Archive for February 2016

Those of you who have read “Distracted Girl” will recall the character Martha Shipley: my teacher and speech therapist. Her real name was Sally Maxwell, and she sadly passed away on Friday, February 5, 2015.

Sally began working with me when I was three years old, and continued to work with me into my teen years. I had a severe speech impediment and stutter when I was younger. It was so bad that hardly anyone could understand me. Sally patiently took the time to work with me; teaching me the techniques I needed to learn to speak clearly. She told me, “Becky, if you try hard enough and believe in yourself, you can accomplish just about anything.” She was confident that someday I would be able to speak fluently even without trying. I did not believe her, and neither did my parents. However, she proved to be correct, because today I speak completely fluently without a trace of a stutter.

Sally did more than simply tell me to believe in myself. She believed in me, and sometimes her belief in me was all I needed to make it through my stressful adolescent years. She constantly reminded me that I was not just a person with special needs, but a person with many gifts and strengths as well. She encouraged me to use my strengths to compensate for my weaknesses. Because Sally believed in me, I came to believe in myself.

Sally was cheerful, warm, calm, and patient. She was bubbly and optimistic, and simply being around her was enough to lift my spirits. She had something positive to say about me no matter what. Even after she moved to another state when I was 16, we continued to keep in touch. She also offered some assistance to me when I was working on “Distracted Girl,” and was one of the first to buy a copy when it was published.

Today, I am not only an author, but I also work for The Federation for Children with Special Needs, where I am the Youth with Disabilities Coordinator. I do outreach to youth with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood, and I present a workshop on self-determination and self-advocacy. In each presentation, I mention Sally and the lessons she taught me about believing in myself. When I am talking with a young person with special needs whom I feel needs some extra encouragement, I find myself sharing the same words with her that Sally gave me many years ago. Thanks to Sally, I know that sometimes all you need to make it through is to have someone (outside your family) who believes in you.

There is so much more I could say about Sally, but it would make this article much too long; so I’ll simply say that if you want to learn more about her and her impact on my life, read “Distracted Girl.”

Farewell, Sally. You may be gone from this earth, but you will never be forgotten. Now you are an angel in Heaven with God. May you come to know as much happiness and peace on the other side as you brought to all of us when you were on Earth.



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