Chase Johnson: Living life to the fullest extent

A few of Brainjogging’s staff members had the pleasure of meeting Chase Johnson at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s (KKI) 10th Annual CARD Conference.  Chase is a 21 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome.  He was a KKI intern from April to August, 2010 and has recently helped start an Autism Support Group.

Chase Johnson, a 21 year old man with Asperger's Syndrome, makes his diagnosis work with his life rather than against it.

Chase was born three to four weeks premature; he achieved typical developmental milestones until age two, when his family realized that he seemed to have a speech delay.  His parents even questioned his hearing and discovered that Chase was prone to chronic ear infection; tubes did not resolve his delayed communication.  Chase was echolalic in his vocabulary, “sucking up words and phrases from commercials and everything around [him] and not having the slightest clue what [these words] meant.”  His mind “drew connections where there were none.”  Echolalia renders communication exceedingly difficult; if a child draws a mental connection between a seemingly random word and situation and doesn’t possess the language capabilities to further explain the perceived relationship, he or she literally cannot help others understand communicative intention.

Chase received a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in the sixth grade, after years of being tormented by peers and even his sister.  Chase’s sister envied the attention he received as a child; she, like many siblings of children on the spectrum, wasn’t able to understand that ASD requires extended attention.  Chase suggests that parents “show compassion to the sibling on the spectrum” but also to “find a way to show a deeper sense of attention to the non-ASD sibling” so that the neurotypical sibling won’t feel cheated of attention.

Although he has overcome nearly all conventional ASD social barriers, Chase still struggles with the communicative inabilities often associated with ASD.  Chase occasionally suffers from mind blindness, or an inability to recognize that others may not share his own conventions.  He was overwhelmed by anxiety for much of his life; anxiety is a hallmark of ASD. Chase explained his own former aversion to eye contact as distaste for feeling as though someone were staring into him, forcibly commanding his attention.  Aversion to eye contact is a stereotypical ASD behavior, but hearing Chase’s insight into why he feels he averted eye contact is significant.  Throughout his life, however, Chase has been lucky  to have family and friends to help him manage his anxiety levels and propel him toward the successful life he now leads. Chase is a student in Indiana and attended American University for a year and a half.  Chase provides fellow individuals on the spectrum with an example of how to make Asperger’s Syndrome work within the constructs of successful interpersonal  experiences.

To read more about Chase’s experiences, visit his blog.

One Response to “Chase Johnson: Living life to the fullest extent”

  1. Teri Chason says:

    I was so excited to read about Chase!! Todd and I had to leave after we did the parent presentation that day and we were disappointed to not get the chance to hear Chase. Thanks for blogging about him so we could learn more!

    Teri Chason

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