Michael & Joane Goodroe

Shattering Autism Expectations: Black Belt Triumphs and Parents' Journey

Season  1Episode  1175 MinutesJanuary 24, 2024

Click to Watch Youtube Video

Welcome to another captivating episode of Interesting Humans! Today, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Joane and Michael Goodrow, whose incredible journey with their son, Michael, will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.

Imagine this: At just 4 years old, Michael was diagnosed with autism, a diagnosis that came with daunting challenges. Doctors painted a bleak picture of his future, predicting severe limitations in communication and schooling. But the Goodrows refused to accept defeat. Instead, they embarked on a remarkable journey filled with determination and discovery.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Michael, now a third-degree black belt and the proud author of “What Autism Gave Me.” Yes, you read that right! Despite the odds stacked against him, Michael has not only overcome obstacles but has also flourished in ways nobody could have imagined.

Join Jeff Hopeck and guests as we dive deep into the Goodrows’ story of unwavering resilience and boundless hope. It’s a tale that will warm your heart and remind you of the extraordinary strength that lies within us all. So, grab your seat and get ready to be inspired!


Key takeaways from Michael & Joane:

  1. Embrace diversity and individuality. Rather than focusing solely on academic or societal expectations, find your own path to happiness and fulfillment, celebrating your unique talents and abilities.
  2. Reach out for community support. Oftentimes our life journeys are not a solitary one; life often involves the support and dedication of family, friends, teachers, and mentors who believed in you.
  3. Practice gratitude.

 

Tune in to hear more inspiring stories from fascinating individuals.

Follow us:

 


Timestamps:

1:10 Autism diagnosis and resilience.
9:27 Autism awareness and diagnosis.
12:05 Finding special schools for disabilities.
20:01 Unconventional sports for Michael.

25:24 Autism diagnosis delay and challenges.
34:40 Michael’s bending and decision-making.
40:47 Autism and cultural experiences.

44:14 Fran Richards and her influence.
50:17 The tortoise and the hare.
58:41 An inspiring story.
59:50 Rise in autism and conference.
1:08:09 A message of encouragement.
1:12:48 Finding happiness in life.


Show Transcript

Speaker 1: 

So an author and a third degree black belt. Let’s, let’s work through the two of those. Um karate started at what year? That was all the way back in kindergarten.

Speaker 2: 

Five Five.

Speaker 1: 

Okay, five, and I know he’s still active today.

Speaker 2: 

You know, I sit there one day and was watching Michael and saw him struggling and I just said good boy. I said Michael, come here, You’ve got to do this. And I was critiquing him, like most people do, and he said to me you know, if you think it’s so easy, why don’t you get out? Oh, I joined in. It was something that we’ve done throughout the years.

Speaker 1: 

Welcome to another episode of interesting humans. Today I have with me Joan and Michael Goodrow, both successful, uh in in different avenues of business, um. But we’re not going to focus on business today. Today we’re going to focus on a remarkable story of a diagnosis. They were staring straight down the barrel of with their four year old son. Multiple doctors said that this child will barely be able to speak throughout his life, um, let alone attend school. Deep down inside, these two folks uh felt that something was off. They pursued it deeper, Fast forward. Today we have a third degree black belt and author of what autism gave me. Uh. His name is Michael Goodrow. His parents are here to share their story today and I promise it’s going to be incredibly remarkable folks. Thank you so much for being here.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, pleasure.

Speaker 1: 

It’s yeah. There’s so much to this story, so I’m looking forward to unpacking it with the audience. Um, so high level. You all get a diagnosis. That would be a nightmare for for any parent. And it’s not one doctor, it’s not two, it’s multiple and and and you’re going to unpack that as the show goes on it’s, it’s, it’s multiple, one after another. But something deep down, you all say something deep down, says something’s not right here, there’s, there’s more, and we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to the bottom of this. That’s correct. That’s correct.

Speaker 3: 

Yes.

Speaker 1: 

It. This story is just so incredible. All right, let’s start off, folks. Um, let’s go one at a time and just tell us who you are, where you’re at today, grandchildren, children.

Speaker 2: 

All right, Joan, you go first.

Speaker 3: 

Joan Goodrow and um. I’m a mother of two sons, michael and Nathan, and a grandmother of two grandchildren, marie and Miles, and a third one on the way, and they are children of Nathan’s.

Speaker 1: 

Good Congratulations and.

Speaker 3: 

I’m.

Speaker 2: 

Mike, goodrow, michael and uh, I’m Joan’s husband, and all of those people should just named are part of our family as well.

Speaker 3: 

Yes, oh, and we have to throw this in um, I’m an identical twin and so um my identical twins, daughters Katie and Jenny, and they have six grandchildren between them, Our sort of our other grandchildren. Yeah, that’s right. Yes, Okay.

Speaker 1: 

So great. So before we dive in and get right to the heart of this story, I think it’s important uh to note you all have in in in different categories, tremendous success in in uh the business world, from startups and software and healthcare and selling companies to CEO of a very large uh corporation. So I think that’s just important to note that the audit that the audience knows um, because we’re actually not going to really get into that stuff, right.

Speaker 3: 

Um, but I I do think probably the backgrounds helped us sort of manage through the problems, um with Michael and um look for answers, I think, because we were used to doing that at our our Sure Different work.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, I would agree that. It’s not that your family’s always different than work life, but yes, jones, right, the similar skillset to manage that.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, okay, that’s very important. Yeah, it. I think you know, um, uh, both of us um, just without talking about it. We have very different approaches, but both of us just kept moving forward and saying there’s more and um, his Mike’s approach was not to look at that testing at all. He never looked at it and that was fine because it he stayed on a very positive track. And then I think I used more of my healthcare background totally in the way I tried to manage the situation.

Speaker 2: 

Right, same thing it’s but I think in our roles we weren’t competing, no, we were complimenting each other and using our strengths to accomplish that objective of Michael having an independent life. That was the goal.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, it has been the goal from day one From day one.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, special, all right, let’s go all the way back to the beginning then. Okay, where, where and how did it start? Was it a phone call? Was it a doctor’s appointment? What happened?

