The University of Findlay is taking the month of March 2018 to recognize four students with disabilities. This is the last of four articles presented each week that showcase their commitment, resiliency, unique personalities, optimism and hopes for the future.
Ask University of Findlay junior Christian Powell Olmstead about his primary goal in life, and he’ll mention how he intends to help others.
“I want to one day be able to take care of the people in my life who are important to me, to the point where they’re not going to have to worry about what happens next financially, emotionally or physically. I want to get to the point where I can be like, ‘Don’t worry about it, because I’ve got it,’” Olmstead said.
He is working toward that goal by majoring in chemistry and pre-medicine, a course of study that is challenging for anyone, but particularly for Olmstead, whose academics have been affected by learning challenges since he was in elementary school.
“Around third or fourth grade we saw a really big drop in my grades, progress reports, things like that,” he said. In sixth grade, he was diagnosed with benign rolandic epilepsy, which primarily affects children by causing mild seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the syndrome accounts for about 15 percent of all epilepsies in children, and can cause learning difficulties.
Olmstead said the syndrome has primarily affected his ability to retain new information. Prior to being diagnosed, he explained his learning throughout each day was disrupted and the work he had accomplished was often forgotten.
“It was difficult during that time period to learn and study and be able to do things like that,” he said.
The affects have been long term. “It’s affected me all the way up through now, into my college career. I’ve come very far from where I was at, but it still affect me today,” Olmstead said.
The time and effort it takes for Olmstead to retain what he has learned takes much more time than most, he explained. “I have to put more and more time and more and more hours into it, especially for the more difficult things, versus the average student. For the average student who struggles with a course, I have to put in at least time and a half to do the same amount of work,” he noted. “I’ll have to go through and read things two or three times before the information sticks… but that’s really how I have to do it. I just have to reread the material, make sure I go through the practice problems and make sure I’m doing more repetition. Then, once I get it, once I hit that moment, it clicks.”
Olmstead’s insistence on steadfastly pursuing a college degree is a testament to his endurance and determination. Academics, however, is only one part of success story. He is also an offensive lineman for the Oiler football team. He received a scholarship to play.
“I really enjoy it. It’s one of my great passions,” said Olmstead of football, which he has played since fifth grade. “I like the competitive nature. I like to be able to assert my physical strength against the person I’m going up against. I also like the camaraderie of the team and working with other offensive linemen.”
Playing the sport is heavily influencing his career goals. Olmstead said he’d like to become an orthopedic doctor, orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician.
“Sports have always been a big part of my life I’ve gone through my fair share of doctor’s appointments and injuries and just different things along those lines,” he said. “I’ve had great care and treatment to where I’ve been able to get back on the field. And so I want to help provide that for people in the future, so that people who are injured or hurt or have issues can get back to what they do and what they love faster.”
Olmstead’s family life is also proving to be inspiring to him. His older and younger brothers also have disabilities, he said. One brother falls within the autism spectrum, and another has Angelman syndrome, a rare neuro-genetic disorder.
“I’ve grown up with disabilities all around me throughout my life,” Olmstead said. Hence, part of the reason he is interested in the medical field.
“That’s what drives me: to be able to provide for my family and friends and to be able to take care of the people who are most important to me, regardless of the situation. That’s the point to where I want to get in life,” he said. “There are many routes to that point. It’s just getting there.”