Podcast Episode 10. Proof that perseverance pays off is shown by Jacob and Sarah as Sarah explains the second part of Jacob’s story: leaving school. Jacob has ambitions to work in the music industry, and is currently holding down a testing job as a barman to save money towards a year long course at Abbey Road Studios, London.
Sarah briefly recaps where Jacob is at the moment before she explains how successful he has been since leaving school. Sometimes he deals with difficult customers, in trying situations, and he has learnt strategies to cope with the demands and challenges he now faces.
Towards the end Sarah gives some final thoughts about their journey and a few tips we could all bear in mind, even if we don’t have the opportunity to support in school the way she did. Sarah is justifiably proud of her son Jacob, and he should be an inspiration to all of us as to what is possible.
[1.00] – Where Jacob is today
[1.20] – How social media and Minecraft helped Jacob develop confidence in relationships
[3.30] – Challenges of working and ways in which Jacob manages them
[6.30] – Dealing with difficult customers
[8.00] – Jacob inspiring others
[9.00] – Set rules and boundaries but make home a safe haven
[11.00] – Be careful Always check what you’re told
[12.30] – Talking through social situations. When, how and what expression to use
Success is possible
DEBRA: This week, it’s part two of Sarah and Jacob’s story. I started by asking Sarah to give us a brief summary of where Jacob is today. Have a listen and I hope you are as inspired as I was in hearing their success story.
SARAH: He’s become a really successful, charming teenager from a child that I was told was going to be beating me up when he got older because he’d be bigger, because he took all of his problems out on me. He used to really have to guilt me when he was younger because it was my fault, everything was going wrong. He wouldn’t relate it to himself, it was my fault. And so, the teachers at the previous school were saying that “He will be hitting you, beating you, you’re going to have to be ready for that” and I was terrified!
And then slowly, as he got older, we have this great relationship and now I love chatting to him. He’s got many friends. I think social media has helped that. I had no invites to any parties all the way through his school life. I bought… when he was age five because I was told by all parents “Go out and buy all of these lovely presents when they chip in the shops because you’ll have to go loads of parties and it’s the best way to do”. And I had tons in my cupboards and I had to give them away because nobody invited us because they didn’t want Jake at their party.
So, all the way up, we had a struggle and then incredibly, I think it’s because of his computer knowledge of technology, he started to run a gaming. He used to play Minecraft; I should say. People know about Minecraft. He actually created his own episodes and modeled them and to compose music for them and then they thought of games to play for their viewings. It became far too complicated for me to understand but because of that, he got a bit of the street cred with the kids at secondary school so they would come to him when they got problems with their computers and he would solve.
A gaming company online that he played with started to use him to look after their computers. So, he had to maintain things, put things right when they were going wrong and so he became very good at dealing with people. And now, because we’re having a year out, he’s hoping to go to Abbey Road Studios and because they do an advanced diploma on sound recording engineer and what we felt because it’s practical, it’s a year. Okay it’s £11,000 but it’s practical, it’s hands-on, straight in there to a place that deals with the music industry and they will launch you into the music. What’s happened is that I’ve said, “Right, okay, you want to go to Abbey Road Studios, but I need you to have some input into this. I want you to put some money towards it”. Because we know Jacob and we know that he’s not going to work if we keep giving him things. So, we want him to put his own effort into it.
DEBRA: So, he is working in a job now which is quite, I guess, stressful and face-to- face with lots of people, does he still have issues now or still has trouble coping and he has strategies?
SARAH: No, no. He has strategies where he keeps rules because there are rules. He’s got rules, behind the bar; what he can serve, who he can serve, when he can serve. Somebody tried to bribe him to stay open, £50 the other night, he would not because he doesn’t, because he would lose the license, be in trouble. He learns the rules so I suppose he learned the rules of social communication and he did it. Now he has to learn the rules of the job. So, he’s learned that he has to throw people out when they’re misbehaving. If they’re being difficult, he tries to deal them if he can and then he goes and gets security or he goes and gets help. So, he has to learn that but so I think it’s rules and boundaries.
