For the past eight Memorial Day weekends, I have celebrated the start of summer with my friends on Fire Island. But not this year. Rather than strolling the sandy seashores of our beautiful beach, I found myself wandering the hallowed halls of higher learning at Cornell University where my son Jonathan has just been conferred his Masters of Engineering Degree (No sunscreen required).
It’s hard to believe that it was just a short year ago that the Sinkin family was reveling in Jon’s success when he earned a double degree in Industrial Engineering and Mathematics at Buffalo University. What makes Jonathan’s story of achievement so compelling is that at the age of 5 we learned that he had a significant learning disability and that his future prospects seemed very uncertain (at least through the eyes of his worried parents – namely Ann and yours truly.)
Thankfully it was Ann’s perseverance, love, persistent bellyache, and of course great professional advice (Lydia Soifer, The Windward School and Lisa Kerenyi) that prodded, guided and even dragged our baby down the right path. It was a path that cultivated Jon’s self-esteem by giving him the opportunity to succeed, instilling within him a deep sense of fulfillment and ultimately bringing him to a state of self-actualization. I was so proud of Jonathan when he graduated from college that I was inspired and encouraged by him to write a blog entitled ”My Son Has A Learning Disability” which detailed our journey of discovery as the parents of a child who learns differently. I posted that story late last spring and received great feedback…from Jon and from parents of young school-aged children. Ironically, Jon asked me to remove it from my website when he was job hunting. It seems that when he Googled himself, the blog appeared very prominently in the search results. And, while he is very comfortable with whom he is, Jon is not naïve. I took the story down sometime in January.
In 6 weeks time, Jonathan will be moving to Boston where he will be working for Verizon as a project manager.
In this day and age of political correctness, learning disabilities are commonly, and perhaps more appropriately referred to, as learning differences. We all learn differently. Some of us are more visual. Others may be more auditory. Those of us in the “normal spectrum” are able to process information from a variety of sources and readily incorporate it into our base of knowledge. Children with true learning differences cannot effectively process the inflow of information. Unless they are given the tools to identify, decode and interpret all of those bytes of language, their education can be impaired, regardless of their intellect. A computer can be loaded with sophisticated microprocessors and powerful hard drives, but if the operating system has a glitch, all its bells and whistles will not allow the computer to function as it should. Such is the case with a learning disabled child. Early intervention is critical. The sooner a problem is identified, the earlier remediation can begin.
Jon’s greatest fortune was that he has Ann as his mother. Her intuition, what she referred to as her “bellyache” kept her digging for answers. Her persistence is what put Jonathan on the right path. She was able to assemble a team that put the ball in his hands and he ran with it. In the early years, Jonathan was given the tools to learn how to learn. As he grew so did his confidence and his accomplishments. And now, he’s a Cornell graduate with a Masters in Engineering and a job to boot.
It doesn’t et better than this. I am so proud of my son and so thankful to my wife. What a memorable and momentous Memorial Day weekend!