David George stressed the importance of understanding the gray areas when working with children and adults with autism during his speech Wednesday at West Virginia Northern Community College.
George, an author and resident of Bethany, has lived with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, all his life. He said living with ADD and Asperger's has helped him understand that people with learning disabilities must respect their own unique qualities.
"We all have to be assertive about our specific needs," George said. "Everyone is unique. It's better to focus on the positives than the negatives when it comes to a learning disorder."
George said he struggled in school for years before receiving the help he needed in the special education program at Bethany College while earning his bachelor's degree.
He described how he could not absorb new concepts as fast as others and was mistakenly labeled as lazy, even though his educational needs were not being met.
George said he learned people are obligated to find a way to connect with people with autism by finding a way to work with them as an individual. Contrary to prevalent opinion, he said, people with autism want to connect with the world even though they seem to prefer isolation.
George cited several institutions in the area that support autistic children and adults, including the Wheeling Autism Youth Group at the YWCA and Tomorrow's Corner: Adult Day Care Center in St. Clairsville.