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Autistic student overcomes adversity

caines | 6/6/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Joseph recognized as school's Valedictorian Alec Josephs mother, Charmain, describes him as a blessing. This year, Joseph will graduate from Yvonne Learning Center. This is his second year in a row of having the highest GPA in his class, but Joseph has been challenged to overcome numerous disadvantages since the day he was born. At the age of two, he was diagnosed with Sotos syndrome and autism, which caused his speech and development to be delayed. While growing up, he would cry all of the time as he struggled to communicate; dealt with respiratory issues due to allergies; and experienced excessive physical growth common to Sotos syndrome. Also, Joseph had a range of behavioral issues that came along with autism. His family were told that he would never talk and taking care of him would be stressful. Doctors, other medical professionals, friends and advisors recommended a permanent placement in a nursing home, but Alecs family his parents and two sisters believe in miracles and hard work. With the help of Alecs first teacher his mother he began to put a few words together and at the age of seven, and soon began to speak in sentences. Charmain did not feel comfortable leaving Alec in someone elses care. She didnt feel comfortable because around that time he would cry excessively, banging his head and hitting thing with frustration. Charmains answer was prayer and challenging herself to remember:When things get dark all around, fight for what is you need [because] there is light behind the darkness. Alec was enrolled in Yvonne Learning Center upon entering the 7th grade. The Center had a program of inclusion for students with disabilities, which operates from the premise that the way to student success and lasting peace with self and others is large amounts of individualized instruction tempered with the love of God. Alecs middle school teacher, who was known for his firm but patient demeanor which helped Alec mature and reach academic success. His teacher began with the expectation that he would read at his capacity, write legibly and gain greater understanding of math concepts and functions. Eventually, over a two-year period, as Alec discovered how to master each academic task and experience reward and self-satisfaction for controlling his own behavior, he began to model his behavior after his teacher. According to his mother, Alec is still very sensitive and cries when something goes wrong, but has learned to seek restoration in prayer when he is upset. Alec, who once struggled forming relationships with peers, has developed socially and maintained strong peer relationships.He seeks to follow the Lord daily by continually asking questions about a spirit-filled life and dedicating himself in worship.Alec plans to pursue a career in engineering and has been accepted in the STEM Program for engineering at Miami-Dade College. I knew he had the ability.We just had to work to bring it out . . . striving to do it . . . praying through the dark times of frustration, said Charmain. Miami Times staff report