Dx Mental Retardation: Joshua’s Success Story

When is it too late for the brain to recover?


At age 25, Joshua starts the journey that will change his life — can his diagnosis of mental retardation be overcome?

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Joshua and Mother


Following a difficult birth, with no detectable heartbeat prior to delivery, Joshua was incubated and given oxygen to survive.

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Mom stays in close communications with baby Joshua to encourage him to keep fighting


Parents were told there was little hope their baby would ever develop normally.

In the first year of his life, Joshua was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, thyroid deficiency and atrophy of the pituitary gland. He cried continually, Mother remembers, “His father and I ate dinner separately for a year, so Joshua could always be held while crying.”

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The little boy was evaluated by doctor after doctor and always the prognosis was poor. Parents were told there was little hope their baby would ever develop normally. Joshua was diagnosed as having mental retardation as well as a host of other labels.

By two years of age, Joshua was put on growth hormones and required treatment for hypoglycemia. His overall development was very slow.

“No doctor, no teacher, no psychologist was able to tell me what was wrong.”

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He did not walk until he was four years old. And, when he did start to walk he repeatedly walked into walls due to his visual problems which were diagnosed as “uncorrectable.”

_“He felt like a ragdoll sometimes for days on end, and no one – no doctor, no teacher, no psychologist was able to tell me what was wrong,” mother recalls. Later, mother learned her son was having absence seizures. Mental retardation can also have other challenges for the child physically and emotionally.”

They said he was a “vegetable” and should be put away in an institution.

Joshua attended special schools where he struggled to read and write and speak clearly. He could not use his hands well and he could barely run. Crowds bothered him. He was not safe outdoors by himself. Parents were told that his mental retardation, mental deficiency, emotionally disturbed and dyslexic were hopeless. They said he was a “vegetable” and should be put away in an institution.

Mental Retardation — Success at The Institutes

Joshua was 25 years old before mother and father learned about the work of The Institutes.

Finally, at 25 years of age, Mother writes, “Joshua was going to a special school where he would spend half a week in the dorm, and then come home. We had just decided to take him out of this school which taught him nothing and to teach at home ourselves. Then, we learned of The Institutes”.

Mother talked to Joshua and told him, if he was willing to work hard, there was a possibility of improving himself both intellectually and physically. Joshua said “YES!” Following his parents’ attendance at the What to Do About Your Brain Injured Child course, they began their new journey. They were well armed with love, determination and a lot of hope.

After one year of a program at home Joshua was undeniably better.

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After one year of a neurological program at home Joshua was undeniably better. He was doing a physiological program which included a very careful nutritional program and oxygen enrichment. He had a rigorous physical program of basic brain organization through crawling, creeping, walking and running. His intellectual program was designed to provide stimulation and opportunity to read and write but also to learn many new things. Mother describes her “new son”:

He significantly changed physically, he has a strong and muscular body now, whereas before he could not sit up straight or run for more than a short distance. He is beginning to run one kilometer non stop uphill! He has established eye contact, and is much more self-confident. He can be left alone safely and he is able to follow multiple-step instructions easily. His speech is clearer and his vocabulary richer. He is calmer, and enjoying both reading and writing in English and French. He has written two original stories for the first time in his life.”

Joshua enjoys a wide range of physical activities.

Joshua and his family continued to work diligently at home on The Institutes Intensive Treatment Program. By the time Joshua was 30 years old, his mother said, “He is doing fantastically – he is running 5 kilometers non-stop and preparing for a regional race. At least once a week, he does a 3-hour marathon of physical activities, and he swims and dives for pleasure. Joshua is now doing many physical activities, including swimming, diving and skiing.<

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Joshua enjoys studying history, geography, science, math, art, and learning computer problem solving skills.

He is reading adult books, and studying history, geography, science, math, art, and learning computer problem solving skills and touch typing along the way.  Overall, he tells people not to help him but to let him figure things out for himself – this is much different from the boy who used to try without really trying, constantly looking to others for help, and not believing he could do anything.”

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Mother adds, “Joshua is volunteering to help others in our community, as he is full of compassion for those who struggle as he once did.” What an incredible change from the young man who was diagnosed with mental retardation and given a diagnosis that was hopeless!

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In a recent update on how Joshua is currently doing, his mother writes, “He travels now independently in both Europe and the United States to see family and friends. We are all investing more time in our passion for art and painting, and participating more in cultural events in our region. Joshua’s paintings are attracting much attention, and even some sales, following his exhibitions.”

Today Joshua is an established artist.

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Joshua’s work is very popular – he had over 150 works displayed at a recent exhibition – half of which sold immediately.

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Today, Joshua is an established artist, living a rich life with family and friends. He has come a long way from the dependent child and adult he once was with only the prospect of a limited future ahead.

At a recent exhibition his work was summarized by an art critic and writer, Henri Terres:

“The first time Joshua came into the world, his entrance was bungled.  At the time, no good fairy bent over his cradle; they had forgotten to give him even the minimum – a genetic system with no problems, an ordinary metabolism, and basic cerebral oxygenation.  Prominent medical specialists then condemned him irrevocably to a vegetative life, doing no more than shaking the hands of his tearful parents.  This scientific condescension, and the inertia it proposed for a cure of any kind, triggered in them a healthy revolt, leading them to a crazy gamble – give back to this child the autonomy that nature and official opinions wanted to deprive him of.  It took years, and uncontrollable energy, and a federation of multitudinous volunteers to bring him back to the other side of the fence.  The eagerness, the good mood that this team manifested to rescue him, stimulating him in all imaginable ways, must have resembled one of those energetic musical comedies, a sort of invigorating and multicolored “Singing in the Autism”, under the skies of the Ariege.  The professors were sent back to their corner, and Joshua was allowed a second birth.  He has since become one of those “singular” artists, outside all official pathways, all diplomas and academies, one of those practicing  ‘art brut’ (outsider art) which, since Dubuffet, Gaston Chaissac, Séraphine established its patent of nobility, offers us another vision of the world, nurtured  more by emotions than by cerebral thought.

The choice of drawings and paintings, shown here as a coherent work in its own right, has for objective to point out how, by chance, in a brain that does not function like ours, astonishing, beautiful and strong visually artistic solutions can appear, even though none of the habitual mechanisms of creation were sought after – no beginning project, no sustained reflection, no deliberate or unconscious imitation of masters, but simply a spontaneity unhampered by the usual rules, by conventional chromatic harmonies,  by the ordinary logic of a composition. And it finds amazing shortcuts. It is essentially the human figure that is explored in this obstinate, abundant work, and that is sent back to us like a mirror and a questioning: Who are we when faced with reality?

An eye too swift and lacking curiosity will accord it the freshness of some children’s drawings.  But in looking closer, this is more than a successful scholarly exercise – these tender and distressed little guys, sometimes mischievous and sometimes solemn, with an eye in the middle of the forehead or with a crooked nose, seem like many puzzles on the difficulty of being, rendering them infinitely closer to us than a simple nursery school drawing.  Because they are much more complex than that.  And without knowing it (which makes them all the more disturbing), sometimes they rival certain images born in Miro or Paul Klee’s spirit, that everyone agrees to appreciate in their apparent clumsiness, but that are so revealing of the empathy and the heart vibrating and beating behind it.”

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The indomitable human spirit and the superb human brain make a formidable and often unbeatable combination. It is a simple yet profound lesson for everyone who fights for brain-injured children to be well  –  never give up.After a quarter of a century of spinning his wheels and going nowhere Joshua and his parents took a chance and fought for a real life.  He has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is never too late.

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