The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 29, 2013

No Limits: Creekside student defies expectations

Rebecca Croomes

EAST LIMESTONE — Devin’s parents were told he would never walk.

Andre and Viryonka Howell’s child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and classified as a spastic quadriplegic, meaning his muscles were drawn so tight he would never have proper usage of either of his arms or legs.

But baby Devin began to roll over. Then he started to sit up and crawl.

Now, 11 years later, Devin is making his way in the world on foot.

“It’s still unreal,” said Viryonka Howell. “I still don’t actually believe it yet.”

She said six months ago, Devin started getting out of his wheelchair to work with a walker. September 26 was his last day being pushed wherever he wanted to go.

“He hasn’t gone back to it since then,” Howell said. “Just pretty much anything the doctors said he wasn’t going to do, he’s doing. It took all I could to keep from crying to take the pictures of him getting off the school bus.”

Howell said Devin has a huge support group throughout Limestone County, especially from his family at Creekside Elementary School, so when she snapped a picture of Devin hugging his dad Andre after getting off the bus the first day he took his walker to school, it didn’t take long for the congratulations to come pouring in.

“It went everywhere in a matter of hours,” she said. “It was just amazing. I’ve got a good group of people looking out for us.”

Now, instead of watching his cousins run in the yard, he can chase them.

“He likes to be outside more,” Howell said. “His walker allows him to do that. His walker has allowed him to go pretty much anywhere.”

Walking is the latest milestone in a life that has been marked by progress and unyielding support for the Creekside fourth-grader.

Devin is so popular, his grandmother insisted on setting up a Facebook account for people to stay in touch with him and celebrate his successes.

Howell said her family feels all of Devin’s needs are being met at Creekside Elementary and Peaches & Cream Daycare, where he spends his summers. She also sang the praises of Creekside aide Jennifer Persall, who escorts Devin around campus every day and even helped him get on the AB honor roll.

“Jennifer has been there from day one,” she said. “He’s come so far because of her.”

And Devin’s friends know what he likes most.

“His classmates are always sending him letters in his backpack,” she said. “It’s always something to do with Roll Tide.”

Howell said she never has to pry Devin out of bed to get dressed for school, because he’s always ready to get on the bus. He has art and P.E. classes, and his studies are the same as other children in his grade with the only exception being Devin needs a communication device to answer his homework questions.

“They don’t treat him any different, and I think I like that the most,” Howell said.

What’s next for Devin is impossible for anyone to predict, but his mom said she’s praying and waiting for him to walk unassisted and begin talking.