Westwood (CBSLA.com) — A teen with special needs is defying stereotypes and pursuing his dreams inside and outside the classroom.
Jake Dameshek, 18, has autism. He is also a talented drummer and dancer — and college-bound.
“He has what’s called splinter skills so it puts him in an area where he has certain abilities that are pretty astonishing and deficits that are tremendous,” said Kimberly O’Brien, Jake’s mother.
Despite his skills with the sticks, he has never had a formal lesson.
“Back in 2015 I watched music videos and I go to Guitar Center and I play the drums very wildly,” said Dameshek.
Jake was diagnosed with late onset autism when he was two.
“He dialed all the way back to an 8-month-old baby level,” said O’Brien.
His verbal skills, personal skills gone.
“It was like people in the house became furniture. He was gone and it was a really horrible thing as a parent. It was like our child got kidnapped.” said O’Brien.
But through years of therapy, Jake kept getting better. At Laguna Hills he participated in talent shows. The prom date said yes. And he graduated. A couple of weeks ago Jake got accepted to UCLA’s Pathway Program. He’s going to college.
“I wanna became more mature, which I wanted to be. I’m not going to be like Justin Beiber. I’m gonna be mature at UCLA,” said Dameshek.
The two-year program helps young adults with special needs transition to be independent — living on campus and hopefully finding jobs.
“I feel a little bit excited about it. But I feel a little nervous and scared,” said Dameshek.
It’s scary for mom too.
“It is! It is. I’m not gonna lie. But then there’s a part of me that is so excited about the possibilities or what this could mean for him. I’m terrified,” said O’Brien.
And she’s also scared that they won’t find the money to pay for it.
“It’s $51,000 a year, $102,000 for two years,” she said.
They’ve applied for aid, but in the meantime Jake’s mom started a Go Fund Me page. And his classmates from high school gave up a Saturday to help Jake make a music video.
With confidence most teens only dream of, Jake is ready for his video to take off and hopefully help him pay for college.
“My first appearance before I become more famous,” he said.
One of many firsts for this young man who keeps beating the drums and the odds and finding his abilities along the way.