Recently diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome sufferer Tom Graham wows his employers!
Tom emailed me after reading about Cameron here at the website. He was so kind, he offered to share his life-story with me in hopes that it would help Cameron.
Of course I accepted his offer in a heartbeat, and we've been chatting back and forth ever since. :)
Tom agreed to let me post his story online and I thought, what better place to put it than in the Success Stories section!
Below is Tom's story...
A short bio of myself and my Asperger’s syndrome
I was born on February 29, 1972, and my birth was normal. My very early childhood was quite normal as far as development. I was able to walk shortly after my first birthday, and I said my first word at 21 months (from what I have read, this may have been a minor delay in speech).
I was generally in good health until at 14 months, I suffered from an hour-long seizure due to a 104 degree fever and roseola. I was placed on Phenobarbital for about 1-2 years, and was taken off that.
I never had any more seizures since then. I did recover from this illness, and aside from several ear infections, my physical health was very good.
Apparently there first was significant concern about me when I was around four years old. My pediatrician simply said in my records that I was “immature” for my age. I attended a preschool and my teacher became very concerned about my lack of interest in other children and my lack of ability to follow directions and engage in activities.
I was evaluated by some professionals at five years of age. Several specialists believed I may have been autistic, but I did not receive any formal diagnosis. The clinic resisted the use of “labels” and instead simply stated that I had “minimal brain dysfunction (MBD)”.
I had attended for several weeks what was called an experimental education unit (EEU), where a group of children with a wide range of MBD were evaluated, and were given behavior modification, and this actually was quite helpful for me.
I improved enough so I was able to attend regular school, starting kindergarten at five years old (in the Fall of 1977). I received no official diagnosis of autism, or any other specific disorder.
During my school age years, I still had severe social problems, and was teased a great deal by other children. I never really had any close friends. I also got into lots of disciplinary trouble, much due to my immature behavior.
I would often complain to my parents about the teasing, and though they understood it was wrong for them to tease me, they would not express that to me. Instead they told me it was because I act very “different” from other kids, and that there were many things I had to do to be like others, since kids will tease others who stand out for whatever reason.
This is a sensible approach to make, however it frustrated me to believe that it all seemed to be my fault.
Since I wasn’t diagnosed as autistic or with any other condition, I was treated by my parents and teachers like a “normal” child, so if I failed to behave or achieve what most others my age would be capable of, it was thought of as being my fault.
My parents seemed to use negative reinforcement (in other words, punish me) as a way to modify my behavior. I must say, however, or at least my parents told me, punishment was rarely successful for me.
As far as academic achievement, I was very good with arithmetic and spelling. I had lots of difficulty with reading comprehension, especially fiction. I did receive at least passing grades all throughout my school years, with grades averaging somewhere between “B” and “C”.
I graduated from high school with my class, in 1990, and placed above two-thirds of a class of over 350 students.
After high school graduation, I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t know what kind of job would be best for me. I attended community college and received my Associate’s degree in 1992. Then I started looking for work, but not successfully.
I decided to try a four-year university, much to get a chance to get out on my own. I didn’t know what to major in. I always have had an interest in maps and traveling, so I chose a major in geography. I was able to get through this and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in 1996. Unfortunately, with as much as a four-year college degree, I could not find a job.
It was around now, 24 years old, that I started learning more about autism and read in a psychology book about Asperger’s syndrome. I checked out a book from a library, titled Autism and Asperger Syndrome, by Uta Frith, and this was what really led me to believe I had this disorder.
I could go back 20 years, to four years old, and it all made sense to me. I have to say that this was only a self-diagnosis, however.
With my great difficulties in finding employment, and knowing that my autistic characteristics well could be a barrier to finding a job, I tried a vocational rehabilitation program. It required a documented disability that was a barrier to employment, and an official diagnosis from a doctor.
I collected all my information regarding my behavior problems, from my doctors and school teachers, and brought this to the doctor, and he did in fact diagnose me with Asperger’s. So that was what led to my diagnosis, in 1997, at 25 years of age.
The vocational rehabilitation program was not much help, however. The counselors who worked with me had a tendency to be condescending, and were not well convinced I was capable of what I really could do. Also, I was going to be charged a great deal of money for their services, and I did not financially qualify for assistance (I was not wealthy, but not poor enough).
I decided to get out of this program, and went back looking for other employment, quite unsuccessfully, except for a few short temporary jobs.
In 1999, I decided to go back to community college for a certificate in computer database programs. I also had a student job at this time on campus, which was a secretarial job for faculty.
My supervisor, as well as the faculty, were quite impressed with my performance, and there was fortunately an opportunity opening at the college for a full-time job, and I applied and was selected for it. This was in the year 2000, and I have been employed there since then.
As far as my job skills, my employers tell me that I am very reliable (I have actually never had an unscheduled absence in six years), and I am very fast and accurate at typing and data entry.
My weaknesses are communication and organizational skills. I have most difficulty with handling interruptions and a lack of a routine environment.
Learn About Natural Remedies for the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome