Impact Stories — Joe McFadden

Throughout June we will celebrate the graduating high school class of 2020. This final blog in the series highlights a student from a private high school in Maryland.


Congratulations Graduate! A Spotlight on Joe McFadden.

Joe McFadden

By Pauline Peticlerc and Joe McFadden

Joe was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. He did not speak until age five, and we were told he may never learn to potty train. Fortunately, he was born with great fortitude and never let his disability stand in his way.

As Joe entered elementary school, we found math and English proved to be rather simple for him but relating to his classmates was very difficult.

Middle school offered even greater challenges. The accelerated learning pace combined with the larger size of the school created overwhelming difficulties for Joe. Eventually, we and his school team made the decision to place him in The Katherine Thomas School in Rockville, Maryland, a school designed for the unique needs of students with disabilities. There, he has received individual support and attention and learned effective life skills that contribute to his independence.

At KTS, Joe learned that music provides him with a wonderful opportunity to de-stress and gain control over his anxiety during the school day. Embracing his musical talents, he joined the elite Strathmore Children’s Touring Chorus, where he performs with professional orchestras, other choral groups, and featured artists in ensemble performances.

In addition to his choral activities, Joe is also a member of the Imagination Stage’s Teen Improvisation Theater Troupe and is a volunteer usher at the theater when he is not performing. Joe relies on public transportation to independently travel to each of these activities.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused Joe’s extracurricular activities to end, his life was greatly impacted. Joe responded by getting a job and going to work.

Joe had interned with a local CVS store for two years prior to the pandemic, and they hired him for part-time, paid work during the pandemic. Joe has become a reliable employee for CVS by filling in when others are sick. He often runs a cash register, behind plexiglass and with a mask, and brings joy to the customers who appreciate his kindness during this unprecedented time.

Joe will soon head to Montgomery College in Maryland, where he will explore computer coding, computer animation, foreign languages, and music. He will also continue his work at CVS.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.