Rachel Duncan, 14, is a freshman at Ashville High School. She said her first few weeks of her high school career have been great.
Duncan is confined to a halo wheelchair because she was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital (AMC).
Arthrogryposis is an abbreviation of AMC, and is used to describe congenital joint contractures in two or more areas of the body.
"It is a muscle and joint disorder," teacher’s aide Lisa Swindall said. "Rachel’s is very severe. She will never be able to walk or use her limbs. It’s only physical, and not mental. Rachel is a brilliant young lady."
As far as being in high school now, Duncan said it has been easy.
"My classes are okay," Duncan said. "I get along with everybody just fine. I make all A’s and B’s, and here lately, they have been all A’s. I am a member of the Beta Club."
Duncan said she really enjoys the block scheduling as a freshman at high school.
"The block scheduling gives us longer time in class, and I can do my homework in class," Duncan said. "I can usually get it all done."
During her three years at Ashville Middle School, Duncan was the school spelling bee champion. As a sixth grade student, Duncan finished fourth in the county spelling bee. Last year, she finished runner-up in the county bee.
"I enjoy spelling words," Duncan said.
One work Duncan can spell is meteorologist because that is what she wants to be one day.
Swindall is with Rachel all day. Swindall is on the school bus when it goes to pick her up in the morning, and rides the most with her home once school is over.
"This is my fifth year with Rachel," Swindall said. "She is a delight to work with and very smart. I accompany her on all the field trips and Beta Club conventions. Rachel won the ‘Yes I Can’ award for academic excellence while she was in the sixth grade. We had the chance to go to Washington DC for four days.
Duncan said the trip to Washington DC has been the highlight of her school career thus far.
A normal day for Duncan and Swindall is breakfast at school and then on to homeroom.
"Once we get to her first period class, I set up her computer, get her book ready, and she does her work," Swindall said. "Rachel has a Dragon Speak head set that is voice activated and trained to her voice."
Camp ASCCA is near Auburn, and Duncan had the chance to go there this past summer. ASCCA stands for Alabama Special Camp for Children and Adults.
"I was actually away from my mom, Ginger Rylant, and Ms. Lisa at the same time," Duncan said. "I was a little homesick at first, but after a while, I got used to it. I did 17 of the 18 activities there. I went to a dance, did tubing, went down a waterslide and rode a horse. It was the first time I had ever rode a horse."