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12-year-old girl makes major strides despite disability, inspires others

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This is a story about success. 12-year-old Audrey McConnell is the epitome of what you can get done when you do the work. She was born with cerebral palsy and there was concern how she would be able to navigate life. It turns out she’ll be just fine.

Audrey is a bit of a celebrity around Easterseals Crossroads, a rehabilitation center in Indianapolis. She has the energy for it. That energy is part of what fuels her occupational therapy sessions, and it rubs off on others.

Maggie Angelo, McConnell’s therapist, said, “I just feel really honored to work with her. It makes me feel like I’m making a difference. And honestly, she does a lot. I feel like I’m just along for the ride sometimes.”

Since Audrey was four, she has come to Easterseals for services to address challenges she’s faced being born with cerebral palsy. During her weekly visits, much of the work centers around focused exercises on performing self-care and building fine motor and social skills, and most of it looks like a lot of fun.

Julie McConnell, Audrey’s mother, said, “She doesn’t care that she’s different. She’s just living in loving life. It’s been awesome to see that. And her wanting to come to therapy every week. And us not having to fight her on it.”

Around six months old, doctors realized she wasn’t completing milestones. At four, she still couldn’t speak and couldn’t walk.

“Long-term goals are set for a year. So, you don’t always see the changes,” Angelo said. “But they’re happening. Then when you look back over the year you can really see how far you’ve come.”

Her mother says Audrey is doing it all these days. Her strides are an example of what early intervention can do.

“The beginning we thought she didn’t understand that she had issues. Or difficulties with things. Or that she was any different than her peers,” Julie said. “Now I think she just doesn’t really care that she is any different from her peers, and she loves life.”

Audrey has some big plans for the future. She says she wants to be a firefighter when she grows up.