Baby Maddie Update

By Greg Awtry, former publisher of the York News-Times and current contributor to justmelaniew.com 

Earlier this week, October 1, 2023, to be exact, I was pleased to see that the state of Michigan proclaimed and recognized October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Many of my loyal readers for the last thirteen years will know why this is so important to me. For those new to the column, let me explain. Maddox McClintic, my thirteen year-old granddaughter was born with Down syndrome, so every March 21, always the date of World Down Syndrome Day, I write an update on Maddox. Now with this proclamation, I get to do it again!

We, her parents and I, didn’t know Baby Maddie, as I called her then, had Down until the day she was born. Coming as a complete shock to us, I can still feel the pain in our hearts, the worries about her future, whether she would be accepted in society or have any friends, and how she would do in school. I could fill this newspaper with all the details of her journey from then until now, but let me just say, Maddox has exceeded all expectations and then some, surprising us nearly every single day.

The Michigan proclamation states over 5,000 Down syndrome births a year in the United States and despite progress, there is still much work to be done regarding the rights to equality, inclusion, education, medical care, and research.

They also mention the developmental delay, meaning that it sometimes takes a bit longer for some to learn. The same is true for Maddox. In her education she does extremely well, after modifications and accommodations are developed for her to meet her goals. And she is! Her report cards are A’s, B’s and the occasional C. She has been on the Honor Roll multiple times, and I know her learning capacity is endless.

And she has dreams, as we all do. Maddox’s dream is to become an marine biologist, move to Florida to continue studying life in the oceans. Many would doubt her, but I stopped doing that years ago. One our favorite pastimes when the two of us are together is to play trivia. She amazes me with the depth of her knowledge, and don’t even try to beat her when it comes to the oceans. She wins every time.

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to witness a sliver of her formal educational process. I have listened to some of her educators tell us her strengths and weaknesses, her interaction with teachers and students in school, and what challenges lay ahead for her. The most common responses were that she loves school, that she is the hardest working student in her classrooms, that she raises her arm to answer nearly every single question, some correctly and some incorrectly, but always with enthusiasm.

I have also heard she struggles in math, is an excellent reader but needs to work on comprehension, can navigate the middle school on her own, and always brings great attitude to school. Then I heard one educator say she has plateaued. I really had to bite my tongue on that one. Maddox has not nor ever will plateau. Her quest for knowledge is extraordinary. Yes, she learns at a different pace. Yes, she needs extra help. Yes, she needs extra time. But no, she hasn’t plateaued. I believe, if the school believes she has plateaued, that it’s not Maddox’ who has plateaued, but the teacher’s ability to teach Maddox may have plateaued. Maybe the school needs more education on educating children with the specific disability of Down syndrome.

The Michigan proclamation also states, “… people with Down syndrome possess a wide range of abilities and are active participants in the educational, occupational, social and recreational circles of our communities.” But the most important thing in the proclamations is that Michigan will, “…support equal opportunity and the right to achieve the universally desired goal of self-fulfillment… and reaching one’s fullest potential.”

Maddox has exceeded my expectations. Now she is working on hers. I fully expect Maddox will achieve her “desired goal of self-fulfillment”, and I fully expect our schools to do everything possible, leaving no stone unturned in helping Maddox in “reaching her fullest potential”. And I guarantee that fullest potential is light years away from someone’s ill informed artificial plateau.

If you know Maddox, or someone with Down syndrome, please feel free to share your success stories with me at gregawtry@awtry.com

 

 

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