Even though Asperger’s syndrome brings its struggles and challenges, Bjorn De La Rosa, a senior at Eagle Peak at Pratt School who also has albinism, has found a way to use it to excel in school, particularly in history, science and general trivia.
When it came to history, De La Rosa said his interest started with movies and TV shows, and that there were plenty of books to read in school. Because he is a visual learner and learns at his own pace, he found reading books more interesting because they were on subjects he wanted to learn about, rather than being forced to learn in class.
“A lot of people that have some form of autism tend to find different forms of stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) as a way to self-regulate and calm,” said Nina Kindem, De La Rosa’s mom. “Some people do hand flapping or this or that; Bjorn has been a book reader.”
She added that he would flip through books and look at pictures and information, even information he has read before, because “there’s a comfort in that stimming for him in turning the pages of a book and finding a lot of comfort in that finite piece of information.”
Other subjects De La Rosa would read about include the Titanic, trains, automobiles and zeppelins.
“With reading, I generally found an interest in how things work,” De La Rosa said. “I’m not somebody who can simply take ‘because it’s the way it is’ as an answer. I have to know why does it do this, why does this work the way it does.”
De La Rosa has applied his interest in machinery to art as well, where he would draw original designs for cars and trains that, Kindem said, stayed within the confines of physics in regard to function and power.
“When I draw something, I always use graph paper so I have an actual unit of measurement for when I’m drawing,” he said. “I always use a ruler so I get a straight line where I need one, and I tend to use points of reference.”
As for trivia, De La Rosa said he is a “pop cultural sponge” and participated in mock “Jeopardy!” in middle school, where he won so often that he almost got banned from participating.
That being said, there have been challenges including struggles with mathematics, times where he excelled so much in some subjects that he became bored because he was ahead of everyone else, and the social and sensory challenges that come with autism.
Rachel Samaha, De La Rosa’s teacher and case manager, said she hopes he receives the courses in college that she could not provide him that will challenge him and expand his mind.
“Autism, it’s got a bad reputation that just negatively affects people,” De La Rosa said. “Autism is not just a finite thing, there’s a spectrum of different levels. … It causes different things for different people.”
De La Rosa plans to attend either Spokane Community College or Spokane Falls Community College and hopes to become an industrial designer.
Matthew Kincanon is a student at Gonzaga University.