can still do everything that everyone else can do. To me, I don’t have a disability.”

“I think this is why I liked working with Ashton so much,” she said. “That could have been me in his shoes… I didn’t know if I was capable of taking care of someone with this kind of disability, but his family made me feel very comfortable and I grew to love Ashton. He is such an awesome kid. I am very glad to have met him and his family.”

“You know, you can tell sometimes when new people may feel or seem uncomfortable when working with disabled kids,” Ashton’s mother said.” Jazlyn would always ask questions whenever she may have had doubts. I encouraged her to do or work with Ashton in ways she was most comfortable . . . and giving her that freedom made it easier for all of us and allowed her to grow a confidence level in dealing with Ashton’s condition, which is challenging. She is such a loving person and it is difficult to fully come up with the words to describe our appreciation and gratitude for her.”

Disability or not, Jazlyn’s family and friends say nothing has ever gotten in the way of her accomplishing her hopes and dreams. According to her “Auntie Pepper,” Sharon Anelon, “nothing has yet to slow her down.”

Jazlyn is also a published book author. “Dream Big” was inspired by and written for her younger brother, Jayden (“Baby-Ga”), encouraging him to learn all the great things about the world.

“I was surprised when she told me she wrote a book,” her mother said. “She did all the drawings, coloring, the financing and finding the publisher, by herself. As parents we are so very proud of her. We know she will succeed [wherever] her dreams take her.

YKHC is proud to employ local, young, remarkable, and hard working people like Jazlyn who commit themselves to improving the health and lives of others. Serving as an inspiration to all in providing excellent patient care, leading by example, and showing the rest of us how far kindness, caring, generosity and determination can really take you, continue to “Dream Big,” Jazlyn Samuelson!

For more information about Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita visit:

www.amcsupport.org

For more information about Cerebral Palsy or Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita visit: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/Default.aspx

The book “Dream Big” by Jazlyn Samuelson can be found at www.xlibris.com/bookstore

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