My hope mirrors her dream

Courtesy Photo Maddox McClintic poses with the many academic accolades she received upon graduating Thunder Bay Junior High School.

This is a story of milestones that began 14 years ago, when I first started chronicling the life of my granddaughter, Maddox McClintic.

It was a cold January day in Alpena, the day she was born. Her parents were excited with the anticipation of their first child. The newborn’s bedroom was perfectly adorned in all girly decor, waiting for the new family member, when the unpredictability of life interrupted that perfect family dream.

Moments after Maddox’s birth, when she was laid in her mother Jamie’s arms, those dreams were challenged and expectations were questioned.

You see, Jamie is a doctor of occupational therapy who dedicated her life to working with disabled children, and the instant she first laid eyes on Maddox, she knew Maddox was born with Down syndrome. Jamie knew exactly what would lie before them: a life of constant challenges that would test both parents and Maddox alike.

Readers of my columns over the past 14 years know in detail the amazing obstacles Maddox has overcome, but, for those new to my Maddox tales, let me just say, as a grandparent, Maddox not only changed my life for the better, she has done that for practically everyone she has met in her short life.

We knew early on Maddox had the ability to learn, mastering simple sign language before she could talk. And that learning ability has taken her further than most people could imagine, culminating with her selection to address her fellow students and teachers at this past week’s Thunder Bay Junior High School graduation ceremony.

Maddox wrote her speech herself and focused on what is most important to early teenagers. She wrote about the power of friendships — important to all of us, but critically important to Maddox.

At a recent meeting with her teachers and parents, an annual meeting to establish goals, accommodations, and modifications to Maddox’s education endeavors, the comment I heard most often was that Maddox works harder than any student in class. She has to. She wants to learn. She has goals and aspirations, like her peers, but needs more help and understanding to get there.

That is why Maddox has relied on her friends to help her along the way of this difficult journey.

Maddox wrote about friends always being there for her. She wrote about never feeling alone because of her friends. She wrote about her experience in junior high and her excitement about entering high school, to reunite with friends who she began junior high with who now were in high school. I was impressed with her ability to understand the soul-felt power of friendship that she both gives and receives in equal amounts.

I said Maddox’s education plan was altered, giving her accommodations and modifications that make learning a bit easier for her. Things like enlarged print, extra directions, and extra time to complete homework, tests, etc. She is afforded a full-time aide to help through the school day and I thank the school for making that happen. Most teachers and administrators went the extra mile to help Maddox, resulting in her being on the honor roll and receiving much academic recognition.

But there were some who didn’t believe in her, and I would point out an obvious learning opportunity for those who doubted her and encourage them to be more open to inclusion after seeing what Maddox has achieved.

I grew up in a small Nebraska town in the 1950s and 1960s. Children like Maddox were separated from their peers and placed in a group home in town.

We have come a long, long way since then with the passage of the American with Disabilities Act in 1990.

No longer are children with disabilities shuttered behind closed doors. They are instead allowed to flourish and become meaningful members of our society, enabling the Maddoxes of the world to follow their dreams.

And, yes, Maddox has her dreams too: to become a marine biologist working with ocean life (grandfather’s note: Don’t play ocean trivia with her; she will beat you every time).

How far she will go in attaining her dream will depend on her of course, but also on a boatload of friends, family, and mentors along the way.

As Maddox enters high school, my hope mirrors her dream, and that the teachers and staff realize her potential and help her through her shortcomings to achieve all that is possible for this remarkable and resilient young woman.

Congratulations, Maddox McClintic!

And that’s the latest installment of the Maddox Chronicles. Let me know your thoughts at gregawtry@awtry.com.


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