Stories and Time at Story Time
Peachtree Corners, Georgia (Senate District 48)
Once a month, Matthew “Matty” Ladd goes to Gwinnett County Public Library. There, he joins nine other adults in Social Saturdays, an event where participants read using assistive technologies and have sensory experiences related to the story: smelling bags of spice, feeling the rush of leaves falling on their heads or experiencing wind in their faces from a small handheld fan. This is one of his favorite activities.
Matty, now 23, was born with mitochondrial myopathy, a neurodevelopmental disease that is a type of muscular dystrophy. Matty experiences decreased vision and visual responses and is unable to walk or communicate via speech.
Matty “has a big personality,” said his mother, Anne Ladd. “He’s very chill, laid-back, always happy, has a good sense of humor.” (Story continues below after slideshow.)
Matty’s disability was not immediately diagnosed. By the time he was 6 months old, Anne and her husband Paul began to notice he wasn’t meeting developmental milestones. Matty’s pediatrician disregarded her alarm and advised her not to compare him to his three-year-old brother, but not long after that Matty’s grandmother confirmed Anne’s suspicion that Matty couldn’t see. Then he began to have seizures. It was a long road to diagnosis, which included a muscle biopsy, but Matty’s family wanted to make sure they knew the genetic implications for future generations in their family.
Matty has used some form of Medicaid since he was 12. It initially took the family five years to get approved for Medicaid, a long time for the family to wait for much-needed support. The family still experiences challenges to find doctors who not only accept Medicaid but are willing to work with people with disabilities.
“You’d think they’d be interested, fascinated even, with the opportunity to know someone like Matty,” Anne said. Anne believes that better medical care and legislation is needed to ensure people like Matty can receive the support they need. “Transportation is a big deal for families,” said Anne, “and, after that, just helping our people find a meaningful way to spend the day.”
Matty graduated from high school in 2017 and is an alumni of Oakland Meadow School. Now, Matty swims with Unique Therapy Services at the Roswell Recreation Center, goes for walks with his support staff, and drums in drum circles.
Social Saturdays continue to be Matty’s favorite. Anne hopes that other adults with disabilities have access to similar programs in their own communities. “It’s a big responsibility that we all have to care for these people,” said Paul. “You need to keep them in your view (as a community.)”
Writer: Shannon Turner, Photographer: Haylee Fucini-Lenkey