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Meet Jesus Villasenor

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Meet Jesus Villasenor

Meet Jesus Villasenor, a parent advocate at PACER Center and father of a young adult with learning disabilities. Jesus tells his story, and offers advice to other Latino parents on helping their youth with a disability through the transition years.

  • Duration: 7 minutes
  • Date Posted: 4/8/2015
  • Topics: Learning Disability, Family Support, Latino Parents, ADD/ADHD, High Expectations, Finding Strengths

Funding for this series was provided in part by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.


My name is Jesus Villasenor and I am originally from Mexico.

I am an advocate at PACER Center and I have a son with a disability, with a learning disability.

And, it must have been, I think, when my son was in second grade in elementary school when realized, when we realized that something was not going right because my son was coming home crying, just get in his room and closing the door.

And, we started to get calls from the teachers complaining about a bad attitude that my son was having at school.

So, that was the first indication that things were not going well.

And, through, an evaluation, which wasn't easy because my child is, he was an excellent reader but then we realized when we make evaluation that he had, his problem was with numbers.

And so, he was identified at the end of second school year with a learning disability and ADHD.

When we learned about my son's disability, it was really a surprise.

But, because of my lack of knowledge, I really didn't have any, we didn't have an impact.

I really didn't know in the beginning what it really meant for him and for us, the fact that he had a learning disability.

And, to tell you the truth, it was even hard, harder also for teachers because I have this, I think that this thing about being, learning disability being a nonvisible disability, it just and because our child was intelligent and actually bright.

It was hard for the teachers to understand that he had a learning disability.

So, for my expectations, I always kept high expectations for my child.

But, I knew that I needed to get more information.

And, that's actually when I started in contact with PACER to get information that I needed about what a learning disability meant and actually about, to learn about our rights.

The challenges that his disability presented for him were tremendous.

It was actually brutal.

We saw how this fun loving child was getting beating down by the burden of his disability and because of his intelligence.

He was very aware that he was not learning the way that his peers were learning or at the same pace.

And that was devastating for him.

But, including also the fact of how he was treated differently by his teachers and he felt so vulnerable to how weak his achievement in school was that he really, if it wasn't because the friends that he had and loved while in school, I think that he would've been, he would've tried to drop out.

Fortunately, well, what we did with our child to help him through the school years was to insist to him that his personality himself he was bigger than his disability.

And so if he was not being successful in school that, not to let his disability to define him.

And so, we kept cheering him and he still didn't believe us because, I guess what they need is the validation of their peers.

Fortunately, in our case, our child discovered his passion for art.

And, he's a tremendous musician and very good at visual arts.

And, he in the end decided for arts and he attended college and actually graduated with honors with a degree in illustration.

And, he found a job right away after graduating from college where he got to do what he says that he was born to do.

And, he's a very successful illustrator and now he's doing all sorts of graphic arts for a very prestigious advertising firm.

So, it's what people say, you know, when you love what you're doing you do have to work a day in your life.

And, that is the fortune that we have with our son.

He's gainfully employed, successful professional.

And what I keep telling parents and my message to all the parents is that try and find, talk to the children and find what is that passion what is that thing in life that they are good at that they have the strength to build upon? And it makes the whole difference in the world.

So, again, my advice to parents, Latino parents specifically, and all parents in general is to talk to the children but also to learn to listen to them and use imagination and try to find out what is that thing that moves their children.

What is that thing that your child feels fantastic for? And, we live, fortunately, we live in a country that where everything, all the dreams can happen when you work hard enough.

And again, when you have a passion for something, that's the way to go.

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