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02 September 2016

Nine-year-old with epilepsy gets A grade in GCSE maths

An A grade in GCSE maths is an achievement in anyone's books, but Joseph Fry's story makes it even more special.  He is only nine years old and has had epilepsy for two years.

Joseph, who lives in Salisbury with his parents, James and Tracey, and brother and sister, only began studying for the GCSE syllabus in January.

He told the Salisbury Journal: "It has been hard work, but I'm glad it has paid off.  It's really been worth it."

"We're not high-pressure parents"

Mr Fry, who runs an IT firm, said his son had always been gifted: "We're not high-pressure parents and we're not into maths at all.  We always knew he was incredibly gifted because he taught himself to read when he was three."

Two years ago, life changed for Joseph.  Mr Fry explained: "Joseph was seven and his sister Olivia ran in to us and said 'something's happening to Joseph'.  He was having a grand mal seizure (tonic-clonic).  It looked terrible, I was ready to carry him to A&E but my wife had seen a seizure before and knew what to do."

Epilepsy diagnosis

Joseph went on to have more frequent seizures and was diagnosed with Benign Rolandic Epilepsy (BRE).

It was soon after this that his parents decided to explore Joseph's gifts with an educational psychologist.

High IQ

"We took him to see Dr Peter Condon, an educational psychologist", explained Mr Fry.  "Joseph was tested thoroughly for two hours, and he was found to have an IQ that starts at 158.  It confirmed what we heard from his primary school teacher, who said that she had been teaching for 30 years but that she would always remember Joseph as being extremely bright."

"Normal, loving boy"

“We need to make sure he remains a nine-year-old and learns to build relationships", said Mr Fry.

“He is just a normal, loving boy with a unique gift, but it can be quite isolating being so far ahead”

Not always plain sailing

Despite his recent success, the years since his diagnosis have not always been plain sailing for Joseph, said Mr Fry:

"The sodium valproate has been great at controlling Joseph's seizures.  He hasn't had a seizure since May, and before that, since September, so we are hoping that he will grow out of his epilepsy.  Nevertheless, the drugs have given Joseph concentration problems and have disturbed his sleep."

Weight problems

It is common for sodium valproate to induce weight gain in people with epilepsy, but for Joseph, it has had the opposite effect. 

"Joseph hasn't put on weight for 18 months", explained Mr Fry.  "It's affected his appetite, and now, because he's quite intelligent and has read up about his drugs, he's quite worried about not putting on enough weight.  It's something no young lad should have to worry about, really."

Joseph has his sights set on the next challenge and is already planning to start work on an A-level. 


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