Not Just An Average Guy
Sean Salazar is not your average guy. In fact, according to testing instruments, Sean is considered to be both above and below average with an IQ above the norm. Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a disability on the autistic spectrum, Sean once attended both special education and advanced placement classes at the same time, while testing at graduate level in vocabulary when he was only twelve years old. The young man’s life is a study of hard work and determination.
Born two months premature and having had a stroke before birth, Sean spent not only the first months of his life in the hospital, but his first four birthdays as well. Medical issues like pneumonia, seizures and fevers were the norm when he was a child. His speech and motor skills were extremely delayed as well as his growth pattern. However, Sean always exhibited above average skills with hands-on or building projects, even surprising professionals with his technical abilities.
And though his health improved during his early school years, his social skills plummeted. Middle school proved to be so demanding socially that his mother, Jean Salazar, took him out of the classroom and began working out a program at home, which would eventually change his world. She also sought help from professionals. Belinda Crosier, a counselor with Edmond Family Counseling, was one of those people.
“Sean was persecuted during middle school,” said Crosier, speaking of the taunting and teasing he endured. He was often found in the bathroom, scrubbing his hands until they were raw and bleeding, a result of a severe obsessive/compulsive disorder. Crosier was called to help on numerous occasions. No matter the place or the time—day or night, home or school parking lot—she always responded. Today, she considers Sean a personal friend and a true success story, having seen him move from extreme social anxieties that consumed his life, to a young adult living independently and attending college.
Much of Sean’s success can be attributed to Jean Salazar’s belief in her son and refusal to accept a world that did not provide a “different” way for him to learn, along with Sean’s own determination to succeed and to help others.
“My mom is my biggest cheerleader,” said Sean, who now attends classes at Oklahoma City Community College. His mom drives him to school, waits for him and helps him with his studies between or after classes. Sean has a personal note taker and uses a tape recorder in class so he can study the material at home.
Jean discovered the method in which her son learned early in his life and says immersion is the only way. “When Sean has an assignment, he has to immerse himself in the subject.” She finds videos, audios, reading material, maps, drawings, whatever possible so Sean can become completely immersed in the subject. “This is the way he learns,” said Jean.
She is adamant about helping kids with their own learning patterns rather than trying to change the way they learn to fit the norm. “Just because they learn differently doesn’t mean they get there the wrong way,” she said, speaking of completing an assignment or a course.
The immersion helps Sean socially as well as academically. “Usually when I master something I find it relaxing,” said Sean, who often fixates on details. The down side to the immersion is that he can easily become obsessed with the project. “It’s not hard for me to turn something small into something big or exaggerated,” said Sean.
One of the things Sean enjoys tremendously is scouting, having been involved with scouts most of his life.
“I really like Boy Scouts,” said Sean who completed the required work to become an Eagle Scout. In fact, he finished with a whopping sixty-four merit badges rather than the required twenty-one. He also belongs to the Order of the Arrow.
Through the years, he has earned several trips to prominent places, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Anchorage, Alaska, Carlsbad Caverns and more. He also traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch, located in the Rockies and considered to be the largest national camping area in the world.
Not only does Sean like the structure that scouting provides but he especially enjoys doing community service and working with children. Part of his Eagle Scout project dealt with the children’s park at Arcadia Lake. He also helped coach a soccer team for children with special needs. “I liked seeing how much joy it brought them,” said Sean.
Sean has many interests, including painting, drawing, puzzles, games, and woodworking. He has furniture in his home that he built himself and according to Crosier, who still counsels with Sean about once a month, he is the only person to master a puzzle cube at her office.
“I have a really good eye for detail,” said Sean. “I’m good with my hands.”
So what are Sean’s goals for the future? For now, he is leaving his options open while continuing to take classes at OCCC. He also keeps a structured lifestyle, which helps compensate for Asperger syndrome, while continuing to volunteer and do community service.
When asked to describe his life today, Sean responds, “Better … a lot better.” And Sean makes life better for other people with his love of serving.
To contact Edmond Family Counseling, call 341-3554 or visit their website at www.edmondfamilycounseling.org.