Meet Connor P.
Connor P., 21
Love, support and understanding has been the key to his success.
My name is Michael and I want to take this opportunity to introduce my son, Connor, and share his story with the world. Until recently, my only connection to Autism Speaks was reading the stories on their Facebook page, which I browse occasionally to see what other families in the autism community are experiencing. I enjoy reading about people on the spectrum and the amazing things they are doing with their lives.
Reading so many of those wonderful stories inspired me to share my son’s story as well because I am so proud of how far he’s come since being diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) at age 5. During his years in elementary school, the staff told us he would not likely earn a standard diploma, and we should settle for some lesser options. My wife, Cathy, and I knew better, confident that in the right environment he would show his abilities.
We knew public middle school would not be an appropriate option and enrolled Connor at Classical Christian Academy for his middle and high school years. He adapted well to the small class sizes and graduated in 2020 with distinction and a 3.6 GPA. He was one of only two graduates that completed a Capstone project, which is defined as a multifaceted body of work that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students.
I am proud of the way he worked through each day’s challenges to complete his primary education. Even after graduating, he continues to persevere, which I understand is not easy, and I continue to be proud of his efforts to succeed. He is a loving, hardworking, quiet, humble young man with a strong work ethic and a positive outlook on life. We talk about the challenges ahead in his new school programs and how to deal with them. He maintains an optimistic attitude and seems ready for the next chapter in his life, which he plans to involve working on helicopters.
Connor has always shown an interest in helicopters, and he has told us over the years he wants to be a helicopter inspector/maintenance technician. This month, Connor will begin a technical college to study aviation airframe and engine maintenance (Airframe and Power plant), which is the base training to progress him towards his career goal.
Love, support and understanding has been the key to his success. Connor tells us he has a gift for attention to detail that keeps him focused to complete his courses. We have regular discussions about what his interests are and how we can help him pursue those interests. Whether it’s preparing for school or discussing his interests for employment, I feel he needs to hear and be aware of the challenges ahead. I try to prepare him for what life may throw at him and remind him to always do his best.
I hope he finds happiness in his life, whatever that may be. He talks of his dream job and someday having a family and a home to take care of. I hope he gets every opportunity to succeed and share the talents he has been given. He is one special young man.
Learn more about Connor’s journey through his own words in this Q&A:
How has your autism helped shaped you into the person you are today?
Autism has shaped me into the person I am today by giving me a strong understanding of hard work and the importance of diversity.
What struggles have you faced because of your autism?
The struggles I have faced are with social skills and learning (particularly math).
In what areas of your life has your autism helped you excel?
Autism has helped me excel with memorization and being detail-oriented.
What is your greatest passion in life?
My greatest passions in life are to contribute to society for the good and accomplish the life goals I set for myself to motivate others.
What inspired you to enroll in technical school? What do you hope to learn during your time there?
I am required to attend a technical school to receive my Airframe and Powerplant certification, which is needed to pursue my career interest of helicopter mechanic/inspector.
What are your feelings about attending a new school with new people and a new course load?
Regarding attending a new school with new people and a new course load, I have been familiarizing myself with the campus through taking trips there and look forward to working in a hands-on learning environment, where I tend to succeed.
What are you most excited about for the upcoming school year?
I am most excited about learning in an environment I thrive in and learning about my field of interest, aviation mechanics.
When facing new challenges and life changes or starting a new phase of your life, how do you cope with the anxieties that can come along with it?
When facing challenges like this, I cope with the anxieties by making sure I am well informed on the changes, planning (subject to adjustments), and pursuing a step-by-step approach.
When you reflect on your life to this point, what are you most proud of?
When I reflect on my life to this point, I am most proud of myself for graduating high school with a Standard Diploma after being told I probably would never have, becoming more independent and being able to speak for myself about my autism to others.
What are some of your goals for the future?
My current goals for the future are to get a full-time job as a helicopter mechanic/inspector once I have completed my technical schooling. I also plan to get my driver’s license. For the long term, I would like to have a family and home of my own to care for.