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March 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 7

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Dream It!


by Jerry Hopkins, Ph.D.



One of my students, Trey Hammond, along with his parents, Chris Baker and Claude Hammond, published a book that he has appropriately titled Dream It! Leaving Autism Behind. In Trey’s own words, this book explains his struggle with a serious learning disorder known as autism spectrum disorder/pervasive developmental disorder. This disorder manifests its varied elements in a number of ways and intensities, but it is primarily experienced through reading disability (dyslexia), mathematics disability (dyscalculia), and writing disability (dysgraphia), as well as sensory processing and sensory integration disorders.


In a variety of ways and combinations, these disorders impact a child’s learning, obviously often preventing both the child and those engaged in his or her education from growing, improving, and benefiting from the routine institutional system. The challenges these children face often involve behavioral patterns, learning skills, reading skills, writing skills, and testing skills that many times, if not correctly identified and understood, become insurmountable obstacles for special-needs students.


Trey’s book is a dynamic story by an exceptional young man who is intensely devoted to learning and growing to understand himself, his friends, his world, and how he can become successful. His “special needs” have not kept him from successes and accomplishments. Trey’s story can help all of us become more human and humane in how we relate to one another. We need to become more creative and conscious in how we educate and how we relate to one another. We all learn and grow at different rates and levels.


One of the most important lessons for me as one of Trey’s teachers at East Texas Baptist University was how I needed to adjust and change when dealing with individual students. So often education becomes an “assembly-line experience” where we deal with the many students in classes in the same manner. There is no “Socratic method” to what we do. We do not relate individually and specifically with each person, but instead deal with the “social whole,” the class. Through working with Trey, I became a more thoughtful, caring, and understanding teacher.

This book is also important because it gives his parents’ perspective and experience in working with a young person with special needs. As the Hammonds point out in their section of Trey’s book:


While the medications may “manage” the behavior, that may mean harming the child’s ability to focus, understand, interact, learn, and “catch up” developmentally. Unless a health professional is well trained and aware of the true needs of the ASD child, pharmacologic solutions may seem the only or best solution. Caution is advised!


In my conversations with the Hammonds, I also found out a great deal about nutrition and medication. My wife works with special-needs students in the public school system. We have thought for many years that both nutrition and medication are serious problems when dealing with childhood behaviors and physical problems. As Trey’s parents and those of us who have worked with him have learned, we need to adjust, change, improve, and communicate appropriately with young people like Trey.


Reading this book is a step to understanding and gaining greater insight into a group of people who can contribute significantly to our world. Trey’s vision, which he expresses in his term “Dream it!,” becomes a dynamic expression for all of us as we become more human and humane.


Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a retired history professor and a freelance columnist living in Marshall, TX. Contact him at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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