Sorting Screws This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 12, 2011
When I was three, a doctor told my parents I wouldn't be completely handicapped, but I would be “sorting screws.” This came after an extensive neuropsychological exam that indicated I had an IQ of 40. My classification was “Trainable Mentally Handicapped.” My Ivy League-educated parents were devastated. When they asked what they should do with my college fund, the doctor replied, “He'll need it to live in a group home. College is out of the question.” My mother cried for days, but with the help of both sets of grandparents, she found the strength to prove that doctor wrong.

My mother says I was a perfect baby. In fact, I reached all the milestones early. In the spring of 1995, within hours of receiving my DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) vaccination from the pediatrician, I suffered a seizure that lasted over 15 minutes. I was rushed to the hospital for a battery of inconclusive tests. I went on to experience seizures for the next ten years.

Seizures are a funny thing. When you're having one, you don't have control of your body, and you have no memory of it afterward. This incredibly scary event affects everyone around you, but you are strangely protected. I have never witnessed another person having a seizure, so I have no idea what it looks like. I wish I could say the same for my older brother, Marty. Many times he cared for me when I was seizing, laying me down, protecting my head, and calling 911.

At the age of three, I was enrolled in a school for children with special needs. I received daily therapy for eight hours, which continued at home. My parents researched and took the advice of many doctors on how to cope with my changing diagnoses: epilepsy, sensory integration disorder, autism, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), developmental delay, and on and on. At various times in my childhood, I was ­diagnosed with terms I think were invented just for me.

My parents surrounded themselves with great doctors who gave them hope and encouragement. One, Dr. Jose Ferreira, my neurologist from All Children's Hospital, told my parents they needed to treat me exactly like my brothers – holding me to the same expectations and punishing me for the same things. It might take me 50-100 times before I learned a behavior that my older brother could easily grasp, but they had to be consistent. This was reinforced by my Opa, my dad's father. He was very involved, since my dad was busy traveling and working. Opa believed in me and treated me as though I was normal. This was a saving grace.

As a child, my days were spent getting hours and hours of therapy. Weighted belts, educational toys, a special diet, music therapy, and deep tissue massages were all part of my daily routine. Of course, there were also many medications, each requiring extensive research by my parents. Finally, in 2002, my parents said, “Enough!”

They had a hunch that many of my behaviors were medically induced. They decided to go against the doctors' orders, wean me of my drugs, and re-evaluate my situation.

According to my family, what emerged was a miracle. I still had seizures, but not every day. I was in school and could read, but had fine motor skill problems, speech issues, and needed occupational therapy for help with coordination. But one new positive side effect was that I finally had a personality, something they hadn't seen since I was a one-year-old. Eventually, I was put back on medication for obsessive-compulsive tendencies and remained on these until I was 15, at which time I told my parents I no longer needed them, and they agreed.

To say I was in special education my whole life is an understatement. When I was three, they didn't even have schools for kids like me. I wasn't a behavioral problem; I was just cognitively delayed. From age two through five I seized constantly for 20- to 30-minutes at a time. Some seizures left me paralyzed, some left me twitching, others wiped me out for days.

When I turned six, the seizures became fewer and farther between. Because my immune system was compromised, the doctor recommended a non-contact sport, so my parents enrolled me and my brothers in swim classes. After the first six months, the warts that covered my knees were gone, I suffered less illness, and I was physically tired at the end of the day. And I have continued swimming to this day.

In 2007 I informed my parents that I wanted to go to a regular high school so I could play sports. They agreed to let me take the entrance exam at a local Catholic high school. Apparently my scores were the lowest in the history of the school. They suggested I return to seventh grade and try again in two years. I was crushed! My mom convinced them to let me attend for a probationary period, and if it was a complete disaster, they would pull me out in December.

They agreed, but I was expected to earn at least a 2.0, and I would be enrolled in a class designed to help develop study skills. Up until this point, I had no experience with ­textbooks, tests, homework assignments, or reading requirements. Attending a regular school would be a huge adjustment for me. My parents knew I would require hours and hours of tutoring just to learn the basics.

I managed to maintain a 3.7 GPA and finished my last semester with a 4.1. Unfortunately, as a result of my struggles freshman year, I will not have a career GPA high enough to make National Junior Honor Society – one of my goals.