Speaker 3: 

Um, no, um, uh it. It was interesting because, um, my identical twins, second daughter, um, is the exact age as Michael, so we could see that Michael um had some challenges that Katie didn’t have. So you can sort of think of them as twins because, believe it or not, people don’t think about this they have. Her daughters have half the same DNA as Michael. Sure Cause, twins have the same DNA. So the mothers, you know. So they stay together and Katie always took, took the lead on things and everything.

Speaker 3: 

And we noticed that Michael was having trouble answering questions, um, that he just simple questions, and so we knew things and he, but he was in preschool and you know they say boys are always delayed. But it was um, the teacher in the preschool program that said he needs to be tested for his ears. That’s where it started, Um, is he hearing well enough or whatever. And so each test showed hearing wasn’t a problem. So then you go on to the next test, um. Then you go on to the, the testing that um. Now um looks at really, what are the problems that the child’s dealing with? And um, it was that test, when he was four years old, that um really uncovered everything when you say a simple question like give me what’s an example Um, what’s your?

Speaker 3: 

name. Yes, yeah, or how old are you or anything. He was not able to answer it and yet he could talk. Fine, yeah.

Speaker 2: 

Describe to him the test he took where they asked why is a girl crying Right?

Speaker 3: 

Well, why was the boy crying yeah.

Speaker 2: 

And, uh, all Michael knew at that stage was to mimic back what somebody said to them. He couldn’t answer the question.

Speaker 3: 

All he, yeah, he would say. And um, michael does a lot of public speaking and he actually takes the results from the test and this will give you a clue of what um 1994 was like.

Speaker 2: 

Um, the test results are in cursive writing from the therapist oh yes, Okay, so remember, there wasn’t really an internet that the public could have access to, right, so all of this.

Speaker 3: 

And that becomes important to the story too. Believe it or not? Yeah, because there was a lack of information in general there. So Michael shows the slide that you know what the therapist is saying. Um, why is the boy crying? And three times the therapist asked the question. And three times Michael says why is the boy crying?

Speaker 1: 

Sure, just repeats it back. Yes, that’s right.

Speaker 2: 

Yes, that was the extent of his language was the ability to repeat what he heard someone else say.

Speaker 1: 

Okay, yes, okay, and then so you get testing. You continue on saying, okay, we’re going to get some other opinions or what was the next step?

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, the next step was a very comprehensive test. It. It took a couple of days to do and then when the results came back, um, there was just no good news in it. Um, they said his, his IQ was low, and that becomes the stopping point. Um, because back then and it’s still, it’s sort of the same. Um, it was defined that your IQ was your IQ, no matter what. That that couldn’t change, you know. You know, someone that has a very high IQ has a very high IQ their whole life. Sure, so that became the stopping point.

Speaker 3: 

But then probably the big thing was, um, it was not just the word autism, there were, um, pervasive development delay, they wrote in the results and they said it’s a form that we see in autism. Back at that time, autism was so rare, it was one in 2000. Today it’s one in 36. Wow, okay, so we’re faced with people only thought of autism then, based on the movie Rain man, rain Right, yeah, sure, rain man, rain man.

Speaker 3: 

So we decided at that point we would never, ever use the word autism, and what we came up with is we would say that Michael’s got a disconnect between his left brain and his right brain, and that’s what we told Michael even oh, wow, because we were so frightened that between the IQ, because some people with autism are some of the smartest in the world. Sure, you know, and autism is a spectrum. You know so many of the inventions we have and everything come from people that have one. You know autism with high IQ and Michael does a great job in his talks of explaining all the different things. But we did not let Michael know the word autism even existed until he was ready to graduate from high school, because then we knew that that was going to be important. But that sort of gets way ahead of the story.

Speaker 1: 

Sure yeah.

Speaker 3: 

So then our goal became we were able to get him into kindergarten. And I say we, I was able to get him into kindergarten. That was because and this is part of the story, over and over again, we were turned down so many times, so many places, but where we found an opening that someone would give him an opportunity and a kindergarten teacher was willing to take him into her class, and that became, you know, his opportunity to get into kindergarten, then we knew we’d have to find some special school, and there were several schools. At the time Atlanta wasn’t as big as it is now.

Speaker 1: 

Sure.

Speaker 3: 

But there were several schools for learning disabilities, so I started applying to every school every school, I’m not kidding Before I thought the mail would get to them. I would get the rejection letter back, all but one school, I mean, it was like, and they would just say he no more qualifies to come to school. It was, it was to me one of the hardest, hardest parts thinking that your child could not even go to a special school for disabilities. It was, it was overwhelming.

Speaker 1: 

What kind of questions were they asking on those applications?

Speaker 3: 

They had to see the testing results. That’s all they asked for.

Speaker 1: 

Were they asking any more like black and white stuff, like any learning disabilities? No, no, no, no. They just wanted to see a result.

Speaker 3: 

They just wanted to see the results of the testing and from that testing it was like no, not even maybe. So one school did not answer us back right away. So I figured I needed to call and so I called and they said it was a very small school. It was actually in a old house in Sandy Springs, so very, very small. And we took Michael in for the interview and you know they were gonna interview him and us and we walked in the door and it was a school that at the time took children with behavioral problems. And you know, if you’re not in that realm of understanding, you know like people don’t realize that some children are born with severe behavioral problems. So we walk in the door and they’re putting a child in a straight jacket. It would be like walking in here For real.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, a real straight jacket, yes.

Speaker 3: 

So we sit down and it’s no bigger than where we’re, this area.

Speaker 1: 

This area, right here.

Speaker 3: 

Wow, and they called Michael, and the lady that started the school was named Tweety Tweety Moore, and her office was covered in books. I can’t even explain. Totally from every ounce of it. Every ounce of it.

Speaker 1: 

Everything.

Speaker 3: 

I mean, in the desk was just this little spot. Well, she calls Michael in there and Michael’s in there for about 15 minutes the most, and then she calls us in and I’ll never forget what she said. She looked at us and she goes your child has no language ability. And I thought this is it, we’re not. And she goes, we’ll take him. But that’s not the end of the story. Wow, that’s not the end of the story. So we walk out the front door and Michael looks at me and goes he’s not going.

