Debbie Groff remembers her daughter’s first basketball game as a member on the JV cheerleading team.

“It was more emotional to see her out there, you don’t think when you get that diagnosis that you’re ever going to go to their games or in her case, cheerleading events,” she said.

Groff’s 12-year-old daughter, Jordan, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“But when it does happen, it’s even more joyous,” Groff said proudly.

Jordan, a seventh-grader, joined the cheerleading team last fall with the help of her current coach and instructional assistant at Kyrene Centennial Middle School in Ahwatukee. Despite using a wheelchair, Jordan makes it out to every game and is a cherished member of her team with 22 other girls.

“Those kids have just touched me, they have never needed to be coached or coaxed into kindness. They automatically welcomed her,” said Groff of Jordan’s schoolmates.

Described as a girl who loves music and is a total “girly girl,” Jordan is also a member of the school chorus and loves basketball.

“Most of the time people don’t get to see that,” said Groff. “In her heart she is really typical and she likes that kind of inclusion.”

In elementary school, Groff said Jordan wasn’t included in a lot of what her typical peers were doing. Socializing or sharing classrooms was not an option as therapies and other developmental programs needed to be completed before middle school.

“It’s wonderful that you have so many therapies and options to use, but at the same time you don’t get to just go in and be a kid,” Groff said.

Mentioning that most parents with kids who have special needs tread lightly when going to middle school, for fear of judgement or harsh treatment, Groff said Jordan’s experience in middle school was a different story.

“She has just blossomed, and it’s because she’s involved and feels comfortable,” she said. “It’s great to see.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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