Seven-Year-Old Anaya Ellick Proves "Disability Is Not Inability"


First-grader Anaya Ellick with her trophy ( Photo Credit: Greenbrier Christian Academy)

To win a national award for handwriting, especially in this digital age, is an achievement in itself. But what makes Anaya Ellick’s accolade extra special is that the seven-year-old accomplished the feat despite having no hands. Even more amazing? The first-grader from Chesapeake, Virginia, who won the prestigious Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellence in Manuscript Penmanship, on April 11, does not use prosthetics. The young girl produces her perfect penmanship by standing close to her desk with her pencil firmly gripped between her forearms.

While the impeccable handwriting may surprise the world, Tracy Cox, principal of Greenbrier Christian Academy where Anaya goes to school, is not. In fact, it was Cox who entered the 1st grader in the annual national handwriting competition organized by educational company Zaner-Bloser. The young girl who competed in the category for students with disabilities had to outshine 50 contestants to win the award. But there was little to worry about. Contest Director Kathleen Wright said the judges, many of who are occupational therapists, were "just stunned" by the quality of Anaya's printing. Wright says, "Her writing sample was comparable to someone who had hands."

Anaya’s Winning Entry (Photo Credit: Greenbrier Christian Academy)

The award which comes with a Zaner-Bloser gift certificate for Greenbrier Christian Academy and $1,000 USD cash prize and a trophy for Anaya, is named after Nicholas Maxim, a fifth grader from Readfield, Maine. In 2011, the young boy who is born without his lower arms, submitted a cursive entry so impressive that Zaner-Bloser decided to create a new category to honor physically challenged kids.

Anaya’s proud parents, Bianca Middleton and Gary Ellick say the young girl’s determination and desire to be independent became apparent when she was just an infant. Unable to hold on to her pacifier with her hands, she figured out how to do it by cupping her arms. As a toddler, she learned to eat with a fork and build with blocks. At 5, she managed to perch a crayon or marker between her hands and draw. Though Anaya was fitted with prosthetic arms for a short time, the young girl decided she was better off with her natural ones and discarded them. As it turns out, she was right! Though winning the handwriting award was thrilling, Anaya has already moved on to her next goal — She now wants to master karate!


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  • ultrajango
    ultrajangoTuesday, July 14, 2020 at 8:47 am
    Great job!!! :)
    • borilover
      boriloverMonday, July 6, 2020 at 2:37 pm
      YOU GO GIRL :)
      • the_wolf
        the_wolfWednesday, June 24, 2020 at 11:23 pm
        • backtoschool
          backtoschoolWednesday, June 24, 2020 at 8:17 pm
          GO Anaya!!!!!😎😎😀😀👍👍😍😍👏👏
          • bookfan2008
            bookfan2008Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 8:04 pm
            Wow! Good job!!
            • 1harrypotterfan
              1harrypotterfanSunday, April 26, 2020 at 7:43 pm
              I did not write that good until 3rd grade. Dang girl!!!
              • BananamanaTuesday, October 22, 2019 at 8:35 am
                this is soooo amazing to see a 7 year old write without hands is incredible
                • yoMonday, October 7, 2019 at 6:18 am
                  wow thats amazing
                  • anonymousWednesday, September 11, 2019 at 9:57 am
                    that's awsome she taught me to never give up
                    • scrollyFriday, September 6, 2019 at 10:24 am
                      I tried writing like her... she is SO good!!