Speaker 2: 

I have the image of them holding this guy down in a strange way. I know, you know it was like no, right, no. But then Joan and her infant wisdom phrased it and allowed me out, jeff. She said, ok, well, if he’s not going here, where is he going? And I started naming him off. She said rejected, rejected, rejected. And so at the end I said OK, he’s going here.

Speaker 1: 

Made it seem like a great choice, right, yeah?

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, no, but it’s so. You know, there’s moments in your life that you remember the details like it was yesterday.

Speaker 1: 

Mm hmm, it’s like it was one of them. Ok, so we pause. Let’s pause right here before school starts. What was life like for you all, for your family? What else was happening during that time?

Speaker 3: 

OK, ok, one of the things that when he was four, I had gotten him into and diagnosed I’d gotten him into a type of occupational therapy that I knew existed for kids that are born with disabilities physical disabilities in particular, and some of them were brain disabilities that I thought, ok, let me get him into this and everything. So through that year and a half before kindergarten, he was in that type of a program and he had finished up, mm, hmm. So I was looking for what’s next to help his brain, you know, and everything. And there was a place called Tito Karate.

Speaker 3: 

Oh yeah, that existed right near our house and my twin and I and there’s a nanny named Jija that was involved all along we go down to karate with Jeans, two daughters, jenny and Katie and Michael, and they are having them do just some very simple moves, just yoy, yoy, that’s just a movement of the hands. Sure, Michael can’t accomplish that. Mm, hmm, it was again a devastating moment for me.

Speaker 3: 

And so I go out to the car because I’m about to cry Because I just realized this is going to be so bad, and my twin stays in and she talks to the sensei, that sensei, that it’s his place, and he’s got three sons, young sons, that are there working with him. And I see her nodding and everything. She comes out to the car with a big smile on, she goes he’s going to take him.

Speaker 1: 

Oh, yes, she’s going to take him and work with him and everything.

Speaker 3: 

And so then we’ve got a school and we’ve got Tito karate, and for us that was everything we needed.

Speaker 1: 

That’s incredible. So, as we, as we fast forward and then I want to hear from you, mike, to what was life like. It’s incredible, as we’re sitting in these chairs right now, in 2024. How many degrees black belt is, michael Third degree black belt, I mean so remarkable? All right, mike, how about for you? What was going on work wise?

Speaker 2: 

You know, John did a fabulous job with Michael and we just Realize that we had to do something unconventional, that it was just going to be different.

Speaker 3: 

But what were you doing with Michael the whole time? Because you were doing your thing.

Speaker 2: 

It was everything to try to get him out and get him involved, and we would go places and we would try different sports. We ended up skiing because it didn’t require a team event, you know, because that was a challenge for Michael to be involved with a team activity, sure. So we found independent ones that work for him and that work for his environment, and he felt good about doing so.

Speaker 3: 

But Mike would dedicate. If he wasn’t at work he was with Michael, and then when Nathan came along with the boys, then they would go do things. But Michael never slept, ever slept, and so Saturday mornings early they’d go get breakfast.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, go get breakfast. What was your spot?

Speaker 2: 

You know it varied from JRs to Waffle House, to you name it. We would go and we would do it, and then, when Nathan woke up, we would go again have second practice. What I knew it was no problem, yeah because that was that, but it was always.

Speaker 3: 

It was always what worked in. You know, I may have been doing one part of it, but Mike was definitely doing the other part. It’s it’s like, but it wasn’t competition.

Speaker 2: 

No, maybe that’s a good way.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, to me you were focusing on making his life so normal. That’s what Mike was doing.

Speaker 2: 

I think both of us realized that it was. We were just gonna have to knuckle down and make it work. Yeah, we just our Joan and I have a work ethic that’s Uncharacteristic. Most people would think is absurd. Yeah but Michael was Mike, the challenges was. Michael was no different than that. We had to find a way to achieve that goal of an independent life. We would have failed him as a parent, right?

Speaker 1: 

if we didn’t allow him to achieve that would it okay, would most people at this point have just sort of, hey, the doctor told us what he is, that’s what he is, and then what they just sort of like. What would they do? What would they be prescribed to do?

Speaker 2: 

But I think the key is that John had a vision that we had to go to the next thing. We had to be preparing for the next thing.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, that in in kindergarten we had to prepare for school and elementary school we had to prepare middle school and then college, and then right beyond that, sure and I took I took my thought process from other things that I would apply to this situation. So I would look at a Lot of stories, like I remember reading about a lady who had a daughter who was blind and she wanted this child to experience things that Didn’t really work for a blind child. So she said, I’ll be the eyes. The mom said I’ll be the eyes and it’s a disability that we can get around and stuff. And so I would think, okay, we’ve got a type of disability and part of his was definitely His auditory processing part. So you know, I’d say, if he was deaf, you wouldn’t be expecting him to hear right, so let’s figure out how we can compensate for him not being able to process what he’s hearing right now, as if you would for someone blind can’t see or whatever.

Speaker 3: 

And so it was more trying to put together what you would do to get to the next level, and Now a lot of that exists, believe it or not, that didn’t. They’re working a lot harder there’s. If now Michael was diagnosed, they would look at it differently. However, I just I’m on the Marcus Center advisory board and I met just the other night a a family that Actually had two sons, and there’s their son was diagnosed with a very similar type that Michael was and the IQ was Right there same thing. But they’re telling me what their son is already doing and it’s very hopeful what they are telling me you know, and I said, no, you just cannot the.

Speaker 3: 

I said they can’t measure the IQ if Certain things aren’t working right. You know, that’s what we’ve learned, because it turns out, michael is very smart.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah yeah.

Speaker 1: 

I’m bad.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, but you know, did anybody realize that? No, and stuff. So there’s a lot that’s been learned in stuff. Now, though, like on autism, there’s so many kids diagnosed, but to even get diagnosed now that testing we talked about there’s such a delay now because there’s not enough people to do the testing. It’s very expensive. The Marcus Center has come up with an unbelievable invention that will diagnose Literally Right after birth, almost now, but it’s gonna take a while to get to the market and stuff. So kids are delayed because Parents can’t even get in the men to testing right now, and so they’re stuck because they’re not even sure what that child needs. So in a way, we were fortunate, in a way. Right, yeah, so kindergarten. So let’s come back to kindergarten.

