Aspergers and Autism Success Stories
1. Temple Grandin: From a diagnosis of autism to a Ph.D.
Temple Grandin is a well-known example of this kind of success. She did not begin speaking until between three and fours years old and doctors diagnosed her as autistic. They recommended that her parents put her in an institution. They believed that autistic children would never change. Temple Grandin says that if parents give up and stop talking to the child, stop teaching the child, it is true that the child will never improve.
I strongly recommend that you read about Temple Grandin on Wikipedia and on her personal Website, http://www.templegrandin.com/ I’d also suggest that you check out some of the videos about her on YouTube and rent or buy a DVD of the movie about her that was shown on HBO.
When she was 18, Temple Grandin invented a squeeze box like those sometimes used on cows and used it to relieve her own stress. She went on to college, eventually earning her Ph.D in Animal Science. She now teaches at Colorado State University. S he has designed livestock handling equipment, written books, and speaks at conferences about Animal Science or about Autism. Notice in the videos that she has learned to keep eye-contact, though this must have been very hard to learn.
2. James Durbin: American Idol finalist on his way to being a star.
Most young people in the US know about James Durbin. Like many others, he has both Asperger’s and Tourette’s Syndrome. His early years including having others pick on him and even beat him up because he was different. Unlike Temple Grandin, James didn’t even graduate from high school but he did attend a music school. Music was his passion. As he said “When I sing, it just all goes away. I don’t have a care in the world.”
It must have taken immense courage for this young man to try out for American Idol, but it didn’t take long before he had many thousands of fans who didn’t care about Aspergers or Tourette’s. We just loved listening to him sing. Heavy metal is definitely not my thing, but James was one of my very favorite idol contestants, not just from that year but since the program began.
Now, in addition to singing and writing many of his own songs, James has become a spokesperson for the STAR Alliance, speaking out against bullying. Many parents whose children have Tourette’s or Aspergers, comment on how their children adore James, and how they believe they can succeed someday like their idol.
3. Dr. Stephen Shore, professor of Special Education
When Dr. Shore was 18 months old, he changed from a normal toddler to one who could no longer speak and who had terrible tantrums. The diagnosis? He had autism, or as he says, he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.
His parents were advised to put him in an institution, but instead, they focused on his strengths. They encouraged his interests. By age 5, his speaking was back to about normal. But this doesn’t mean his autism was cured.
He went on to earn his Ph.D in Special Education. He is currently a professor at Adelphi University. What is most exciting about this is that Dr. Shore didn’t apply for this job. The people at Adelphi University wanted to find a qualified person who could speak from his personal experience. They went to him. They hired him for the job, not in spite of his autism, but because he has autism.
You might want to like at this YouTube video of Professor Shore speaking about autism. You will also see there, some of the other possible videos on the topic.
These stories are wonderful, and can help those on the Autism spectrum to believe that, if they work hard enough, they too can be a success.
These stories, we all know, are exceptions. We can’t expect most people on the spectrum to earn a doctorate and end up teaching in a college. But, with further research in this area, and more possibilities for early intervention, our autistic children should have more and better possibilities for sucess.
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