Recently I have featured a few Middle Grade books that present protagonists with learning disabilities who reach a turning point after which we know that life is going to be more manageable going forward. (see Another Struggling Reader in Close to Famous;Eleven: Another Look at a Reading Disorder; CELEBRATING JOEY PIGZA)
So I was intrigued to pick up the Charlotte Observer last week and find an article about Bobby Rose, a 65 year-old gentleman who survived a traumatic birth during which his umbilical cord cut off oxygen to his brain. The article featured Bobby’s accomplishment of graduating from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Citizens Academy. The program consists of 18 sessions and 50 hours of curriculum that participants have two years to fulfill. Bobby finished in less than a year.
Twenty-nine people graduated from the program, so why was Bobby’s accomplishment worth a feature article? To begin with, his IQ that registers somewhere around 50 (moron) warranted doctors’ recommendations that Bobby be institutionalized early on. But his mother refused to follow the doctors’ orders because of the humor, comprehension and intellect she saw in her son. In spite of a lifelong struggle to read and write beyond a first-grade level, he has led and continues to lead an extraordinary life.
Bobby’s older sister Sharon Powell, who practices psychology in New Jersey, attributes much of Bobby’s resilience and fortitude to his mother, Phyllis Apple. She grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia, and Powell believes overcoming her own struggles gave her courage to believe that her son could do it, too.
He proved her right. At 18 he got his driver’s license after months and months of working with her to memorize the necessary information. He passed the test orally with 100% on the first try. At 21 he married a fellow student from the Nevins Vocational School and they live with their poodle in South Charlotte. He retired two years ago after working forty-three years in linen services for Carolinas Healthcare System.
A lifelong fascination with the police department led to Bobby’s enrollment in the class. “My whole life I wanted to be a policeman, but couldn’t.” His other sister, Susan Marcus said their mother was always honest with him about his limitations, and he has never dwelled on them. “The family always encouraged his independence and he was never treated differently.”
Bobby said graduating from the Citizens Academy “made me feel like a million bucks.” He will be working with a CMPD volunteer coordinator to talk about the opportunities for service that are now available to him.
In my mind Bobby is a super hero but I think his mother is, too. During her formative years there likely was not the support or the knowledge base to deal adequately with her Dyslexia. As her daughter indicated, she was left to deal with it on her own and in doing so she gained courage and determination that she passed on to her son.
This two-in-one-feel-good-story made my day. I hope it did the same for you, especially parents of children with special needs.