My name is Eric Kirschner, and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 13. At that point, I realized some things in my life may be a little different than I’d expected. Doctors told my parents it may be best to lower their expectations a bit about what I realistically would be able to achieve with this condition.
They said it would be difficult for me to go away to a four-year university and live on my own. This news devastated me at first because it meant my childhood dream of living and succeeding in New York City would not become a reality. But soon after this crushing feeling had passed, I told myself I wouldn’t let other people’s opinions keep me from achieving my dreams, and I wouldn’t accept “No” or “You can’t do it.” No matter what.
Reflecting back on my Asperger’s diagnosis, not only was I given motivation, but I finally found out what was different about me. Growing up, the only real friends I had were my neighborhood friends. All I ever wanted in elementary and middle school was to have more friends and even a girlfriend. I just wanted to fit in and be liked, but instead I was a lonely outsider known as the “shy kid.” A significant moment occurred after these rough years when my parents decided to enroll me in a small private school called “American Heritage.” I can truly say this changed my life forever because all the teachers and students were so welcoming. For the first time in my life, I was actually encouraged by my peers and felt comfortable.
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