Speaker 1: 

now he’s accepted, you guys are excited, you go home, you’re excited, you’re fired up. Are you explaining anything to him at that time? Does he? It’s hard at kindergarten age, right? Yeah, no, we, we.

Speaker 3: 

Didn’t really sit down and explain anything and he seemed to explain everything and he seemed to accept that he was going to different school than his cousins and but we never talked about it.

Speaker 2: 

There was really no talking about things, believe it or not, because he and that’s probably the most important thing there wasn’t things to talk about, there were things to do. You know, we needed to get him ready, and get him ready even at that stage, to go to kindergarten. Yeah there were things we had to get him ready for sure, yeah, but we never and he never asked.

Speaker 3: 

But again, remember now he’s not someone that you’re having conversations with Right now. He’s talking, but it’s not a conversation, got it?

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, okay. So at that point, were you being advised on how to do these things or were you just sort of trying?

Speaker 3: 

Oh, no, no, no, no, there was no advice, you were just doing what you felt, yeah was yes, yes, inherent. I guess yes, and totally, totally yeah.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, day one in kindergarten how to drop off go. What was it like?

Speaker 3: 

Good Michael, never. Okay, there’s things about Michael that I think were easier. Michael’s always been very cooperative, right matter of fact, when we talked about behavior, he never had a behavior problem. No, no, never.

Speaker 2: 

And obviously he’s very positive.

Speaker 1: 

Yes, he’s a positive yes, for sure, yes, yeah.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, yeah. So no, no issues there. And the way the school the school was so small, there were only six kids in in his and it it wasn’t even just his class, I think that was like first and right second grade right together and um, so and and then also Um, I remember it. You know we got over very much, very quickly, even being worried about anything, because you meet these parents and you just can relate to everybody. And the other kids were, you know, everybody was just Trying to get to the next step.

Speaker 1: 

Sure, everybody. Yeah, okay, his relationship with his brother then.

Speaker 3: 

What? Yeah, um, yeah, it’s um. Okay. So Michael is five years old, just turned five, um a month before his brother was born. And this is this is the thing about Michael, that that it just says everything. We called him from the hospital. He knew I was having a baby and, um, um, mike said to him he was on speaker and said mom’s about to have the baby. And he starts crying. He says I don’t want mom To have to throw up that baby. So he knew the baby was in my stomach and he was worried I was gonna have to throw him up and I thought that actually I got One. It was just he’s always been so worried and so kind he would be one that if he heard you coughing in the middle of the night He’d come and say can I get you some cough medicine? So there’s things about Michael that and I’m talking about from the time he yeah, that’s what.

Speaker 3: 

I mean that right early on that those are the parts that when somebody tells you he’s not capable and he does that, that’s what sticks in your mind like no, this isn’t right what we’re being told. And so I thought that thought process of how that baby was gonna get out of my stomach because that’s what you tell a child, right, the babies in my stomach, mm-hmm. Was unplegivable. Yeah, that he he got it.

Speaker 1: 

He got it, I mean yes. Incredible and went okay. So when his brother was born, you said five. So michaels five. Yes, nathan’s born yes, michael’s still in kindergarten, yes, okay. And then what it was at school? Just kindergarten, or did it have more grades?

Speaker 2: 

No, no, no, no, that was. He stayed there and went all the way through to the 12th. No, no, no, no, that was church kindergarten.

Speaker 3: 

Oh, okay, that was church kindergarten it was at a church and that was when. Well, he, actually, when he was born he was at the first grade. Yeah, it was, it was the church when. Yeah, yeah, so, um, but he did stay at the whole 12 years at the same school, but the school grew Beyond what it was when it’s when it started, when he was sure, yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, tell us some stories about milestones. So let now I’m gonna sort of Push everything together from we got to kindergarten. Um, we know where you all were at in life. Nathan’s born just sort of like over the next 12 years, so let’s say like the school years. Some stories, what pivotal, pivotal times where their times, he came home and you were like Whoa, this is a different child than I sent to school this morning. How did it go and how did it progress? And just as much detail as you have he had michael had.

Speaker 3: 

The scope of his problems were so much more than we’ve even talked about. He had so many motor problems that it’s that showed him in karate. But but be writing his Name even to this day. If he goes to write his name, it looks Like something he would have done in kindergarten. Um, the motor problems were so great. Okay, so the thought Of him, what it took to write out his name was maybe 20 minutes.

Speaker 1: 

For right from the get-go, from like when they started writing in yeah.

Speaker 3: 

So you couldn’t imagine how are we going to get through this, because even if it’s up here, he couldn’t get it on the paper and, um, he couldn’t get it out of his mouth either. And so you know the school was real good because they Would set small goals, and so in michael’s mind we didn’t know a lot of this until um, we went back Um, when he was writing his book, he thought he was always doing great because he always met his goals. I get any real positive right. He had no idea. No idea.

Speaker 3: 

Oh yeah, and he said he just focused on what he was doing. He wasn’t he, he wasn’t really looking at what everybody else was doing. Right, but we didn’t know that. We didn’t know that because I used to worry so much that he was comparing himself and all that. But he wasn’t right, he wasn’t. Just shows you, you just don’t know sure.

Speaker 1: 

And then how? How did the relationship progress with his brother? What did that look like? Yeah, as the years went on, it was good.

Speaker 2: 

I think, yeah, I think michael and nathan have a really good and till today, even today, have an excellent relationship and it it morphed. Michael nathan saw michael as his big brother and michael saw nathan as his little brother and they were just pals all through the ages as they grew and matured and who did?

Speaker 3: 

who did all the bending? I don’t know, michael, michael all bending like in other words if there was a tv program to be watched to who decided oh. Nathan I mean nathan would decide. Michael michael was definitely Again was the one who just said you know well, whatever somebody else wants, he did, yeah, yeah, yeah. So he was, he was real good about and he didn’t have a jealous bone in his body.

Speaker 2: 

No.

Speaker 3: 

No, no. In some ways, michael michael’s personality made things easier. To be honest as a family.

