To kick off National Disability Awareness Month, the Office of Specialized Services at Ramapo College invited New York Times best-selling author David Finch to give his lecture entitled "You, Fulfilled" to the Ramapo Community.
Finch, who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 30, wrote his successful and humorous novel "The Journal of Best Practices" about his journey to live a happy life and fix his rocky marriage after the diagnosis.
Finch gave the audience a humorous synopsis of his life, starting with grade school where he excelled academically, but did not quite grasp how to socially interact with his classmates.
He recalled his first grade classroom where he had the assignment of gluing popsicle sticks to a piece of paper. This seems simple enough, but for Finch, the sound of the clock ticking, the fluorescent lights humming, his teacher's southern accent and the teacher's awkward movements when writing the instructions on the board all obstructed him from completing the easy task. He also recalled standing on the edge of the playground watching his classmates play together, but not knowing how to approach them.
When Finch went off to the University of Miami for college, he described the experience as "releasing a domestic animal into the wild," due to his socially awkward tendencies. His roommate even kicked him out because he did not understand the concept of respecting other peoples' needs. For instance, not waking your roommate up at seven every morning to tell him you're going to the dining hall for breakfast.
Finch graduated with an engineering degree and worked in the field for 10 years. At first, he was assigned to work in the back, away from the customers, because of his socially inept habits. When he was promoted and forced to interact with customers, he "started playing the social game."
He emulated the CEO's and other employees' behaviors when interacting with customers to make sure he conversed with them appropriately. Finch employed this same tactic when trying to grab the attention of his future wife, Kristen. He studied how to be a good boyfriend by watching romantic movies.
Eventually they got married and that is where their problems began. Finch could no longer act like the leading romantic men in the movies all the time because it was exhausting.
Kristen began noticing his bursts of anger and restricted social skills that he had once tried to hide. She sat him down one day and asked him a series of questions.
Finch recalled, "I thought we were taking a Cosmo quiz."
However, it was not a Cosmo quiz; it was an Asperger's evaluation. When she was done with the evaluation, she gently told her husband that he had Asperger's Syndrome.
"I finally had answers. It means I'm not alone," said Finch.
The diagnosis inspired him to work on his marriage and on being a happier person in general.
In "The Journal of Best Practices," Finch writes about his struggle towards adaptability and has received positive feedback from husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. Wives thanked him for giving them hope in their own marriage. Husbands claimed that their wives made them read it, but they were glad they did. Parents of children diagnosed with Asperger's thanked Finch for writing a book that gave them newfound hope for their children.
He also received positive feedback from the Ramapo audience.
"The idea of love, understanding, guidance and adaptability was pretty inspiring. I really enjoyed his whole message," junior Doug Hervey said.
Sophomore Kelly Dahlin also enjoyed the lecture.
"He was able to point fun at himself while also getting the thoughtful message across that Asperger's Syndrome is serious and affects peoples' whole lives and their families."