Quadriplegic Student Works Toward Degree With Father by His Side

By Chris Hassan
Posted January 04, 2013 12:00 PM

Father helps disabled son work toward his degree.
Father helps disabled son work toward his degree.
For many students, part of the appeal of going away to college is the chance to get out from under their parents' roof and take another step toward adulthood. While Whitworth University student Ryan Sutherland is living in a dorm at the Washington institution, what sets him apart from his classmates is that he brought his father along for the experience, The Seattle Times reports.

Since 2009, Ryan's father Steve has been living in a dorm with his son to help him achieve his dream of earning a bachelor's degree. Ryan has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition that has left the 22-year-old student confined to a wheelchair, with only limited use of his right hand. For this reason, having his father by his side at school has helped make achieving his academic goal a lot easier.

Even though helping his son, who has a limited lifespan due to his condition, has meant spending the past few years in a dorm, as well as reducing his hours as a pharmacist, Steve has no regrets.

"We don't know how much time we'll have," Steve told the Times. "We made the decision early on that we wanted to spend it together. It's been a gift."

For individuals with disabilities who have always dreamed of going to college, Ryan is an inspiration. However, he is far from the only student facing physical challenges while working toward a bachelor's degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11% of undergraduates in the 2007-2008 academic year had some type of disability.

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