As a young boy in the early 1960s, Richard had difficulty making certain sounds, he had a slight stutter and he had slower than normal reading skills. His mother’s sister, who had her PhD in education, suggested that the family contact a rehabilitation center for services.
Because of his speech challenges, Richard attended public school and he participated in school therapy sessions as well as in therapy sessions at Crossroads. “I think I attended Crossroads for two years. I remember the drive to the Sutherland location along Fall Creek. It made me feel special because it was just me without my brothers. It was different than school therapy because in school I felt ashamed walking out of the classroom in full view of the other kids,” said Richard.
Richard did not always understand the purpose of therapy, because he felt his brain was saying the right words, but his speech did not vocalize what his brain was thinking. “During the 1960s, I was viewed as “retarded” by my neighborhood peers. At school, I often spent time by myself. The other children generally ignored me during classwork,” said Richard. “I enjoyed going to Crossroads. It made me feel special that I had a teacher to myself. Watching other children in the hallways and in therapy, I thought I was in the right place,” said Richard.
“Being at Crossroads instilled a work ethic for self-improvement that continues today. I began reading voraciously. My mother used to walk the three of us to a nearby library. Curious George books were my favorites. It took too long to read each word on longer, harder books, so I developed a speed-reading pattern,” said Richard.
Richard continued speech therapy in the public-school system up to the seventh grade. Richard completed high school and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard right after graduation and entered the US Coast Guard Academy one year later.
“The Academy is ranked as the top regional college in the north according to US News. One education source ranks the Academy as the eighth best marine engineering undergraduate school in the world. I chose engineering as my profession because I thought it would be the best fit for me based on my interests, test scores and skills,” said Richard. He graduated third from last out of 192 cadets and he studied marine engineering and naval architecture. Part of his job consisted of producing engineering reports and he became aware of the fact that he had dyslexia. In hindsight, Richard feels that dyslexia and speech problems were the basis of some later challenges; he found that when computers became prevalent, he achieved a vast improvement in his writing skills.
As an adult, Richard found ways to work with his challenges and was successful both personally and professionally with many unique experiences and friendships. “An early learning disability may not ever be completely solved, but it can be correctable for success,” said Richard. He has three grown sons – one is a musician; one is a teacher in South Korea; and the youngest just graduated and is working in financial management.
This fall, Richard contacted Easterseals Crossroads to connect once again. He wanted his boys to know that Easterseals Crossroads was a significant part of his life story. “Crossroads offers unique, proven specialized rehabilitation services to those in need. Dignity and respect for the individual are hallmarks of programs at Crossroads. Fifty years later, I am proud to be an alumnus of Crossroads,” said Richard.