This past Monday, September 15, 2014, my son William Joseph Kent, third of that honorable name, was guest of honor at the annual TED LINDSAY FOUNDATION annual award dinner after the Celebrity Golf Outing to Benefit Autism Research, held at the Pine Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
TED LINDSAY, to those who are not sports fans, was and is the Detroit Red Wings hockey great who, with Gordie Howe, made the 1950s Wings the unbeatable legend that they were. He has spent his recent years--he's 88 years old now--devoting his great fortune and influence to the fight against Autism.
The TED LINDSAY FOUNDATION has been working for the past fourteen years to raise hundreds of thousands both for research to overcome the effects of autism, and to provide direct cash assistance to families struggling to raise children on the Autism spectrum. They also recognize certain individuals and families who have been most exemplary in their overcoming the disorder. The family award went to the Crossman family (Drew, Jill, Tom (13) and Kate (11)) (and congratulations to them!); the individual award went to William.
|From the awards book, |
(Click to embiggen :) )
Good evening. It is my honor to be present here this evening, as the recipient of the prestigious Courage Award. I am not ashamed to say that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, for it and the things my family and I have done to adapt have made me who I am more than anything else in my life. My journey to this day is quite a story, and it is this story I will share with you tonight.
If you knew me when I was small, you would not recognize me for the man I am today. My family moved here from Missouri in 2003. Once we had settled down I was enrolled at West Utica Elementary School. It was there that the first signs of my Asperger’s Syndrome began to show. At first, it was little things. I used to get into arguments with my teachers now and then. And although fourth grade was a time of happiness, in fifth grade things began spiraling downhill.
I simply could not tolerate my fifth grade teacher’s style. I got into arguments with him every single day. Before fifth grade had ended, things had become so bad that I was removed from West Utica Elementary and placed in a special-education classroom at Crissman Elementary.
|Will gives his address.|
At Crissman, and then at Rockwell Junior High, things were no better. By this point I was so scarred from my experiences that I no longer saw a point to school. Public meltdowns were common, and my mother had to come and pick me up early almost every single day. What’s more, the staff at Rockwell still didn’t understand me (although I will give them this: they certainly tried).
But it was there, between my seventh- and eighth-grade years at Rockwell Junior High School, that I found my spark and turned my life around.
I have always loved using computers, and have known this since I was in kindergarten. But it was between seventh and eighth grade that I discovered computer programming, and the joy of pure intellectual endeavor it brought me. I was inspired. I decided then and there to pursue a career in the computer field, but I realized soon afterwards that to receive a proper college education I would have to greatly improve in school.
And so I did. In eighth grade, the biggest change was my attitude. In ninth grade, I began to truly get into my element. It was also then that I became aware of the process of integration: where a student would return to their mainstream, "local" middle or high school for part of their day once they had became ready. Many of my ninth-grade classmates were integrated, but I was not — not quite yet.
When I moved into tenth grade all students at Rockwell moved on to Neil Reid High School. When I began there, I was placed into Mr. Goodwin’s homeroom. (At Neil Reid, there is a brief "homeroom" period before the beginning of the day’s classes devoted to unwinding and socialization, and all students returned to their homerooms for fifth period class.) Although I knew some students who hated being in his class, almost everyone else soon began to share in his humor and his energy. Mr. Goodwin helped me get a grip on the last of my uncontrolled emotions, and he prepared me for my junior and senior year, when I was integrated back to Utica High School.
I was very nervous about my first few days at Utica High, but I am pleased to be able to say that everything worked. Everything just worked. The first class I took at Utica High was Web Design I, with Mr. Craig Smale. Mr. Smale helped me unlock my amazing creative potential, as well as helping me to acclimate to the new school.
But I plowed on. In my senior year I was accepted into the National Technical Honor Society (which is not the same thing as the National Honor Society, despite their having very similar names). I graduated Neil Reid and Utica High School a straight-A student.
I became dually enrolled at Macomb Community College, and took a few classes there during my senior year of high school. But I knew that Macomb Community College was not the right college for me. Unfortunately, my choices of college were seriously limited by the fact that they had to be within driving distance — I am not yet ready to live in a dorm room. But one day early this year, I was contacted by Ms. Christine Fiore at Baker College of Clinton Township. I had a sparkling conversation with her on the phone right then and there. I applied to Baker College, and now am on schedule to begin classes there in just one week. I was even awarded the most prestigious scholarship Baker College offers, half of my tuition for up to four years.
But none of this could have ever happened without my committed support group. Judy Lipson, my therapist. Tony Woznicki at Neil Reid High School. Mary Ellen Bross, at Utica High School. And my mother and father, who stood by my side for eighteen long years, unwavering, through hardship and through joy. It is thanks to them that I have come this far. Without their patience, hope, and determination, I would not be here today. Thank you, one and all. Thank you. Thank you!
|Will with his therapist, Dr. Judy Lipson.|
Words cannot express how proud
I am of you. Well done!