“God gave me Ace for a purpose and advocating for him is my drive”.
Maddie Worsham Cannon is a woman who has been driven in a mission to get the best educational opportunities for their son, Ace. Ace was diagnosed on the autism spectrum before he began preschool. In 20-21 he was in a small classroom for special services. As the year was ending, Maddie began discussing how the kindergarten year would look. She quickly realized that Ace would not have the same environment or the same services. “I began conversations with our speech therapist, Joellen Freeman. She was blunt with me and made me realize that what Ace had been a part of in preschool would not be replicated”.
It was then that Maddie decided that she had to do something to ensure that her son would not get left behind. Maddie says that it was actually Joellen’s daughter who joking said, “You should start a school”.
Never tell a momma that this is the best that can be done. Mothers do not accept that. It took 2.5 years, but Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m. the reality of A.C.E Type Two Charter School was realized. The Academy of Collaborative Education is a public school for K-5 with spaces for 96 children with autism. Class sizes are 8 students in each class with a teacher, paraprofessional, and a behavioral therapist. The school will have 180 instructional days and will follow the Ouachita Public School calendar closely. Exceptions to this calendar will be an extra week of extended school year (ESY) instruction added in after fall, spring, and summer break. The school year will run through June 6.
The school was approved with conditions of completing all final requirements before the July 29, 2024, start date. The next steps are to work with the Department of Education to finalize all policies. The facility needs to be renovated. The application for instructional staff is needed and all staff must be hired and trained.
Maddie says that she is thankful for the support from her family and the gentle pushes to keep her moving forward in this process. “My family is my rock. They support me in every way and do not let me quit.” When asked what she would like to tell other families with children with autism, she says, “Don’t stop asking for what your child needs. Don’t stop pushing the schools. Don’t stop demanding what will help your child succeed in life. You are your child’s first and best advocate. If they tell you no then look for a better path”.
Maddie Worsham Cannon is the wife of Richard Cannon. Daughter of Richard and Jeannie Worsham of Coushatta. Richard is the son of Ricky and Liz Cannon of Martin.
Pictured: Maddie and Richard with their children Gracyn, Jett and Ace