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Small Steps, Big Rewards: Caring For A Child With Special Needs

Posted at 7:35 PM, May 15, 2013

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — For most young people, going to prom is a given.

At WoodsEdge Learning Center, a Kalamazoo County school for kids with severe disabilities, it is a big deal.

A chance to get dressed up, be with classmates, have a good time and just be, leaving behind the constant care and challenges for their families for a brief moment.

On May 17th, dozens of teenagers from the center will be getting that chance, including Danny Thomason.

At 24 years old, he is one of the older students at the school.

At his home in Battle Creek, his mother is his companion and caretaker.

“I’m a stay-at-home mother and I take care of Danny 24/7,” explains Shelly Hoffman.

“It can be hard. We shower every morning, we can’t shower at night, Danny wears a diaper. We get up early for the bus, ” she explains.

“He is my everything.”

Unlike some of his classmates at WoodsEdge, Danny wasn’t born with a disability or disorder. He was a normal, healthy baby boy.

Just before he turned 6, Danny was involved in a car accident with his father and two young siblings. They were hit by a driver who ran a red light. Danny suffered a closed head injury and went into a partial coma.

It would be more than a year before he would be able to come home.

“They (doctors)  told me that if he lived,  he would recover 15 percent,” remembers Hoffman, who didn’t know if she would ever be able to take care of her son on her own.

With hard work, therapy, dedication from Danny’s family and three siblings, he has grown up and made more progress than ever imagined.

“He graduated from Gull Lake High School with an attendance diploma, he can walk, he’s tube fed, he can talk, you can’t understand everything he says but he tries,” said Hoffman.

Danny invited our FOX 17 crew into his room and it’s clear he is a Detroit Tigers superfan.

From the bedding to the walls, everything is Tigers.

The young man is equally as excited about Miguel Cabrera as he is the upcoming prom at his school.

This year his mom will be attending the dance with him.

“I got an invitation and I asked him if he would like me to go and he said, yes,  mom, I would,” said Hoffman.

She says seeing him happy, at school or at home, is all a mother can ask for. She no longer looks at Danny’s disability as a struggle.

“I don’t look at it as a bad thing anymore. I guess I kind of used to. He’s truly a miracle, so I’m blessed,”

For the family, the biggest rewards are the simplest ones.

“Every day,  no matter what I do for him, he’s always thanking me, thank you for getting me up, thank you for dressing me, brushing my teeth.

“It makes me feel really good.”