Ayden was born with polycystic kidney disease.
In a lot of ways, I’m like any 13-year-old: I like to FaceTime with my friends, play with my younger brother Ethan and our three dogs and post selfies on Instagram. I also play clarinet and love to sew, knit, quilt and make other crafts. But I’m different, too — and I want other kids to know that it’s okay to be different.
I was born with spinal dysgenesis, which means that one of my vertebrae was out of place and pinching my spinal cord. As a result of the surgery to fix it, I have a problem called post-operative paraplegia — I can’t move my legs when I want to. I use a wheelchair to get around most of the time. I think of the chair as being part of me, but it doesn’t define me. …
“People ask me if it’s harder to do certain things, and I always tell them, ‘I don’t know, this is all I’ve ever had.’” Despite being born with symbrachydactyly — a condition in which the middle three fingers of her left hand never fully developed — 12-year-old Ashley makes most things look easy. She runs cross-country, plays basketball and even competes on the uneven bars in gymnastics, all with a hand that sets her apart from most kids her age.
“We talk a lot about how everyone has differences,” says her mom, Juli. “I told her when she was little that her hand won’t ever be the same as others, but we can adjust and make compensations so she can do the things she wants to do.” And what does Ashley want to do? The answer to that seems to be almost everything.