I-Team report: Aidan's story - WNEM TV 5

I-Team report: Aidan's story

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Courtesy photo Courtesy photo
GRAND BLANC, MI (WNEM) -

Aidan Silverton has a lot to look back on during his years at Grand Blanc High School.

He is a beloved athlete who was even crowned the school prince as a freshman. Next week, he'll score another achievement - graduation.

Like many of his classmates, he will be going off to college. It is something his parents never thought was possible.

"A year ago, I thought I saw him home indefinitely and certainly when he was diagnosed and we absorbed all this. I mean, nothing close to what he is today would we have ever imagined really," said Jenn Silverton, Aidan's mom.

Aidan lives with fragile X syndrome, a genetic intellectual disability. His parents thought it would hold him back from a typical college experience.

"When a parent find out that they have a special need that probably won't include college, you mourn the loss of that dream, but then when you find out that there are these LIFE programs sprouting up across the country, hope sprouts within you as a parent and you think there's a chance that they could go on and live more independently than they would at home. That they might experience as typical a college experience as possible," said Beth Clements, Clemson University First Lady.

Think College is an organization dedicated to higher education opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities. The organization estimates there were about 149 college programs for students with intellectual disabilities in 2009. That's up to 264 now.

However, that number shrinks dramatically for students like Aidan who are at around a first grade reading level.

Clemson-Life offers just what Aidan needs at Clemson University in South Carolina.

It's highly competitive with an acceptance rate lower than Tuft's and Georgetown's.

Aidan's parents didn't think he would get in.

"We kept rehearsing how we would tell him this news. My husband and I just kept rehearsing," Silverton said.

In March they got the letter. Aidan scored one of the 12 spots out of 74 applicants.

"It was a moment like, I can't compare it to anything. We really did not expect him to get admitted," Silverton said.

Over the next few years, Aidan and his classmates will learn life skills like cooking and cleaning, get a job, take classes and participate in many of the traditional college experiences. They will attend football games, join Greek life and live with roommates.

Like most college-bound kids, Aidan can't wait.

"I am excited to get out of here," he said.

Like most parents, his mom is filled with mixed emotions.

"I'm mostly excited and so appreciative and honored that he got into the program because it has all of the elements," Silverton said. "The mom in me struggles with the distance and I struggle with nobody's going to take care of him like I do, that's my biggest thing."

She said she needs to remind herself she is sending him to college to learn to take care of himself.

"I just, I can't imagine pulling away. I really struggle with that. I just can't imagine driving away," Silverton said.

For now, Aidan's parents are soaking up each moment with their first child to leave the nest. They hope Aidan will be embraced just as much in his new community as he is here.

"Whether you can spell or read or do math, when you know that you wake up every day and you're included and accepted, that is a whole different place to be," Silverton said.

The Silvertons will make the drive to South Carolina in August.

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