Jonathon's mother, Lora Norris, wrote his success story and asked us to share it, noting, "I think he is an inspiration and I know he has had an absolute positive impact on my life and all who meet him."
Jonathon is 32 years old and his diagnosis is: emotionally handicapped with autistic tendencies. But he is not just a diagnosis, he is a fantastic man!
When he was finally diagnosed his kindergarten year of school – the initial testing (6 hours in one day), revealed he had a very low IQ, and should be institutionalized. Thank heaven we had a substitute teacher in school – she insisted we have him re-tested and spread out the test instead of doing it all in one day. It was then they came up with the diagnosis (and the fact that he had an exceptionally high IQ). My husband was devastated and wanted to know if there was a cure, which is the first reaction for someone who doesn’t understand – unfortunately there is no “magic pill” for Autism.
Bless the dear lady who gave us the news which sent us on a new journey, and made this awesome comment to us: “We just put a label on what is happening with your son; he is still the beautiful little boy you brought in here – take him home and love him, give him every opportunity you would have given him before this label and enjoy his life with him!” Gratefully, I have NEVER forgotten that, and believe me -- Jonathon’s life has been absolutely wonderful to be a part of.
I tell people it’s like living with someone with reverse Alzheimer’s; he just continues to open up more and more. When he was little I started keeping a journal when he would say things or have moments of unusual greatness, or make a comment that was profound. I still do. He made a comment during a study group I belong to that loves having him there because he comes up with some real winners. When we were talking about the evil of the world, he said simply, “Well, evil is live backwards, so I guess you don’t want to live your life backwards and those who lived backwards are of the devil…” Blew us all away! One lady came up to me and said “Jonathon always brings tears to my eyes – he is such an amazing person.”
Besides having the biggest loving heart in all the world and an 18 inch long braided ponytail which he says gives him strength like Samson, he recently earned his third degree red belt in Taekwondo. His master instructor made a huge point of letting everyone at the awards ceremony know he is autistic and that they were extremely impressed by his perseverance and commitment to whatever he decides to try; he never gives up and gives more than 100% every single time and makes their entire team very proud (made me cry). He has starred in a community theatre production of "The Boys Next Door," sang the National Anthem at the Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Terre Haute IN, danced ballet, tap and jazz for 7 years before the dance studio closed and will be picking it back up soon, works at Shares/Heigel Diesel Air Dog 30 to 36 hours a week, and has his own loft apartment in our home which houses his immense Lego collection, his numerous black and white cows and his Skylander, Infinity, X-Box, and Guitar Hero video games. He portrays Father Christmas or Panda Clause at our Christmas Tree Farm, loves his three year old niece, and has been an inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with. His supervisor told me one day that if he has a bad morning, he just goes over and talks with Jonathon and Jonathon always cheers him up. Jonathon is going to Special Olympics this month (qualified with his bowling skills), and will be heading on a 9 day trip to Illinois with his company in August.
I sat down with him one day and asked him point blank if he ever felt cheated or shorted out because of his autism, and he looked me right in the eye and said, “Heavens no Mom! I embrace it, because it makes me who I am.” He is a beautiful soul and a wonderful young man.
His success comes from a long road of trial and error (some of which was very costly because there are always “freelance social service people” out there ready to take your money. We lost $15,000 – unrecoverable because even if we sued, the man had nothing and we would be out legal fees as well - before we found out we were being scammed). Finally, East Central Services and their facilitator got us in touch with IPMG and our incomparable case manager, Kristina Sasher. I give her every bit of the credit for keeping us sane when the world comes knocking, and I give her kudos and praise for all she does for us – she definitely goes way beyond the norm. Judging by the fact that you have so many success stories – there must be quite a few exceptional people in your organization – but I can’t imagine anyone more special than Kris. We are never alone and I am so grateful to IPMG and Kris for that. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jonathon next! Always exciting!
Lora shared a photo of Jonathon as he broke 3 boards during a recent taekwondo tournament where he took the first place trophy in his division (among “normal” students and adults). His instructor Shanae Dees is in the black outfit. Her look of total surprise was priceless.