The More Things Change (The More They Stay The Same)

The above quote is something that we’ve all heard before, but don’t understand the meaning of. Most people think of two certain politicians with different agendas. Regardless of their stances on issues, they are competing to earn the most powerful position in the United States of America. However, I think of that Bowling For Soup song called “High School Never Ends.” When a high school senior takes that final walk down the aisle and grabs their diploma, they think that life will instantly turn into the one they have truly dreamed of. When they begin working towards their aspiration or dream, they are faced with the instant realization that their perception was completely wrong! Sometimes, they discover that their chosen path is far from ideal. They are left to start at the very beginning.

It’s funny because it has been almost four years since I graduated from high school. I stood inside the Lenape Technical School gymnasium and I thought that life would instantly become the one I truly dreamed of.

Being realistic? What a joke! Why can’t I just sit here and dream about the life I want?

You may be wondering why I brought this up. I brought it up because I still am not sure where I am going to go to create that life I truly need and deserve. I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania and I thought I was destined for a high tech career in Electro Optics. I was completely oblivious to how much I struggled with Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. I thought I would finally be able to grasp the concepts of those subjects after being introduced to practical examples of their use. The problem was, I could not even grasp the core concepts. I must be as blunt as possible in saying that I no longer see the point in trying to finish a degree that requires skill in an area that I greatly struggle in.

So, I am now back at square one. I have been looking into possibly pursuing an English degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I am not going to give up on my ultimate goal of publishing a memoir. I truly believe that is the one thing in my life that will make it truly worth living. English Literature and Writing Studies are my top interests. I certainly agree that an English major will help me build my skill in something that I love to do. However, people are still discouraging me from doing so. Most of it is the typical “you will not be able to find a job with an English degree.” They base their stance on the select few people they know who completed a similar degree and still work at McDonalds. Regardless, I have been trying to do as much research as I possibly can about careers and about how I can work towards my ultimate goal of becoming a published author.

Oh yes, let’s not forget the not so enjoyable part of preparing for a “realistic future.” It all has to do with the money. I will have to find a way to pay for classes, housing and my vehicle. My mistake of pursuing a degree in Electro Optics resulted in my GPA being below the minimum requirement to graduate. Vocational rehabilitation is not able to provide any assistance until I bring it up. So, I feel like a high school senior again. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”


“How Were Your Interests Shaped From Your Upbringing?”

Most of you know that I am in my senior year of high school. I am applying for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) for an Associate Degree in Electro Optics. My application is almost finished, and I plan to have it mailed very soon. One of the things in the application process was writing the essay I am sharing in this blog entry. This essay was completely optional for all Undergraduate majors, and they gave no specific information about the content, format and length requirements. My parents, teachers and friends all encouraged me to write this essay because it most likely would increase my chance of being accepted. I searched for some prompts online and I chose to write about this one. I thought it fit my experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome really well.

Here was the prompt question.

“What are the reasons for your interests? Analyze your childhood. How were your interests shaped from your upbringing?”

“There are many students from typical public high schools who have no idea what they want to do after they graduate. I am attending the Lenape Technical School for Electronics Technology, and it has really helped me learn some of the basic skills I will need in order to obtain a career in Electro Optics. Throughout my junior and senior years at Lenape, I have come to realize that my interests as a child really led me to pursue a career in this growing field.

My interests as a young child were not thought of as “normal”, according to adults and my peers.  I started out my young childhood with a big interest in things that spin, in particular fans.  Anytime I would see a fan that was on, I would become mesmerized by it and watch it spin.  My parents could not figure out why that was the case.  They were thinking, “It’s just a simple old fan, there are other things in the world to talk about besides that. Why can’t I expose him to other things?”  I not only enjoyed watching the blades spin, but, I also enjoyed the feel of the air and the subtle noise of it blowing in the room.

My favorite holiday has always been and always will be Christmas because of all the lights and the decorations. Two of my favorite pastimes during this busy season are decorating the Christmas tree and driving past other people’s decorated houses.  I always enjoyed helping my mom put the lights on the Christmas tree.  We would cover our ten-foot wide Christmas tree with multi colored lights and ornaments, and sometimes we would string popcorn. While we were putting the lights up on the tree, it was my job to search for any bulbs that didn’t work. Mom would send me over to the bag full of spare bulbs and I would hand it to her. Any mention of Christmas brings these moments as I picture this time with my family.

My father has been an engineer at Alcoa for thirty years. As a result, he will take any household appliance apart and try to figure out what is wrong with it. When I was in about the fourth grade, my father took me to Lowes and I asked him if I could buy a ceiling fan for my bedroom. He discussed it with my mother, and they decided to let me buy one with my own money. The fan I bought was a Harbor Breeze model with a light and a remote control. My father and I had no trouble putting the fan together and the light worked, but we had trouble getting the remote to turn the fan on. It was time to troubleshoot, which can be a very tedious and frustrating step in working with anything electrical or mechanical. It finally did work after about four hours of troubleshooting. I was not only happy I had a ceiling fan in my room, but I was also glad I had the opportunity to watch my dad install it.

My first experience where I actually worked with electronics was at the Computing Workshop summer program. I had the opportunity to build my own laser light show kit. The kit was a circuit board with two rotating motors with mirrors on the end. The kit came with components that required soldering. It had two knobs that controlled the speed of each motor, and two switches that controlled the direction each motor turned. The laser pattern would change every time I would adjust the switches and knobs. My relatives were amazed by the patterns and shapes the laser would make.

