"Don’t Tell Me It’s Impossible Until After I Am Finished"

Matthew John on University of Ozarks campus

Matthew John at the University of the Ozarks (UO) in Clarksville, AR.

Matthew John was 5 years old when he watched me walk across the stage to accept my bachelor’s degree. That was the day he knew he was going to college.

In 2009, we received his diagnosis of autism, to go along with his previous ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis and it was crushing at first. I spent time revaluating all my dreams for his future, but never once did I consider him not going to college, it was what he wanted, and I have always helped him get where he wanted to go. 

As parents, we spend most of our kids’ lives hearing what they can’t do, from the autism evaluation, to the IEPs to the basis for services it is disheartening and at times can be a real morale kicker. Before these meetings I always prepare him, you are going to hear negative things, but you know you are so much more and that is what we focus on.  We focus on… what he wants, what he can do! The motto in our family is “don’t tell me it’s impossible until after I am finished”.

In high school his transition team readied for him to go out and work a minimum wage job he wasn’t interested in, he told them he wanted to go to college while they didn’t say he couldn’t do it, there was no one there encouraMatthew John behind the camera.ging him that he could… only me and a few others in our circle. 

The first semester of college was a total disaster, he wasn’t given the proper supports to be successful. He didn’t go back for a second semester but during that time I learned about the Jones Learning Center at the University of the Ozarks (UO) in Clarksville, AR. They have an amazing support program for those on the spectrum. They work on the Executive Functioning skills along with all the traditional services of support. From the moment he visited and learned more about UO that was it, all he wanted was to attend and now we had a new journey of making it happen for him. 

While he had to jump through some hoops here to work with the supports and resources offered to those with disabilities to make it happen after 3 years of working towards his dream he received his acceptance letter in November 2018 and went off to Arkansas in August 2019. 

Since he has been there, he has thrived, both academically, he has continually raised his GPA as well as socially, making many new friends and growing his independence skills. While we are not certain yet whether Spring or Fall, he will graduate in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a major in Radio, Television and Video (RTV). He will then come home and work towards his next goal to be a cameraman for the Kansas City Royals. 


Shared by Matthew’s mom, Stephanie Coleman.