Speaker 1: 

I mean uh-huh for the family for the family.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, yeah, if he, he, he’s always wanted to do whatever the right thing was.

Speaker 2: 

But I think, nathan, in just in fairness, michael can suck the air out of a room. Yes, he can, pretty easy he can take all the attention and all of the Fanfare away, and nathan has been extremely tolerant.

Speaker 1: 

Yes, yeah and extremely humble about it yeah he really deserves a lot more credit.

Speaker 3: 

Well, I know there’s many things we couldn’t do because Of michael and and many things we had to concentrate on for michael that took away from nathan right the time. Nathan had it real hard. Yeah, with all that.

Speaker 1: 

So, okay, there’s two key themes here. So we have third degree black belt and then we have another Theme here. I want to make sure that it didn’t it didn’t get overpassed or misheard in the. In your last story, we have an author that we’re talking about as well, right? So, an author in a third degree black belt. Let’s, let’s work through the two of those. Karate started at what year? That was all the way back in kindergarten. Five, five, okay, five, and I know still active today, yes, so let’s, let’s tell some stories. I know we were with you guys summer camp for many years. Yeah, just just tell us how that went and his experiences and just what you got out of it as family and I know you’re still there and involved today.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, yeah. Well, you go first. What? What did you do with as part of it?

Speaker 2: 

Michael’s had an illustrious career. You join yeah, yeah, you know, I sit there one day and was watching Michael and saw him struggling and I just said, good lord. I said, michael, come here, you’ve got to do this. And I was critiquing him, like most people do, and he said to me you know, if you think it’s so easy, why don’t you get out? Oh, I Joined and it was something that we’ve done throughout the years. Nathan was there for a very long time and did an excellent job.

Speaker 2: 

He got it, he got it, he got his first degree black belt oh great, and you know both of them. It was just an enrichment of Experience. We got so many things. We got to experience so many people, yeah, that we got to be around and be a part of their lives and get to experience their culture, their View of the world and got to see foreign lands that we would have never seen without Experience and that and it’s very loving and kind and caring environment.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, we feel very fortunate to be a part of yeah and I think a couple things that you just have to give it to Taito and stuff is they did such a good job of Helping Michael just get to the next step. Yeah, and they didn’t need to do that, they just did it and and they even at one point when it got really tough to get over that next Hum Mitsaki Sensei, who now is in charge All these years later, was 14 and came to our house and worked with Michael in the basement.

Speaker 1: 

Oh, I never knew that.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, no, they didn’t tell anybody for a long time, but what what they wanted to do is figure out how to get him to the next thing, and they were just doing that out of total dedication, and we’re convinced that the Taito Truly helped Strengthen everything it. It brought us motor coordination. Once that motor coordination is there, you’ve got ability to learn to Do all kinds of things. So there’s no way to even and it was A place where you’ve had friends right, which is very hard with people with autism and it was just was a community.

Speaker 3: 

It was just something. The other thing is a family. It was a family activity because all of them were doing it together. Yeah, that’s right and all were at a different level. But it doesn’t matter, everybody does it on their own.

Speaker 1: 

Sure pace, right and everything. So what roughly, what year or what belt, whatever? You can recall when, when Michael said that to you. If you think it’s so hard, so easy, come out and do it yeah, was he just getting started, or where were you all out, I think?

Speaker 2: 

it was early on in the process, when he was like in his adolescent years, because, or maybe when he was like 10 or 11.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, I think that’s what it was around that time period.

Speaker 2: 

But you know, he’s had so many experiences, you know that culture was really not Doesn’t want you to hug or touch or any of that stuff. And Michael, we were in japan with the group and and we were there in the grand master of the. Martial arts started title the main guy was there and Michael just felt like he needed to hug him, and he’s the only person in history that’s ever hugged this guy?

Speaker 3: 

I mean, there was, people were gasping out. It wasn’t the only one, I was great.

Speaker 2: 

But he, michael’s had an experience. It’s there. That just you know you it’s. It’s interesting, all there is to it. But, jeff, I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t get john talk just a little bit about michael’s singing, because that has been a big part of his life too and allowed him to grow and mature. He would not have gotten into college without An event that occurred many, many, many, many years before that. And, john, why don’t you?

Speaker 3: 

tell that story. Well, what, what? What is interesting is, even from the time he was little, he could sing. I mean, you know, four years old, he could sing. And um he’s. In matter of fact, he couldn’t understand why I’d always ask him to sing Because it was something he did better than everybody else. And for me, you know, I’m looking, I’m looking for reassurance, everything’s all right. And um, so he, he couldn’t understand why I always wanted him to sing. Well, um, from tido.

Speaker 3: 

There were some other students that we were new and good friends with and it turned out that they are grandmother, that the students were the exact age of michael and naphin and their grandmother, um, was an opera singer in new york, setting at the new york mat. Um julie, do, every, every, the whole works. She was, she was something, and um, it turned out um, she gave piano lessons and we knew piano was important. He’d gotten kicked out of every piano. We’d tried lesson, we’d tried, because, again, no motor coordination and they just felt like it wouldn’t do. Well, um, her name, um, was fran richards and um, she Really became another grandmother.

Speaker 3: 

I, I’m from an italian background and she was italian and she was just like part of the family. She, she didn’t like tido. She saw michael for the good sides of things, and so she took um, him on for piano and naphin, and um, then she, he actually sings very, mike sings very good also and um, so he’d be singing and then when michael got to be about 14, she Switched him from piano to singing and it was classical music and he could sing. Me, yeah, he could sing. And um, well, she and he had a real rapport.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, they did. Their personalities blended well. Yeah, you know she was the stern disciplinarian that was really had a real soft side to her, but michael would work her and work her into his realm and get her to be okay and she’d get outside her comfort zone and michael would get her back into it. You know, and it it just proved a great relationship. Yeah and, as john said, she ended. He ended up there because everybody else kicked him out, right?

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, didn’t want anything to do with him and and yet she’s probably one of the most accomplished and everything so, and and she literally became part of the family in so many ways. Um and um, so, um, michael’s getting towards the end of his time, um, in High school and he’s going. I want to go to college. And now we’re?

