From the Dad of an Exceptional Graduate

June 24, 2014 by Elena Noble, MPT

Dear Rifton –

My son Alan is 18, and he has used Rifton devices most of his life. He learned to bear his own weight in the smallest-sized Mobile Stander, which we got for him on his first birthday. Slowly he progressed to walking, first with a Pacer gait  trainer, then holding two hands, one hand, and finally independently.

A young boy with special needs is surrounded by his friends and other graduates in the auditorium as he waits for his name to be calledDuring the last four years, most of Alan’s education has happened at home. Although he did not attend our local high school, Alan formed a fast friendship with Eric and Alfred, two boys his age who live nearby. Evenings, the two of them would often come over to our house, and weekends would find the three of them hanging out.  Occasionally, Alan was able to return the favor, even visiting them at their school. Through these visits, Alan expanded his circle of friends to include the other students and faculty. The principal and assistant principal became great supporters, and would sign Eric and Alfred out of class to tour Alan around the school. Alan became a member of the Class of 2014.

Still, it came as a surprise when the principal called me one evening to tell me that even though Alan hadn’t attended high school with any regularity his classmates wanted him to attend graduation ceremonies and receive his very own diploma, and the administration wanted to make it happen. The students wanted Alan to graduate first, because, they felt, he had worked the hardest to get there.

student with disabilities graduationTwo days before graduation Alan had had four grand mal seizures, and it seemed he wouldn’t have the strength to attend.  On the graduation day, he woke up with a fever.  But he was adamant: he was going. We went. Eric and Alfred met us, and took Alan to the hall where the senior class was waiting. He was soon happily surrounded by the friends he’d made over the years.

Through the speeches, Alan in his wheelchair sat on stage with the Class of 2014. The moment everyone waits for in a graduation finally arrived, and the first graduate was called up to receive his diploma. The next moments are hard for me to describe (and I still get a lump in my throat remembering them). Alan’s name was called, and as he made his awkward, painful way across the stage, classmate on each side, the entire student body and audience rose to applaud my son. Rifton, you played a part in our family’s big day. Thank you.


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