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November 18, 2016

Unlocking His Potential

Tyler’s disability made university seem impossible — now, his future is brighter than ever

When a child is born, parents have hopes and dreams for their new baby’s future: Dreams of sports, musical abilities, good friends, marriage, higher education, and so many others. Sometimes, many of those dreams shatter when a disability clouds the future.

Tyler Brown was born with Spina Bifida.

Tyler Brown was born with spina bifida.

During the second trimester of my wife Nanette’s pregnancy with Tyler, we went to the doctor for the typical sixteen-week ultrasound and were excited to learn our third baby’s gender. The young technician was quiet and studious in her work; this ultrasound seemed to take much longer than those we experienced with our other two children.

Within the next few hours, the test results numbed our excitement, and the future we saw for this child became hazy and unclear.

Tyler’s spine had not developed properly: Before he was even born, our baby was diagnosed with spina bifida.1

Tyler, age 4, was always happy.

Tyler at age 4

Growing Up

After his birth, visits to doctors and procedures in and out of hospitals became routine for Nanette and this beautiful blue-eyed boy — Tyler and his mother forged a bond only a mother and son can have. While Tyler faced many physical challenges, he was forever happy; he loved everyone he met.

We did not know what to expect, so we were patient and learned to celebrate every accomplishment like first words, rolling over, crawling, and all the other things that parents get to witness with a young child. The only difference was that his accomplishments came much later than most other children.

Eventually, Tyler began school. Just as his physical abilities had developed slower, it took him much longer to grasp the typical elementary concepts taught in early childhood years. With a great deal of help from his siblings, wonderful teachers, school counselors, and doctors, he was able to graduate from secondary school in 2012. At that time, we did not know what Tyler would do next.

Chris and Tyler outside their home in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Chris and Tyler outside their home in Idaho Falls, Idaho

A Desire to Serve

Tyler has always been a very faithful young man. One of his greatest blessings is his testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had always wanted to serve a mission for the Church and follow my example and those of his brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. But because of his spina bifida, he would not be able to serve a full-time mission for the Church.

Through the inspiration and the help of a loving bishop and stake president, Tyler was able to complete a service mission in the Idaho Falls, Idaho Family History Center for twenty-seven months. This was a tremendous blessing in his life and taught him many valuable study and life skills.

Upon the completion of his mission, Tyler was unsure of the path that the Lord would have him follow. He did not know if he had the ability to attend college and keep up the hectic and rigorous schedule of a college student.

PathwayConnect

As I watched Tyler pray to Heavenly Father and seek guidance, PathwayConnect became an educational option. As he learned more about it and visited with others who had experienced the program, he began to believe that this was the direction he should take.

He believed that the Lord truly had given him this opportunity.

In September 2014, he joined PathwayConnect. Tyler was anxious, nervous, and concerned about this new challenge in his life. With time, he began to feel very comfortable and enjoy the association with others and the realization that he could learn. He believed that the Lord truly had given him this opportunity, and I saw him put his heart and soul into it.

As parents, we immediately recognized a maturing process evolving within Tyler. He would say things that he would not normally say, such as, “I wish I would have studied harder in high school.”

We began to see confidence build… By the end of PathwayConnect, he was a different person.

We saw in him a desire to learn. He worked at his pace but was steady and faithful in his work. Instead of putting off his coursework and studying, he would do it first, and then do the other things he wanted to do. He began to prioritize for the first time in his life. My wife and I really enjoyed watching his growth.

He recognized his weaknesses and spent extra time in those areas, “making weak things become strong.”2 As he would have little victories, we began to see confidence build, and he was able to have greater academic victories than we ever expected to see. By the end of PathwayConnect, he was a different person.

tyler-brown_soc-med_ab3

Continuing After PathwayConnect

Very little of what we have heard from educators and physicians relating to Tyler’s future was positive. Through all of these years we have learned to listen to what we are told concerning Tyler’s abilities and disabilities, but we have also learned to take it with a grain of salt. Only the Lord truly knows his capabilities, and every time we hear that Tyler can’t do something, he finds a way to exceed expectations.

Tyler skiing in Targhee (Idaho).

Tyler skiing in Targhee (Idaho)

Thanks to PathwayConnect, Tyler’s future is brighter than ever. My son is enrolled in a BYU-Idaho online degree program, working toward a bachelor’s degree in public health. We are excited for Tyler to continue his education, and we hope he can attend on campus in the future.

For some children with disabilities, college seems out of reach, but Tyler has more confidence now than he’s ever had in his education. While he is still confined to a wheelchair and his physical disabilities are still present, he realizes that education is a blessing from our Heavenly Father, and he is eager to learn.


Born in Logan, Utah, Chris was one of five boys growing up. He served in the Ohio Cleveland Mission in 1982 and married Nanette three years later. They have three children — Ashley, Kaden, and Tyler, who is the youngest.

  1. ^ A birth defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly.
  2. ^ Ether 12:27.

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