Many of the things I was interested in as a child determined why I feel I should obtain a career in electro optics. That is a statement people often don’t understand when they say my interests are not “normal”.  Organizations like Computing Workshop and the Lenape Technical School deserve the credit for helping me learn about the skills I will need for this growing field. These organizations helped me “see the light” in electro optics. I am proud of the educators that have made me what I am today”.

I hope everybody enjoyed reading this, and that it made you think how their interests as a child could eventually shape them to pursue a successful career in a field related to their interests. That is something people don’t think about very often. I am planning to write a blog about the Temple Grandin movie, and she is the first person I think about when I write this essay. She empathized with animals growing up, and she went to college for Animal Husbandry (Animal Science). She went through teasing and harassment from people her entire life, but she didn’t let it discourage her. I know I will not let the harassment discourage me either, because it’s not about them, it’s about me.

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Re: Temple Grandin: “The World Needs All Kinds of Minds” (

You have heard of my horrible experiences when I was a student at Freeport. My freshman and sophomore year were full of bullying and disrespect from people who didn’t understand that I was different from everybody else. I felt like they spoke an unknown foreign language. People didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Asperger’s and Autism didn’t become a well-known disorder until the twenty-first century. When my parents were in high school they did not have learning support programs, social workers and social skills groups for these kids to learn they skills they needed for life. I must say that we have come a long way, but we still have a lot to work on. While Autism will never be fully understood, there are many things about society that need to change.

Temple Grandin recorded a fascinating lecture on that described how her mind works. I must say it was one of the most fascinating online speeches I have ever listened to in my entire life. She stated that her mind works like Google Images. Words coming from another person instantly become movies in her head, equipped with sound. In her TED lecture, she described a scene in the movie. Her mother said the word “shoe” and images of shoes popped up in her head. During the 1950s, people had the common misconception that people with Autism would not amount to anything in life. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders were usually sent to mental institutions. They had no idea about the continuum of traits from Autism. Anytime they would hear the word “Autistic” they would think they are non verbal and psychologists would recommend they go to a mental institution.

When I was a student at Freeport, I absolutely hated math and science classes because it mainly involved reading books and taking notes. I looked around and noticed that students falling asleep and looking out the window. That obviously meant they were not the least bit interested in the material we were going over. During 10th grade I had physical science during eighth period, the last class of the day. This speech directly relates to another topic I have posted several blogs about.

To reiterate my Lenape blogs, I talked about how Freeport tried to make a standardized test score out of me and not the best person I could be after I graduated from high school. Every day I had a structured learning support period. The learning support class is pretty much a structured study hall. It pretty much consisted of completing homework you didn’t do at home, or reviewing for upcoming tests. Every day I would complain about how much I hated that particular test I was studying for and I would say the material was pointless. My teachers would then respond “Derek, you can complain all you want but this material will be on the P.S.S.A tests and you need to take the class to graduate”. I then decided to keep my mouth shut because arguing would result in a trip to the office. After that, I would think “so what, I will never use this crap after I graduate so why should I care about this class?”

This is directly related to another point Temple made during her speech. There are many teachers out there who are not certified to teach but have a degree in science fields like biology, chemistry, physics or music. Any person in this country can get the certification to become a teacher, but the question I would ask my self if I were hiring a new teacher would be “are they willing and able to show how this particular class can apply to the real world”? I admire the fact that it is part of the curriculum at Lenape. They prove to you that they don’t make you learn algebra, trigonometry or geometry just because it is a graduation requirement or it is on the P.S.S.A tests. In our Technical Communications (English) class, we are required to write an essay about a career related to our chosen technical field. It has to be five paragraphs long, and you are required to put citations from your research sources at the end of each paragraph. After the essay is thoroughly edited and completed, you are then required to give a ten minute speech about the career.

Freeport requires juniors to give a ten minute speech about a career you wanted to pursue in the future. You are randomly assigned a teacher to grade you on the speech, who most likely doesn’t know enough about their chosen career. I had to give a five-minute graduation speech during tenth grade about a chosen career field, and I chose an Electronics Engineer. My English teacher obviously knew nothing about the career, so she gave me a 100% for the effort, because I only knew general information about the career field. The graduation requirement for your senior year at Lenape is more hands on. You are required to present a twenty-minute demonstration of a hands on task related to your technical area. It has to be ten minutes long and you must use correct terminology when identifying any of the equipment you are using. I am in the electronics program, and I will have to do this project for my senior year. You will have to explain how each component specifically functions in the circuit.

There is one more thing I will have to keep in mind about my job skills project. It will be graded by somebody that is in the industry. Simply put, it will be graded by somebody who works in a profession related to my chosen technical area. I will have to make sure I not only know what I am talking about, but that I am dressed appropriately and practicing proper safety techniques. A twenty minute long presentation is a lot to prepare for, especially when it is a graduation requirement. The best thing to do is think of this presentation as a learning experience. In the future, you never know when you will have to demonstrate something.

Temple Grandin is the reason many people on the Autistic Spectrum have gone to college and obtained successful careers. Usually, the so called “obsession” these individuals have when they are kids could have their children obtain a successful career in something related to it. I completely agree that schools need to stop teaching abstract skills. I never functioned well in classes like that, especially abstract math. If you can prove to me why I need this in real life, I will do well in the class. Lenape changed my opinion about school, and I think there need to be more full day technical and academic schools with a similar curriculum as Lenape. Education as a whole needs to become less abstract and more specific and related to the real world. If that changes, I feel we will have less students falling asleep in class and looking out the window and not being interested.

Click Here To Watch Temple’s Lecture: