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Family & Relationships Children With Special Needs

Does She Know She's There?

by (author) Nicola Schaefer

Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Initial publish date
Sep 1999
Children with Special Needs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 1999
    List Price

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First published in 1978, Does She Know She's There? is the inspiring story of one family's determination to love, cherish, and keep their only daughter. From the moment the Schaefers were told their first-born Catherine would never walk, or talk, or even feed herself, they swore that to institutionalize her would be their last resort.

The keeping of that vow was far from the story of tears and despair that some would assume. "Cath" emerges as an engaging personality in her own right, as terribly challenged as she is.

Now 37, Catherine Schaefer lives in her own home, with live-in support, plus friends-cum-tenants in the upstairs apartments. Still unable to move much, or to speak, Catherine's life has, nevertheless, been a rewarding success story. This book is its chronicle, illustrated with black and white photographs.

About the author

Nicola Schaefer is a Fitzhenry and Whiteside author.

Nicola Schaefer's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"With candour, poignancy and humour, Schaefer, who has spoken internationally about helping people with disabilities to achieve a good quality of life, chronicles her steadfast determination not to institutionalize or stigmatize her daughter . . . [Schaefer has a knack for evoking empathy because of her resolute optimism and refreshing bluntness. Readers may be moved to tears and laughter as they share
the tragedies and triumphs of these two unique women.
Due to the challenges faced by Catherine, stories of even the most ordinary events in her life become extraordinary. Their extraordinariness is because of the sheer complexity of the effort required on the part of everyone involved in order to accomplish them. Schaefer, through her positive approach towards adversity, inspires in the reader an appreciation for the smallest pleasures in life."
- Brenlee Carrington, The Winnipeg Free Press

"This is not a reference book for those seeking information about cerebral palsy. Rather, it is a celebration of the lives of some remarkable people; in that respect, it succeeds admirably."
- Canadian Book Review Annual

"In this book, Nicola Schaefer shares her experiences of being the mother of a child with cerebral palsy. Her daughter Catherine was born in Winnipeg in 1961. Schaefer takes us through the challenges she faced to get appropriate care and stimulation for her daughter.

She came up against significant roadblocks because there were minimal programs available for people with disabilities. At that time, most people with mental disabilities were institutionalized, and Schaefer wanted no part of that for her child. Schaefer has spent most of her life advocating for programs, not only for her own daughter, but also for other families in similar circumstances.

A significant part of this book deals with the lack of services in Winnipeg and how Schaefer attempted to change that. Schaefer also shares personally about her own feelings of what it means to live with a child who is disabled.
I could relate to many of the feelings she expressed, including guilt, anger and exasperation. But it was mostly joy, the kind that comes from a child accomplishing a milestone. The photographs throughout the book help the reader get a better picture of the challenges the family faced and the love they had for Catherine.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of people with mental disabilities. I hope that this book will encourage you to make a new friend the next time you encounter Catherine or someone like her."
- Mennonite Brethren Herald, April 2001