Senin, 27 September 2010

Autism Asperger's sufferer Graeme dedicates life to helping others

Asperger's sufferer Graeme dedicates life to helping others
sutton_coldfield_observer Image: sutton_coldfield_observer
Friday, September 17, 2010, 09:20

Graeme Croton from Erdington who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome has set up a website to help other young people cope with the condition. TS8177-6119SO

Graeme Croton from Erdington who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome has set up a website to help other young people cope with the condition. TS8177-6119SO

FOR 23 years Graeme had no idea what was wrong with him. Doctors dismissed his concerns and one child psychiatrist told him he had psychosis bordering on being a fantasist.

All his life the 25-year-old has had to face prejudice .

But in July this year he finally received a diagnosis confirming he had Asperger's Syndrome.

And rather than wallow in despair, Graeme has developed a website to help others learn from the obstacles he has come across.

Graeme began encountering these obstacles when he started school. At Abbey Primary School in Erdington, Bishop Walsh Secondary School in Sutton and Sheldon Heath Community School Graeme faced bullying and that forced him to move from school to school.

He left compulsory education with just one GCSE in creative arts, for which he got top marks – an A grade.

"I went through so much bullying, I was forced out of school," Graeme said. "I had a lot of problems with fellow pupils. Teachers embarrassed me and that encouraged the other children. I had put all my effort in to creative art and that was an escape."

Working life led to more pain. His difficulty in communicating and lack of formal qualifications meant the bullying continued while he was employed.

The Goosemoor Lane resident left one job at a menswear chain after being targeted by an assistant manager and was forced to leave a job at a cash centre as he kept making mistakes. He felt so low he twice contemplated suicide.

I experienced 12 months discrimination in a job and I was close to being sacked," Graeme said. "I felt really low and detached from society.

"At another job at an arcade in Birmingham the workers feared me and the manager bullied me and I left."

A return to studies at Sutton and Matthew Boulton Colleges led to more frustration. "I did a City & Guilds at Sutton in film editing and was going on to do an HND.

I was OK at the practical side but the exams I couldn't do. I failed the course three times and I cried I was that frustrated.

He tried again at Matthew Boulton doing a BTEC in media. "I fell in love with it but I was wasting my time there and I gave up again," he said.

Graeme simply could not pass exams but a chance reply to his prolific emailing of film producers changed his life.

With my studies I had got into script writing," he said. "I sent my scripts off, sometimes hundreds of emails a night.

"One screen idea I had sent off led to a reply that changed everything. The producer was taken aback by the detail of my screen idea but warned me to check if I had dyslexia or Asperger's Syndrome. If I had not received that reply I would not have got to where I am today."

That contact was made in February last year and shortly afterwards Graeme got to learn about Dyslexics Online. He contacted his GP to see if they could confirm the film producer's amateur diagnosis.

"I asked my GP in Erdington whether I had dyslexia and told him about Asperger's but he said I hadn't got the condition. That very day I had a meltdown. I was so frustrated, I didn't know where to go and I ended up going to Scotland to get away from my life in Birmingham."

While there he received funding for a private dyslexia test in July 2009. It was confirmed he had dyslexia and the report also mentioned the possibility of Asperger's Syndrome.

Graeme eventually found details of Maxine Aston, an expert in Asperger's based in Coventry. As he would have to wait two years for an NHS referral, Graeme's mum Margaret paid for him to go private and finally, in July this year, he received the diagnosis.

"Once I had been diagnosed it helped me to understand who I am," he said. "I have achieved more in the last few months than I have in my whole life."

Graeme explained that Asperger's affects his ability to communicate, interact and also hinders the imagination. "Each Aspie is different," he said. "I explain Asperger's as a balloon that represents my comfort zones and routines and if I experience something that affects my routines it bursts and I experience burn out and that triggers a melt-down.

"It is a lonely condition. But I am not sitting back. I am going to dedicate my life to offering people the help I never had."

Mum Margaret said: "I have been suffering pangs of guilt. It has been an uphill battle to get to the bottom of his condition."

With his determination Graeme contacted ITV Fixers this year. His story was featured on Central News earlier this month. The aim of ITV Fixers is to tackle a taboo issue and help people to "fix" it. For Graeme that has meant creating a website as a meeting point where "Aspies" can find out more about their condition.

To see Graeme's new website visit www.projectaspie.com

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