Heroes: Roxanne Finds Her “Voice” < Return to News

Roseanna Bryant remembers the first time she became truly concerned about her baby daughter, Roxanne. “She was six months old and wasn’t sitting up by herself or crawling,” said Bryant. “The test results came back showing that she was missing a chromosome affecting her speech and mobility.”

Despite the advantages of having a parent who was willing and able to devote her full-time attention to Roxanne and her six siblings, by the time she reached kindergarten age, Roxanne remained unable to talk or move herself beyond crawling. This was at this point that Roseanna and her husband became aware of the Upward program.

Sharon Graham, Upward’s Vice President of Programs, recalls the little girl who entered the school in August 2016. “She didn't walk…she crawled; she didn't use utensils…she used her hands; she didn't talk…she pointed to things or became frustrated; she didn't see very well…she held everything two inches from her eyes. She didn't really play with toys, she would inspect them and then move on to something else.”

But in spite of the challenges facing Roxanne — challenges that would have been all but insurmountable in a traditional school environment — the staff at Upward saw many other things in Roxanne…things that her mother had long recognized as well. Roxanne was smart, interested in the world, and looking for connection with it. She also enjoyed music, one-on-one attention, and the opportunity to assert her independence. Alongside these traits was a personality that won the hearts of staff and classmates alike.

One of the biggest initial hurdles facing Roxanne was her eyesight. Her vision teacher at Upward helped set up eye doctor appointments for Roxanne, and accompanied Roseanna Bryant as an advocate for Roxanne’s needs. The doctor prescribed glasses, and although the drastic change in her vision made Roxanne reluctant to wear them initially, she gradually became used to them — just as she was becoming used to using a walker and expanding her sign language vocabulary.

As the school year progressed, Roxanne began letting go of her walker and taking independent steps. By summer break she was walking with her hands in the air and a wide gait. Roxanne’s physical independence was matched by her increasing ability to make her needs known through signing — even signing “hello” when visitors would come to her classroom. Her pride in her accomplishments was demonstrable.

Today, Roxanne is a very different little girl than the one who began the Upward program. She wears her glasses most of the time, walks independently, and is even trying to use her voice. Once uncomfortable being anyplace other than her home or at her grandmother’s, she now enjoys visiting the Upward offices, greeting whoever is there, and checking out the room — leaving with her version of “the Queen’s wave”. 

For Roseanna Bryant, the changes in her daughter only enhance the joy she sees in her. “She’s like a normal eight year old, but one that doesn’t talk. She is doing more independent activities, uses utensils to eat, and is very smart. She knows what she wants when it comes to certain things.” Considering Upward’s role in her daughter’s development, Roseanna credits the program with not only providing an environment that has nurtured Roxanne’s physical development, but her social development as well. In contemplating Roxanne’s future, Roseanna acknowledges that her daughter already possesses those things any parent would want for their child: love and happiness. “Upward provides her with a social setting that gives her a feeling of independence. The program and staff have had a lot to do with that.”