Jay Dukeshire: Brain Disorders Management program helps crash survivor teach others

Mohawk College gave Jay Dukeshire ‘18 a second career after a traumatic brain injury changed his life.  

In 2009, Jay was thrown over the handlebars of a motorcycle he was test driving after building it for a customer. He broke seventeen bones in his body and flatlined three times. During his long recovery Jay had what he and neurologists refer to as a values shift. He describes it as placing less value on things and more value on people in his life and his experiences with them. 

By 2016, he had completed the Recreational Therapy program at Mohawk College before going back to working in a garage for a year. It was during that year that he realized that he was no longer interested in vehicles like he was before, so he decided to return to school. Jay enrolled in the first offering of the graduate program, Brain Disorders Management which he graduated with honours from in 2018.  

Jay in a classroom surrounded by 8 students giving him a hug.

What attracted Jay to the program was his interest in learning more about his brain and how he could help others. His personal experience allowed him a unique perspective appreciated by the program administrators. Years later he is still in contact with academic and field placement coordinator Dr. Anne-Marie DePape and professor Dr. Krissy Doyal-Thomas, by sending them regular updates on how he uses content learned in the program. 

His new job is as a teacher’s assistant for middle school students who are on the autism spectrum. These are students with “high needs and big behaviour,” he says. For example, one of the students he works with likes to pull long hair and another overuses bathroom breaks to get out of class by drinking excessive amounts of water. Jay has to continuously figure out how to best address the issues while keeping his students on track in school. “A skill that worked yesterday might not work today, so we adapt,” says Jay. 

His students are in grades seven and eight and Jay’s job is to help them navigate the academic and social aspects of their school days. He consistently refers to the Brain Disorders Management program throughout his days both professionally and personally. Challenges he encounters with kids in his care are addressed by strategies he learned from the program in tandem with what his own treatments have taught him. 

As for how he got through school with a brain injury?  

“You have to work at it. I mean, there's no other way to do it. And, here I am now, right. And with that said, the accommodations at Mohawk College, they're fantastic,” says Jay. “When I wrote an exam, I had extra time to write with less distractions. I had a note taker in class. I had recording devices, all the help, and eventually I got stronger and stronger and stronger until I didn't need them as much. To have those accommodations from Mohawk, was amazing, that's for sure.” 

By Rachel Doek, Journalism student