Jacqueline Bettis, born with cerebral palsy, says, “I’ve always known I stand out. But my parents taught me that regardless of my disability, I’m still a person and I’m still beautiful and I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Originally from Little Rock, Bettis graduated from Hall High School, has an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Central Arkansas and a masters in vocational rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Bettis has dedicated her life to helping others. She has been involved with People First of Arkansas, served as an executive board member of the Arkansas Independent Living Council and the Arkansas Rehabilitation Council and is a former Ms. Arkansas Wheelchair (2009-2010), now serving as a point of contact for the Ms. and Miss Arkansas Wheelchair Foundation. 

Meet Jacqueline! 

LRF: Tell readers about yourself, your family and what you like to do for fun. 

I have one brother and one sister to the movies, bowling, swimming and fishing, trail walks, painting and writing, listening to music, playing cards and board games, water sports and activities, volunteering, playing with children, reading good books, doing magazine blogs like this and visiting friends and family.

LRF: What is your diagnosis? What tools do you or have you used to help you? 

I have had cerebral palsy since birth. [I] basically [had] a stroke before, during or after birth due to premature labor. I have limited use of my arms and legs but it doesn’t stop me from doing the best I can do to live my life and help others. I utilize my wheelchair for all mobility purposes. 

LRF: What do you wish others knew about CP?

I wish others knew that sometimes if someone is not willing to step outside of themselves and their own needs to help someone, they can actually do more harm than good. It can actually make or break a person and their progress if someone is hindered from achieving their goals and dreams due to someone else’s lack of ambition or their lack of interest to really help, support and encourage people to achieve their dreams.

LRF: What makes you stand out from most other people?

My brown eyes, my smile and my laugh. 

LRF: What advice do you have for parents of kids with special needs?

My advice to parents out there is to push your kids. Let them live and learn, fall and get back up, smile and move forward with life because the world is beautiful and evil. … If you protect them from it due to your own insecurities or fears, you are only hurting them in the long run. … Choose to support them no matter what they do or don’t do. 

LRF: What advice do you have for kids with special needs?

… be bold, be beautiful, be YOU and keep on keeping on. 

LRF: What advice do you have for parents of typical kids?

Let your children be curious and ask questions when they want or need to, and don’t stop them from talking to people who are differently abled because you think it’s rude. 

Surround yourself and your children with differently abled people and join in on conversations. You might be surprised by what you and your children learn if you choose to give yourself and your children that experience in life.

Heather Honaker is circus ringleader for three kids 4 and under — two typical, one not, but they all think they are special. You can follow along as the messiness unfolds around her family by reading the Typically Not Typical blog. If you know of any Extraordinary people you’d like to see featured, email heatherphonaker@gmail.com.