Speaker 3: 

we’re back in panic mode because Because, like michael’s, so funny when he tells the story and you know in his motivational speeches which he has Got nothing but brave reviews on his speaking. You would not believe and we’ll tell you.

Speaker 1: 

Are there links to okay pause, real quick. Are there links to either the speaking or yes, singing as well.

Speaker 2: 

Yes.

Speaker 1: 

Okay, we’re gonna insert them in and make sure that we yeah, okay, good, yeah, no, there’s there’s some good stories too.

Speaker 3: 

So, um, like michael says, sat, he got the score you get for putting your name on the test, and so, and back at that time, sat scores were Necessary to get in sure.

Speaker 3: 

So um he got in for some interviews that were related to auditioning for singing, and University of West Georgia was one. And um I went with him for the audition and I was seated where I could see the, the dean of the program, um watching him when he was singing and I could tell it was going well and stuff. And sure enough, um he says I want michael. And um he I said well, they have to say t scores don’t work. And he says I’ll look for I’ll ask for an exception. So he goes to Get an exception and they said we’ll give an exception but he’ll flunk out. So um he he got in on a singing scholarship.

Speaker 1: 

That’s awesome Basically.

Speaker 3: 

And, um, he didn’t flunk out, right, but what we went through, why didn’t he flunk out? Okay, this is the next plan. Let’s hear it remember when I said if you’re blind, somebody’s got to see, and all that. So we bought two sets of books and he would. He would be there monday through friday, uh-huh. But Our jobs were To read every word out loud and that would mike from the book. Textbooks. But it was, um, I mean a practice test Prepare for ready with homework do study guys study guides.

Speaker 2: 

Get him ready to send him back for that week’s event.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, see we’d be having to work while he was over there doing the study guides and all that, but then they would read every word out loud. Mike started reading every I’m talking about every textbook. Wow, well, I’m telling you what we saw. Michael Then started reading. So well, yeah, it was unbelievable.

Speaker 3: 

Is this for the first time that you can actually say like oh, wow, oh my god, it’s like, okay, see, now he’s His dad’s Because he did all of that and I’m doing all of the other stuff Because they’re doing the reading like crazy and um, and I’m talking about we’d work 12 hours a day Without stopping for anything but eating. And again, this is when nathan just Was. Nathan was in in high school.

Speaker 3: 

We were just ignoring him sure, and stuff, but we knew what we needed to do, right? Okay, michael, we weren’t ignoring it, we were loving you, yeah, but but we were busy. I’m not kidding, we were, we were busy. Okay, michael never missed one class, not one class, matter of fact. It snowed and he was living off campus in an apartment. He walked To the campus, he got there, they’d canceled classes, but he still walked he still it.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, but he worked as hard as anybody could work and um, he had accommodations, um based on um, his disability, and again, that’s a move forward. The word accommodations never even existed when he was first diagnosed and everything. So michael’s doing his part now. Never forget that first semester, because you know we’re wondering, you know what’s going to happen and everything. And it’s like the people, what you see are all these people, not just the. You know that, you know of that graduated, you know from high school that you know had gone to regular schools and it done great.

Speaker 3: 

They’re dropping out of college and you start realizing it’s not as simple as you know being able to do everything. There’s a Stick to it and make it work. And again, that’s where we saw sort of the tortoise in the hair. It’s like katie that was the cousin, the cousin who graduated top of the class From high school. Yeah, early admission, early admission into georgia University of georgia hard, hard to get into. She dropped out and she had a lot of things. She’d lost her dad and stuff. So there were a lot of things going on. But what you see is it’s not about Just the ability, there’s much more to it. Really, the story of the tortoise in the hair makes so much sense when you look at An example like michael. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1: 

Now, at this point, I remember in the beginning you mentioned you held off a long long time, until even new autism. Did he know it right at college or was it high school?

Speaker 3: 

We told him right at the end of high school because he Was going to make uh, his school was small and anybody that wanted to could and still they always did this could get up and speak at their graduation.

Speaker 3: 

So we thought Now it’s the time to tell him.

Speaker 3: 

And, like he said because you said the word autism, but I didn’t really know what it meant.

Speaker 3: 

It wasn’t until we dug in deeper and and actually when he was in college he did a, he had a speech class and again when he’d go in in, he’d have to tell the, the professors, what his diagnosis was and his accommodations, so that and people automatically assume you know, you’re not going to be good speaker. And he was in speech class and they, the professor, tried to get him to Not take that class and he said, no, I’m gonna take the class and everything. And he did a whole thing on Not just autism but him, I think it was, and he ended up getting An A in that class, yeah, yeah, because it then that was Probably the we always knew, because if you ever say to him like, say a few words, he always seems to be able to come up with the wrong words. But that was probably the start of him really getting in to enjoying the speaking and preparing his slides and everything. It’s amazing how it’s an innate ability he has with that.

Speaker 1: 

I want to go all the way back now to the beginning, to 4-5 years old, when you were doctor after doctor test after test. Now that we put the whole puzzle together, what in the beginning were doctors saying that he would be like at 23 years old? Were they saying, don’t even worry about college.

Speaker 3: 

They said he wasn’t going to school I mean grammar school From day one. That was devastating. They told us that he’d be in a group home as an adult.

Speaker 1: 

That was their predictions. How many predictions?

Speaker 3: 

Everybody, everybody.

Speaker 1: 

Five people, ten people.

Speaker 3: 

At least six or eight. It was very hard the intervention was for me to accept that.

Speaker 1: 

Tell us a little bit about that.

Speaker 3: 

I thought we were getting together. I was called the meeting because these were all people and these were professionals. I was paying for their time. It’s professionals such as psychologists, speech therapist, occupational therapist you get them all in one room.

Speaker 3: 

They know of each other because back then again it was a smaller community. They all knew who they were and stuff. I guess, all talking about this crazy mom, I guess I had no awareness that was going on until I got there. I’m always early, I got there early and they were already there. I had a funny sense when they were all there because I thought this is weird. I sit down and I go. I really want us to come up with a strategy to help figure out what we’re going to get them into school. They go. Well, we want to talk to you about it. It was devastating it was devastating.

Speaker 1: 

This is right before kindergarten.

