Real Moms Share: Joshua’s Success Story
Typical Schools Didn’t Work for Joshua
It sounded OK, but I cried a lot during this time. I felt so completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to do a home-schooling program. I decided to dig in and bought little desks and chairs and soon realized why a regular classroom setting didn’t work. I was modeling our schooling after what was typical and it didn’t work for Joshua.
He was often on the floor or walking around. He was always thinking. I often joked that life with his syndrome was about “dealing with the attention span of a gnat”. Truly it was short! We learned to just follow his lead in learning. We went wherever his interests took him. We would visit factories and learn how things were made. We would study dinosaurs or ancient languages. The subjects would vary season by season.
It wasn’t until the age of 15 that we even had any idea that mathematics was Joshua’s real educational “gift” . We tried to teach our children to find their niche. That’s a big statement in our home, “Find your niche!” We believe each child is blessed with certain amazing gifts and talents to enrich their lives, homes, and communities in which they live.
College, Here We Come
We decided to try some upper level mathematics like algebra just to see how his mechanical mind would take to those concepts. We used some amazing DVD programs and suddenly his mind just opened to the world of math. He wanted more and more information. After just a year, he was able to take a college entrance exam and score super high in mathematics. It was enough at age 16 to gain entrance into a small junior college in Southern Nevada. They allowed high school age young people to take classes via an online program and at a discounted rate and get full college credit if they performed well.
Joshua did that! He started with just one class at a time and then he started talking more credits per semester as the college requirements were more comfortable for him. Soon he had enough credits to attempt to apply to a larger school. He was accepted and offered a scholarship in a science related field.
To say we were thrilled would be an understatement! He went to his first day on campus, and while there collapsed physically and emotionally. An MRI would show a syrinx in his thoracic spine that very week. That explained the physical element. Overwhelmed emotionally by all the sensory input of a busy campus environment, he didn’t feel there was really any way to attend the university as a typical student.
Learning Is About Progress
I remember that fateful call to the university to respectfully decline the scholarship. I went into my room and quietly wept. I knew how much he wanted that education! When I composed myself, I came out to meet my wise son, who said, “I just want to make progress in my learning…”
His words touched my heart. He was seeing this in a very different way. Learning was about progress, not those same “typical” milestones that had tortured us earlier in life.
During the next few months my mind would consider possibilities for accommodation. Finally I asked the school if it would be possible for the science center to do a live video (like a Skype call) for his class session. Given that he was studying Computer Science, I assumed they would know the technologies we could use. The professors were willing to give it a try and the next fall Joshua received his scholarship again and he attended his classes from home. It worked beautifully well. We could deal with both the physical difficulties and the emotional ones all from one simple accommodation.
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