Against all odds

Student finds success in overcoming obstacles


Photo by Angela Valle

Story by Joseph Asher, staff writer

His hands immerse themselves in a series of plastic bowls filled with beans, rice, paste and sand. The textures send chills down his spine and his pupils enlarge.

Growing up, Joseph Rodgers suffered from a developmental disorder that crippled his physical, cognitive and social skills.

It was autism.

“Autism prevented me from being like a ‘normal’ child,” junior Joseph Rodgers said. “I was set back in my development, so I couldn’t talk until I was four and I had a hard time with many other things.”

Although Joseph had the burden of carrying this “disease,” he wasn’t the only one affected. His parents had the daunting task of raising a child with many difficulties.

“My grandma suspected it all along, but my parents were clueless,” Rodgers said. “They went to get an official diagnosis, and then they had to be extremely patient with me by working through my disabilities and enrolling me in therapy sessions.”

Among all of his problems, the biggest one by far was dealing with the fact that his parents could not accept the diagnosis and became embarrassed every time they took him to a public setting. Joseph’s parents had yet to realize exactly what was going on with their son and didn’t quite have a grip on how to cope.

“We’d go out to restaurants and the noises were very loud so I’d scream,” Rodgers said. “My parents didn’t like that. I was an embarrassment.”

His mom had a choice to end it all. But she took a chance, a chance that became a miracle.

“Before I was born, the doctor asked my mother if she wanted to keep me or if she wanted to abort me if I was abnormal because she was an older mother and she had to go through genetic counseling,” Rodgers said. “Because of her faith in God, she chose to keep me and to give me my fundamental right as a human being.”

He was given a chance and with it, he soared to the skies. Months of therapy, prayers and school led to the greatest result.

“I took physical, occupational and speech therapy until I was five,” Rodgers said. “God’s intervention was what allowed me to become who I am today with help from the countless people that poured their lives into me by providing therapy for me. I remember the day the school principal said that I could get out of Special Ed and I would be mainstreamed to join next year’s Kindergarten class.”

Joseph is no longer that child who screams at the world in frustration. He no longer has fears of sticking his hands in various substances. Joseph is now able to live his life out of the shadows from autism and is able to live in the light of the new day.

“I consider myself to be a miracle,” Rodgers said. “I can talk and act like a normal person.”

Joseph has not only endured having autism, but is now aware what it is like having a disorder that takes away from being a ‘normal’ child.

“If my child had a disability, I would give that child a chance because my mom gave me a chance and that is what God would want me to do,” Rodgers said. “I think everyone no matter what problems or setbacks they have should have the right to live because I believe life is a fundamental right.”

Through all of his work and the determination from his devoted family, Joseph is now living a ‘normal’ life in the eyes of many. He goes out and greets people, something he never saw as a reality for himself with his autism. He is now making friends and starting new adventures day by day.

From screaming came talking. One of his first words were “do not cross intersection.” He quickly let his mom know that he could talk and read on a third-grade level. Joseph took his disability and turned it into something positive, something unbelievable.

“I believe that overcoming my disorder has made me a stronger person as a whole,” Rodgers said. “I plan to tell my story to the world and be an inspiration to all those who are struggling with a disorder or a setback.”