Oklahoma City University paddler Kaitlyn McElroy has overcome obstacles

Former cross-country skier now excels academically and athletically.
by Ed Godfrey Published: April 21, 2012

“I had to get out of my boat and warm the rudder up to steer my boat,” she said. “After about a week of this happening, I emailed Shaun, talked to him, and said I would be out there in a week.”

She moved to Oklahoma City, received a kayaking scholarship from OCU and returned to school, where she is pursuing her second undergraduate degree in behavioral studies. She wants to study neuroscience in graduate school.

McElroy has come a long way since grade school, where she was put in a special education program because of her learning difficulties. As a young girl, McElroy attended a public school in Maine but wasn't able to read.

A battery of tests left her teachers with a pessimistic view of her future.

“Since I wasn't able to do what I was supposed to do on that test, I was basically told I wasn't going to have a future,” she said. “The tests basically said I would be lucky if I graduate from high school.”

McElroy's parents, however, did not accept those findings and enrolled her in a private school.

“I still wasn't able to read, but I went to class and absorbed everything,” she said.

It was later determined that much of her reading difficulties were due to a vision problem.

“My eyes couldn't track very well,” she said. “I went to therapy to get my eyes to track. I also did a lot of occupational therapy for hand-eye coordination.”

By her fourth-grade year, McElroy began to read and started to catch up with the other students her age.

Because of her experience, McElroy has empathy for parents who have children with special needs. McElroy said she is proof that no one can predict how a child will turn out.

“I know I am very lucky,” she said. “My parents had the opportunity and means to put me in an alternative private school. I think it's really difficult for parents who don't have the opportunity to send their kids to an alternative education.

“To be told your kid doesn't have a future when they are only 6 or 7 years old, how do you know? People learn in different ways. I know that it makes it difficult for education, but it's something we need to be aware of.”

by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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