Meet Hope For Three’s talented June Autism All-star with a heart as big as Texas, Maddy Lee! Maddy is a rising 7th grader at Pershing Middle School who enjoys playing the piano and singing. She lives with her younger brother, Jaxson, and her parents, Margaret and Edmond. She has two pets; a dog named Luna and a cat named Lenny. Maddy’s family loves to spend time together going to parks, the beach, the zoo, and local museums. Their ultimate favorite thing to do is go to Disney World each year!
Maddy’s mother noticed at age one that something was different, “I would take her to her doctor’s appointments, and the doctor would ask all these developmental questions. How many words does she know, can she stack blocks, does she make eye contact, how well does she play with others? I think the second or third checkup, I realized I couldn’t answer many of the questions.” Maddy didn’t speak; she only made “duck noises” and pointed. At her 18-month appointment, her doctor said, “If we didn’t see any developmental growth, he would refer her to a behavioral specialist at age two.”
Maddy was diagnosed on August 16, 2011, at age two with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified). Margaret said she wasn’t sad or scared but stressed. She and her husband were expecting their second child and only had a few weeks to figure out what to do for Maddy before their son arrived. “There is not a manual on what to do when you get your diagnosis. Mainly because what works for one child may not work for yours. I was able to get Maddy into Speech and OT right away. We also looked at schools for children on the spectrum and discovered the Westview School. It was one of the best things we did for her. It was what we needed as we began our autism journey.”
Maddy turns 12 next month and is thriving! She is fearless and does BIG things! In third grade, she mainstreamed to public school, where they had a music camp run by a professional music production group that Maddy attended. At the final performance, Maddy sang a solo, “Fight Song.” “It was beautiful, and she was confident and strong. I don’t recall a dry eye in the audience. We were so proud,” recalls Margaret. When something interests Maddy, whether art or music, she figures out a way to teach herself, her newest interest is piano! Recently, Maddy and her family were at Levy Park, and there is a solar-powered piano that people can play there. Maddy walked up to the piano and started playing “Claire de Lune.” She had taught herself how to play it! A crowd gathered and watched, then applauded. She was a little shy, but the slight smirk on her face proved she was very proud.
Maddy loves anime. She taught herself to draw some of her favorite characters and she loves Manga books and is really interested in cosplay. She also loves playing Nintendo games with her brother and during the week she attends Muay Thai classes at Ravlin Martial Arts. Some days are hard but the staff works so well with her, it’s amazing to see her potential shine through.
Maddy is described by her family as being extremely caring and kind with a big heart and lots of love. She does not like to see people sad or distressed and always shows genuine concern and a desire to help others. She’s also a huge animal lover. Once you make it inside her circle, Maddy is extremely loyal and not afraid to defend the defenseless. Maddy will have her moments when things are hard, but once you talk it through, she’s strong enough to pick herself up and push on. Most people give up when things are hard; Maddy continues to fight and work hard to reach her goals. Her perseverance, compassion, kind and caring heart, and abundance of talent are what make Maddy an Autism All-Star.
Jaxson and Maddy Lee
Interview and Story authored by Nycole McMahon