Fence Post — (Daily Herald)

SSRI Ed note: Man on psych drugs long-term, multiple diagnoses, takes tricyclic antidepressant, becomes aggressive, loses two jobs.

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Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)

Travis J. Hafford

July 4, 2006

Consider trials of learning disabled

I am in my 20s and suffer from Asperger Syndrome and related disorders. I have undergone many diagnoses, medications, one hospitalization and other such things.

I have also gone through several colleges and various career possibilities. I am now at Judson College in Elgin, where I am a communication arts major with an emphasis in speech and rhetoric.

Asperger Syndrome is a mild variant of high functioning autism, and could be misdiagnosed as several different disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, mental retardation, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), and schizophrenia.

There are medications available for those who live with Asperger, such as stimulants (Concerta), nonstimulants (Straterra), antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft), neuroleptics (Zyprexa, Risperdal, Abilify), and mood stabilizers (Tegretol, Lamictal, especially if seizure activity is present), just to name a few.

Throughout my lifetime, I have experienced many ups and downs because of my disorder. I am not sure whether I am clinically depressed or not. Perhaps I am only sad at times due to experiences in my past. I have been called names like “Rain Man” and such, as a result of my disability. I have, however, made some really close friends whom I consider to be my second family.

When I first came to Judson in August 2004, I was not sure if I would make any friends. After I became friends with a few people on campus and after I joined a Christian Bible study, I was not sure how to handle the social interaction.

My grades began to slip, partly because I was not receiving the assistance that I required as a student of special needs. There was only a student intern with no “official” director of the Spark Center (Learning Center).

When the school year ended in April 2005, I was put on academic probation and dismissed from the college. I appealed, and with the help of a friend/mentor and her husband, became reinstated. After the Spark Center hired a more permanent director, I did much better. I was not valedictorian, but I accomplished much the following semester and did better grade-wise.

One can’t have a psychological drama without the trials and tribulations. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was about eight years of age, and within four months of the diagnosis placed on Ritalin, which helped me somewhat for about a decade.

During the last year of Ritalin, I developed further neurological symptoms and was placed on Zyprexa. This was the beginning of five years of testing and medication. It was during this time that I was hospitalized (June 2001).

In the summer and fall of 2002, I was placed on Anafranil (a tricyclic antidepressant), became aggressive and verbal, and proceeded to lose two jobs (the first of which I had had for about 3 1/2 years). After being taken off that and another medication and after raising the dosage of my current medication, I became much more stable. I do, however, still struggle with these disorders, especially depression.

I hope this article helped you to better understand how those with learning handicaps function, and has made you aware of some of the struggles which we face. I would like to encourage others to be loving and caring toward those with learning disabilities, and to take time to get to know them.

My friend from Judson once said the following: “Get to know them. You never know. They just might become your best friend one day.”

I could not agree more. We need to love and care for those with neurological handicaps. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll become a close friend of yours one day.
Record Number: 864794
Copyright 2006 Daily Herald