Keep A Pluggin’ Away – When It Comes To Autism

Nicholas-holding-Pre-school-Grad-certificateWith every post on this blog I try to highlight positive moments in life and encouragement for parents who have children diagnosed with autism. There are many negatives people can highlight. But I choose to look at the bright and happy moments knowing God has given you many good things in this life. My father and mother used to remind me often that that the journey in life has many dark clouds but it never stays that way. The sun always comes back out — and many times a rainbow will shine through the last few raindrops the storm left behind.

Alison Stewart and Advice

Recently I interviewed an inspiring author and journalist Alison Stewart.Alison Stewart Photo Part of her biography on her website reads:

“Alison has reported from the floor of six presidential conventions and anchored major news events from Hurricane Katrina to the shootings at Virginia Tech. “

She has worked for NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and MTV in various roles. This year she was one of two commencement speakers for Bloomfield College’s graduation ceremony on May 22, 2014. It was a powerful event where an unprecedented 352 seniors received their diplomas. It was the largest class in the college’s history. It was my first graduation as a professor there and I was proud to be a part of many of the student’s lives.

The reason I bring up Alison is something she said during her speech to the students. She recently published a book called: First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School.

First Class - Image of book

First Class – Image of book

The book is a seven year labor of love for Alison Stewart. It is a historical account of the first black public high school established in the United States. She notes in her book that it’s where many “firsts” attended including: the first black army general, the first black graduate of the Naval Academy, the first black presidential cabinet member, the first black federal judge, and the inventor of the modern blood bank to name a few.

In part of the speech, Stewart highlighted the motto of Dunbar High School which is a poem written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar which is: Keep a Pluggin’ Away. One of her many points during the speech was despite the many challenges you face every day, don’t give up. There are a lot of mis-steps and failures you will have but: Keep a Pluggin’ Away.

I will add to her eloquent charge to the graduates that you will find that the problems and the set backs you face today will make you that much stronger. You will be better. You will learn new ways to get around the mountain or pull through the narrow pathway.

Progress in Pre-school

This week my Nicholas graduated from pre-school. He is going to Kindergarten next year. It is for me an accomplishment that reflects the motto: Keep a Pluggin’ Away.

When Nicholas started in pre-school two years ago, he couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes without standing on furniture, or darting to the nearest toy or shiny object nearby. Transitions from one thing to another were filled with screaming sessions and lots of tears.

But I knew if I kept working with him it would get better.

This was a child who would freak out when it was too crowded and there was too much sound around him. He would hold his ears and cower. Lighting could sometimes set him  off. And although all of these issues are not completely gone, again, it is better.

This week at his pre-school graduation ceremony, for 30 minutes, he sat on stage with more than two dozen other kids and stayed seated most of the time. This is an amazing accomplishment.

He saw me in the audience and a couple times he nearly bolted from the stage but with a teacher’s hand to remind him, he sat back down and continued with the program. Again, this is an amazing accomplishment.

Teachers tell me he’s gone from reading at a kindergarten level to a second grade level. This is an amazing accomplishment.

During the ceremony he participated in songs and he even took the microphone and with a teacher’s direction announced the name of their final song selection: “We’re Moving Up to Kindergarten.” See the video posted below. I missed the first part of his announcement but caught the end.

Yes, it has gotten better. Teachers have worked with him tirelessly.  They didn’t roll their eyes and say he was hopeless. They looked at him as a child who needed a little helping hand.

And so today I’m proud to say Nicholas has made a milestone. Next year he will be a Kindergartener. And I will next year – Keep a Pluggin’ Away.

I hope you will too.

Here is a short video of Nicholas announcing and singing We’re Moving Up to Kindergarten.

Below is an audio excerpt from Alison Stewart’s Bloomfield College Commencement Speech. You can listen to her entire speech by going to Bloomfield College’s Radio Station WBCR. There is a rebroadcast of the Bloomfield College 2014 Commencement at 11am and 11pm daily until June 15, 2014. Just go to and click on the WBCR link.

And for those of you who love poetry, here is a copy of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem: Keep a Pluggin’ Away.

Keep A-Pluggin’ Away by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

I’ve a humble little motto
That is homely, though it’s true,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
It’s a thing when I’ve an object
That I always try to do,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
When you’ve rising storms to quell,
When opposing waters swell,
It will never fail to tell,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.

If the hills are high before
And the paths are hard to climb,
Keep a pluggin’ away.
And remember that success
Comes to him who bides his time,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
From the greatest to the least,
None are from the rule released.
Be thou toiler, poet, priest,
Keep a pluggin’ away.

Delve away beneath the surface,
There is treasure farther down,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
Let the rain come down in torrents,
Let the threat’ning heavens frown,
Keep a pluggin’ away.
When the clouds have rolled away,
There will come a brighter day
All your labor to repay,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.

There’ll be lots of sneers to swallow,
There’ll be lots of pain to bear,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
If you’ve got your eye on heaven,
Some bright day you’ll wake up there,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.
Perseverance still is king;
Time its sure reward will bring;
Work and wait unwearying,–
Keep a pluggin’ away.

This poem appears in the following book(s):

Lyrics of Lowly Life, Oak and Ivy

One Response to Keep A Pluggin’ Away – When It Comes To Autism

  1. Tamiko June 9, 2014 at 3:26 am #

    Congrats Nickolas, keep up the good work. I also have a son named Nickolas (spelled differently), my son has been diagnosed with Autism. Always remember people will always talk bad or pick on you just because you are different. God made all of us special in each and every way those that pick on you don’t understand how unique you are. In a way, everyone is special. Always remain positive in whatever you do.

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