Reviewed & Edited by:M. Rebecca DiLettuso, MSW, Executive Director
Growing up with an Autism diagnosis adds a whole new dimension to the lives of a child and their family. However, with strong family support and Early Intervention, a child can achieve their true potential with encouraging results. A teli Alumni with an Autism diagnosis has been achieving great things that might have been unimaginable at the beginning! Just 3 years ago, we profiled the accomplishments of Jace,
Jace was diagnosed with Autism and received Early Intervention Services through teli. “The staff was with us every step of the way, helping me deal with the fear and helping Jace learn how to take the challenge head on!” describes Tammy, Jace’s mother. “I truly believe getting help early has been the reason he has accomplished so much. While doctors told me, he might never go to a regular school, I knew better and pushed him to take advantage of all opportunities to help him understand, embrace and move forward.”
So fast forward to today, and now Jace has even more to share about his amazing journey to young adulthood! Not only has he gone to a “regular” school, but his determination drove him to realize important milestones; including the honor roll, National Honor Society membership, and Secretary of the Future Business Leaders of America; all while perfecting his karate skills and managing a real estate internship for a local realtor.
Graduating from high school in the spring of 2019, with High Honors, Jace chose to enter Robert Morris University (RMU) where he is studying sports management and finance. One would say that would be quite a lot for any student, yet alone one with an Autism diagnosis. Jace’s exceptional motivation has helped him focus on very impressive goals.
In addition to academics, Jace has found a sport that he thoroughly enjoys. Since beginning to study karate at 7 years of age, he now holds a third-degree black belt. “He will be receiving his fourth-degree belt which will make him a Master belt, which is a huge achievement in the world of Karate,” explains Tammy. He has won 60 medals, of which 50 were first place medals. Jace has earned 25 trophies over the years traveling throughout the country to various competitions. His bedroom shelves are getting a little crowded!
This past summer, Jace competed in the 2019 World Mulimpia tournament Seoul, South Korea as a member of Team USA. Under the guidance of his instructor, Rachael Cipriani, from Tang Soo Do Karate in Robinson Township, Jace won two gold medals, one in board breaking and another in sword forms.
“He crushed it,” noted Rachael, “No one else was even close to him!” Recently, the Robinson Township Board of Directors recognized his success when they presented Jace with a proclamation acknowledging his achievement in the sport. “It was very exciting to get this recognition. This competition is essentially the world championship of Karate. There were competitors there from over 17 countries,” says Jace. “It was an amazing experience. I definitely want to make it back there.”
As was the case in high school, at Robert Morris University (RMU), Jace does not let “grass grow under his feet”. He made the Dean’s List in his first semester.
Additionally, he is working toward the RMU Renaissance Award. This is an award that is given by RMU at the time of graduation which requires completion of assignments in seven categories including research and leadership.
He has also found a way to combine his love of karate with his college career, by starting a Karate Club during which he teaches karate and self-defense to RMU students. In addition to the Karate Club he is pursuing certification to teach self-defense to the RMU staff.
“Since he was a little boy he has always been driven. I think we instilled that in him when he was going through his therapy with his Occupational Therapist. A certain level of pushing is required and before long he was self-motivated,” remembers Tammy.
“While it was exhausting and tough at times, as parents you need to provide every opportunity possible to help your child, any child. Beginning with teli, through the Montour School District, Tang Soo Do Karate School and now RMU, all of the support and adjustments we could ask for have been made to help Jace reach his goals and be successful.”
Jace is focused on his future, and a bright one it is!