Today I have my driver's license, which is great for getting to school and to my nine swim practices each week. I hold a leadership position in the Mission Club and hope to run for president this year. This club reaches out to less fortunate students to enlighten them and open their eyes to possibility.

I am the captain of the swim team and have swam in several high-level meets. My times continue to improve, which indicates that the next few years should be my best. Last season I was the team statistician for varsity football. It was through this experience that I realized my gift: I have an incredible ability to retain sports facts. I have always loved sports, with football, baseball, and basketball being my favorites. It is this interest and gift that led me to my current goal of wanting to study sports management and broadcasting in college.

Current testing indicates that my IQ is within the normal range, but this test does not measure my will or determination. My experience in high school continues to help me realize that I am willing to work twice as hard as most of my classmates. I still struggle with final exams, but I am more skilled with day-to-day study habits. Academic growth is always my top priority, with swimming being a close second. My high school experience has taught me many things, but the most important is that success is completely in my hands. I know I will not be sorting screws, because I have the desire to be great!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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rentacarman said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm
What a wonderful story written by a talented writer
John W Galt said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm
What an inspirational story. Congratulations on all your success. I think you should throw in writing about sports as well. You are a very talented writer.
luvkittehz8P This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I love this. It's very heartwarming, showing that no matter where you start out, you can try hard enough to be the best.

I recently read a story, called Charlie. This reminded me of it, except it was more depressing than inspirational. Keep writing, playing sports, and showing the world that you can be the best! =)

penny said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm
oh my goodness.  What an inspirational story, Christian.  You are an excellent writer with a VERY bright future.  You and your family have been on an amazing journey with such hope and faith, all things are possible.  You are proving that.  god bless.  
thebeast said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm
A tru;y remarkable story, by a remarkable young man!
RickB said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 11:06 am
Christian great job was really a inspirational story. It been a great pleasure to know you and your parents.
PS70 said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 9:40 am
What an inspirational story -- it brought tears to my eyes. I feel like it has given me the kick in the pants I need to get moving on my goals...and I'm three times his age.
karl said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

so much can be achieved when the desire and determination to succed as an individual becomes your focus, realizing that god has given us all a gift we just have to recognize our gift and nurture it.

May god bless this family for their determination, and love, and may god continue to bless this child.

sucess always comes from adversity thru determination and hard work.  

Family Friend said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 7:50 am
This young man has learned, at his gentle age, what I, as a plus 50 year old, am still trying to master. His future is very bright.
BSAYRE said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 7:05 am

Your persistence reminds me of a  quote from Calvin Coolidge.....   "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Can't wait to see what you accomplish in the next 17 years.

Brian Sayre


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cjuall said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 5:09 am
I mistakenly clicked the first star when rating this article because I thought it would take me to a new rating page.  As a result it appears as though I gave it only one star.  That is not what I wanted to do and it is most definitely worth 5 STARS!  Hopefully, I can fix it but apologize for making that mistake.
cjuall said...
Aug. 16, 2011 at 5:05 am
Amazing! Well written and very inspirational.
Mark Guthrie said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm


Outstanding! What a great story! As the parent of a child diagnosed on the autism spectrum I somewhat know what your parents were dealing with. Wherever you go to college, they will be very lucky to have you! Congrats on a terrific high school career and we look forward to hearing more success stories from you.



StrangeJade This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Nicely done. ^-^ I wish you all the best.


(Yay, first user to comment!)

jackiecu said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm
Way to go, Christian! Great article--should get you into any college you choose. Very inspirational to all who read it. Keep up the good work!
Laddie said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm


You are an inspriation!

Keep your focus on goals, and the world will hear more from, and about, you.

stan the man said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm


What a great article about the challenges you have encountered and won.  You are an example that "where there's a will, there's a way."

Thanks for sharing your story.

littlebear said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Christian,  your wonderfully written, inspirational story provides a clear roadmap for the countless number of special education candidates facing similar obstacles. Your God given determination, encouraged and bolstered by your loving parents, siblings and grandparents, have prepared you well to live a happy, healthy, productive and prosperous life. 

If anyone ever dares to talk to you about sorting screws again, simply tel... (more »)

Ithaca Mary said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm

You Rock!! What an inspirational message. You are truly a gift my friend.


Aug. 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm


Hats off to you for all your hard work.  So glad it has paid off.  Say high to your Oma for me.  How fast are your times?

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