Sunday, March 21, 2010

The miracle that is David

David is autistic.  He still is.  The diagnosis still is, just as would be expected as autism is a lifelong condition.  As a three year old, he had all of the signs:  aphasia, which in his case meant that he could not talk; perseverative behaviors; ritualistic behaviors, sound sensitivity; some touch sensitivity; the autistic lookaway; inability to relate with other children.  And yet, all of this only belied the spark of spirit and intelligence that lay underneath.

At the start of second grade, David suffered a huge setback.  He lost some prodigious math skills, going from add with carry, subtraction with borrow,  negative numbers, getting a grasp of multiplication and division facts to only being able to add past five by counting on his fingers.  His magic ability to look at a word and remember how it was spelled went away.

In fourth grade, a little of his ability in math came back.  David could add and subtract, albeit slowly and only with a struggle.  This progress was offset when at the end of the year, David lost the ability to hold a pencil.  It was a real low in my life and I am sure that it was a real low in David's life as well.  Homework became a 2 - 3 hour ordeal each night when after David came down off the ritalin used to help his stay still in class. 

This lasted through seventh grade when David suddenly started doing his homework by himself.  All of his subjects became easier.  It all happened just as quickly as it had when he suffered his losses in second grade.  From seventh grade, math for him evolved from a near impossible chore to something that he could do.  He took up cross country in high school and went from dead last to the middle of the pack.  He suddenly started being able to touch type.  And he developed a knack for drawing, something he obviously did not get from me.  Still his science was so-so and his English was only passing.  When he graduated, David was off to vocational school.  College was clearly not in the cards.

David did well in vocational school and was able to handle the computer design programs well.  Toward the end of it he announce that he wanted to be an engineer.  My first instinct was to steer him back to the path my wife and I had sent him on.  But when I looked at him I could see that he really meant it.  Still, I did not want him to be crushed if he could not handle a curricula that is heavily laden with math, physics and other science.  He would also have to be able to handle the English courses and other courses that would require writing.  None of my objections dissuaded him.  So we enrolled him in 12 credit hours of  the math classes and physics classes that he would have to take before he could even consider engineering as a career.

We were pleased with David's performance that semester.  He had a B average from that semester.  Okay.  But what about the next semester.  Courses would get tougher.   David had to respond.  And he did.  Each semester he has been getting better so that last semester he was placed on the Dean's list. 

David truly is a walking miracle.  He has gone from not able to add past five without counting on his fingers to being placed on the Dean's list in electrical engineering.  He has learned to draw after losing the ability to hold a pencil.  He has learned to run when his autistic gait made running very hard.