Speaker 3: 

Yes, I was pregnant with Nathan.

Speaker 3: 

You got up Well we were in kindergarten because I was pregnant with Nathan. I’m trying to plan out a kindergarten. We’re early on. We’re in September and I had Nathan in October. I knew to plan for that next year. I needed to start early because I didn’t know can we be doing certain things with Michael to get him to the next level and all that? Basically, they were saying no, you just need to get to acceptance that your child does not have ability to do this. It was devastating. It was probably one of the most devastating things I’ve ever encountered because it was a group of people experts telling me you leave there.

Speaker 1: 

How long did it take for you to just completely? There obviously was up and down emotions. Are they right, are they wrong? Are they right, are they wrong? When did you guys as a team just completely turn and go? There’s that something else inside of us, pretty immediately. Yeah, pretty immediately, yeah yeah.

Speaker 3: 

Pretty immediately when you get home and you just go, you’re watching him and you’re seeing those things. Like I’m saying, like the child that offers you cough medicine on your cough. Right. It’s funny how these little things are just the way. I know he couldn’t communicate with us, but I didn’t feel like he was, like I could tell he was purposeful in what he was trying to do and stuff, I agree.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, okay, right, there you’re looking out in the future. You just heard from experts. Here’s what we think is going to happen. How would you categorize? What did you think? Were you saying like, no, no way, he’ll be in college? Or how did you see him?

Speaker 3: 

No, I think you know, and, matter of fact, I told somebody this just the other day In my personality, if I’ve got a problem, whatever the problem is, the worst part of it is if I’m not doing something. So as long as we were doing something to get Michael to be better tomorrow than today, we weren’t looking too far ahead.

Speaker 1: 

Special yeah, okay.

Speaker 3: 

I’m pretty much that way, that that’s sort of my personality. Have decided because you know, when something hits, hits some people freeze. For me. It’s like I’m gonna get through it.

Speaker 2: 

If I am Doing whatever, it is Ten trying to make it better, right yeah, I think both Joan and I just Don’t accept the fact that there are no alternatives. They’re absolutely never no alternatives we can explore, and when we were talking about music and Sports and then activities, if it didn’t work, we abandoned it and went hunting for the next one, right, something that would work for him or work for us and that had some positive results. And if it did, we kept going with it.

Speaker 3: 

Great, what, what a, what a, what an inspiring story we went to, there was a funeral for a family member and and At the funeral they, michael was for they sang amazing grace. And we get home and Michael is singing amazing grace and that was probably the first time. It was like he is singing the song and it sounds so good and he knows most of the words and he heard it one time and, and that was again. That singing thing was like that’s, that’s important sure that’s important sure yeah.

Speaker 1: 

And he’s an author. Yeah, we right, we got that. Yeah, and what about?

Speaker 3: 

that what, how that came about. Jacksonville State University in Alabama. They Do the most that look, the largest teaching program, I think, one of the largest teaching programs I know in Alabama, but maybe in the southeast, and With the rise in autism. They were having an annual Conference and they asked him to be the keynote speaker and this was gonna be the first time he had really spoken at this, and so it really any event, right, it was the first time ever yeah, and this is what what year this he’s in college or he’s out of college, I’d say 2000 and 1516, okay.

Speaker 3: 

And so you know, when we helped him prepare the PowerPoint slides and stuff and we’re both real good about not a lot of words, but Michael loves, you know, tell stories with pictures anyway and stuff. So he gets up and he, he Does this and everything. And I’m, I’m there and I’m thinking, wow, you know this he’s doing really good. You know, like I was nervous, right, but he did. You know, I’m feeling really good about it. They were so wowed by the story and so many people said, tim, you need to write, put this in a book.

Speaker 3: 

Well, if you tell Michael something, it’s considered done yeah, and and so he, we’re driving back and he goes. Well, he goes. How would I put my story in a book? So we’re talking about it and we realized one of the things we had all the testing that had been done and you know, you always when, when you have any medical things, you keep that information, you know. But then his school, for 12 years, every week at the end of the week they would document how the week went. Feedback sheets.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, the feedback sheets.

Speaker 3: 

And so I I said, you know, we’ll just get that out and maybe that’ll be the start. That’s when he realized how bad things were. He met all the goals. But then he started realizing, wait, a minute, in fourth grade I was doing first grade work, right, and you know it stopped the. He literally had to stop for a while because he it really made him feel bad. But then I pointed out, I said, michael, the reason they want your story out is because you, you got through it. Your, the other people need to get through it. And as soon as he figured out what was really the goal, he literally it became like he’d work. And then, when he was not at work, he wanted to work on the book and he and I worked on a lot of it together because it I Didn’t, we didn’t know, he didn’t see what we saw, and I guess nobody does.

Speaker 2: 

No, you don’t sure yeah.

Speaker 3: 

But I never would have thought Like I thought he Would be more understanding of why he was at a different school than his brother and his cousins were. But he said he really just never thought about it that way. Right, and good for him. Good for him, because that’s the one thing Michael’s always had, is good self-esteem. Yeah and I. It’s probably served him so well In life special, yeah, so tell us where’s.

Speaker 1: 

where’s Michael today? What?

Speaker 3: 

is he up to? Okay, well, I the he. When he got out of college, it was. It’s very hard for somebody with autism to get a job, later or not. The word still has just the wrong, wrong context and and many people rely on family businesses or whatever, and so one of the companies that I started, my youngest brother took that over very fairly early and he has been with him. It’s a medical, specialized medical billing company and Michael does a lot of. It’s a small company, so he does data processing and a lot of other stuff and, and matter of fact, that I, my brother, hates for him to take a day off because it’s it’s he has an important job.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, he feels it, if you take that yeah and so he does that.

Speaker 3: 

But the motivational speaking has been really unbelievable and it has not been as much autism Specific, it’s much more the business community. He, his story just helps anybody who is stuck, see, nothing’s hopeless, or and it doesn’t. So what we find is the business community Seems to love the story that he tells, and the way he tells us is it’s got humor in it, it’s got, and there’s so many facts so you can follow it. That’s, that’s the thing with the testing. You’ve got objective data right so you can understand what was going on versus, you know, a subjective type thing sure and so he does that and he does the karate.

