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Staying Power

The lessons from a summer read three years ago are still fresh for Conor Beswick ’22

It’s been a couple months since St. John’s students completed the community-wide summer reading discussion, but if Conor Beswick '22 is any indication, engaging in the themes and principles of a summer read can leave a lasting impression. In fact, the Prep summer read just before he entered the Middle School in 2015 still drives some of Beswick’s thinking.

The Andover resident’s sister, Kerry, has Global Development Delay (GDD), which manifests by way of significant limitations in communication as well as fine motor skill issues. When Beswick entered the grade 6, his parents left it up to him as to whether he would share with his classmates anything about his sister’s needs and the impact on his family. After reading Sharon M. Draper’s “Out of My Mind,” the story of a girl with cerebral palsy, Beswick decided to be open with his  schoolmates, even bringing in his sister’s touchpad to show how it helps her communicate.

Conor Beswick

“I think you grow up a little bit faster when someone in your family faces these types of challenges,” says Beswick. “You have to be thoughtful and intentional because the dynamics of the day are always changing and you have to adjust to everyone’s frame of mind in the household. When it came to being open about those realities when I was at school, I sort of actively chose not to shy away from it.”

Three years later, Beswick is at it again.

The Professional Center for Child Development (PCCD), based in Lawrence and Andover, provides educational and therapeutic services for children of all abilities, including eliminating barriers to growth and development for children with disabilities and providing support for the families coping with those health issues and challenges.

PCCD asked Beswick to be part of a five-person panel at a Siblings Speak Panel and Dinner event earlier this year. As a panelist, he was asked to speak for 15 minutes about how this unique sibling experience has impacted him and his family's daily life. He then took questions.

“My message was really meant to speak to the other siblings in attendance more so than the parents or the patients,” explains Beswick. “My sister is three years younger than me and has been in my life for as long as I can remember. As a sibling, when things get tough, you have to deal with it in your own best way. You have to try to find a balance, learn different lessons from different situations, and, as you get older, know when to help parents and when to stay out of the way.”

PCCD's goal for the large audience in attendance was for new patient families to come away with a better understanding of how the presence of a sibling/child with disabilities or medical needs can influence perseverance, respect, integrity, dedication, and empathy within every family member.

“He was even better than I could have expected," says PCCD's Early Intervention Information System Coordinator and Parent Liaison Ellen McGrail Wadill. "Conor used this platform to share experiences that made him who he is today."

Beswick also made a point of advising siblings of patients to counterbalance the special circumstances of their home life with their weekday school experience. “When it gets hectic at home, you have to deal with the hectic, but I was able to make school my ‘me time,’” says Beswick, who played freshman soccer this fall, has been a foil fencer since the age of seven, and also intends to run spring track. “I think the Prep does a great job of doing that: I can go to campus and be my own person. I can be Conor here, not ‘Conor, whose sister has GDD.’”

For Beswick, the importance of recognizing, embracing and actively living the Xaverian heritage by devoting his energies to the common good and advancing human understanding is very much about not overthinking it.

“It sounds cheesy, but it’s the bottom line really is: treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated,” he says. “We’re not all raised the same way, but we all know what we respond to best.”

In this case, it seems reading was fundamental.

Posted by Mr. Chad Konecky in Character and Leadership on Tuesday November, 27, 2018 at 04:16PM

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