Honorary chairs for Key School’s 2012-2013 “Changing Lives” campaign, Dr. Steve and Peggy Brotherton personally know that “Key School is a vital resource for our community and for parents seeking educational help for their kids.” The success story of their son Ben, a Key School graduate of 2008, gives hope and inspiration to any family seeking a traditional yet customized education for their child with learning differences.
According to Ben’s parents, Ben was a sweetnatured little boy, “…fun-loving and very active. He was a fast climber!” Peggy recalls. “He put himself in peril many times.” The Brothertons would kiddingly call Ben “Houdini,” because he could disappear or escape so quickly.
In contrast to his level of physical activity at such a young age, Ben could not verbally communicate to his parents. Further, Peggy notes, “Ben flinched at different noises, such as the glass doors at the grocery store sliding open, and other seemingly innocuous sounds. He was also extremely impulsive and independent.”
The Brothertons took Ben to have his hearing tested and to learn about his speech difficulties. Dissatisfied with the diagnosis they received, they did not feel it revealed or addressed the problems that Ben was having. Peggy listened to her intuition as a parent. “I knew there was something else going on with Ben.”
At the time of Ben’s testing, diagnostics was not as advanced as in 2012. As Dr. Brotherton explains, “It creates a syndrome of reduced expectations. The socalled experts are telling you your child is incapable of something, but as a parent you have to learn to trust your instincts that you know your child best. We knew Ben’s receptive language exceeded his expressive language because he could follow directions and seemed to understand what was being said to him.” Peggy says that “In general, Steve and I were often confused about what was best for him when we began this journey with Ben. I felt so clueless about the types of tests that Ben had been given over the years and what they meant.”
A light at the end of the tunnel…
Between great doctors and hospitals, Ben eventually received the correct diagnosis. “We found that Ben had difficulty with anything language related, such as learning to read, abstract thoughts, etc. Due to his impulsivity and ADD, it was difficult for him to stay focused in class unless there was something in which he truly was interested,” according to Peggy.
The answer to their prayers came when Laura Baird told the Brothertons about Key School. Not wanting to lose a moment with Ben’s development, his parents enlisted Marian Hunnicutt to tutor Ben at Key School the summer before he started Kindergarten. He was also tutored one-on-one by Linda Berg. Ben began attending Key School full-time in the third grade.
Suddenly, all the lights were turned on for Ben’s learning. “It is wonderful the way Key School teachers would present the material to the class in many different ways to reach various learning styles,” says Peggy. The teachers individualized instruction to meet Ben’s specific needs and encourage his love for history. Mrs. Key also saw Ben’s willingness to help and his strong work ethic. When he was in high school Mrs. Key gave him a part-time paid position. He would help pass out the treats to the younger kids, stay after school and take out the trash, and fill up the drink machines and add paper to the copy machines, among other things. “He loved having the responsibility and took his job very seriously,” says Peggy.
Ben proudly graduated from Key School in 2008.
Steve, Ben’s father, says, “Ben is my hero. He does so many things well and for the right reasons.”
Not only did he earn his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Beacon College in Florida this past May, he secured a full-time job of his dreams with Disney World, lives in his own apartment, manages his own affairs, and has traveled extensively.
“Steve and I know we are extremely fortunate to have had access to resources, friends, and acquaintances in medical and other fields who could point us in the right direction for Ben. Often, we have discussed that if we were so confused, then parents not knowing where to turn must feel almost hopeless. Thankfully, we found Key School, which is one of very few institutions in North Texas serving an under-served niche. There are so many families and children who could benefit from the Key School experience. Mary Ann Key has built a beautiful legacy as an exceptional educator and human being.”
Steve says that Ben does not recognize barriers to what he can do and the faculty at Key School did not either. One of Steve’s favorite memories is when Ben was in Middle School, around age 12 or 13, and his class was studying the shipwreck The Bell, one of LaSalle’s ships that sank off the coast of Texas. Ben learned that the wreck had been found and raised and was being researched by Texas A&M at a facility near College Station. It was not open to the public. Steve and Ben had an upcoming trip to College Station for a sporting event. Ben had his teacher find the phone number for the research facility. With his usual perseverance and persuasiveness, Ben took it upon himself to call, speak to one of the researchers, and set up a private tour. When they arrived the other researchers were shocked because there had NOT been any tours allowed. Ben took lots of photos of the artifacts and proudly made classroom presentations in many of the history classes at Key School. He continued these presentations for three to four years thereafter.
Two specific memories have remained with Ben since his graduation from Key School. First, he recalls “the teachers were pretty strict,” but they “took time with me to learn,” and he further recommends the school “if you need a little extra help.” The second recollection is “the Latin root words… ” They helped all through college and even now.