My Nephew Graduates High School

My nephew, who suffers from autism, graduates from high school this year. His determination, and that of his parents and his sister, has filled me with admiration. The University of Missouri newspaper, The Missourian, wrote about it:

The television in the lobby of the MU Student Recreation Complex blared the score of the Missouri-Norfolk State matchup in the final two minutes of the second-round game in the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Tension radiated from the crowd that gathered to watch the close game, cheering on the Tigers as they struggled against the Spartans. Yet the din of March Madness excitement erupting right behind her did not distract Becky Llorens, who quietly continued looking down into the MU Aquatic Center, where her son, Nick, would soon join the Masters Swim Program. Like most high school seniors, Nick Llorens juggles an active schedule. Along with the hours spent in the pool, he also has after-school tutoring sessions and a part-time job that leave him with little free time. Yet, unlike his classmates, Llorens is 20 years old, autistic and about to graduate into the world of adulthood.

My brother and sister in law never accepted the stated limitations:

He surprises me all the time, actually," Becky Llorens said. "That's why I never want to say that he's reached his potential and that he won't grow anymore because every time I think that maybe he's at the limit of what he can do, he does more.

So brave. So determined. Brother. Sister. Niece. Nephew. I tip my hat to you all.

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    Congrats! (5.00 / 6) (#1)
    by jbindc on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:07:40 PM EST

    Sounds like a very brave ... (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by Yman on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:34:29 PM EST
    ... and determined, young man.  His parents should be very proud.

    I agree! (none / 0) (#28)
    by mplo on Sun May 05, 2013 at 12:49:17 PM EST
    More power to your nephew, as well as the rest of the family!

    I tip my hat to you all, too. (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by sj on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:41:00 PM EST
    I'm sure you are all very proud.  As you should be.  Proud of both the fine young man that is graduating and the family who pulled together to make it happen.

    Lovely story (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Dadler on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:41:19 PM EST
    Thank you.

    Congratulations (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by oldmancoyote22 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:52:04 PM EST
    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    I just read it at Orange (5.00 / 7) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:17:36 PM EST
    and watched the video, and cried.  Congratulations to Nick, and your family.  There is no cure for the fullness and depth of who you become on this road with all of your family...even those challenged by the "norms".  You don't get to be the same again, it is a certain cure for shallowness for those who have the courage :)

    I read it to Josh and he said to add that it helps if you have great parents too.  One of Josh's classmates has autism, she is a great artist though.  He was bummed when his classmates sent him cards at the hospital because he was sure that hers would be AWESOME but she was out sick the day they made cards to send him.

    You always say something wonderful and (5.00 / 5) (#8)
    by Angel on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:53:35 PM EST

    We are on a similar road (5.00 / 4) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:38:34 PM EST
    My son's life options are much more limited than most people.  I give not one inch though, just modify modify modify.  And I try not to get in his way.  His school falls through funding cracks because it is a middle class neighborhood, everyone is still broke though these days.  But his school started doing a fundraiser Boosterathon run every year three years ago.  Right before the first fun run thing, a pretty "famous" foot physician on the East Coast wanted to amputate his feet.  He said that his feet will hurt some day and he should get used to walking in prosthetic feet when he is a child.  It would make his life easier.

    I was not prepared to hear something like that and God knows my 10 year old wasn't either.  So this funrun came up and I told him there was no way he was running in it because his feet will hurt him someday.  I had officially lost my mind or something...now that I look back.  My son was so bummed, he wanted to do this thing as much as any other kid at his school did.  I told him I would keep him company on the sidelines, but I was a few moments late getting there that day.  He was out on the track running.  He ran all the laps that they were counting, his classmates who finished before he did began to all group around him running at the slower pace.  I had to call his dad in Afghanistan and explain that our son had finished the boosterathon funrun thing and I had not allowed him to collect a single sponsor.  We sponsored him for $20 a lap, and a local doctor heard what he did and sent the school money too.  I just need to get the hell out of his way sometimes.  When I drove him home that afternoon I was so sorry, I apologized over and over again and he told me, "Mom, you can't live for what you are afraid of.  You just have to live for today."

    The Boosterathon became his big thing.  Last year he raised over a $1000 and this year he raised $1500.  He only finished the whole thing the first year he ran it, the last two years he has been a couple of laps shy. This year he did it the week before this last surgery that opened up his chest and his lung capacity.  He was tired, he was tired 1/4 of the way in but I can't mess up like I did the first year.  I watch. I fetch water.  I ran alongside him when he got weary, and this year his dad did carry him on his shoulders for three rest laps and everyone allowed us to cheat just a little.

    And things are changing drastically in the realm of joint replacement.  When he is older and his feet hurt, they will probably have ankle joints to replace his existing ankle with.  Josh's motor skills are affected like Nick's, his cognition is not...so here I am, and he is on a different time line but I have to be open to discoveries and I have to be open to him and not be quick to pass judgment on what he is capable of doing or what is good for him to do and not do.  I've been WRONG before :)


    What a heartwarming story! (none / 0) (#27)
    by mplo on Sun May 05, 2013 at 12:48:25 PM EST
    Your son sounds like a fighter!  More power to him...and you, as well!

