Issue No. 31, July 2011
I see myself as a man, not an autistic man.
ValedictorianThomas A. Edison High School Class of 2011
This is the picture that’s worth ten thousand words, and this is the rare newsletter wherein pictures and words other than mine will tell the story. In the past month Bryce has achieved what we are affectionately calling his Trifecta—prom, graduation, and his first solo trip across the country. Typical of him, he did not arrive at any of these academic, social or emotional pinnacles in a typical way. He is no genius, nor he is the most well-spoken, outgoing, adventurous or activist student in his class. Rather, he built his achievements through plain old hard work, hour after painstaking hour, months upon years. His is the triumph of a man who understands and embraces responsibility, and places his highest premium on perseverance and integrity.
At graduation, Thomas Edison High School Assistant Director David Pontious offered this tribute to Bryce:
“Valedictorian is conferred upon the student with the highest grade point average and record of academic rigor. Before bringing this student forward I would like to state a few words about his character. He was a scholar-athlete in track and field for three out of four years during his high school career. He registered to vote on his eighteenth birthday, and he went to jury duty. How many of us can say that? He is not only a scholar, but an outstanding citizen who is an example to all of us.
“More than anything, I want to tell you that this student is humble and classy. When I approached this young man about his accomplishment, he stated with enthusiasm and sincerity, “Mr. P, I want you to know that other students worked hard too. Even though I am being recognized for this award, all of us have worked extremely hard to be here tonight and graduate.”
“This speaks to his heart, which could easily fill this auditorium.
“Please congratulate Bryce Notbohm on this extremely important honor.”
And in Bryce’s own words:
“Thomas Edison High School has given me strength I never would have found at another school. Before I came to Edison, I thought I was mature for my age, but I had no idea how big of a challenge high school was going to be. Asking for help—aka, self-advocacy—and being a good listener were my biggest struggles, along with needing and finding social support. At Edison, everything changed into a much more positive environment.
“I’d like to thank my mom, dad, grandparents and my aunt and my uncle for getting me into and supporting me while at Edison. I thank the new friends I’ve made for respecting my learning difference, and my teachers for teaching me all the things that used to be hard for me, but aren’t anymore. To me, graduating doesn’t mean you know everything already but you’ve learned more about yourself while gaining in strength and responsibility, and figuring out how you can improve more in the real world as you get older.
“I’d like to offer a quote from a movie that describes my experience with my learning difference. In Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Sidney Poitier says to his father, ‘Dad, I love you but you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.’ This quote describes me. I think of myself as a man, not an autistic man.
“Once again, I would like to thank everyone at Thomas Edison High School for giving me the confidence that has made me believe in what skills I have to offer and what I can do to see more of who I am as an independent adult. To future students, I say: Don’t let people use you. Never give up. And especially never let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you really want. Heath Ledger said that in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. It’s still great advice.”
Ellen and Bryce
Bryce and Brianne met in kindergarten, where she lit a warm spot in his heart that never cooled. They hadn’t seen each other in four years when he decided to ask her to his school’s prom, citing our family motto, “Always ask; the worst you’ll get is a no.” She said, “I would love to,” and it was a night to remember.
His cousins hosted him in style. He looks so at home in the Windy City—and he should. This is the city where his grandparents and great-grandparents were born.
Next adventures: college (he completed two courses while still in high school), driving, job-hunting. Stay tuned. . .
This Month’s Reads
Autism Asperger’s Digest - Perspective: Rethink, Reframe, Relate
Children’s Voice - Exceptional Children: Navigating Learning Differences and Special Education
Book excerpts on website
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew
1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, 2nd edition
The Autism Trail Guide: Postcards from the Road Less Traveled
If you’ve read my books and feel inclined to share your thoughts with others, please consider posting a review on my book pages at www.amazon.com. It’s easy to do and you don’t have to post your real name.
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©2011 Ellen Notbohm | Third Variation Strategies