BY LAURA PFIZENMEYER
YORK — If miracles are defined as living testaments to the power of faith, hope and love, Joshua Myers is one.
This year the 17-year-old became an Eagle Scout, played football for the Clover High Eagles and served as a commentator at Mass — accomplishments that he should never have been able to achieve.
Joshua has autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by abnormal social interaction and poor communication ability.
His adoptive mother, Patti Myers, a special education teacher in the Clover School System, first met Joshua when he was a three-year-old. He did not speak at all and had been diagnosed as profoundly mentally disabled. His birth mother, Theresa Loveless, had enrolled him in the class for developmentally disabled preschoolers that Patti taught.
Within six months Patti realized that Joshua was not mentally disabled, and she and his mother fought to have him retested. At five he was finally diagnosed with autism. At about the same time his mother was diagnosed with cancer. During the next three years, the two women became close, and Patti helped care for Joshua by becoming his Aunt Patti. When her health deteriorated, Loveless asked the single woman to raise her son after she died.
“I had always prayed that I would have a child, and the Lord answered my prayers,” Patti said. “I just didn’t know it would be an eight-year-old with autism. I tell people that you should be very specific about what you ask God for.”
Loveless passed away when Joshua was eight, and Patti assumed custody. Shortly afterwards, he was baptized and made his first Communion at St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill. Joshua is now an active member of Divine Saviour Church, where he is an altar server and a commentator.
“It’s a very good church,” said Joshua. “I have many friends there.”
In the intervening years, Joshua has grown to be a strapping young man at 6 feet 7 inches and 280 pounds.
A few years ago Patti married Rusty Myers, and Joshua asked to have his last name changed to that of the man he now calls Dad. Joshua proudly told The Miscellany that his two little brothers, John and Matthew, adore him, and Patti agrees.
He has not forgotten the woman who gave birth to him, however, and calls her his “old Mom.”
Once when he and Patti were flying to see her parents, Joshua looked out the windows to see clouds surrounding them. He asked Patti if he were in heaven, and she said no, but they were close. He then asked her if his mother were close, too, and she said yes. Joshua then bent his head and folded his hands in prayer. “Dear Mom,” he said, “I’m doing okay.”
From the beginning Patti made sure Joshua was mainstreamed into regular classes with accommodations. As a senior at Clover High, he maintains a 3.78 grade point average doing standard course work with the help of his shadow, Sue McLain, who accompanies him to class.
“Joshua is a great student, a great athlete and a great person,” said Tom Wood, his computer teacher.
Joshua is an offensive and defensive lineman on the football team, is also on the track team and has wrestled. He has participated in Special Olympics for the past 10 years. He was chosen by the state of South Carolina to compete in the upcoming National Special Olympic Games in Iowa in running events and the shot put.
Joshua was a Cub Scout but dropped out of the program for a number of years before he reconnected with scouting at age 14. He joined Troop 140 at Divine Saviour under the guidance of Scoutmaster Charles “Chick” Morrill. Under the leadership of his current scoutmaster, Ed Kelly, Joshua planned and organized his Eagle Scout project, a “Disabilities Awareness Day” at Divine Saviour. The Disabilities Day was an educational program that taught understanding and sensitivity toward people with disabilities. It had 12 booths that let participants experience what it was like to have visual, auditory, learning and physical disabilities. Over 150 people attended.
His Court of Honor was held at Divine Saviour Oct. 8. It was standing room only in the church as family and friends gathered to celebrate. Among the dignitaries present were York Mayor Eddie Lee and Congressman John Spratt, who presented Joshua with a flag that had flown over the capitol.
As wonderful as the Court of Honor was, it was only a beginning for Joshua. He plans to go to college next fall at York Technical College and study computer programming. His mother said that he has defied all the dire predictions that came with his disability.
“My life is truly blessed,” Joshua said.