December 28, 2007 --On and off the field, Eagles cheerleader Lauren Keeley keeps her subjects' heads in the game. "A big similarity would be that when you work with children with autism you have to be able to motivate the children, being a cheerleader, you have to be able to motivate the fans to get involved in the game to cheer on the team," Lauren said. Lauren's motivation to work with autistic kids started with having four cousins affected by the disorder. Now, as a therapist, her job is to help her clients overcome what is known as a hidden disability. "You can look at a child and not realize what their challenges are. There's not one cookie-cutter diagnosis. It's so different in every child," Lauren said. Part of Lauren's therapy session involves play dates. In one instance, David and Matthew, who sometimes struggle to interact socially with other kids are paired together, and given activities which encourages them to jointly participate. The widespread perception is that being an Eagles cheerleader is glamorous and the ultimate platform for beautiful, young women, but the role Lauren Keeley lives for is helping those who need it most. "These children have so much potential and they just need the love and support of their family and friends," Lauren said. "Working with children with autism is the most rewarding experience that I will ever have in my whole life."
December 28, 2007 3:52:26 PM PST