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Cerebral Palsy Awareness - Smiling Through Adversity

Updated: May 16, 2019

The first word that comes to mind after speaking with Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) client, Patti, is resilient. Born with cerebral palsy and hard of hearing, Patti has overcome adversity and come out the other side with a big smile on her face. Patti joined TMI’s Independent Living program more than 20 years ago, then transitioned to Supported Living for additional support.

TMI Community Outreach & Resource Specialist Melinda Lara with Patti at CONNECT's Spring Fling Dance)

(TMI Community Outreach & Resource Specialist Melinda Lara with Patti at CONNECT's Spring Fling Dance)

She is supported by TMI Case Manager Shantel Rhode and Facilitators Karina Padilla and Leticia Rios-Padilla, a mother daughter duo who have become like family to Patti. Karina is Patti’s roommate and Leticia provides back up support. They provide daily services to Patti including assisting her with shopping, meal preparation, paying her bills and helping to prepare her for the day. Patti enjoys spending time with the Padilla family and they welcome her with open arms to their family gatherings.

TMI Case Manager Shantel Rhode with Patti

(TMI Case Manager Shantel Rhode with Patti)

Growing up, Patti moved back and forth from Texas to California sharing time with her father and step mom and her mom and step dad. As a child, Patti enjoyed spending time with both sides of her family. Sadly, Patti’s father passed away when she was just 15 years old. Patti thinks of him often and wishes she had been able to get to know him better.

Patti continued to move around quite a bit in her adult life and was craving stability. She found that with TMI. Patti has been in her current home for 10 years and knows that she can count on TMI to be there to give her the support she needs. Patti is a strong advocate for herself and her needs, which brings a strong sense of purpose to her life.

(Patti at CONNECT's Winter Celebration)

“Patti is never going to give up fighting for what she wants and will always strive for independence,” said Shantel. “Cerebral palsy makes it more difficult for Patti to get around and do many things that most people find simple. Although she faces challenges on a daily basis, she always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude that is infectious.”

Connecting with people is very important to Patti. She loves being able to find common ground with those she meets. Patti lights up when you speak with her and she discovers you have something in common. She was thrilled when in November 2016, TMI’s Community Outreach and Resource Specialist, Melinda Lara, started our CONNECT program for our clients to SOCIALIZE, EDUCATE & ADVOCATE. Patti was immediately on board and took a lead role in planning events and advocating for herself and others.

“I enjoy being a part of CONNECT,” said Patti. “I love the events and meeting new people. We have gone bowling, to the beach, had a dance, and I like to sing at karaoke.”

(Patti bowling with CONNECT)

As a child, Patti struggled with the adaptive equipment that was available to meet her needs. She wore leg braces, then crutches and then moved to using a wheelchair which she still does to this day. Patti is grateful for the advances in technology, particularly for her electric powered wheelchair and hearing aids which no longer require a device attached as they did when she was growing up.

“The world is a better place now then it was, at least for people with disabilities,” said Patti. “My biggest challenge growing up was wearing braces and not being able to hear.”

(Patti with TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris at our Annual Holiday Party)

Today, Patti is doing all she can to live a full life! She goes on her own to the Peterson Gym at San Diego State University where students assist her with working out. The program was recommended to her by San Diego Regional Center Social Worker Linda Curtis, who has worked with Patti for more than 24 years. Patti is also attending a personal growth program once a week. Her physical and mental health are going strong. She loves listening to Beatles music, coloring and catching up on her favorite shows.

(Patti enjoying a day at the beach with CONNECT)

“Thirty years ago when I started looking for programs to assist me I was nervous because I didn’t know what would be out there,” said Patti. “I tried other programs before TMI, but this worked out well for me.”

We look forward to providing services to Patti for many more years to come. Her smile keep us smiling and reminds us of the important things in life; connecting with others and having a positive attitude! Thank you, Patti, for choosing TMI and for making a lasting impact on the lives of all who connect with you. Here is to 20 more years and beyond!


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the deaf and hard of hearing since 2000. Like all of us, our clients are born with hopes, dreams and the drive to contribute to society. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living Services and Family Support Services programs throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties.

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