Meet JP Smith, a 14 year old participant at our Lexington, KY program. “JP had “Brown-Out” seizures early on and was diagnosed with ADHD at 5 years old but everything changed when he was diagnosed with autism,” his father Darrell remembered. When a child at his school was being evaluated, the University of Kentucky students asked if they were evaluating him too. “His teacher said no, but the students were sure that he had it so they evaluated him on the spot so he got diagnosed right there and then.”
They realized then that his medication for ADHD could actually be making his symptoms worse so they changed their game plan right after the diagnosis. “We started seeing several therapists (speech, OT, PT), and doing in-home counseling,” the father of two said. “He struggles with fine motor skills, he had a hard time using utensils at dinner but through therapies and ACEing Autism, he is able to hold his racquet and it has helped him tremendously with his hands,” the proud dad and husband of Jeff Smith blushed.
Growing up, JP who loves reading and video games, had to overcome many obstacles, such as behavioral challenges and the fact that he had 2 fathers. “When he encounters stressful situations, his default is to curse so it definitely creates challenges at school,” Darrell, whose husband adopted JP a year after his birth. Darrell, who is JP’s legal guardian told us. “On top of that, everybody he sees is his friend as he was never able to grasp stranger danger,” he said laughing. “He is 14 years old and 6’1 so he feels like he can do anything he wants.”
Even through all this and being institutionalized once for behavioral issues, thanks to his support system such as his dads, sister and all his advocates at his current school and activities, JP has made tremendous progress. “He is on the honor roll at school, he was nominated for an academic achievement award and plans on trying out for the tennis team when he gets to High School next year,” the beaming dad said. “He has also been in archery for the past 3 years in Middle School.”
As Darrell opened up about his family, “I’m an open book,” as he would say, he recollects how tough it was first, to even have guardianship of their adoptive children. “The state we live in didn’t allow 2 men to be parents, so Jeff adopted and I became their legal guardian,” he explained. “At JP school, we also ran into situations where the fact that we were 2 men raising children created problems.” But even through all this, JP and his 10 year old sister Samara, have flourished throughout the years. “When we moved to Lexington from Scott County, the support at his school was amazing. He had a very hard time in school before, but thanks to their understanding such as giving him extra time for his homework, their full time psychiatrist and behavioral support, he is about to go to High School.”
JP has overcome many challenges already and continues to work on the ones he still has, but “ACEing Autism has helped him and many other kids in his program realize they can do things they didn’t think they could before,” the upbeat father said. “It’s so rewarding to see their faces and how proud they are of themselves.”
We want to thank Darrell and Jeff for being so honest and open with us about their story and congratulate JP on his many accomplishments. We can’t wait to see what he conquers next!