I see autism as an advantage in my future career. Seeing the world from a different perspective and thinking differently has its advantages
Jonathan Channing was diagnosed with ‘autism spectrum disorder without disability’ when he was 18
Getting a diagnosis at the age of 18 did not faze Jonathan Channing. He always knew there was something different about him, and he felt that a diagnosis just explained everything.
‘I never adhered to convention and as a consequence my schooling suffered greatly,’ he says.
He didn’t enjoy school. In fact, he admits that he was a difficult student.
‘School didn’t stimulate me,’ he says. ‘As a consequence I didn’t engage with the generic curriculum.’ His lack of interest in the classroom often led to bad behaviour and reprimands from teachers.
‘It led to me being excluded from many schools. An earlier diagnosis would have helped. I was acting out but my needs were misconstrued and no one saw that there was a reason for this.’
For three years after he left school, Jonathan was unemployed. ‘I wasn’t doing anything with my life. My family were supportive but did not understand me, as I did not understand myself at the time,’ he says. ‘It was a very difficult time for me. I felt like I was drifting through life, devoid of a real purpose.’
He sought refuge in computer games and television, and even questioned his own existence. ‘I would experience complete immersion for days. It was a distraction. It kept me occupied. I was also very aware that I was sinking into a deep depression.’
All that changed when Jonathan discovered coding. In November 2014 he signed up for a one-week course which was facilitated by Autism Jersey.
‘From the moment I learned the first tag of html I was utterly consumed. Coding became an outlet for me.’
It is fair to say that it changed his life.
‘I found a passion for something that I could apply myself to and I didn’t have to go through a traditional educational system. Also, I could do it in my own time, which gave me the freedom to develop. Coding gave me something productive to focus on.’
Within two years Jonathan had set up his own business, Cobra Coding, and he now teaches on the coding courses run by CodexDLD. He is also the Channel Islands Ambassador for National Coding Week.
‘I always knew I was unconventional in thought and execution,’ he says. ‘And I’d already come to suspect I was autistic. Autism is not a hindrance to me. I see autism as an advantage in my future career. Seeing the world from a different perspective and thinking differently has its advantages.
‘I would say the candidness is a great strength to have and this is something many of those with autism tend to exhibit.’
On the other hand, he admits that autism comes with much anxiety and panic attacks. ‘It is easy to be discouraged and to fall deep into depression.’
His message to others who think that they may have a similar diagnosis would be to give new things a try.
‘Don’t be confined by your anxiety. Do something even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Obviously it’s going to be mentally and physically taxing for you that maybe a neurotypical wouldn’t find so challenging but in the end you won’t be feeling anxious about it. Do things anyway.’
Jonathan’s focus now is building his business and his career. ‘I am keen to keep my clients happy. I am working with happy people because happy people make me happy.’
*Excerpts of Jonathan’s story reproduced with kind permission of Richard Rolfe and CodexDLD
In 2016 Autism Jersey facilitated a coding course thanks to a Santander Discovery Grant. If you would like to sponsor a course, or you are interested in attending one, please firstname.lastname@example.org
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