Jason Heye reached out to Autism Community Network in hopes of volunteering with the agency. He also inquired about family empowerment classes and the Annual Forum for Professionals in order to arm himself with additional data regarding his recent diagnosis as an individual on the autism spectrum. He immediately introduced himself to the staff as an individual with autism who had been successful in life due to speech therapy and hard work. He explained that for much of his life he was misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Communication Disorder (speech and language). He was 35 years old when he received his autism diagnosis.
Heye later sent his resume to the agency, and its staff was astonished at what he had achieved despite the challenges that often accompany autism. It became clear that he intends to serve other individuals with autism and their families through direct interaction as a practitioner, as well as through advocacy and volunteering.
Heye is currently being considered for the board of directors at Autism Community Network. He would be the first board member at ACN diagnosed with autism. It has long been the desire of Autism Community Network to round out its board by including an individual from the community it serves.
Below are Heye’s thoughts and observations on living – and succeeding – with autism.
Since I was a child, I had a learning disability. I did not talk until I was 3 years old. I did not socialize with other students and always tended to myself. I felt distant, alone, and misunderstood.
Something was different and wrong with me but I could not understand what the problem was. I was the kid who wanted to be popular, intelligent, the most talented, desirable, but I was the one left alone and behind.
I was also the student who was rejected. If he cannot speak then how can he possibly learn? I underwent all sorts of tests. One belief was that I had Attention Deficit Disorder – but what type? This was the question they were not able to answer. I obviously wasn’t learning at the same speed as the other students nor was I showing improvement as far as comprehension and becoming comfortable with the school climate.
I required a specialized school which would have smaller class sizes, assist with organizational skills, and social interaction. I attended the specialized school from third to fifth grade. In sixth grade, I went to a preparatory middle school where I studied Latin, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare. I distinctly remember my teacher telling me that it was “ time for [me] to sink or swim.”
Today, I am earning my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Lamar University. After I graduate from Lamar, I plan on earning a master’s degree in educational psychology to help children and adolescents who have similar learning difficulties.
It wasn’t until 2016 that I was diagnosed as having high functioning autism, but I didn’t let it stop me from fulfilling my dreams.