A.J. turned 15 in July.
He is absolutely brilliant (his last measured I.Q. – 5 years ago at age 9 – was 124) — in spite of his acute lead poisoning as a toddler.
His ongoing symptoms from having been lead poisoned as a child include dyslexia, severe ADHD and an extreme (and sometimes debilitating) degree of Sensory Processing Disorder.
One way the Sensory Processing Disorder manifests is through his inability to tolerate/relate to his clothing in the way other people do. Even though he looks like an adult man at this point (at 5 foot 9, and 150 lbs.), the wrong clothing can send him in to apoplexy, like a toddler. He has created work-arounds that make it so he can get by in the world. This usually involves wearing multiple layers of close-fitting clothing (even if it is utterly inappropriate for the weather) – wearing things that are snug (like a blanket), and these things have to be made of “A.J.-approved” material (a set of specifications which can vary from year to year.)
Another way that Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia (and also ADHD) impacts him is that he does not do well in any crowded and noisy situation — especially where he is also required to think academically and make choices about how he uses his time (think “high school”!)
As a result, we anticipated that his start of high school last year might be traumatic and difficult – and before the year started, we got him transferred to a school (not our local school) where we felt he would have a better chance of success. Even at this better school, with more attentive teachers and a seemingly more focused student body — he started getting C’s, D’s and F’s, because he could not keep up with the work load (both the attendance demands, the in-class work, and the homework.). We know him to be a straight-A student (highly intelligent, thorough, diligent, independent and completely self-motivated when he has academic accommodations that allow him to work within his neurologically-imposed limitations), and knew we needed to get him into a situation where there were fewer distractions than high school, and where he could focus on his work in classroom environments where the other students are there because they have chosen/want to be there and they are learning the subjects not because they are required to, but because they have greater goals and intentions and are on a specific career path or educational path.
Also, very important to note: When he had started doing poorly in high school, his main complaint was actually that he was not “challenged” in the one subject he loves, excels at and wanted to focus on: Math. We discussed with the guidance counsellor all possible ways that he might be “fast-tracked” in math — and they could not provide us a scenario that would work for him (they could give him more homework, but not “better” (more advanced or faster-paced) classwork/homework .)
As a result, last winter (winter of 2016/2017) we pulled him out of high school — and enrolled him in college at PSU!
As of today (9/23/2017), he has completed three quarters at PSU — and is getting straight A’s [see transcript below]. His overall GPA is 3.93. Each quarter (including the summer!) he has taken at least one math class (so he can advance in math as quickly as possible) and any other classes he can fit in that will further his ability to apply to college as a full-time student (e.g. pre-requisites, like Spanish), or will further his music studies (he plays jazz trumpet at a professional level and has performed with a big band at venues including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Jimmy Mak’s in Portland, and the Portland Blues Festival).
Unfortunately, we are caught in a catch-22, in that he is not yet old enough to qualify to take the GED and therefore not old enough to enroll as a full-time student and therefore not eligible for all of the scholarships we have found so far. We even applied for aid through FAFSA this year — and he would only qualify for that award if he was over 16 / had completed the GED and was enrolled as a full time student! <#Sigh>. PSU is even offering free tuition for local students who meet the above criteria — but again he “does not qualify” under the current set of rules.
When he turns 16 (next July – 2018) he WILL take the GED at that time, and he WILL qualify for (and receive) scholarships for college (likely full tuition). He has aspirations of attending either Berklee College of Music, Harvard or MIT – or a combination of two of these simultaneously [he just visited these colleges this month (with his big brother who is a Presidential Scholar at Berklee) — and already was offered – and accepted – an engineering internship at Tufts lined up for the summer of 2018 (if we can coordinate housing)!
So while – in the meantime – we have found an excellent choice for him [attending college at PSU], and he is looking forward to enrolling in college this semester – which starts on Monday, sadly – as a result of the financial hardship our family has faced over the past year – we are a semester behind on his tuition (about $1,000 behind) and cannot afford to enroll him in the current semester.
I am writing this post for a few reasons:
1) to show you both the issues lead poisoned children often face as they grow up and
2) to show you the creative accommodations we as parents can/must make for them (and the challenges those accommodations pose).
The third reason I am writing this post at this time is to make a request:
If you (or anyone or organization or program you know of) are in position to help with his tuition in any way, we would greatly appreciate it. We need at least $1,000 to bring him current so he can register, and then his tuition for the current semester is going to be about $2,000 (he is planning on registering for two classes: Calculus 1 and Spanish 102 – a total of 8 credits.)
Thank you for reading, and thank you for anything you can do to help out!
Please let me know if you have any questions at all, I am always happy to answer questions!
Tamara Elise Rubin
“Unexpected Lead Expert”