Teen with Asperger's speaks about stigma, struggle
Published Sunday, April 24, 2011 4:50PM EDT
Laval teenager Shaun Perrier may have faced some challenges in life, but he believes in the power of a positive attitude.
"I think I've led a good life so far," said the Grade 11 student, who has Asperger's Syndrome.
A disorder that impairs social interaction, Shaun was diagnosed with the condition at six years old.
Often misunderstood, Shaun has channelled what he's learned from his struggles into a presentation that he showed to students at Laval Liberty high school.
The Powerpoint project explained how he overcame his disability, and raised awareness about conditions within the autism spectrum.
"I had this idea that I wanted people to understand what autism and Asperger's was like, because I felt that it wasn't really being talked about," he said.
It was a difficult condition to cope with in the beginning, explained his mother, Debra Burger.
"In the early years, there were meltdowns where he would get totally overwhelmed," he said.
While he's learned to cope with it, classmates still recognize that he's different. Grade 11 student Raquel Faustini said she understands his frustration.
"He asks a lot of questions in class and I think that's what bothers me the most -- is that people get annoyed with that. It bothers me because I know him as a person, and he's an amazing guy," she said.
Like many who live with Asperger's, Shaun has obsessive compulsive disorders and can struggle to communicate with others, explained psychologist Dr. Leslie Klein.
"Social interaction, reciprocal communication, social engagement with others and especially with groups -- that really marks the Asperger's individual," said Klein.
Sharing those challenges with his peers is what's helped him push through barriers.
Shaun will be attending Dawson College this fall, the first of his family to go to college.
"It feels really good, because there were times I felt like I wasn't good enough for college and now that I'm actually accepted and I'm actually going, it's great," he said.
His mother couldn't be more pleased with her son's accomplishment.
"I'm so proud of him. He deserves to be where he is. He's worked hard," she said.
The teenager has become an inspiration to other students in his high school.
"I respected him as a friend before, but now I respect him as a person because of what he has to go through everyday and the struggles he has to put up with, and I respect that," said Grade 9 student Stelios Klapsis.
Though Shaun is not shy about dealing with Asperger's, he also said he hopes he and others aren't defined by it.
"Don't judge them because of that, and always be open to them because one day they're probably going to surprise you," he said.