With her classmates, Sinny Smith-Rouse climbed to the top of the slide and slid down several times during recess Monday at Burns Elementary School.
The 3-year-old — a girly girl known for her chic pink eyeglasses, tutus and stylish headbands — walked around the playground. She rode the merry-go-round and took a spin on the SmarTrike, a toddler tricycle.
Her preschool classmates love to play with her. They didn't stop and stare or try to help her navigate tricky places. They treated her like everyone else.
That's because Sinny is like everyone else except for one difference: She has no legs from the knees down.
Sinny — short for her given name, Sincere — was born with caudal regression syndrome, which causes abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. Her lower legs crisscrossed, and the muscles atrophied.
Dressing her and putting her in a car seat proved difficult. Also, she had no feeling in her legs, so she suffered carpet burns and other injuries from dragging them. Her doctors and parents feared infections.
About a year ago, surgeons at Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville removed her legs at the knee.
Sinny walks and runs with her hands, pulling her torso along the ground. For her size, she has tremendous upper body strength, which she uses to lift and pull herself up stairs.
Her parents — Jeremiah and Antoine Smith-Rouse — call her a daredevil. Teachers characterize her as independent, inspirational and spirited.
"She's got a great, outgoing personality," said Larkin Wetzel, Sinny's speech teacher at Burns Elementary. "She's full of sass and spunk. She's very resilient. She doesn't see things as obstacles, and she doesn't see herself being any different from anyone else."
Doctors fitted Sinny with prostheses. Because she has no sacrum, her spine is not connected to anything. Sinny has no hip movement or control over her residual limbs. It is unlikely she will ever walk with the prostheses, doctors told her parents.
"But we aren't going to tell her what she can and cannot do," Antoine Smith-Rouse said.
That's for her to decide, and, by everyone's account, Sinny is one determined and capable girl.
When she first started attending school last year, teachers and aides tried to help too much. As a result, Sinny fussed. She wanted to do things herself, said Nikki Knott, Burns Elementary preschool teacher.
"She has taught us so much," Knott said. "She's very independent. She participates fully in everything. She's a strong girl, and it's been a blessing to have her in our lives."
Jeremiah and Antoine Smith-Rouse married nearly two years ago and are raising five children — a mix of biological, fostered and adopted kids. They fostered Sinny until her adoption went through on April 12, 2018. Sinny and another child in the family have special needs.
Since October, Burns Elementary has been raising money for Norton Children's Hospital's Champion for Kids program, which invites community members to host fundraisers to benefit the hospital. Wetzel said many students, including Sinny, at Burns Elementary, have benefited from care at Norton Children's.
Wetzel expects Burns Elementary to raise at least $5,000 for the hospital. The fundraiser is set to end later this month.
On March 7, Wetzel posted a Facebook message about Sinny as part of the school's Be a Champion fundraising program, which highlights students' inspirational stories. "Sinny has been a fighter since the moment she was born," Wetzel wrote.
Her dad Jeremiah Smith-Rouse couldn't agree more. "(Sinny) is able to show everybody that there is nothing you can't do. There is no stopping her."
Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, firstname.lastname@example.org