Wednesday, April 7, 2021

An acceptance letter for an amazing 18-year-old not going to college

April 7, 2021

Dear Max,

Congratulations! On behalf of the Office of Admissions (aka your parents), it is with great pleasure that we acknowledge your admission to the School of Life. Your exemplary academic record, developmental accomplishments and personal strengths have been thoroughly reviewed, and we enthusiastically welcome you.

As we continue to hear from friends about the colleges their teens have gotten into, as we see the exuberant Facebook and Instagram posts with grinning young adults holding up acceptance letters and wearing sweatshirts from their intended universities, we are thinking of you. At 18 years old, next year you will be in the same school that you have been in for the past four years, as your program continues until age 21.

But even if you are not off to college next year, even if you are unaware that you are missing a typical rite of passage, you deserve praise and kudos, too. As parents everywhere celebrate their high school seniors, we would like to take this opportunity to openly boast, toast and revel in you.

Your accomplishments and achievements in the face of challenges have convinced everyone who knows you that you have the brightness, determination and perseverance to flourish in the School of Life. Although there is no standardized test for emotional intelligence, if there were you'd score through the roof. Although there is no ranking for qualities like charm, cheer, affability and good humor, if there were, you would be valedictorian—your scores for the SAT (Spirit Aptitude Test) are remarkable. These traits will get you everywhere, and continue to ensure your success in the School of Life. 

We would also like to commend you for opening up a whole new world to us and everyone who knows you. When we first learned that we would have a child with disabilities, we were so fearful of what the future held for you. But you have been a trailblazer in our mindsets, showing us the ability in disability and that there is no "right" way of doing things. You have proven top experts wrong, including the speech therapist who felt that your potential was tapped out at the age of 12 and the neonatologist who examined two-month-old you and announced, "His future looks ominous." 

Well, look at you now, Max. LOOK. AT. YOU. NOW. 

We know that following a different path is just that—not a lesser path, a different path. One that can be equally wonderful as the traditional one. And may we digress and say: Typical is overrated. 

You have been quite the innovator. You were literally the first person at school years ago to try an iPad and a speech app, and your technological prowess has exended to texting us from your phone and Apple watch to ask about moving to Los Angeles and whether we can go out for a steak dinner. You have mastered emoji. You have also aced some unique milestones, including the "ock you" one and cancelling therapy appointments on your own without letting us know. Ahem.

We have been duly impressed by your passion projects, including your plot to get us to move to warm and sunny Los Angeles, to become a firefighter, to set the world record for watching fire truck videos on YouTube, to paint our house fire-engine red (sorry, not happening), to relentlessly tease your little brother but also make sure he doesn't do stupid things like jump off the deck railing and to eat steak and sushi as often as possible.

While we, the committee, may admittedly lack objectivity, your admission is also based on recommendations from many, many teachers and therapists. The elementary-school teacher who called you "Smart Guy" to the point where you started referring to yourself that way. The music therapist you never fail to delight when the two of you make up songs about moving to Los Angeles. The therapists who, since you were a tot, have been awed by your fierceness—from the day you commando crawled, dragging your body across the floor when your little arms and knees were not yet able to hold you up to your ever-evolving progress for articulating words. The IEP meetings filled with phrases like "He is the mayor of the school!" and "I wish we could package what he has" and "You don't have anything to worry about." The neurologist we met with after your stem-cell infusion at Duke University who said, "I can see the light in his eyes."

Perhaps you will still go to college. Among many things, you have taught us that you never can tell what the future holds, and sometimes that's a very good thing. Your capabilities are great, limited only by stereotypes, dated perceptions and inflexibility. You have become an admirable advocate for yourself. Your independence continues to flourish, even if the committee member known as your mother does get a wee bit nervous at times about that.

In making our admission decision to the School of Life, we firmly believe that you will continue to make important contributions in the upcoming years—to your family, to your school, to your community and beyond. 

You should be very proud of your accomplishments, Max. We, the committee, certainly are.

We will be in touch about next steps. (Although they do not include moving to Los Angeles.)

With love and great respect,

The School of Life Office of Admissions  
(Mommy and Daddy)


  1. Thanks for sharing! My son will be walking with his class this year. At this point I know that he will be going the first semester of next year. Our district will only extend time in semester intervals. I hoping to get a full year. He needs the time. (Most of his freshman year and 1/2 of his sophomore year had very little learning due to a cyst in his ear that was causing great pain. None of his doctors believed me that he was in pain. Even when the CT scan showed a cyst no one was in a hurry because they typically don't cause pain. So "obviously" this non-verbal child mustn't be experiencing pain. (His behaviors were dramatically different the first week after surgery -- and yes we do have a new ENT). And then there was a lost quarter home schooling due to COVID and my chemo at the same time. (I wouldn't suggest it!).

    While I really love cheering on the more typical graduates and celebrate their achievements, I really wish there was a way to celebrate Luke and all of his achievements. Like Max, they have been monumental.


  2. Beyond love this. If only I could see my own unconventional path in such a positive way!

  3. As always❤️❤️❤️ Absolutely spot on and I love this!

  4. This was such a beautiful and heartfelt post to read. In the short time I’ve followed your blog and Max’s journey, I have always been so touched by your love for him and his amazing character and personality. Best wishes to you Max in this continued journey through the School of Life. You’ve been rocking it!

  5. Fantastic, congratulations Max and parents! You made it! Now let the adulting begin. Living your own authentic life. Hooray! (Throws cap in the air)!


Thanks for sharing!

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