In honor of Fishers’ celebration of National Disability Awareness Month, we’re featuring community stories related to disability and inclusion every Wednesday throughout March. Learn more about the celebration and how you can be an ally for disability inclusion at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness.
Meet Your Neighbor: Maddie Long, winner of the 2021 Life Without Limits Award
Madeline Long is your typical 17-year-old teen. She is frequently found on Spotify and Instagram, has crushes on boys, and she LOVES JUNK FOOD! Sure, she is on the autism spectrum and will live with her Mom and Dad the rest of their lives (Susan and Scott), but she really is way more like the average teen than most would guess.
Maddie (she prefers that much over her birth name) has been fortunate to grow up in a time when schools and communities are much more inclusive of kids with developmental disabilities. Most people of my generation never got the opportunity to meet or socialize with people like my daughter. If it was ever even brought up, we were told “don’t bother with those kids in the special education classroom.” Up until the past couple decades there was a sense of shame and a misunderstanding of people with developmental disabilities and the value they bring to humanity.
This terrible treatment of people with developmental disabilities still goes on in some places in the US and is still mostly the policy taken in the rest of the world. We moved to Fishers 22 years ago and have seen the amazing growth that has happened here. Fishers is a place we are proud to call our home. Sure, Fishers has its challenges like us all, but the support for Maddie in the schools and the community has been generally pretty wonderful.
It should be mentioned, though, that Maddie Long makes that pretty easy. To know her is to love her. It would be less than honest to not mention it has been a long road navigating her challenges, but those are so far outweighed by what she has brought to our lives.
Initially I started doing Happy Monday with Maddie videos to help her communicate better. She instantly loved doing them (as I said, she is like a typical teen) and over the past decade these videos have helped countless people across the world better understand what it is like to be part of a family with someone with a developmental disability.
Maddie loves her fans, and she continues to ask when her next appearance at a fundraiser or corporate comedy performance of mine is going to be, as she loves to go out onstage at the end of her Dad’s standup events and totally steal the show.
Maddie Long is a very proud junior at Fishers High School. The thing that brings her the most joy is connecting with typical learning peers in the remarkable organizations she is active in like Top Soccer, Champions Together, and Best Buddies. She was blessed to be invited to practice with the Fishers Tigers girls’ basketball team this past season and it gave her a whole new level of feeling connected to girls her own age.
I have toured the US as a standup comedian for 30 years, performing at most of the top clubs and appearing (or hosting) many TV and radio programs. My recent Drybar comedy special, in which I talk about Maddie at the end, has over 1 million views online.
While I have been doing my fair share of virtual inspirational comedy shows during the pandemic, I look forward to going back out on the road together with Maddie for a few live events again soon! At the top of this list is getting to do our 9th annual Fishers Standup Show, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for various local disability groups.
Learn more about March Disability Awareness Month and how you can be an ally at fishers.in.us/DisabilityAwareness.
Scott Long is the father of Maddie Long, the winner of the 2021 Life Without Limits Award from the Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability. The Life Without Limits Award is given to an individual with physical and/or intellectual disabilities who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to the community of Fishers by promoting inclusion, independence, and eliminating barriers. Scott Long is a nationally touring standup comedian who is known for his inspirational comedy which includes stories about his life with Maddie. To see some of Maddie and Scott classic Happy Monday videos follow them on Facebook at @HappyMondaysWithMaddie. You can watch Scott tell some Maddie stories onstage here. You can find @scottcomedy on Instagram and Twitter. More history and clips can be found at scottcomedy.com.