It’s difficult to tie a tight, neat ponytail with one hand, but Reagan Bischoff can show you how.
Everyday tasks like drying her long hair, cutting an apple, buttoning jeans, slicing bread, or doing push-ups are things Reagan, 13, has had to work relentlessly to master. She has full use of her right hand, but cerebral palsy makes her left hand little help in those tasks.
Reagan shares the skills she’s mastered on her YouTube channel, Throw Leftie. Thousands of people from around the world have seen her videos, and hundreds have subscribed.
“There were a lot of things that I had a hard time doing when I was little,” says Reagan, a rising eighth grader at River Bend Middle School in Loudoun County. “I figured if I started a YouTube channel, I could help a lot of people that have something as difficult as I do.”
Throw Leftie was not her first foray into online video. “When they like you even with your disability” was a TikTok video she posted for fun. It got 500,000 views and 81,000 likes, Reagan says.
That viral success came as Reagan sought to be more independent despite challenges from brain surgery when she was 2 months old that limit use of the left side of her body. Her family turned to the nonprofit Brain Injury Services of Northern Virginia for help building skills and handling classes. BIS provides free services to support people whose brains have been injured after birth.
“Reagan took in the strategies and realized her abilities and saw that these small changes in her life can make it so that she can be successful,” says Cynthia Cross, her BIS case manager.
Her parents, Danielle and John Bischoff, encourage Reagan’s many interests.
“This was 100 percent on her to say, ‘I want to take this on, and I want to figure out how we can do it,’” her mother says. Reagan wanted to play the trumpet, whereas “we would have been OK with chorus,” she says.
Reagan’s videos mix skills and tips with information about hard-to-find tools she uses. In her video on tying ponytails, Reagan’s nimble right hand wraps a stretchy band over hair grasped in her stiffer left hand. She wraps the band three times.
“It might get a little bit tight, so you’re going to have to pull extremely hard,” she advises, demonstrating moves that took her four years to master.
“The best therapy is life,” says Sarah Pickford, manager of Community Participation and Skill-building Services at BIS. Reagan’s authenticity deepens the value of the videos, she says.
Sharing the videos has changed Reagan’s perspective, too.
“I started with being really shy,” Reagan says. Classmates have teased her, and some days have been hard, she says. “When I started making videos and more people liked them, I felt like I could be more open.”
“I was super proud of her for embracing her story and being brave enough to come out with it publicly,” says Dana Drever, her lacrosse coach. As goalie, Reagan is “fearless,” she says.
Reagan’s YouTube channel shows “she seeks to create changes in the world beyond herself,” Pickford says. That was among the reasons BIS chose Reagan to receive its 2022 Bryant Cohen Empowerment Award in May.
It was resilience that Chad Eirich, Reagan’s physical education teacher, says he’s seen time after time. “She’s never said, ‘I can’t do it,’” he says. “She’s always really asked, ‘How can we find a way for me to do this?’”