Adoptive mother finds joy in caring for special needs son



Lisa Denmeade’s love for her son, Cody, has grown since she adopted him as a 4-pound, 11-ounce newborn in March 2006. But so have the challenges of caring for a special-needs child.

After seeing a photo of a baby available through a Christian adoption agency in Florida, Denmeade said she knew he would be her son.

“God told me ... ‘He’s your son,’” she recalled.

“I was in my 40s, wanted a child and wasn’t married,” said Denmeade, who flew to the Sunshine State to get Cody. “I was ready to be a mother and knew he would be my one and only,” she said.

Cody, now 8, was born with partial absence of the corpus callosum. Denmeade explained that the part of the brain connecting the left and right hemispheres is missing in Cody.

“He’s mentally and physically challenged and has seizures, which are controlled through medication,” Denmeade said.

Cody also has a feeding tube. Denmeade said that Cody is able to eat but he doesn’t like the textures of many foods. “We don’t know if he’ll ever eat on his own,” she said.

Denmeade said she understood the demands of the situation before taking it on. Her sister, Elaine, has special needs and attends a Mahoning County Adult Services workshop.

Cody attends Leonard Kirtz School in Austintown. On Friday mornings, he goes to Easter Seals in Youngstown, where he has 30 minutes each of physical, speech and occupational therapy. Denmeade said the therapy used to be longer, but Medicaid made cuts to the time and duration; Cody has 30 weeks of therapy.

Cody is in a wheelchair, and Denmeade said whether he’ll ever walk is unknown. “I want him to be as independent as possible,” she said.

In the summer, he participates in a six-week equine therapy at Forget Me Not Farm in Liberty. “I pay for that. It’s not covered by insurance,” Denmeade said. Cody also will be involved in Challenger baseball for special-needs children.

“Cody loves TV,” his mother said. “‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Family Feud’ are his favorites.”

Surprisingly, Denmeade added, news programs also hold his attention. “I think he thinks they’re speaking right to him, and he likes that.” Denmeade also said Cody likes “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer.”

Cody also delights in knowing his vowels, and his favorite number is 13.

“He loves one-on-one interaction,” Denmeade said. “He loves the attention.”

Cody also likes to blow kisses. “He’s a big flirt,” Denmeade said.

But, she admitted, not all his behaviors are as endearing. When he’s screaming and Denmeade can’t figure out why and people are staring, it’s uncomfortable and awkward. “Some days I’m frustrated. You want your child to be normal,” she said.

Denmeade also faces issues with Cody’s therapy, finances and family circumstances. An “Upsee” harness has been suggested for home use. Denmeade described it as two harnesses attached, with her in one and Cody in the other, to simulate walking. But the $500 cost would be all out of pocket. A special treadmill also has been suggested, but again, Denmeade would have to pay for it.

She does do certain exercises with Cody at home. Medicaid provides for nurses to visit three days a week. He sees doctors in Boardman and Akron.

After a lot of effort, Denmeade secured a special van that has a wheelchair ramp. She had to travel to Akron to get it. “It’s one of a kind,” she said. “God opened the door there.” The customized van also has a TV and DVD, which come in handy to keep Cody’s attention.

In her family, she’s experienced loss. Her mother, Jackie, died in 2007; her brother, Jeff, died of a brain aneurysm in 2012; and her father, Harry, died in 2013. “I don’t know how I got through it all,” she said. “But I’m sure having faith in God helped.” Denmeade has fibromyalgia, a chronic condition of widespread pain.

She attends Bethel Evangelical Friends Church in Poland with Cody, who likes the singing.

Denmeade did work as a direct-care giver but no longer does that because of demands of caring for Cody. She, Cody and her sister make their home with a friend, Karen Flanery, who assists Denmeade in jewelry making. Together they’re a family. “She was ready to be a mother,” Flanery said of her friend. “If there’s any way to get what Cody needs, she does it. She’s a loving mother.” That’s why Denmeade began Creations for Cody, a jewelry-making business, to earn money to benefit her son.

Denmeade is looking forward to Mother’s Day on Sunday because Cody made her a surprise during junior church.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.