The Whole Story
When we reached out and asked families and self-advocates to share their stories of Xtraordinary employees, June Lawson introduced us to her son and his employers. But what led up to Clay holding two jobs — both of which he truly enjoys — and living on his own?
Clay lives in Valdosta, population 56,095, in southern Georgia. He was born in 1978 and raised by June, a single parent.
The First 3 Years
As Clay grew from infant to toddler, June noticed he wasn’t progressing at the same rate as his cousin, who was his same age. As you, our dear readers already guessed, Clay wasn’t doing what most babies do, he wasn’t reaching his developmental milestones↗.
Clay struggled with speech and in how he played, learned, acted, and moved — except for walking. And running. Here’s how June described his running in a Valdosta Daily Times interview↗: “He would run and run and run until he ran into a fence or a brick wall.” June didn’t yet know how this observation would play into Clay’s future.
When Clay was 2 years old, June took him to see Dr. Thomas Anderson. He was not the first doctor she’d been to, but this doctor was determined to figure out what was going on and — after much research — was able to diagnose Clay with Fragile X syndrome. (Thank goodness for people like Dr. Anderson.)
From there, Clay worked with therapists and clinicians for his speech and other delayed issues, and with special education teachers once he entered the public school system.
Quiet, shy, and sensitive to noise, Clay kept mostly to himself throughout his elementary school years. After school, he’d take a bus to the YMCA (yes, the same Y!) where June would pick him up on the way home from work.
In high school, Clay was still prone to shyness and nervousness so it was decided that sports might be good for him, which proved to be a turning point in his life.
The sights and sounds of being in the gym with other students had previously put Clay on edge, but when the coach of the Valdosta High School basketball team made Clay the team manager, he was soon the loudest person in the room!
Clay became the team’s number one fan, and his new role and sense of belonging launched the next chapter for Clay. Clay was and will always be a sports fan, but it was around this time that he joined the “other” side — as an athlete himself.