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Ethan’s Story: Shop class brings out best in student with Friedreich’s ataxia

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Iowa HS student overcomes neuromuscular disease to be shop class star.

ethan-1aThis is Ethan Koehler. He was born with Friedreich’s ataxia which is a genetic, progressive, neuromuscular disease that weakens the muscles including the heart as it progresses. FA causes lack of coordination and an inability to walk.  About one in 50,000 people in the United States have Friedreich’s ataxia.

There is currently no cure or treatment for FA.

Matt May is the industrial technology teacher at Keokuk High School in Keokuk Iowa. Once he learned Ethan had signed up for the class, Mr. May completely rearranged the set-up of the classroom to make things easily accessible for Ethan. They’ve been refurbishing tables and carts so they are at his level. He treats Ethan like any of the other students. ethan-reindeer

One of his projects was to make a reindeer cutout.  Watch the video below to see how Ethan overcomes his hurdles and completes a beautiful piece.

There were very few things which Ethan needed help with. One was getting the wood glued and set into the vices as holding them steady while closing the vice is difficult for him.  Anytime they noticed a tool causing Ethan difficulty, they found a way around it. For example, Mr. May made a push tool for him on a 3D printer after he saw gripping the original push stick was problem for Ethan.

Ethan loves using the miter saw, but his favorite tool, by far, is the nail gun. He’s even asked his mother for one for Christmas. One of Ethan’s favorite quotes (he came up with this while waiting for glue to dry) is, “You don’t need glue when you have a nail gun.”

pic-frame-imageOne of his projects was a picture frame. It was a lesson on miters, butt joints, and gluing up. The frame was to be made up of four frames in total; three small frames and one large frame. (As you can see in the pictures, Ethan altered his design so there were only two small frames.) The inside of the large frame would be pieces of wood as a backing. The students needed to create a plan of procedure for the project, frame dimensions, and a materials list. These had to be completed before they were allowed to begin building their frames.

Most recently, Ethan has been working on a present for his mother for the Holidays.  We really want to show you it, but it is a surprise, so we’ll update this story after the holidays once he has been able to give it to his mother.

Ethan’s story shows that woodworking and working with tools can be very therapeutic.  It is allowing Ethan to express himself and to connect with others.  Ethan is a very courageous young man, and his teacher and friends are working hard to help Ethan achieve his goals.  We here at BTP salute Ethan and his effort to show that regardless of a disability, hard work and determination can achieve anything.

Please share this story and help raise awareness for Friedreich’s ataxia.

To learn more about FA and how you can help fund the research that is helping kids like Ethan, visit cureFA.org.  Watch the video below to better understand the challenges that those affected with FA have to deal with on a daily basis.  Once you realize just what Ethan had to overcome to complete his projects, you’ll be amazed at how much concentration he needed to be able to participate in class and what a special person he is.

 

Story Update

Here’s video of Ethan learning to use the tools in his class.

#kpride #khs #youhavethewill #wewillfindaway #cureFA

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7 comments on “Ethan’s Story: Shop class brings out best in student with Friedreich’s ataxia

  1. Brian

    Wow, great story, and the hurdles Ethan had to overcome,
    What good job he did on his project,
    I will be definitely be looking forward to seeing what special gift / project Ethan
    Also great job by Mr Matt May for helping rearrange tools and work areas,
    Great stuff.

  2. Brian

    Wow, great story, and the hurdles Ethan had to overcome,
    What good job he did on his project,
    I will be definitely be looking forward to seeing what special gift / project Ethan
    Also great job by Mr Matt May for helping rearrange tools and work areas,
    Great stuff.

  3. Lon

    Thank you for this inspiring and great story of Ethan. He shows us there is no reason for excuses. Keep up your quest to make things Ethan! You are one special young man.

  4. Lon

    Thank you for this inspiring and great story of Ethan. He shows us there is no reason for excuses. Keep up your quest to make things Ethan! You are one special young man.

  5. Tricia

    Let Me wipe my happy tears away! OK This is one of the best explained Diseases where even a youngster can relate to so maybe the awareness can be passed as I know this is probably rare but put out there with the help of the Pro Athelete and the Great Mr Matt Mays. Ethan keep up the positive vibes, your a great roll model for this awareness and keep up the cycling! I Love to see the final project you made Your Mom! Until then, Much Love Hugs and Merry Christmas to All!

  6. Tricia

    Let Me wipe my happy tears away! OK This is one of the best explained Diseases where even a youngster can relate to so maybe the awareness can be passed as I know this is probably rare but put out there with the help of the Pro Athelete and the Great Mr Matt Mays. Ethan keep up the positive vibes, your a great roll model for this awareness and keep up the cycling! I Love to see the final project you made Your Mom! Until then, Much Love Hugs and Merry Christmas to All!

  7. robotmaster5379

    This is a great and inspiring story! It is great he has a teacher who is willing to go extra lengths to help this student succeed!

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