A Man Who Couldn’t Read Until the Age of 18 Becomes One of the Youngest Professors at Cambridge University

11 months ago

Jason Arday was diagnosed with autism, developmental delays, and learning difficulties as a young child. As a result, he couldn’t speak until he was 11 and was illiterate until his late teens. Furthermore, professionals predicted that he would never be able to live unassisted and would need constant care. Despite all the odds being stacked against him, Arday is now one of the youngest professors in the UK. His inspiring story proves that pursuing your dreams always pays off, even if many hurdles must be overcome on the way.

Jason Arday was diagnosed with autism as a young child and had some learning difficulties.

Arday encountered numerous obstacles on a personal level, like when he received an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis when he was 3 years old. This condition caused him to experience significant difficulties, like being unable to speak until he was 11 years old and using sign language to communicate. Professionals in therapy and career counseling anticipated that the young boy would need ongoing assistance and that he would spend his adult life in a care facility.

He couldn’t read or write until his late teens.

Arday experienced another developmental setback during childhood, as he could not acquire reading and writing skills. However, his mom played a pivotal role in boosting his self-esteem and abilities. She exposed him to diverse music genres to enhance his language comprehension. Ultimately, at 18, Arday developed the ability to read and write and subsequently pursued a university education.

Despite his struggles, Arday went on to graduate from college and decided to stay in academia.

After completing his physical education and education studies degree, Arday commenced his career as a schoolteacher. In his role, he frequently interacted with students from underprivileged backgrounds, similar to his upbringing. This experience motivated him to delve deeper into this issue, opting for post-graduate studies at 22.

Arday received encouragement from his mentor, who supported him throughout college and his learning challenges. His mentor expressed his unwavering support, stating, “I think you can do this — I think we can take on the world and win.” For the young academic, that was when he started believing in himself and his abilities. “A lot of academics say they stumbled into this line of work, but from that moment, I was determined and focused — I knew that this would be my goal,” he recalled.

He earned 2 master’s degrees and a Ph.D. and published several research papers.

Due to his unwavering determination, Arday went on to earn 2 master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in the field of sociology. Despite his young age, he quickly made a name for himself in his field of study and published highly valued research papers. In the meantime, he continued to work as a PE teacher during the day, switching to reading academic papers, watching lectures, studying, and writing in the evening — until he was offered the position of Senior Lecturer in 2018.

Only 3 years later, at age 35, he secured a professorship in sociology at the University of Glasgow’s School of Education. At that time, he was one of the youngest professors in the United Kingdom.

At 37, Arday became the youngest Black professor at the University of Cambridge.

When he was 27 and working on his Ph.D., Arday wrote a resolution on his bedroom wall at his parents’ house that read, “One day I will work at Oxford or Cambridge.” Only 10 years later, the fruits of his labor paid off, as he was appointed Professor of Sociology of Education at the University of Cambridge. He will start his work on March 6, 2023, making him the youngest Black professor ever at the university.

Although Arday had predicted his successful career years ago, it’s still hard for the young professor to believe that his big aspirations finally came true. “As optimistic as I am, there’s just no way I could have thought that would have happened. If I was a betting person, the odds on it were so long,” he confessed.


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