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Her video high-fives special needs cheer team

NASHVILLE (BP) — “When I was really little, doctors told my mom that I would be special needs,” explains 14-year-old Savannah Grace, whose YouTube video has lots of people talking. “They said I would be autistic.”

Perhaps that’s why this aspiring pop star wanted to share the spotlight in a video with the Cheerville Raptors, a special needs squad from Tennessee.

Savannah’s take on the songs “Roar” (Katy Perry’s latest single) and “Brave” (the latest from Sara Bareilles) is a far cry from the artists’ current music videos of each. Perry’s Roar video tells the story of surviving a plane crash in the African jungle, befriending animals and learning to live off the land (while clad in Tarzan-esque garb). Sara Bareilles encourages people to be “brave” by daring to try goofy dances and break into rhythmless moves anytime, anywhere.

“When I heard the lyrics to these songs, I thought about my cousin Jake who has special needs,” Savannah says. “I want to see him be brave. I want him to be focused on what he can do, not what he can’t.”

Jenifer Parris, mom to 1-year-old Neely who was born with Down syndrome, loved Savannah’s video (accessible at YouTube as “Roar – Katy Perry – Brave – Sara Bareilles – Cover-MashUp”). Parris, of Jacksonville, Ala., was quick to share the video with all her Facebook friends. “I’ve learned so much about children with special needs since I had one of my own,” Jenifer shares. “And with Down syndrome, it’s just an extra chromosome. It’s just that one difference between my daughter and anyone else.”

Jenifer hopes that videos like Savannah’s will help people see kids with special needs the way that God sees them. “They should be allowed to try things and find out just how far they can go,” she says. “I saw that cheer team and I thought about how my daughter might be able to do something like that one day. Maybe looking at what’s really brave will help people stop and think.”

Ginger Moore, Savannah’s mom, agrees. “I knew what Savannah was thinking when she first read the lyrics to these songs. We’ve always loved watching the special needs cheer team practice. They are so good! They are the picture of overcoming.”

And Savannah, a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn., is too. Ginger knew something was different about her baby, despite getting a constant brush-off from pediatricians as a high-maintenance new mom. Conducting her own investigation through research on Google and visits to every possible parent support group, she finally got Savannah the help she needed.

At the age of 2, Savannah was diagnosed with SPD, a dysfunction of the brain in which sensory signals from the body (vision, auditory, touch, olfaction and taste) are not processed normally. Early intervention is the answer to conquering and controlling SPD. “It was a long, hard road, but we have no regrets,” Ginger says. “God used those days to prepare our hearts for foster care and adoption. He actually used it to build our family, to show us how to care for children here at home as well as globally.”

And it’s Savannah’s message to her generation. “I love this cheer team,” she says of the Cheerville Raptors, who are based in Hendersonville, Tenn. “When I get discouraged, I think of them. They don’t focus on what they can’t do. They focus on everything they can do.”
Rebecca Ingram Powell is a wife, mom, writer and conference speaker with Pure In Heart Ministries in Nashville. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Rebecca Ingram Powell