As a baby, Nicholas Miklaucic was so delayed in hitting developmental milestones – from holding his neck up to crawling to walking and talking – that his pediatrician recommended speech, physical and cognitive therapy.
“He was gifted at drooling,” says his mother, Jill Conway, a neurologist at Carolinas Medical Center. “But that’s about it.”
A few months shy of his third birthday, evaluators arrived at the house to assess if continued intervention was necessary or if he had overcome his developmental delays. They asked him to draw a picture and he asked for a purple crayon. When they handed it to him, he looked at it and replied, “This isn’t purple. It is violet.”
“The specialists packed up and left,” Conway said.
By the time he started kindergarten, Nicholas had more than made up for his early developmental delays. He was reading National Geographic magazines and adult chess instructional books.
“My father taught me about the number that when multiplied by itself equals negative one,” Nicholas says. “I was fascinated but no one in my class knew what I was talking about.”
Conway said “We knew he was smart, but we figured we’d drop him off at school and they’d figure it out.”
Nicholas was moved to a third-grade math class and given a math journal, which he filled with fractions and Roman numerals.
“It was as if he were holding up a neon sign saying, ‘Help me. I don’t belong here,’” Conway said.
Halfway through third grade, Conway and her husband, Shawn Miklaucic, a communications professor at Johnson C. Smith University, pulled Nicholas out of school and home-schooled him for the next two and a half years. He took online classes, read and reviewed dystopian novels and completed pre-calculus by the end of fifth grade.
Nicholas, a triplet, joined his sister Claire and brother Jack at Randolph Middle School for sixth grade, where Nicholas and Jack were placed in the Horizons gifted program. Nicholas continued to take online math and science classes through North Carolina Virtual Public School and was able to learn English and social studies at his own pace.
This year, his eighth-grade year, he is again being home-schooled.
“What is the point of taking the bus to Randolph to take online classes I can take at home?” Nicholas asks.
He is taking chemistry and Spanish at Queens University of Charlotte and is auditing an Intro to Logic class. He is also taking a calculus class online and is studying English with his father. He devotes many hours to his passion, computer programming, takes cello lessons and plays in chess and Scrabble tournaments.
“Next year,” says Nicholas, “I might take up theater or rowing.”
These options are available to him, without the logistical challenge of getting driven to and from these activities, because Nicholas will be attending boarding school (he recently completed applications and will learn of acceptances in the spring) on a full tuition scholarship for all four years of his high school education as a Caroline D. Bradley Scholar.
Nicholas applied in the seventh grade and was one of 22 students selected nationwide through a highly selective, in-depth portfolio application and interviews.
He is the first North Carolina recipient of the prestigious scholarship and will receive counseling, networking and fellowship with other gifted students along with the tuition grant.
Nicholas, 14, says he will miss his family but he is excited about what lies ahead.
“Right now math club is the highlight of my month,” he says, but next year “I look forward to a perpetual place where my mind can thrive.”