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I am (5.00 / 6) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:41:01 PM EST
    so glad I have gotten to "know" Josh through you, through what you have shared of this clearly special human being.

    I often think that it is children like Josh, tested from the get-go, who have such a capacity to change the world, and their chances of doing so are in large part because they have parents like you and your husband.

    I think what kids like Josh - and BTD's nephew - teach us, as parents, is that fear is a wasted emotion; it just gets in the way of us going where we need to go and doing what we need to do.

    Thanks for sharing Josh with us, Tracy; I feel like I can be a better person for the things I learn from him.


    God Bless (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by RKF on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:47:19 PM EST

    All good wishes... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by dutchfox on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:57:15 PM EST
    to your nephew and his family on this momentous occasion. Hurrah!

    Congrats (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by jharp on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:08:25 PM EST
    My neighbors autistic son is kicking ass at our local school. All A's. Still in middle school.

    And my deaf daughter is kicking ass in her second year in the Big Ten. Cochlear implants.

    I have no doubt that your brother and his (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:09:00 PM EST
    wife feel that all they have done is be the best parents Nick needed - and needs - them to be, which has required them to travel roads they never expected to, find strength they never knew they had, and be fierce advocates in a world that still doesn't understand what autism is.  Those of us with so-called "normal" children, have no real idea of what it has taken to shepherd a child through these kinds of waters, and we sometimes wonder if we would have what it takes to do what your family has done for Nick, what they have done to help Nick keep reaching for more, and help him believe in himself.

    One thing they surely know is that "different" doesn't mean "bad;" and that "different" has an almost limitless ability to teach us about ourselves - if we are open to it and not afraid of it.

    Congratulations to Nick, and to your brother and sister-in-law; I hope it is only one of many more accomplishments Nick attains as he grows into adulthood.

    That's a wonderful story. (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:46:07 PM EST
    You nephew should be very proud of what he's accomplished, as should his parents and all his relatives. It's amazing what human beings can do, once they set their minds to the task at hand, and pay no mind to the naysayers amongst us.


    My autistic nephew in Missouri (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by Towanda on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:55:38 PM EST
    has a couple of years of high school still to go.

    His parents are going to get a link to this story, BTD, because they also have been heading to that scary point at the end of the high school years, with the question of "now what?"

    And Missouri, my family there tells me, is one of the leading states for funding for autistic children to get good schooling and tutoring and other extras that they need.  That has kept my family there in Missouri, turning down job offers elsewhere . . . yet still, they also have been heading to that scary point, and all too soon.

    This story has no answers for my family members, of course -- but they have gained a lot of strength over the years from knowing that others have been there and done that.  So please do know that your post will bring comfort, if briefly, as they also fight the good fights for their guy to get him through high school to get to this day.

    I don't know how they get through even a day of the worries.  I don't know how your family members get through those days, either.  There are amazing people among us, and we both are blessed to have them -- these brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephews -- in our families.

    By the way, BTD, for your niece (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Towanda on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:02:48 PM EST
    and others in the family:  My nephew and his brother and his parents had testing recently, available in Missouri, to determine whether the cause of the autism was genetic.  

    It's not.  They did so for other reasons for my autistic nephew's treatment, but it was good of them to share the results for the sake of his brother and more than a dozen other nieces and nephews to have less worry, as some soon will start families to make me a great-aunt!


    Congrats (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by CHANCE1998 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:52:42 PM EST
    A great story.   Our 16 year old son has a disability.  I applaud your family for how hard they have worked and never giving up.  

    My husband and I had to push our son to do better, along with his teachers and school administration.  Often our biggest problem was being told what our son couldn't do in school meetings.    

    We share the same hopes and fears for our children.  We want want everyone else wants for their children.  To raise happy, productive children into adults.   The only difference is that parents of disabled children worry whether our children will marry, have children of their own and can live independently.  

    ok, i am now officially unbummed. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by cpinva on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 11:40:32 PM EST
    thank you for brightening my day and evening. it was sucking, i was feeling sorry for myself, and quite ready to toss the whole lot of what passes for humanity into dante's various circles.

    i feel much better now.

    Very cool. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by desertswine on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 11:42:29 PM EST

    Amazing (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 06:36:31 AM EST
    Your brother and sister in law are amazing in their strength BTD. My oldest son has LD and there are days where I just can't deal with it anymore.

    Thankful for your nephew and his family... (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by rhbrandon on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 07:17:24 AM EST
    and you. Wish all families could have parents like your nephew's, and I wish all parents could have children as determined to do their best like your nephew. They're all very heartening in times when we all need some encouragement.

    My old man had a saying.... (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by kdog on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 09:02:23 AM EST
    "Can't means you won't".

    Here's to all the people like your nephew who show the "you can't!"'s where to stick it.

    Congratulations! (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by byteb on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 10:47:06 AM EST
    Wishing Nick continued success and an abundance of happiness.

    Well done! (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by ks on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 11:35:59 AM EST
    Congrats to all!

    I've been involved with these wonderful children (5.00 / 0) (#26)
    by samsguy18 on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 02:54:56 PM EST
    For over 30years....they are quite extraordinary .....success for this group is very dependent on the courage of their parents.

    Thank you (none / 0) (#25)
    by spokanian on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 01:49:01 AM EST
    for sharing his story.