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Sixth Grader Zachary Duckworth Combines Spirit, Love of Learning to Overcome Delays

This awesome kid overcame significant speech delays and has a true zest for life!

This week’s Whiz Kid

Name: Zachary Duckworth

Age: 12

School: Pier Middle School

Accomplishment: Zachary Duckworth was non-verbal until the age of 4. Now in the sixth grade, he rarely stops talking and is one of the most well-known kids at the Pier School.

Whiz Kid’s Key to Awesomeness:  One of the most joyful sentences any new parent can hope to hear is that their newborn has been born healthy.  So when a healthy child’s development veers off course such as Zach’s did, it can be devastating to the family.

As the Duckworths grappled with their son’s developmental delays, they soon realized that just because Zach’s ability of processing information and learning how to communicate would be different from his peers, that wasn’t something to mourn, it was something to celebrate.

“He’s his own individual person and he brings us a lot of joy,” shares his mom, Cindy Duckworth.

Zach didn’t have any verbal communication until he was 4.

“He had to learn to communicate using pictures and visual supports,” Cindy said. “Now, he doesn’t need them any longer because he talks so much and he loves to ask questions.”

Non-verbal children also have difficulty socializing. Zach was very shy but Cindy shares that since he’s been in school that has all changed.

“Like when he was a student at the elementary school, he knows all the staff in the Pier School including their classroom numbers,” she said.

It’s not just the teachers he knows so well. Zach is very outgoing and really enjoys interacting with all his classmates.

One of Zach’s teachers at the Pier School, Krystal Cagnon, shared that he is a friendly, happy boy and that he is always willing and very much enjoys helping others. He is very curious about his environment and loves learning new things.

Zach is very involved in activities in and out of school. He has been on the Pier School newspaper staff, The Mariners’ Catch, for the past two years and contributes wonderful artwork for each issue. Not only is it hard to get Zach to stop talking, you should hear him sing! He’s been involved with the school chorus since elementary school and loves to listen to music and dance, especially Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.  Oh, and as for his favorite dance moves — Zumba!

Zach is also quite the swimmer.  He enjoys swimming at the YMCA and also participates in swimming events in the Special Olympics Summer Games.  Not only does he swim, Zach has been working on his surf moves and participates in the Surfers Healing at the Narragansett Town Beach. 

Last year, the event was held on Saturday, September 18, and more than 100 kids surfed in the event. Surfers Healing is an organization that travels around the country and holds one-day surf camps to teach children with autism to surf. 

Surfers Healing was founded by Israel and Danielle Paskowitz – their son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Israel was a competitive surfer and realized that surfing had a profound impact on his son, so they wanted to share this therapy with other autistic children. For more information visit their website, surfershealing.org.

Zach plans on spending a lot of time at the beach this summer and also hopes to help his mom in the kitchen because he loves to cook.  At the moment, chicken nuggets are his favorite food, but if he keeps up his culinary interest in the kitchen that could certainly change.

Next year, Zach will be in junior high and he is very excited about that because with a higher grade comes more independence and the freedom to do a few more things that sixth graders don’t get to do. Because Zach is so talkative and outgoing, it’s hard to believe he didn’t start verbally communicating until 4.  His family, teachers, and friends have all seen amazing growth and gains during the past few years and that is due to a combination of all the wonderful support that Zach receives from his family, the school, and the programs that he is involved in.

But just as important, Zach is making great progress because of his genuine spirit and sheer enjoyment of life — nothing can stop a go-getter with qualities like that!

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CJ Tudino June 06, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Zach is such a great kid..love all his pictures he creates in Newspaper Club and his big smile!
Debra Mullaney June 06, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Zach has exhibited so much growth in all areas in the last few years. He is lucky to have all the support that he does and he is thriving on the attention academically and socially. He is a pleasure to teach!
Mariann Millette June 07, 2011 at 02:33 AM
What a beautiful and inspirational story, good for you Zach. Mariann Millette
Teri Donovan June 10, 2011 at 02:38 PM
What a fantastic story about an exceptional young man! Timely intervention and unfailing parental advocacy make such a difference. Congratulations, Zach -- love your spirit!!

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