Wednesday, October 28, 2009

West Virginia man with Asperger's, LD confirms his diagnosis after 30 years

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

Bethany resident David George has struggled with a learning disability most of his life, and was only recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. George has written a book on his struggles and educational experiences called "Be Unique Be You and LIVE!"

For most of his childhood, 39-year-old David George (pictured) couldn’t understand why he struggled with schoolwork and staying focused.

“I was good at math in the first and second grade but it became harder later on and it would take me a long time to absorb comprehend and retain many things I was assigned to read.”

George attended private schools and said a lack of support and understanding from some educators left him feeling isolated.

“Many persons didn’t have a full understanding of attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities in general, but it was worse than that because you see, there were many times that I thought I was getting along with my peers well but it became more difficult through the years.”

George added, “I was very isolated and under conditions where I wasn’t engaging in life in so many different ways.”

Despite his battles, George was accepted into a special education program at Bethany College and said the experience changed his life.

“I was finally in an environment where my morale was enhanced to want to learn more and over time and I learned how to learn.”

“I was surrounded by persons who respected me and saw me as a unique individual. They cared about me and they helped me understand how I could succeed in college and in life.”

George went on to work towards a master’s degree and today works in the human resources department at a bank in Wheeling.

He also is involved in the Bethany College community. Two years ago, he assisted with the school’s theater production "The Who’s Tommy”.

During the production, George met a few people who suggested he should consider being tested for autism.

Last December, George was officially diagnosed with a mild case of Asperger’s syndrome. He says his diagnosis has brought him clarity and closure.

He wrote “Be Unique Be You and LIVE!” in hopes that his story raises awareness of learning disabilities and increases understanding for people with a learning disability.

“The book is in many ways designed to combat ignorance with a number of educational principles such as compassion, understanding, empathy, courtesy, respect and at all costs, accentuating individuality over conformity in so many aspects of life whether it is in school systems, society at broad or life itself,” said George.

“I want people to look deeper into human beings, and Asperger’s or any other learning disabilities shouldn’t be treated as a stigma and people should take the time to work with them and help them to become better rounded in so many areas.”

George said he also wants to inspire those with learning disabilities to develop their talents, despite their challenges.

George is traveling throughout the Northern Panhandle sharing his story as a motivational speaker and is holding a series of book signings.