Local teen shares story of perseverance
The Record Herald - 8/2/2018
Aug. 01--WAYNESBORO -- For Leyna Shindledecker, 13, of Waynesboro, life has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns. But for her, it's all about perspective and overcoming obstacles.
Shindledecker suffered a stroke at the age of 5 months old, affecting the right side of her body. As a result of the stroke, Leyna was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a brain condition that affects the movement and muscle coordination of her body.
A short time later, Leyna was diagnosed with Asperger's, a condition on the autism spectrum.
Through years of physical, occupational and speech therapy, Shindledecker has been able to accomplish and excel at what some would have thought to be impossible.
"We were incredibly fortunate to have great therapists along the way. They were all so willing to help us get what she needed," said Leyna's mother, Angelia Shindledecker.
After the recommendation of a physical therapist, Leyna started participating in equestrian and gymnastic activities--and she hasn't looked back since.
Now an incoming eighth-grader at Waynesboro Area Middle School, Leyna is a bright young woman, achieving her goals in and out of the classroom. She is an accomplished equestrian and gymnast as well as being an active member in the Washington County 4-H club.
"It's not that hard, I've grown up with it. I'm so used to it, but there are some challenges," said Leyna about her condition. "I have to find other ways to do things in gymnastics or in the kitchen because I only have one hand to do it with."
Shindledecker does her back handspring with one arm instead of two, as well as a one-handed handstand.
"I still have someone spot me. It's not totally independent, but I'm close. So close," she said.
"Gymnastics works well for her as a form of physical therapy," her mother added.
This year, while competing in the local chapter of the 4-H club, Shindledecker brought home multiple ribbons and titles, including second place in showmanship in the equestrian trials, as well as showing her pet rabbit, homemade baked goods and art project.
At her last meet of the season, Shindledecker scored an 8.8 on her gymnastics floor routine.
"I am so proud of her," said Toya McCleary, Leyna's gymnastics coach at the YMCA. "She is the hardest-working and most determined student I have had."
Shindledecker has high hopes for the future to pursue top-level equestrian and gymnastic titles. "I'm really excited to pursue all of my goals and see where it takes me," she said.
In the future, Leyna hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games in the dressage category, a highly-skilled form of horse riding.
She also has plans to attend Wilson College, Gettysburg College or Penn State University to pursue a degree in early childhood education.
For now, Shindledecker is focusing on competing in her final year of YMCA gymnastics.
"After, I want to stay with the YMCA and coach the little children, encouraging them as they blossom into little gymnasts," she said.
Contact John Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 717-762-2151.
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