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A Cat in the Cradle

The following is a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the program’s website.

by Amy Radochonski, Vice President

Amy RadochonskiSummer Exploration at CLE Denver finished just a few weeks ago, and in reflection, if a single word captures a theme I saw throughout, it is perseverance.

Students from 14 different states came to Denver not just to have fun, but to see how they would acclimate to a new learning environment away from home. Students had a chance to stretch themselves to a point of challenge or even discomfort, but they each did so ultimately with a sense of accomplishment.

Growth came in numerous ways, but some of those that are more notable include: learning to accept and understand the differences of the peers around them; showing sympathy to others; always offering assistance to a student with mobility challenges; navigating transportation systems; talking about their disability and who they want to be; being a boyfriend or girlfriend for the first time; conquering a fear of heights; and performing in front of a group of peers. One student shared that there was no way she was missing out on any opportunity we could offer. She said she was going to push herself to do anything, even if she was frightened. She pushed through physical discomfort from her mobility challenges to do each and everything we had to offer, and did it with a smile every day.

Perhaps the best example of how our students persevere comes from the memoir of Nico. Part of the writing class allowed students the chance to create their own memoir and engage in writing workshops with other students to refine their story. Nico graciously has allowed us to share his story so that we might get inspired by his perseverance and tenacity for achieving success.

A Cat in the Cradle

by Nicolas Morales, Student

Nicolas with aspergers at CLEI wake up one lovely summer morning. The sun is shining. Birds are singing on the rooftops. Overall, I feel on top of the world. As I saunter down to the kitchen for breakfast, I hear my parents’ voices. They say curiosity killed the cat, but I’m more of a dog person, so I approach them. Little do I know that today is the first day of the rest of my life.

My bright young smile seems out of place with my mom and dad’s somewhat stoic expressions. They say to me “Nico, we have something to show you.” They lead me out to the backyard and we all sit down at the patio table. My mom pulls out a book with a large picture of a cat on the cover entitled “All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome” and hands it to me. As I begin reading, I begin to notice the simplicity of the book. A picture of kittens performing various tasks with a sentence or two tossed in makes up the majority of each page. About halfway into the book, I chuckle and say “This book is cool! These cats sound just like…” I stop suddenly and meet my parents’ attentive gaze. I realize now that I am the cat they are referring to.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome

My parents explain to me that I was diagnosed with this condition at birth. They tell me that my brain is hardwired differently than most kids my age. They say that my intelligence is not harmed in any way, but they do mention that my social skills and time management skills aren’t as sharp as others. They then tell me about a deal that they’ve kept with my schools, something they call an IEP. They tell me that I’m not some sort of freak because of my condition, rather which I was a gift they received that turned out to be more precious than they could ever imagine.

It was a lot to take in for an innocent 12-year-old boy. However, that was 5 years ago. In that short time, I have learned to harness and control nearly all of my quirks, both positive and negative. Some people might say that I’m some sort of Asperger’s freak-show, but I disagree…I’m THE Asperger’s freak-show.

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