In his early years, Jeff had a difficult time fitting in and being happy. As an elementary school student, he was unable to speak due to selective mutism. Jeff and his parents spent many years back and forth to different doctors and specialists, none of whom had a definite answer as to his condition. Jeff’s parents were even told by one doctor to “put him away.” His parents refused to do so and continued to seek information.
At age sixteen Jeff was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. At last, he and his family had some answers. By the time he turned eighteen he had decided to write down experiences he had dealt with in childhood and his young adult life. Life was still a challenge for Jeff; he was living on his own in a terrible apartment. He had taken a security course and was working for a company, but it wasn’t working as he struggled on a daily basis with paperwork and communicating with the staff and public. Jeff didn’t make any decisions on his own; he always asked his mother before he did anything or bought anything. He signed up for karate and dreamed of getting his black belt, but because of his poor self-confidence, this dream was constantly put on hold. Jeff would reschedule test dates that would lead him towards his next belt level, because he lacked the courage to move forward and was so afraid of failure.
Jeff decided he needed help and direction in his life to seek new employment. That was when he came to Goodwill Niagara and entered our Workforce Development program. It was in this program that he learned self-esteem, confidence-building and communication skills. Jeff was now ready for employment. A position came up at Goodwill Niagara for an After-Hours Donation Supervisor, and Jeff was the perfect candidate for this role. He completed the training process, which he took very seriously. As he started in his new career things suddenly changed for him. During his first year of employment he moved in to a brand new apartment, bought his own couch with no assistance including setting up delivery, bought his own groceries and moved up one belt level. He continued moving forward, and after his second and third year he bought a new car and published a book about his experiences called A Raging Silence. All the proceeds from the book, which is in its fourth printing, are being donated to Autism research with the hopes of one day finding a cure.
Jeff, now thirty-six, is grateful that Goodwill gave him a chance to show what he was capable of, despite his disability. In Jeff’s own words, Goodwill “saw beyond [his] disability.”