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My Autistic Son's Letter to the Dean at Penn State

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This story may be too soon to tell, because it doesn’t yet have an ending.

It’s about a letter my son, Finnigan, wanted to send. On our way to the mailbox Finn said to me, “They may not respond or they might say ‘no,’ but I’m doing my best.” I stopped in my tracks realizing that Finn “gets it.” Better than most people. Certainly better than me.

In other words, this story doesn’t need an ending.

So what is this about? Finn is Autistic. He knows it, but wants to be typical and do typical things. Except he’s far from typical. He’s extraordinary.

Here is his letter:

October 27, 2018

Dean Eric J. Furda
University of Pennsylvania
Office of Admissions
1 College Hall, Room 1
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6376

Dear Dean Furda,

My mom says that I’m different, in a good way. My dad jokes around and calls me Forrest Gump sometimes. Except I don’t play ping-pong very well. I do love music though, and speaking Japanese, because English is gobbledygook to me. Oh yeah, my name is Finnigan “Finn” Kehoe Ban. I’m 18 years old and I’m a student at Ridgewood High School in New Jersey. And I’m the only person in my family who speaks a foreign language, and sings, and plays guitar. But I’m not the only one who is autistic.

This spring I will graduate from high school. Finally! It’s time for me to move out and be an independent person. My mom doesn’t like this idea, but my parents said they’ll help me figure out how to live on my own. I’d like to start my world tour at the University of Pennsylvania, because you have music and Japanese studies. Acting too? I might want to be in the movies someday. I don’t really like math or the other regular subjects. They’re not for me.

My dad says I won’t likely get accepted into Penn, because you only take students who are good at all subjects. Is that true? I want you to know there are two things I’ve accomplished: I’ve been teaching myself Japanese for about three years, and I’ve been playing guitar, cello and the ukulele for eight years. My friend, Shaun, wants me to take the Japanese AP test. We’ll see about that.

I want to impact the world by being an interpreter for anyone who is struggling with Japanese and English. (Don’t people have enough memory stored for learning a language?) I also would like to play music for people because it seems to make them happy.

Is my dad right? Or is there some way I can become a student at Penn? You are the perfect distance from my home with all of my favorite activities, such as music, Japanese and acting. And also it’s across the river from the city of Philadelphia. Penn is the best, perfect college for me there is, without offense or judgement.

Thank you!


Finnigan Kehoe Ban

cc: Provost Wendell Pritchett

Getty image by treese094

Originally published: January 12, 2019
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