In recognition of Learning Disabilities Awareness Month in October, Bethany resident and motivational speaker David A. George will appear at various libraries throughout the Ohio Valley to discuss how learning disabilities and a new diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome have affected his life.
George is author of the 2005 self-help book, "Be Unique, Be You and Live!", which details his difficult journey from childhood through adulthood, living with attention deficit disorder and various learning disabilities that ultimately led to post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder. He eventually was able to break free from some of these bonds through hard work, perserverance and achieving success and acceptance while at Bethany College.
The diagnosis of Asperger's in December has given him a renewed understanding of his disabilities, while also giving him new insight on how to help others overcome their problems.
(Photo by Betsy Bethel)
David George will be signing copies of his book, “Be Unique, Be You and Live!” as well as giving presentations during October, Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, at local libraries. Recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, George has renewed his efforts to reach out to individuals who have learning disabilities as well as those on the autism spectrum.
His book encourages others to "be true to yourself and maintain your individual integrity at all costs, no matter what the odds against you are from anyone that demands conformity," as stated on the book jacket.
"(The Asperger's diagnosis) has given me a renewed impetuts to go on my mission even farther," George said.
It was while serving as a dramaturge for the 2008 Bethany College production of The Who's rock opera, "Tommy," that David George first considered that he might have Asperger's syndrome. An ardent Who fan, it wasn't until delving into research about the musical that he began to ponder the similarities between himself and the rock opera's title character - a blind, deaf and mute, as well as emotionally and spiritually handicapped, individual who isolates himself from the world that has mistreated him.
George also had two separate conversations around this time with people about his life, and both mentioned the possibility of Asperger's syndrome. He decided to undergo extensive testing, and local psychologist Dr. Michael Marshall made the diagnosis.
Asperger's syndrome is a neurological disorder that falls on the highly-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Speech development is not an issue, unlike with other forms of autism.
"The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child's obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors," according to an Asperger's fact sheet produced by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health.
"Other characteristics of AS include repetitive routines or rituals; peculiarities in speech and language; socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers; problems with non-verbal communication; and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements."
George said his diagnosis has brought him closure, and he is grateful that there is a general awareness and even acceptance in the community of Asperger's and autism spectrum disorders.
"It's given me more confidence to talk about it now because people are more open," George said.
George will be giving presentations and signing copies of his book throughout the Ohio Valley this month. He spoke at Brooke County Public Library in Wellsburg Thursday, Oct. 1, and will be at the Schiappa Branch Library in Steubenville at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7; Mary Weir Public Library in Weirton at 6 p.m. Oct. 15; New Martinsville Public Library at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 and Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library at 6 p.m. Oct. 28. He also will be signing books at Books-A-Million at The Highlands, Triadelphia, from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 and 24.
For information about learning disabilities, including a signs and symptoms checklist, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities Web Site, www.ncld.org. For information about Asperger's syndrome, visit www.ninds.nih.gov/dis