DALLAS — When Nash Stanton was in his early years in high school, he wasn’t sure he would earn his way to graduation.
“I wasn’t doing too good at the high school and had very bad grades,” he said.
He said the reason was: “Too many people.”
Stanton has a condition called misophonia, which makes him sensitive to certain sounds. Symptoms of misophonia vary for each person, with some sufferers unable to handle the sound of other people eating, or pots and pans banging, or the sound of a pen scratching across a notepad.
“They hear incredibly well,” said Stanton’s mother, Tammy Stanton. “It is hereditary.”
Nash’s father has misophonia. Tammy said three of her husband’s siblings and at least one of their parents also have the condition.
For Nash, it’s noisy groups of people that he can’t tolerate, to the point where it makes him physically ill to think about riding a bus or being in a crowded classroom. Even attending a party with friends could result in a phone call to his parents to pick him up.
Tammy Stanton said he first experienced symptoms in fourth grade.
“Nash had a perfectly normal school life until he got to be halfway through the fourth-grade year,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, we took him up to school one day and he was just inconsolable. He could not get out of the car. We did not know, and he could not voice to us what the problem was, what was wrong.”
Numerous trips to the doctor and tests offered no solutions, and Nash couldn’t explain his discomfort.
“They couldn’t find anything. We muddled through that fourth-grade year. It was brutal,” she said. “The counselor he would come out and drag Nash literally kicking and screaming into the school. Then we would leave and go home and sob.”
She didn’t know if he was being bullied and not saying so.
“When we didn’t know what that problem was, all kinds of things start going through your mind,” she said. “You invent all kinds of terrible things. What is happening?”
They found their answer on a visit to Nash’s father’s doctor, who was familiar with the elder Stanton’s sensitive hearing. The doctor tested Nash for the same condition by having him stand in a corner of a room in his office. Though Nash couldn’t see the doctor, he could hear him rub his thumb and fingers together from across the room.
Having an answer didn’t make attending school easier. Tammy enrolled her son in a charter school, only to realize he couldn’t ride the bus. That meant driving him to and from class, and he still struggled.
“We had a wonderful teacher that he had at Lyle, and she intervened with us,” Tammy said. “She said, ‘you are going to have to home-school.’ I said I’m not qualified.”
The teacher suggested online school, which Nash attended until eighth grade.
Tammy said she worried that he wasn’t getting the full educational and social experience through online school.
Nash joined a church youth group, which met once a week, and had gaming friends, but Tammy still believed Nash was missing out.
“He became very isolated,” she said. “I filled in. It was always he and I going to the movies. He and I going to do this, to do that. I wasn’t how it should have been. It wasn’t him and friends.”
Before his freshman year, Nash told his mom that he wanted to attend Dallas High School for his last four years of school.
She was relieved.
“I just thought, thank God. He wants to join life again,” Tammy said. “They were so great. They were very sympathetic to his issue and they tried to do everything that they could. But they are running a high school over there with hundreds of kids, so there’s only so much that they can do.”
Nash was falling behind again because he couldn’t attend class. Tammy said friends and clients suggested Morrison Campus Alternative School as a possibility for Nash. After muddling through his first two years, Tammy called to put him on the list.
“They’ve put up with us over there long enough, and he’s failing miserably because he just hasn’t been there enough,” Tammy said.
The change was dramatic. Tammy said Nash has missed two days of school since enrolling in Morrison.
“He’s gotten up and wanted to come here,” Tammy said. “We were just astounded. I would say about two or three months in, my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘What are they doing up there? What is the magic up there?’”
Nash said it isn’t magic at all.
“They figure out where you are at,” he said.
He said the staff is caring and supportive.
“I favorite them all, I guess,” he said, smiling. “They are all really cool.”
Toward the end of his first year at the school, he knew he would make to the finish line. He completed his credits a few weeks early, in fact. Though nervous about the big crowd expected in the gym at Dallas High School, Nash crossed the stage and received his diploma Thursday night at Morrison’s graduation.
“No one gets left behind,” he said.
Tammy said she believes Nash’s success at the school is because the environment is quieter and the classes smaller. It’s a place her son felt comfortable.
“What they do with them, it builds for success, for success for the kids,” she said. “This place has been our savior.”