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Meet John

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Meet John

Meet John, an assistive technology specialist at PACER Center and a young adult with a cognitive disability. John discusses understanding his disability, finding his strengths, and the role high expectations played in his academic and career success.

  • Duration: 5 minutes
  • Date Posted: 3/11/2015
  • Topics: Self-Awareness, ADD/ADHD, Family Support, Postsecondary Education, Finding Strengths

Funding for this series was provided in part by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.


Hey everyone.

My name is John Newman.

I'm an assistive technology specialist here at PACER Simon Technology Center.

And I'll be telling you a little bit more kind of about myself and the work I do and also offer a little bit of advice.

So I think what's interesting is I became aware of my disability not too young, but definitely probably around like third or fourth grade.

I just had trouble kind of sitting still or paying attention when other people could.

And I also really noticed that writing in general was really hard for me.

So that's kind of when I really started to notice it.

But I didn't really feel that different when I was young.

What's interesting too is I feel like when you look at your disability there's both strengths and weaknesses.

And one thing for me was when you have an attention difficulty, school is an environment where it really demands you to be paying attention a lot.

And when you have a disability, a lot of times you're thinking of other things, other things that are much more interesting to you.

So it was really hard for me to really stay motivated about things that didn't capture my attention.

Because if it doesn't capture my attention or some of my passion, it's really hard for me to devote a lot of my time and energy to it.

So that kind of made school a struggle, because there was always a balance between focusing and being motivated on something that didn't necessarily kind of captivate me.

So that's a skill that I had to develop was, you know, just because I'm not interested in this doesn't mean I shouldn't work hard for it.

I think what was cool with my parents was they actually helped me understand my disability at a scientific level.

Sometimes when you act different than other people, that can make you feel really strange.

And what my parents just let me know is that it was just a difference in my brain chemistry.

It didn't make me a bad person or an unintelligent person, it just made me act a little bit differently.

And as soon as I started to learn more about that, I was able to accept myself a little bit more.

So that really helped.

I think high expectations is interesting for both the parent, and then also as an individual.

Sometimes if you're not succeeding in school, it's really easy for your expectations to change for yourself.

And I think the role of a parent is to really help you keep those us.

So sometimes a parent can really help someone see a future for yourself that you currently can't see because you're really struggling.

So my parents I think always really helped me keep my eye on the ball.

And something that was really important that they told me is that school is the only time in your life where you have to be good at everything.

You have to be good at math.

You have to be good at writing.

You have to be good at sports.

And it's really not like that in the real world.

The real world is where you find hey what am I good at? What motivates me? And how can I bring that to a job, to a hobby, and that's something that they really helped me keep in mind.

And that was a big motivator going forward.

So I was fortunate enough to go to college, and college, kind of like I was saying earlier, is where you really get to explore what interests you.

And in college I became fascinated with technology and how people interact with technology.

So when I graduated I still had that passion of looking at technology, how people interact with it, how technology benefits people.

And I saw this job as a really cool opportunity to give back, learn a lot about people, how they interact with technology, and I'm having a lot of fun and kind of growing each day with it.

So that's kind of something that really motivated me to get into this field.

I think the big thing you've got to look at is what are your strengths.

That's something that every successful person, you know, quotes disability or not, has to ask themselves.

So if you're in high school, I think it's your job to really think about you know, when I wake up every day, what do I want to bring to this world? And that's where you look at your strengths.

So when you wake up, is it your creativity? Is it the way you interact with people? Is it kind of some of your science smarts? Really discover what it is that excites and that you feel really positive and good about and kind of push and pursue that thing.

Because a lot of people in life can, you know, just take any job or do anything.

But I think the people that are really successful and happy find things that really connects with them and really motivates them.

So even at high school you can start to think about that.

Because that's going to really help predict those next steps in your life.

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