Of A Pearl
How one little girl and
her family are helping
others with cerebral palsy.
Norma Dorman of West Bloomfield shares smiles with her youngest children, Hershel and Peal-4 both 5.
r. Michael and. Norma Dorman of West
Bloomfield have a little girl who in every
way lives up to her name. She is bright and
shining and soft and pure and rare — a
That Pearl also has a mild case of cerebral palsy (CP)
makes no difference at all: Like every other child, she
goes to school, has family responsibilities and isn't
allowed to use her handicap to get away with anything.
It also makes every difference in the world. Not only
is Pearl's mother passionate when it comes to securing
the best possible services for her daughter, she is deter-
mined to help other parents who have children with
CP do the same.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15, Congregation Beth
Ahm will honor the Dorman family with a dinner,
with funds benefiting the synagogue and the Children's
Hospital of Michigan's Motion Analysis Lab. The event
will be held at the synagogue in West Bloomfield.
In The Beginning
Norma Dorman knew early on that Pearl, who is now
5, was different from other children.
Her physicians insisted otherwise, but Dorman saw
the way Pearl had a difficult time sitting up by herself,
long past the time it should have been a natural skill.
"Something wasn't 100 percent," she says, "but I
couldn't put my finger on it."
Instead of ignoring her concerns, Dorman rolled up
her sleeves and got to work.
"Parents need to understand that if something does-
n't seem right to them, they need to pursue it —
regardless of what other people tell you," she says.
One of the Dormans' first stops was the Michigan
Institute for Neurological Disorders, where physicians
agreed that Pearl had physical challenges. Initially,
some believed it was a case of gross-motor delay; final-
ly, CP was diagnosed.
The Dormans were heartbroken, but they had no
interest in sitting around feeling sorry for themselves or
letting Pearl sit around doing nothing. So they contact-
ed every organization, listened to everyone who had
It was never too much for Norma Dorman. In fact,
she tells parents of children with CP, "No advice is
wrong advice. Listen to everyone and check everything
out. I went everywhere, to all the hospitals. Wherever
we were told to go, we followed through, and all have
helped us get where we are today."
"My mother always taught me not to put all my eggs
in one basket," Dorman says of her all-encompassing
approach. "Besides, Pearl can only benefit from every-
"In fact, if we didn't have friends, family and com-
munity rooting for us, I don't think I could do this,"
Dorman adds. "There was always somebody saying,
`.You can get through .it,' and everyone who helped has
become an integral part of us."
The Dormans listened to — and befriended — their
daughter's physicians, workers at the Abilities Center,
staff at the West Bloomfield Early Intervention
Program, teachers at Ealy Elementary and Adat
Shalom Nursery (Pearl's first schools), the family den-
tist Dr. Avery Murav, everyone at the Friendship Circle
(which pairs physically and mentally challenged Jewish
children with friends to help out) and neighbors,
Norma Dorman can't say enough about Hillel Day
School of Metropolitan Detroit, which all four of her
children (Pearl's twin, Hershel, along with older sisters
Hillary and Tedi) attend and where Pearl is a kinder-
Pearl has no limits. She has a walker, but rarely uses
it. "She's running and swimming, too," Dorman says.
'And Pearl has a smile that's contagious."
It isn't all sweetness, though, that h
where she is today. "She is as stubborn and as inde-
pendent as they come," Dorman says. "Once a boy
came up to her and said, 'You're handicapped.' Pearl
told him, 'No, I am not." •
Among those who have come to know and love the
five-year-old is Marilyn Rice, a neighbor.
"Pearl is an incredibly special child," Rice says.
"Many days, I would watch her from. my window as
she played with her siblings. Pearl tries to do every-
thing they_do. When they are playing on the driveway,
Pearl plays with the group. Many times, she forgets
herself and her walker starts to pull her down the
driveway. She takes a physical and mental stance and
pulls it back up, pleased with herself"
Of course, there have been painful times.
"I have said, 'Why me? Why her?"' Dorman says.
Then she moves on.
Spirit of Tzedakah
Having a child with CP has sensitized Norma Dorman
to the needs of other, less fortunate families.
"We have the financial resources to help Pearl," she
says. "We also have a community to help us get what
we need. Not everyone does."
In this spirit, the dinner in the Dormans' honor will
raise funds for a high-tech computer that can radically
improve the lives of children with CR In the motion
analysis laboratory, such computers are used to measure
the abilities (and disabilities) of children with CP. The
information generated helps physicians and therapists
pinpoint a child's specific needs: whether surgery is
required, what kinds of shoes or braces might best
help, the most beneficial kinds of therapy.
The Dormans' friend Marilyn Rice, who is helping
organize the dinner, can't imagine a better way to
honor Pearl. "We have the power to make a child's day
a little easier, a little less painful, and a lot more peace-
ful," she says. "Together, we can help a mother achieve
her goal: to see her child walk, if only for a few steps."
For information on the Beth Ahm dinner honoring
Alimans, call the synagogue at (248) 851-6880. ❑