TSMMA Stamford Student’s Success Story
My Son Matthew Egan was born with Down’s syndrome. With several holes in his heart breathing was a marathon in itself. At just six months old he fought through hours of extensive heart surgeries. Doctors told us Matthew would not be able to walk, but boy were they wrong. When he was just three years old he had fallen and his kneecap had popped out and without a thought he popped it back in himself. While he was in his cast, Matthew stood up and started walking and was running just shortly after.
Along with a mental slow processing issue, Matthew suffered severe vision depth perceptions issues, continuous heart problems and conductive hearing loss. But at a young age he learned not to use his disabilities as an excuse. When we would talk to him he would sometimes grab our face and say, “look at me.” Shortly after I realized he was doing that because he had taught himself to read our lips, developing his own solutions to his hard of hearing issues.
When he was six years old we moved to Stamford, Ct where we joined the Special Olympics. We always encouraged Matt to be active in sports such as track and field and swimming. I thought it would be a good idea for him to try gymnastics. I figured that this would not only help him interact with other kids his age, but potentially help improve his balance and flexibility.
With his struggles came some very tough social issues. Matthew is strong willed; he always had a ‘whatever you can do I can do’ mentality with his older brother Jon. But he was also very aware of his disability, and this would cause him to become very shy and have limited words if any in public. He was fearful of saying the wrong thing. In 2001 Matthew lost his buddy, his role model, his father. Matthew’s father, Michael was a victim in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. This was a traumatic experience for all of us, but took a real toll on Matt. Michael was someone Matthew could always count on, someone who made him feel normal, someone he never had to be shy in front of.
His struggles were far from over; in 2005 he collapsed in the men’s room of a restaurant. Because of this he was forced to have a Pace Maker, which he is not fully dependent on. However, this was just one more hurdle in an ongoing fight to survive, and Matthew wasn’t going to let it stop him from continuing his life.
I knew I had to get him involved in some activities. Looking at many different opportunities everywhere shut their doors on us due to his illness until I came across Tiger Schulmann’s Stamford, Ct. They welcomed Matthew in with open arms. They allowed Matthew to participate in martial arts classes.
This is where he was considered an equal, a feeling that he had been longing for. His peers were great at making him feel a part of the group; pairing with him and helping him learn. Treating him with the same respect they would give anyone else.
He’s overcome so much that he has developed the will to never give up on anything he starts. He has a hunger to belong, and achieves that hunger without asking for any sympathy along the way. The last thing he wants is to be treated differently. Tiger Schulmann’s has given him a chance to feed that hunger, and I can’t express enough gratitude for that. I am proud of everything he has achieved. His ability to follow multiple directions, increased when he doesn’t quite get it he looks at his peers to follow [conductive hearing loss] not an issue. His progression from no belt to belt has made him proud of himself, and as a mother I couldn’t ask for more. Martial arts have given him a visual tool with these belts; a reminder that he is no different than anyone else, an equal, and nothing can change that!
Thank you to everyone from peers to Sensei Demetrius. Thank you Sensei for helping Matthew feel good about who he is and teaching him some pretty good self defense moves!