He Didn't Read or Write Until 18. Now He's a Professor at Cambridge; the Steep Odds He Had to Overcome

Pete Lakeman

His teachers let him know early on in his school days. Life was going to be tough. Not many of them believed that he could overcome his disability. Jason Arday was diagnosed with autism, and a condition called global development delay when he was three. He did not speak until he was 11. Likewise, he was unable to read or write until he was 18. “Educational psychologists and behavioral therapists were… very robust in their assessment that I would struggle in later life and I would need assisted living."

His mom did not give up on him, and most importantly, he believed in himself and persevered. He fondly recalls that his mom never spoke to him as being disadvantaged in any way. His perspective on life’s toughest challenges is amazing. He considers the speech paralysis he experienced as a blessing in disguise. He says that, in retrospect, it gave him time to observe human interaction without many distractions. 

Music lyrics and the use of sounds helped him make sense of the world around him. Born and raised in South London, Arday went on to college earning a degree in education and physical education. He earned two master's degrees before completing his  PhD.He financed his studies by working in national grocery and drug store chains . At 37, Arday is the youngest black professor at Cambridge University where he’ll be teaching sociology. 

He’ll be joining five other black professors at the renowned institution. He’s determined to see that statistic change. He encourages anyone who might be doubting themselves saying that “there are so many different ways in which people learn… What is really important," he said, "is instilling belief in people."

Disclaimer: This article was written for educational and informational purposes only.

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I'm credentialed social studies and biological sciences teacher with over twenty years of classroom experience. I'm an avid gardener and tech DIYer and I love nature walks.

California State

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