He’d only been there a week and they would say to him he could close the whole bar up because they gave him a list and he did the whole list of what you did: you have to wash all the cups and glasses and the cutlery. They got them all in a list and when he went back in the morning, his boss said “That was brilliant! You had been the first person to have done everything” And he said “But I just did what was on the list”. It was logical to Jacob. Also, they have teal there, he can look up Google on it and people have been there three years and said, “How have you done that?” He said “But it’s a computer running a teal software”. So, he said “It’s a computer, you can make it do what you want.” They had never seen that happened but that’s his brain. He does not over complicate things. He doesn’t get worried about things. He just looks at it and he seem to know. He doesn’t have that block that we all worry about.
I suppose that’s the Asperger’s as well. We have that worry that he might to go far in that respect and fiddle with something that maybe you shouldn’t where we’re saying, “Well you might break it.” No, you can’t break it because kids they just press buttons now, don’t they? We worry about breaking things; kids press buttons now. So, Jacob was able to show people how capable he is and he loves problem-solving now. That’s a boy that’s got Asperger’s. They also got a golf buggy there because he can drive now so he has to drive that. He loves reversing in because he’s good and so he likes to be the best. And so, he likes solving problems of how to get into certain areas nobody else can do it. He can do it because he’s worked it out.
So, I think every day is a challenge and he enjoys it because he solves problems all the time. I come home and I say, “How have you been?” “Very busy” And I can’t believe and I’ve seen him working. I’ve taken photographs because I couldn’t quite believe he’s working. And that working with people, all sorts of people that are very difficult. I’ve sat in the bar and listen to somebody complaining and he has dealt with it and I thought and I go back to those times in primary school where I thought he would never be able to go in the normal streamline, normal social situations and there he is! Dealing with ones that I could feel quite challenged by. And he’s coping very well, so I feel that he will be successful now.
He might annoy people but we all annoy people. We all have our own ways but he has a very certain way; communication, he’s very exact. So, I said to him, ” Why didn’t you tell me that?” He said, “You didn’t ask”. So, we still have those things horrific but I have to be careful how I ask questions even now but I think he’s got lots of friends. He’s gaining more and more friends because he’s got his school friends from his secondary school. Some have gone to uni and he goes off to uni to visit them in Cardiff and all over the place. And then he’s got his friends from his work now. Very different people that don’t know him and know his problems.
Nobody knows in her new work that he has Asperger’s but to go on from there, a lady started working with him, middle-aged. He’s now training her. He has only been there 2 and a half months but he’s now her showing her the job. He eventually got talking to her and she said, “Oh my daughter has got Asperger’s and she’s finding it really difficult” and he suddenly dropped in, (and I’ve stopped telling people that he’s got Asperger’s because I thought that’s his prerogative now. I felt all the while I was dealing with the problems I could that but he now says whether he is or not) so he dropped in to the conversation, “Well I have got Asperger’s” and she could not believe it. She said, “I would never have known”. So, she said, “You have given me so much hope for my daughter because if I look at my daughter, I see you. The way you do things, she’s so like that. And here you are. She’s struggling at school with all those problems that you probably had and here you are working in an environment like this.” She said, “It gives me hope that she will be okay.” So that’s a quite nice thing to hear.
DEBRA: Leading on to that then, for some parents, it’s not going to be possible to be able to able to go into primary school like you were able to do, and maybe the secondary schools aren’t that supportive. From your perspective, what can parents do at home to help?
SARAH: Yes, well at home I suppose, rules and boundaries. I think that’s the thing. It’s hard and I found setting up that “I’m not great. I’m not a routine person.” My dad was in the army and I think probably I’m kicking against that. I don’t know. So, I found that very difficult. I was told by the professionals that their home life should be a safe and happy environment. I worry that although they need rules and boundaries, I think to make their life hell at home is not helping a child with Asperger’s because they have enough stress as they go out into the big wide world. That their home should be a nice, safe haven.