Speaker 3: 

He Works out at a gym doing CrossFit he. He Loves Dungeons and Dragons games and stuff, so he stays busy.

Speaker 1: 

He’s a great artist too, right drawing, no coloring his brother, nathan, is the. Okay, remember seeing it on Facebook post. Really a talented yeah, incredible yeah.

Speaker 2: 

But you know, I think the compliment what John said people are looking for hope, they’re looking for an encouraging Outlook, that people had adversity but then overcame it through perseverance. And I think that’s the message of Michael speaking. It just says you too can do this if you just Recognize you got to take those small steps and accept the small accomplishments and then move forward right.

Speaker 3: 

Um, one story that just happened, that he did not belong to this gym. They invited him to speak and opened it to the community and he got a note Back. And for me it, being a mom, it was from them, a mom that brought her son in high school and and she was writing to thank him for the speech. And see again it makes me cry because I can relate to this mom. And she said she was so worried about her son and brought him to this talk because she had heard that you know, I guess you know for him whatever was hard and everything. And and she said, after the talk he looked at her and said, mom, you don’t need to worry, I’m gonna be okay.

Speaker 1: 

Oh, incredible yeah.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, so we’ve been tremendously blessed, sure, tremendously blessed.

Speaker 1: 

Yeah, remarkable. Let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s end here. Let’s you guys each take a, take a minute. I want to want to have you give just a Message of encouragement, pack in as much as you feel necessary to, to anybody out there if it’s specifically In this, in the testing phase, as I heard from both of you. It could be struggles or hang ups or hurts or habits or whatever it could be. They’re stuck.

Speaker 2: 

How would how would you?

Speaker 1: 

how would you inspire them? How would you coach them?

Speaker 3: 

I Think one of the things on any child, even an adult, perfection or ability to do everything is not at all important. It’s just looking at each individual for who they are. Our world requires diversity, and diversity means that we’re not good in everything and when we shouldn’t be it’s it’s. It’s so wrong and sometimes the way we’re structured, even in the way we do school and we grade and everything, we’re not seeing the full picture of what somebody can be. And I know, even when Michael was young, there was a book released by PhD person. I remember the name of the book. It was one mind at a time and that book, when I read it, I was. I was like, well, yeah, I know this, I know this.

Speaker 3: 

And then I realized others don’t see it this way. Others get upset because their child’s not good in math or or the teacher does. I mean it’s. It’s. It’s Like we want everyone to be at this high, high level and we reward that. And so sometimes we take away people’s self-esteem in trying to say you know that everyone’s got to be able to do certain things, whereas If you can survive those years and then find what you’re good at and what makes you happy and Mike and I both into that. People need to find joy and work because you need that to survive. You know people who think I’m only gonna work if I need to is probably not a good long-term strategy Because you get to the end and you better, better be able to take care of yourself right.

Speaker 3: 

But I think that’s probably Like it should never be the end of the world that somebody’s not good at something it really should not. That’s awesome.

Speaker 2: 

You know, I think for me it’s that we saw early on that that story of Michael was not written.

Speaker 2: 

It was yet to be determined that there were tons of blank pages that we get to decide how they get filled out, and Michael’s done a fabulous job and I think the takeaway for many people is that Life doesn’t give you all the answers upfront and it’s okay. You just got to stay with it. And I had a Dear friend that recently passed away and I was at his funeral and they did not read his SAT score. They didn’t talk about his accolades in college. They talked about what a good person he was and his family and his accomplishments as an individual.

Speaker 2: 

So I think we need to focus on those types of things and I Think you can’t ignore some things, but I think you can’t make them up front and always the whole part of that conversation. I think there are other things that good person, the values that they bring, and you know, joan and I’ve been real blessed with a family of both Michael and Nathan and our grand, our daughter-in-law and our grandchildren and our extended family. We’ve just been extremely blessed throughout our lives. And she’s right, we have a work ethic.

Speaker 2: 

It’s not right for everyone but it’s right for us, sure and you know, I think People have just got to find what works for them. But Joan’s done a really good job of telling Michael and Nathan and anybody that’ll listen, that you’ve got to find your own Fun in places, you’ve got to make yourself happy, you’ve got to look for the little things in life, because life will throw you those curveballs and it’s okay and know that your faith and your values will see you through, and those are the kinds of things you need to be measured by and Just one more thing.

Speaker 3: 

We are forever grateful for the people who stepped in and helped.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, it wouldn’t have been possible just through our efforts.

Speaker 3: 

No, right, no it was.

Speaker 2: 

it was a cast of characters.

Speaker 3: 

Yeah, no, and supported us, yeah yeah, there’s no way to even ever explain because you or the gratitude yeah, that’s awesome.

Speaker 1: 

This was an incredible story, so I do want to say to you both that I’m grateful To sit here and listen, literally be part of like to relive the story? Yeah, that’s all I like is I’m sitting here in the seat. I just keep thinking I got to go through your life with you for thank you so much. It’s an incredible, incredible story. Just special people to go.

Speaker 2: 

Yeah, there’s hope, there’s hope, yeah, that’s that’s what I took away from Joan and Michael’s experience at Jacksonville State that the people that talk to her In, the people that come up to Michael and I after his speeches, are not looking for Michael to solve their problems Right. They’re looking for somebody to tell them there’s hope.

Speaker 1: 

There’s hope.

Speaker 2: 

It’s gonna be okay.

Speaker 3: 

And yeah, and it’s not about autism, it’s. It’s about know, that the person that just feels like their life is just bad today. They need hope. Yeah, it’s for everybody, yes, for everybody, and that’s a market that’s probably grown vertically like this mental health.

Speaker 1: 

What a great story. So thank you both for being here just as reminder, we’re gonna link to Michael’s YouTube videos and the stuff that we talked about seeing him singing especially. We’ll link to his book as well. So Thank you so much for taking that, taking the time out of both your days to be here. Greatly appreciate it and, and folks, thanks for joining us again on another episode of interesting humans. You.

Also Available On
Listen On Apple Podcasts Listen On Amazon Music Listen On iHeart Listen On Spotify Listen On Youtube