This Old Soul: A young man with autism

Posted: March 20, 2016 in Humour
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Autism Awareness Month II: Six Years Later

Years ago (six to be exact), I was in high school, in Grade 11.  I was in the Co-op Program and was writing weekly articles for the West Nipissing Tribune as a component of that.  One of the articles that I wrote was entitled Autism Awareness Month.  I wrote in that article about how I was diagnosed with Autism as a child, what quirks I had, such as a photographic memory, and what set me off, like a change in routine, for example.  After many years, I decided to write an article on how my Autism has flourished in the six years since I wrote the article, and to update for those who perhaps have interest in my progress.

A year after I wrote the article, while preparing for my graduation, I went with my family to Montreal to meet with Isabelle Henault, a world-renown psychologist and expert in Autism,  to see how my Autism would affect me during my adult life.  It was that day that my mother, Anne Gingras, was also diagnosed with Asperger’s as well.  (For full details about this in her perspective, check out her article in Chatelaine Magazine.)

After the visit, I graduated from St. Joseph Scollard Hall with honours and it was a huge moment for me.  I had initially planned to stay there for five years and had been told that I would not even graduate whatsoever. However I was able to complete my diploma requirements within four years and when I walked on that stage that fateful summer’s day, I felt a storm of pride rushing through me.  I went back to Scollard for a victory lap in order to transition from high school to college.  I enrolled in a dual credit program and I took ECE (Early Childhood Education, for those who don’t know), and I loved it so much, I enrolled at Canadore College.

One thing I discovered while in that program was how difficult it was for me to function in a neurotypical world.  In the ECE program, I was able to comprehend the theoretrical aspects of it no problem because there was always support if I needed clarification.  When it came to the placements, however, it became very difficult for me.  For starters, I had to be able to pick up any visual cue from the children and the staff workers whenever something went awry.  Even though I tried to keep a cool head in all situations, now that I look back on this, I realized how I would send off a negative vibe in that particular situation.  Secondly, I needed to prove that I was able to handle what I would refer to as a swirl of situations that occur among the children, with minimal to no support from my co-workers and unfortunately, I was unable to improve on this. When working with young children, you have to be able to watch over them like a shepherd, but I would get so focused, I would lose the big picture.

I passed my first placement, but each placement was progressively more difficult. I felt I was doing well, but evidently I was missing things.  Being a person with Autism, it shattered me.  Failing felt like the end of the world for me, and the sadness I felt was beyond anything I had previously experienced.  It felt like, to me, that I tried so hard and no one acknowledged it. I also remember feeling angry towards the people who evaluated me, even though I know now that it was strictly professional and not personal.  I took on some volunteer work to better myself as not only an educational assistant, but a worker in general.  I attempted to improve on the second placement, but it unfortunately had the same result.  It was at this particular point that working in education no longer interested me because I couldn’t bear the burden of the kind of responsibility of overseeing a high amount of children and facing the consequences if something happened to them.  The coordinator of the program, whom I will refer to as Molly, discussed this and I told her it was all for the best.  Molly mentioned that I have made many improvements, but not enough to merit a pass.  I decided right there and then to stop on this station and find myself another career goal.  It was a particularly invigorating moment because I knew this path was going nowhere and I needed to stop before I regretted it.

My ambition in life is to advocate for people in a similar situation that I am in and I started thinking about how to go about it.  I decided to see if I could join up with a youth advocacy program run by some members of Community Living.  The concept of that program is to find out my rights as a person with Autism and how it can help me with potential employment.  I also plan to write articles relating to my life as an adult individual on the Autism Spectrum.  When I was growing up, I would often freak out at the unexpected, but right now, I am embracing the unexpected and by doing so, I plan to enjoy life for what it is because as Star Wars puts it: “The Force is with Me.”

  1. Barbara Clark says:

    Congratulations Alex!! This was a very interesting read and I enjoyed it very much. Good luck in your next endeavor as I am sure you will accomplish everything you thrive for.

  2. Gisele Small says:

    I enjoyed reading this Alex. It seems you have inherited your parents gift for writing. Good luck with all your future endeavours and never give up on your dreams, they often do come true.

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