But then you can have those conversations with them. And I suppose, all you can do is you can talk through the problems they’re having. So, if you go in and get called into school or you get call from the teacher that says, “Joe did this to this child…” talk it through. Jacob would lie. Oh, my goodness, he would lie and he would then believe his lie because he’s clever. But the thing is I didn’t always believe him because I knew he lied. And I think parents have got to be careful in that respect because yes, you should always support your child, but you should also believe that your child is not a saint and that a child with Asperger’s is also clever and they know what we want to hear.
So sometimes Jacob would give me a really convoluted explanation as to why whatever had happened, what had happened and it was very sure this is what happened. I’d go into school raging, give them my all, support my child, lay down the law, had enough of this and I find from the teacher and their head and children they were to bring in to actually confirm it that he was actually telling me a lie. And so be careful because you do have to find out what’s happened but I think it’s not deliberately trying to tell you what you want to hear and they want to please you and if things are going wrong all time, they’ve learned that they’ve got to try and do something and he found that lying was a good idea and but of course I went to school.
I used to go into school eventually and say, “He’s told me this and I know that it’s probably not the truth but what can we do to help the situation? Is there anything that me is a parent can do?” And I was able to go in, which was great, but I was able to drop, I lost £15,000 because I lost my whole year’s salary and I lost a year and a half of my career and probably my career went downhill from that but I felt that it was more important for my child because here we are with a child that was failing in school and probably would have been excluded the way he was going to a child that is successful and a successful independent young man.
So I think really trying to talk them through the social situations that they come across even if you think your child is telling you what they did was right, you have to work out probably what happened but again like I said about if you’re being told off, you have to tell them, pull that face. You’re not telling them to lie, they don’t know. They would go in there and fight and answer back and fight. My son got (it was with the head mark mistress at one point) red carded for a whole week because he would not give up the fight. And in the end, I went in there I said, “You can’t red card this child for a whole week. They are only supposed to be for one day.” I said, “I realize that he’s gone (and the headmaster had a bit of a temper and she lost it) because he’s arrogant. They come over as arrogant and very annoying when they’re talking too because of the way they are. They’ve got great language skills, they’re so adamant that they were right, that they would rather die and admit that they’ve done anything wrong.
And so, you could really lose your temper. I, many times, have got to the point where I’d lost it with Jacob because he was driving me mad and I had to walk away and just take myself away from him. I just to go and lock myself in the toilet for maybe 5 to 10 minutes so that I could calm down, relax. So that I wasn’t going to do anything that I would regret later and might be permanent. Because I loved him but I used to say to him and I think this is something a good thing for parents to say is that, “I love you and I will always love you but I might not like you sometimes and that behavior that I don’t like can be corrected because of this and this is how we go forward.”
And you will fail many times and it would be repeated many times, but eventually, they will learn it. They will probably will learn it more from their peers than you but you can’t do anything, you just got to try. I used to watch things with Jake on television (what was that one that school, I can’t remember the name now) and it’s all about these kids at school and they were getting into a bother and that and I would sit and look at that and say “Right, in that situation, what would you do?” and he’d say something like “Ahhh no”. I would then say, “Actually I would…” So you’re modeling that behavior or just discussing it, saying “Look what’s happening in the school, what would you do? Do you think that would be right?” So that’s helping. It’s giving them extra information so as much as you can do to talk through situations, social situations with Asperger’s is that knowing what to do in situations that, you just have to keep going.
DEBRA: So, I thank you, Sarah for sharing that very inspiring story of success. It’s nice to hear that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel that seems to be around sometimes. Thank you very much.
SARAH: My pleasure, my pleasure.
DEBRA: My key takeaways this week? Keep talking and find that success is not a dream, it can be done. Jacob with the help of Sarah shows us that.
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